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How to make galvanized metal look old

Updated April 17, 2017

Old rusty metal adds a certain flair to a primitive decor, whether it is an old can or a wagon wheel in the yard. Unfortunately these old weathered items can be hard to find or can be very expensive. To create your own "old" metal projects you will need a few commonly available items. With a little time your new sheet of galvanised metal can look like a 50-year-old treasure.

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  1. Put on long sleeves and long trousers. The vinegar, bleach and salt are quite potent and can burn the skin. Wear safety glasses to protect the eyes.

  2. Place a piece of galvanised metal in at tub or container. If it is too large to fit a container, place it on a driveway or cemented area. The solution will kill your grass and plants. Remove any excess dust or dirt with bleach, water and a stiff bristle brush. Let it air dry.

  3. Mix water, vinegar and salt in a small spray bottle. Use 2 tbsp of salt per pint of water. Add vinegar for a 50/50 mixture. Dissolve the salt completely.

  4. Spray the entire area you wish to distress with the solution. Scrub the area with a stiff bristle brush or steel wool. This will remove the protective galvanised coating that is on the metal so it will start to age more quickly. Continue until the metal has a dull appearance. Rinse off the solution and let the metal air dry. Repeat as necessary.

  5. Place your metal piece outside where it will get plenty of air. Continue to spray a salt water mixture, 2 tbsp of salt per pint of water, until your metal reaches the desired appearance.

  6. Tip

    If you do not want to use the vinegar, you can spray with salt water only. It will take longer for the item to appear rusty or old this way. If you have a shorter time to work, you can use hydrochloric acid or muriatic acid to remove the galvanised finish. Read and follow the safety instructions.


    Using acid products without proper ventilation or safety gear can be hazardous. Read all warnings.

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Things You'll Need

  • Safety glasses
  • Vinegar
  • Salt
  • Bleach
  • Spray bottle
  • Stiff bristle brush or steel wool
  • Safety gloves (optional)
  • Tub or container (optional)

About the Author

Casey Brown's career in business began after earning an M.B.A. in strategic management from Davenport University. She served as an adult-education instructor and worked with special-needs children. Brown now owns a leasing business that helps struggling families to purchase a home.

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