How to Paint a Rusty Nail

Updated April 17, 2017

When rust rears its ugly head, a superb paint job can quickly transform into a patch of blemishes. When non-galvanised nails mix with moisture in the air, nail heads can create rusty spots on painted surfaces throughout the home. Ideally, you should remove rusting nails and replace them with coated screws. However, removing rusty nails is not always practical. Repair the nail heads immediately, and also deal with the moisture problem. Locating the source of excessive moisture can save you both time and money.

Locate the source of moisture. Eliminate the problem by shutting off the condensation, if possible.

Remove the rusting nails with a hammer, if possible. Replace them "with new hot-dipped galvanised nails or ceramic-coated construction screws," according to Painting Key.

Sand the rusty nail heads with sandpaper to sink them below the wall's surface, if they can't be removed. Scrub the nail heads forcefully with a damp cloth and a corrosion-control powder, such as Zero Rust Prep Step. Allow the nails to dry.

Seal the heads by coating them with white primer sealer, which is composed of rust inhibitors. Fill the area in with putty and a scraper to create a smooth, dent-free surface.

Use an environmentally friendly product if you would like to remove the rust stains but not stop the rust completely. A quick stain remover, such as Simple Wash, cleans and brightens surfaces including wood, stucco and fibreglass. Spray the surface with rust remover and rinse it with water.

Apply a fresh coat of paint to the surface.

Things You'll Need

  • Hammer
  • Galvanised nails
  • Construction screws
  • Cloth
  • Water
  • Sandpaper
  • Corrosion-control powder
  • White primer sealer
  • Paintbrush
  • Putty
  • Scraper
  • Paint
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About the Author

Nicole Newman is a Dartmouth College associate who works in Tiltfactor Laboratory, Dartmouth's premier game design center. Her research has included investigating the digital humanities through "Writing as a Dimensional Artifact" and "Evolution of the Ghetto: The Decline of America’s Inner Cities," a research initiative on urban design.