Wrought iron can be a hidden flea market treasure. These finds often sit unnoticed in the back of a second-hand store, covered with layers of old paint and rust. Most people look past these worn items, opting instead for the clean and shiny items that seem to have better potential. But wrought iron is a tremendous find. Iron is durable and made to look great for generations. Stripping off the old layers of paint will reveal the wrought iron's real beauty.
Move the item into your yard or driveway. Set your hose on its highest pressure setting. Spray the wrought iron to remove dust, dirt and cobwebs. Dry the item with a towel to remove the majority of the water, and let it dry completely outdoors.
Remove the rust from the wrought iron with a steel-bristled brush. Scrub as much rust from the iron as possible.
Fill a spray bottle with phosphoric acid (check the product's instructions regarding the type of container you can use). Spray the entire surface of the wrought iron with the solution. Allow the spray to sit on the item overnight. The acid will react with any unseen rust on the item, turning it into iron phosphate. Brush off all of the iron phosphate with the steel-bristled brush.
Apply a 1/8-inch thick coating of paint thinner to the wrought iron piece with a paint brush. The paint thinner will ruin the bristles on the brush, so use an old brush if possible. Allow the paint thinner to penetrate the paint covering the wrought iron, usually for 20 to 30 minutes.
Test to see if the paint is soft by scraping the paint with the paint scraper. Once softened the paint should remove easily from the iron surface. Scrape away as much paint as possible from the wrought iron.
Apply paint thinner directly to a piece of steel wool. Scrub any remaining paint with paint thinner and steel wool. Rinse the wrought iron with clean water and towel dry.
Evaluate the piece to determine if any paint or rust remains on the surface. Sand the entire surface to remove traces of paint and rust. Rub the entire wrought iron piece with medium-grit sandpaper until smooth. Once all traces of rust and paint are gone the piece is ready for paint or a coating of shellac.
Do not leave bare wrought iron exposed to the elements. Exposed wrought iron will rust quickly. Coat the piece with a clear coating of shellac or rust-preventive paint.
Always wear protective gloves, goggles and a mask when working with phosphoric acid and paint thinner. Check with your city's household hazardous waste department about the best way to clean out the container that held the phosphoric acid spray.