How to Remove Rust From Antique Iron

Updated February 21, 2017

Rust is the bane of many antiques that contain iron or any type of metal. Just a small amount of rust can quickly spread and affect the entire piece. Left untreated, the corrosion will eventually ruin the antique and/or greatly diminish its value. Simply attacking the rust with rough sandpaper may remove the rust, but it may also irrevocably damage the iron. Thus, treating the rust on antique iron requires extra care, attention to detail and a few supplies that are mild in nature.

Remove the rusted portions of iron from the antique piece, if possible. By removing the decorative woodwork, brass or other unaffected metal, you will not only make your job easier, but also prevent any additional damage to the antique. If you cannot remove the rusted portion of iron, that is fine. You will simply need to carefully cover the other components with masking tape in order to protect them.

Pour the paraffin oil into a large container, such as a plastic bucket or tub. Submerge the rusted antique iron into the paraffin oil and allow it soak for approximately one hour. Brush the rusted area with a soft-bristle toothbrush several times throughout the hour. If the piece is too large to be submerged in oil, rub the rusted areas with a clean, lint-free cloth soaked in paraffin oil. Keep the rust soaked in oil as you rub.

Remove the sludge created by the oil and rust. Rinse out the soft toothbrush and dampen it with fresh paraffin oil. Use the toothbrush to remove the sludge. Continue brushing the iron until all of the thick sludge has been cleaned away.

Dampen some 0000-grade steel wool with a bit of paraffin oil. Gently rub the antique metal with the fine steel wool. Rub the iron until it is clean and clear of rust.

Wipe the entire antique piece with a soft and clean, lint-free cloth. The antique should be clear of any rust at this point.

Dampen a clean cloth with white spirit. White spirit, also known as Stoddard solvent, is a clear solvent used for cleaning and degreasing. You should be able to purchase some white spirit at a local hardware or paint supply store. Wipe the entire antique with white spirit. Make sure any wood surface on the antique piece is properly taped off, as white spirit may discolour the finish.

Allow the white spirit to remain on the piece for roughly 12 hours. Use a clean cloth to apply an even coat of microcrystalline wax to the iron.

Things You'll Need

  • Masking tape (if needed)
  • Large plastic container or tub
  • Paraffin oil
  • Soft-bristle toothbrush
  • Clean, lint-free cloth
  • 0000-grade steel wool
  • White spirit (Stoddard solvent)
  • Microcrystalline wax
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About the Author

Arthur Barnhouse has written numerous short stories, contributed content to various websites and was an invited speaker at a university symposium on creative writing. He began writing in 2002 and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Pittsburgh. Barnhouse has driven across the United States numerous times and draws upon his travel experiences in his writing.