How to Refurbish a Rusty Metal Suitcase

Updated February 21, 2017

Metal suitcases have a nostalgic look of a bygone era. Most were made of tin and are very susceptible to rust. Before a new finish can be applied on any rusted metal surface, including suitcases, the rust must be removed. One of the best products for rust removal is naval jelly. Once the rust is removed, it is simply a matter of sanding and recoating the suitcase with your choice of colours in spray paint.

Set up your work space in a well ventilated area with at least one open window and a fan for ventilation. Cover the floor in plastic dust sheets and remove any objects that might be damaged by over spray from the immediate area.

Spread naval jelly over the rusted areas on your suitcase with the applicator on the inside of the lid. Leave the naval jelly rust remover in place for five to ten minutes. Put on a pair of heavy rubber gloves. Wipe the naval jelly from the rusty surface using a clean rag.

Rinse the surface with a rag damp with clean water. Sand the entire suitcase with 220-grit sandpaper on a random orbit sander. Work to remove all loose paint and smooth the edges of patches where the paint has worn through.

Wipe the suitcase down with a tack cloth to remove the sanding dust. Tape over any locks, latches and other parts that do not need to be painted with masking tape.

Set the suitcase on a plastic dust sheet. Shake a can of aerosol primer for at least 60 seconds. Apply a coat of the primer to the entire surface of the suit case. Hold the can 8-10 inches from the surface and keep it moving in short strokes. Overlap your strokes a little, but avoid letting the spray stay in one spot too long to prevent runs and drips.

Allow the primer to dry to the touch. Shake a can of rust-rated spray paint and apply it using the same technique. Allow the first coat to dry before applying a second coat. Allow the paint to dry for 24 hours. Remove the masking tape from the handle and hardware. Fold the dust sheet in on itself to prevent any sticky paint from adhering to surrounding surfaces.

Things You'll Need

  • Fan
  • Dust sheets
  • Naval jelly
  • Sander
  • Spray primer
  • Spray paint
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About the Author

Mark Morris started writing professionally in 1995. He has published a novel and stage plays with SEEDS studio. Morris specializes in many topics and has 15 years of professional carpentry experience. He is a voice, acting and film teacher. He also teaches stage craft and lectures on playwriting for Oklahoma Christian University.