Produce a Rich Rust Patina on Iron and Steel, Safely and Quickly, Using Common Household Chemicals

Picture of Produce a Rich Rust Patina on Iron and Steel, Safely and Quickly, Using Common Household Chemicals
  This instructable will show you a fast, safe method, using common household chemicals that you probably already have, to produce a rich rust patina on iron and steel to give it a weathered, aged appearance.


I've had this Maine 'buoy bell' wind chime for about eight years now. I really like it. It has the haunting melancholy sound of a bell buoy at sea being tossed by wind and waves. It is made of COR-TEN steel which is designed to rust on the surface to create a protective barrier against further rusting. It came painted black on the outside and was supposed to develop this rich rust patina naturally over time. Well, the unpainted inside did rust completely after about a year, but the outside only rusted slightly, near the bottom, even after exposure to the sun, rain, and snow of the northeast for eight years. I wanted it to have a nice rust patina that looked like it had been hanging on the eaves of a lobster shack, at the end of a pier, for many a year, being splashed and buffeted by nor'easters and sudden gales. Seeing it was taking so long, I decided to take things into my own hands and, ah, "help" mother nature along and accelerate the process. I searched the net and found mostly dangerous methods to induce rust on steel using highly caustic or acidic chemical solutions. However I finally did find a simple safe method, using on-hand household chemicals, buried deep within a thread on the subject at a metalworking forum. I got spectacular results which have not only withstood the wind and rain of the southwest but have actually improved with the help of mother nature. I like the results so much, and there is so little practical information on the subject that is accessible to the general public, I thought I'd share this simple method with the instructables community.

Judging by the number of posts on forums asking how to do this, I see I am not the only one who wants to actually promote, rather than prevent, rust on iron and steel objects. I found out the basic information for doing this at the very cool ArtMetal forum: http://www.artmetal.com/blog/bob_turan/2009/04/rust_promoter . I'm guessing that there are more than a few instructables members who have a similar desire to prematurely age some iron/steel artifact, so I encourage people to post pictures of their resuls in the comments and add tips on how they did it so we can all learn. This method is not set in stone. Posts about useful variations on the method are always welcome.
DaveT161 month ago
Hello, the company I work for is hanging 7x5' Corten Steel panels on a 200' long wall. The patina on the steel panels is darker than we'd like. We're trying this formula to make it more orange. How long does it take after we spray it 4-7 times? Also how long do we need to wait before we seal it once we get the colour we want?
Laral (author)  DaveT161 month ago

It sounds like they already have a deep patina which you'd get after leaving them outside for a while or if the patina was created using strong acid. Did you try a patch to see if you can still create an orange patina on top of the old one? It's impossible to say how long it would take, but on bare clean metal the results are instant. It should be bone dry before sealing it. A heat gun would accelerate the drying.

DaveT16 Laral1 month ago
We came to the same conclusion about too deep of a patina after trying the solution on the back of one of the panels. Nothing really changed. I found that by wiping a dry cloth over the surface it lightened the colour a bit closer to what we are going for. Do you have any suggestions on reversing the patina to get back to more of an orange colour before we seal it?
Laral (author)  DaveT161 month ago

Another thing I am thinking is that the sealer would also darken the color so be aware of that and maybe try it on the back first.

Laral (author)  DaveT161 month ago

I was afraid of that. There is no way to reverse it. The only way to get what you want would be to sand off or etch off the patina to bare metal and start over. If the patina is very shallow you could sand it off but it would be messy and a lot of work. You'd be best to take them down and work on them in a safe place. It is possible that sanding would rough up the patina and actually give you a lighter color. That would be easiest.

siccsinister2 months ago

I had laser cut mild steel letters
and logos for a customers building. We did a muriatic and hydrogen
peroxide patina and the letters came out beautiful. I sent them out to
clear powder coat and the guys had ruined them. I had the powder coat
baked off and the metal sandblasted. We are trying to re-patina the
metal and it is just not biting into the metal at all. I have
re-sandblasted the metal a few times thinking maybe there was residual
powder coating somehow left behind. The only thing possibly different
now from the time we first did the set is the air temperature outside.
Is there anything we can do to get the rust to bite more into the metal
so when we neutralize it and rinse the rust does not come off the
surface? Does the air temp effect the process ( 1st time when the came
out great was upper 70's and now we are in the 100's )? Any direction
would be greatly appreciated.

Laral (author)  siccsinister2 months ago

What did the powder coat do? Why not just leave them as is and let nature take over? I see rusted iron signs all over the place and they are natural.

By bite do you mean form a deep patina or that it is not forming any patina now? If the latter, maybe the surface is too smooth. Did you try pickling it with acid again? That seems to be a necessary step. Read my section on pickling.

Higher air temp should accelerate the process. I did the bell in 100+ degrees direct sunlight.

Don't rinse it at all if you use the mild mixture that I recommended. I guess you would have to if you used muriatic acid but you say that removes the patina. So what is the advantage of using a caustic acid like that if it doesn't produce a deeper patina? Why not try this much safer mixture?

We sprayed the acid a quite a few times on the metal prior to the hydrogen peroxide. I am thinking the acid is evaporating to quickly due to the heat now and not getting a chance to work.
Laral (author)  siccsinister2 months ago

Ahhh! OK. Then why not put the letters in a plastic pail with a lid on it and just barely seal the lid to allow escaping gases. You can get 3 gal or 5 gal 'icing buckets' for free from Sam's club or any bakery.

We need to clear coat the metal because it will be attached to a new building and do not want rust streaking down the building later. We have used the acid multiple times and had success always. The first time around they came out beautiful. After tne powder coat was ruined (to much was sprayed on and left extremly milky areas) and baked off we are now strugling with the patina getting the deep various colors.
Laral (author)  siccsinister2 months ago

I was afraid of that. So now you have bare metal right? Did you try just acid to pickle it before using acid/peroxide mixture?

Robellido2 months ago

You think if if pour iron oxide on top of the clear coat on the hood of my car I would get this nice effect without it rusting??

Laral (author)  Robellido2 months ago

I don't know. You mean a red iron oxide powder sprinkled onto wet clear coat? It would probably not look the same. It would be more uniform. Natural rust tends to have variations over the surface.

Robellido Laral2 months ago

Iron oxide that you get when rusting steel wool completely. Mmm then I guess I'll have to sprinkle it uneven cuz I don't want my hood rusting for real. It may develop holes from that or damage it badly. I'll try to do this on a sample piece of metal first to see how it looks.

Laral (author)  Robellido2 months ago

No you would not want to rust the metal itself. Try a sample piece like you said. The only thing is, it may very well wear off in time and will not look good. Then you will have to strip it and start over.

Laral (author) 3 months ago

I posted this before but there is no way to link to it so I'll just quote it:

Have a look at: https://web.archive.org/web/20080108073034/http://asuwlink.uwyo.edu/~metal/patinas.html -- the second formula. I got a sal ammoniac block from Ace at the time but I don't see it now at their website. I found that eBay has ammonium chloride powder cheaper than what I paid for the block. It would also dissolve much easier than the hard block.

Very easy to do, cheap, works great.

Here is my sample done on a copper tubing end cap.

JosephB83 months ago

how do you patinate copper or brass ?

So Cal Urb made it!3 months ago
Here are my results so far... i had already stripped and sanded down this fender to bare metal... then rinsed with water, sprayed with white vinegar, then with the mix of vinegar/hydrogen peroxide /salt. .. so far i think 3 times ive done the treatment... thank you for this post - I plan on making this into a mailbox! I'll update the progress.
Laral (author)  So Cal Urb 3 months ago
Well, it looks like it is rusting nicely. Please do post the final result.

I paint signs. I have a customer who would like a rusted steel sign, and I was thinking of preserving the lettering as shiny steel while rusting the background. This means I would need to mask off the letters so the muriatic acid doesn't eat through the mask. Does anybody know what I would use to coat out or mask the letters to keep them from rusting?

I know this sounds crazy but use finger nail polish to protect the lettering then use finger nail polish remover when finished
Laral (author)  kimberley.edwards.9424 months ago

I don't know about muriatic acid. You'd need something impervious to acids, like a plastic-based paint, acrylic, epoxy, but then you need to remove the paint without damaging the rust. Difficult. I see a lot of rusted metal signs that have laser-cut lettering. That'd be the way to go.

DavidG88 months ago

Hi Laral, I recently applied your treat formula on some corten steel planters. About 12 hours after I applied the treatment, it rained non-stop for two days. The steel is orange in color and has not darkened. What do I need to do to darken it? Is there anyway to get the two planters to match quicker (doesnt have to be perfect but somewhat better than now).

BTW, I applied your treatment to the other planters about 5 months ago.

coyles1 DavidG87 months ago

Hi David,

Note if this is made from Corten then it will stay a lot lighter then raw steel.

Corten has an Orange colour to it, as you can see in Image attached.
The fresh bit was installed today.

Kind Regards,


Laral (author)  coyles17 months ago
That's really orange. What did you use to rust it?

Note that my wind bell is cor-ten but is a lot browner than this.
Laral (author)  DavidG88 months ago
Only time and the elements will darken it really. The treatment only produces thin surface rust. Those planters look like they have a nice dark patina.
LucyBW7 months ago

Hi Laral,

Thanks so much for posting this rusting process!

I’m trying it out on a steel fire pit .. as we ‘speak’…

Here’s a question: I’m looking for a way to seal the rust finish,
which won’t result in toxic fumes if it
is heated by fire.

I want the rust finish but not quite so dirty to handle. I
am not expecting to find a sealant which will hold up over time and weathering
and fire. Its ok if the sealant breaks down when it is in direct contact with
fire but I’m not ok with toxic fumes.

Any suggestions?


Laral (author)  LucyBW7 months ago
That's a tough one. I have no knowledge of a non-toxic sealer that won't emit toxic fumes near fire. An idea would be to try using just egg yolks and water. See http://www.instructables.com/id/Egg-Tempera-Painting/?ALLSTEPS for the general idea and http://www.eggtempera.com/technical-info/egg-tempera-paint for details. "Tempera paint is insoluble to the extent of not being picked up by over painting and when completely dry is relatively water resistant. However, the paint is not absolutely water proof and can be disturbed by the application of water."
LucyBW Laral7 months ago

Wow - That's an interesting idea. I'll have to experiment a bit with this one. I want a clear sealer. It'll be interesting to see if egg yolks without pigment results in a clear coat.

Thanks for responding

Laral (author)  LucyBW7 months ago

Oh I think the thin coat will be clear, especially if you dilute it with water or vinegar. A little yellowing probably wouldn't be noticeable either.

alex.hunt.1278 months ago
Im currently building a rat rod out of my pick up, and im thinking of using this process for the body. I was curious if you think it would work well on a large surface and also if there are any concerns I should consider before proceeding. Thank you.
Laral (author)  alex.hunt.1278 months ago
I don't know for sure since I never tried this on anything that large but I don't see why not. Who would know more about that is http://www.instructables.com/member/scott.snow.921/. You could PM him. He does commercial metal work and he did mention using muriatic acid for rusting. That is more dangerous and has to be neutralized with baking soda or some base but it may be more suitable for a project like yours. You could try this method first on a small out-of-the-way area and see how it comes out. The only thing is, the rust is just on the surface in the beginning and is easily brushed off. You'd have to clear coat it to prevent that.
ehall191 year ago
Hi, I know this post is a few years old but I just found it yesterday and tried it out on my box bike frame and it worked great but the rust wipes right off. Will the rust adhere itself to the metal over time and stop doing this, or will it just stay on the surface? Hopefully I hear back from you. And thanks for this post, I used the exact same ratio you posted and it turned out great! Only prob is that at this point it wipes right off.
*bmx bike frame not box bike frame hahaha!
jcapella ehall198 months ago

hey, just thought i'd mention that this will significantly decrease the strength of your bike frame...

Laral (author)  jcapella8 months ago

I doubt it. Rust is only on the surface.

jcapella Laral8 months ago

Rust might begin at the surface, but it does weaken the structural integrity, and will deepen as you mention in this instructable. Unless his bike frame is corten steel...

Laral (author)  ehall191 year ago

If you can avoid touching it for a while, the rust will penetrate deeper and become permanent. Or you can seal it with acrylic or polyurethane spray.

ehall19 Laral1 year ago
Ok awesome! As long as it will eventually adhere to the metal that's fine. Hopefully it won't take that long. Once it does I'm gonna spray it with some matte clear coat(I hoping/assuming that's what you mean by acrylic or polyurethane spray) to seal it. I bought the frame in bare metal(no clear coat) and as soon as I got it(when it was still all nice and shiny) I put some die cut stickers on it so that once it rusted I would peal the stickers off and the logos would be "unrusted" in to the frame while the rest of the frame would have a nice rusted patina. But it was taking forever for it to rust and when it did start to rust it was really uneven. But your formula worked great!! I'd like to post a pic in this comment to show you how it turned out but can't figure out how to do it. Anyway, thanks a bunch!
Laral (author)  ehall191 year ago

It could take some time to develop a thick layer of natural rust. Wet it often and leave it in the weather. You could just clear coat it right after you rusted it but a thicker natural layer of rust would be more resistant to scratches. Please post photos, this sounds really cool. Isn't there an 'Add Images' button below the edit box? You need to enable javascript.

ehall19 Laral1 year ago

finally figured out how to upload the pics hahaha!! I haven't taken the stickers off yet cause I'm waiting for the rust to adhere itself to the metal a little better.

Laral (author)  ehall191 year ago

What's on there, one application of rusting solution? Did you clear coat
it? Why not go all the way and rust the handlebars, clamp, and fork, and maybe the pedal cranks? It would look
great. You'd have to strip the paint to bare metal and sand and degrease
it thoroughly, which I assume you did for the frame.

Rcrawford869 months ago
If you want to preserve the rust look with a coating, a great product is "Flood" Brand "penetrol. It's a clear coating that works great with metal, and keeps the piece from further rusting.

Thank you. I have been looking for a few months now on a way to rust angle iron. I have four pieces and one piece rusted immediately while in the garage. The other 3 have been sitting outside with hardly any rust...even though I've sanded the iron and even used a file to remove any king of coating that may have been on the iron. I'm heading outside right now to apply the mixture!

Laral (author)  bonnie.stolz.7310 months ago
OK, be sure to remove all traces of paint. You may need paint stripper.
scott.snow.92110 months ago

Can I ask how big this piece is?

Laral (author)  scott.snow.92110 months ago
The bell? It's about 2 ft high.

Is this a one tone or 3? If so, how is it getting different tones? I want to make one, so that's why all the questions...lol I notice it is welded just at the top. Is that the only thing keeping it solid? Is there bracing inside?

Laral (author)  scott.snow.92110 months ago

Oh, so that's what you're up to. ;-) I had such notions myself before I went and bought one from the original makers:

North Country Wind Bells -- Bell Buoys

It was going to be too much trouble to make one and probably more expensive. They have the proven designs and the economy of scale. The bells are really quite reasonable and of high quality. Mine is at least 15 years old now as far as I can remember. But if you really want to try, it consists of 3 equal isosceles triangles, each of different thicknesses to give 3 tones, welded at the top to a ring bolt, with an attached chain having a thick circular polycarbonate puck for the clapper. The puck is drilled in the center and mounted on a rod so it can slide up and down to adjust the volume from "off" (touching all 3 vanes) to really loud (maximum distance from the vanes). The weight of the thickest vane cants the whole bell to one side, so at rest, the clapper disk is touching that vane. I was told that that creates the most life-like emulation of a real bell buoy. Note that the triangles are separated from each other so they can resonate. Good luck. Be sure to publish an Instructable if you decide to make one. I'd love to see/hear that. :)

Wow thank you! Do you have any idea the thickness of the metals? I am guessing 12, 14 and 16 gauge. The only part I am not understanding is the rod through the center. How can it move up and down? I have the triangle part welded, but that was before I knew they were diff. thicknesses. I thought maybe one was a bit longer then the other.Is the top totally closed in with weld to give the whole thing more strength?


Laral (author)  scott.snow.92110 months ago

What!? You have it already cut and welded? No way! :) And you're talking about powder coating and heat treatment? What, do you have a metal shop or something?

Metal thickness? I don't know, it looks like maybe 1/16", 1/8", and 3/16". As long as they differ in that ratio (1:2:3), I think it will be fine.

I was mistaken about a chain inside, it is a metal rod the whole length. The puck slides up and down the rod. The rod has a loop in each end. The upper loop goes through the loop in the hanging assembly which has another loop at the top. The three triangle apexes (apices? :) ) are welded tight to the looped hanging assembly (rod). There are spaces between the sides of the triangle pieces which are slightly angled outward. I'm sure you'll be able to piece it together from the pictures.

Don't worry about the steel. I think any kind would do. Please don't powder coat it. By patina, you mean rust patina (I hope)? Followed by heat treatment? Wouldn't that ruin the patina? Heat treatment would increase the hardness and improve the resonant qualities I suspect but it should be done BEFORE the patina.

You better publish a detailed Instructable after all this help I'm giving you or I will be very disappointed… ;-)


Lol ...Yes I do own a metal art company. This one I did powdercoat a metallic green. It's hard to say how well it works because we live by a river kind of in a valley surrounded by forest, so hard to get a lot of wind here. I do a lot of copper patina stuff, and lately I have been using a torch to get different colors, followed by a clearcoat like the 3 leaf wall hang. (A very popular piece) When I do a natural rust, I let my pieces soak in muriatic acid overnight.

This one I used a masonry nail on top with 2 holes drilled. I then attached the chain to the bottom hole and welded it all solid to the top. I used 14 gauge metal for the "dinger" at 3" round where I welded a small washer to the top, and one on the bottom and then attached the rest of the chain. I can see why they would use a rod, to get it more like bell type thing.

BTW mine is only 12" x 6"

Check out my website!


Laral (author)  scott.snow.92110 months ago

BTW I like the medallion you made much better than the one that came with my bell. Is there any way I can get one?

Yeah sure! I can get you one for $5 and I will pay shipping...for all your help and pictures. You want it bare metal I would imagine.

Laral (author)  scott.snow.92110 months ago

OK, though I thought it would be free for all the work I had to do. ;)

I can do that. What is your address? Would you rather e-mail it to me?


Laral (author)  scott.snow.92110 months ago

Oh so you DO own a metal company. You are a PRO. The bell looks great as do all your products. In fact it LOOKS better than the original product. Are you going to remake it using the information that I went to all the trouble of gathering for you? The rigid rod is better than a flexible chain because it rings with the slightest breeze. The chain will follow the heaviest triangle a long distance before it separates from it and rings, and it won't ring as loudly. They worked out every detail. The rod also allows for volume adjustment. I would highly recommend a thick non-metallic clapper disk. It gives a deep clanging sound like the real thing. Thin metal is too 'tinny'. Like I said, they worked out every detail. The sound of their bells is really authentic and soothing.

So I hope you will redo this, giving it a nice rust patina, and publish a detailed Instructable of your work with lots of photos! No excuses… ;-)

Yes, I am going to use a rod.next time. What is the disk made of?

When I make another, I will post more pictures along with how I do it. I used a thick metal for the "dinger" and it actually sounds really close to the ones that you can listen to on their site. If I could download a video on here I could show you.

Laral (author)  scott.snow.92110 months ago

Like I said, it looks like polycarbonate, about 3/8". Acrylic would shatter on impact.

You can upload a video to Youtube and post the link.



BTW....allthough mine is not made fro Cor-ten steel, it sounds really cool! I will either powder coat it, or do a patina with a heat treatment.

DavidG811 months ago

I tried the technique on corten steel planters for a house that is at the final stages of construction, worked like charm. However we didn't realize how sensitive the surface was and we had some workers that somehow managed to kick the steel with their feet. hit it with equipment, etc.....now it looks scuffed up and awful. Any recommendations?

Laral (author)  DavidG811 months ago
If the powdered rust came off, you can just redo it and put it in a protected space to let the rust 'set'.
DavidG8 Laral11 months ago

Many thanks for responding so quickly.

1. When you say redo the process, do you mean start from the degrease forward or just spray the mix (hydro, vin, salt)? I ask this because the rust is pretty thick and there are two large planters.

2.How long do you think the "setting" process will take? Days, weeks, months? Does constant watering/drying cycles help?

3.BTW, the
rust is so thick that the non-scuffed parts are darker red and when you
brush your finger it becomes orange. Any thoughts on using scotch brite pad or steel wool to even out the rust instead of redoing everything? This would make everything look more orange but wouldn't that darken over time?

Laral (author)  DavidG811 months ago

1. I meant just spray on the solution again. There shouldn't be any need to degrease unless somehow it got grease on it. But I don't understand. You say the rust is thick? I thought you just rusted the metal and the rust was still thin and powdery.

2. It will take weeks, maybe months, before you get a deep 'permanent' rust. Weathering cycles is exactly what you want to accelerate the process. You COULD spray the items with water or even rusting solution and let them dry to artificially recreate the weathering process. I just let mother nature take over after initiating the oxidation process.

3. If you use some abrasive material, you will remove rust rather than spread it out. You could do that before applying solution if it is really bad. But actually, those scuff marks may make it look more natural. Please post some photos so I can see exactly what you are talking about. The rust does darken over time:


Karen155061 year ago

Does anyone know what chemicals I can use to turn a rusted iron sculpture bluish green? I bought one and it is now reverting back to full brown rust. I am hoping I can brush something on it to bring back the blue green oxidized color.

Laral (author)  Karen155061 year ago
Hi Karen, I never heard of blue/green rust but I found the following:

Iron Corrosion Products

They produced just what you are looking for by placing a nail in a solution of 12% acetic acid (you can use vinegar which typically contains 3% acetic acid) and sodium hydroxide (dollar store drain cleaner). Not that I can recommend this but, if you try it, be really careful because this will produce an acid/base reaction, probably a fairly violent one. Wear chemical resistant gloves (Home Depot/Lowes) and sealed eye protectors, not the open type. Do it outside, if at all possible, away from anything or any one that could be harmed by it, including especially pets and children. They point out that you have to seal the object during the reaction in order to prevent oxidation from the air--maybe a garbage bag. So it is an anaerobic reaction. I also found out that this compound is stable only in the absence of oxygen so you will have to seal it with acrylic or some other sealer to prevent it from turning brown again.

Interestingly enough, I also found out during my search that there is a book called The Green Rust by Edgar Wallace free from Project Gutenberg. There is also a free audiobook The Green Rust from LibriVox. I think I'll download both and read and listen at the same time. It looks like a good book. :)

Please post some pictures of your results if you attempt this! And be careful…

Thank you SO much for your detailed and very informative reply. The technique sounds more than a bit above my pay grade. ;-) The sculptures are replicas of 2 ft high Agave plants and the guy who makes them green before selling them to the garden shop does not speak english and doesn't seem interested in revealing his techique. Whatever it is , it's not sophisticated because he sprays or brushes it on and sells them by the truck lload. They just revert back to rust after being in the yard a year or two. I will check out your info. Muchas Gracias! Karen
Laral (author)  Karen155061 year ago

OK, I know exactly the ones you are talking about. Very sharp pointed and lethal looking. Then the guy is probably not sophisticated enough to know how to do that chemically. The cheapest way for him to do it would be to make a wash with some greenish paint and paint thinner and brush that on. That would be cheap and easy for him and would eventually rust out just as you describe. You could touch it up with the right color spray paint. That's what I would recommend doing.

Laral (author)  Laral1 year ago

Here's the image from the site that I couldn't upload before because of server maintenance of this site.

Laral (author)  Laral1 year ago


I tried this formula out on a nail I rusted, using my original formula to imitate your situation. It did not turn it green. When I went to reapply the mixture, it flaked off pretty large pieces of rust so I would not recommend this in your case.

ecanod1 year ago
The receipe works and will produce a rust patina. However, when applied on weathering steel (aka cor-ten, which is a brand name) the resulting patina will not have the protective properties of a real long-time natural patina. The protective properties of the rust formed on weathering steel depends on the microstructure of the patina. The composition is basically the same as in plain carbon steel, but not the morphology.

In order to form , a protective patina on weathering steel needs to be formed naturally, by exposure to humidity/dryness cycles and to a mildly polluted environment. Too much pollution (which is basically what you are adding to the surface with chlorides -salt- and acetic acid -vinegar-) and the patina will not form properly to be protective.

So, accelerate the corrosion if you like the appearance, but don't expect it to be protective. And don't waste your money buying cor-ten stell if you are going to artificially produce the patina: buy cheaper plain carbon steel, the result will be the same.
Laral (author)  ecanod1 year ago
This all may be true but it is largely irrelevant to this application, which is to produce a beautiful rust finish, not a protective seal. Note that I did mention that the rust is a dry powder that might require a fixative if it will be handled by any one. Someone in the comments did just that. Even if you were to rub off all the surface rust, there would still remain a fine rust patina. In any case, this accelerates the production of a protective finish as well by initiating the process. It would take years to accomplish what this method does in minutes. Once started, the process will continue naturally by exposure to the elements. As far as wasting money buying cor-ten steel, first, that happens to be what the manufacturer of this particular bell chose because of its aesthetic qualities and its durability, second, it's not that much more expensive, and third, it will have a long-lasting fine patina.

BTW, I've included a shot of the bell 4 years later. Note the fine-grained texture of the PERMANENT patina that is the result of natural oxidation.
Hi again. I wondered if you had any advice about if i can 'water down' the mix in the spray bottle. I am working on a mirror which is not just a flat piece of steel. It has a patten welded on with leaves etc. When i spray the chemical on, it collects at the corners and under the leaves. This then leaves an uneven colour and slightly flaky rust in places. If i put more vinegar into the mix would this 'water down' the mixture and make it easier to spray??? Or will the colour even out when i spray it with polyurethane? Any other suggestions would be appreciated.
Laral (author)  wroughtirondesigns1 year ago
You could dilute it with water I suppose but the unevenness adds to the natural look of it. If you look at natural rust, it is uneven like you describe. I wouldn't add more vinegar. Polyurethane is just a fixative to protect the final finish.
asafweis1 year ago
I'd like to use this method to rust a steel fence made from round rod poles 12mm in diameter. Can anyone tell me if the rust will come of on your hands if you touch it?
Laral (author)  asafweis1 year ago
As I mentioned, initially the rust is a fine powder that will come off on your hands. If you leave it alone, the rust will continue to build up on its own. This process initiates and accelerates the natural process considerably. You could spray it with polyurethane but that would retard the natural oxidation process.
Knyman12 years ago
I have been thinking of ways to used the bi metal food cans and wondering if a patina process can work on them. Also, what if I don't want a completely rusted look - some color on them...like your pickling process picture where there is some rust and some blue. Any thoughts?
Laral (author)  Knyman12 years ago
Just sand the parts where you want rust.
bajareke2 years ago
Simply amazing..! I have been looking for a simple, fast and environmental friendly method to patina some of my works and... wow! I found it. Thank you for such of a clear way to explained. Funny too.
I want to add my experience with this method. I live in south Florida where sun heat is good, but I wanted to accelerate the drying process and applied extra heat with a propane torch: unexpected and beautiful results. Then I applied a few times more of the solution recommended and dry it again with the torch, obtaining (depending of the heating time and distance from the piece) different shades of brown. Also I sprayed on the plate (by mistake) black spray paint, and kept working with the torch and adding solution and drying it, obtaining excellent results.
Note: protect yourself with a proper mask for any possible fumes, aside of the rest of the recommended protection. I was working on 1/8 regular steel plate. At the end I sprayer with clear protector for metal and sanded to diminish the glossy finish. See the results!
Picture 4.pngPicture 3.pngPicture 2.pngPatina 1.png
Laral (author)  bajareke2 years ago

Wow, that looks fantastic! I will try that next time I need to rust something. And thanks for the kind words.
I am wondering if at stage 5, if you rinse off the rust accelerator at anytime. I cannot get my spray bottle to spray it on, so am applying with a large paint brush. The rusting process is happening, but leaves quite a residue on my work.
My first attempt i washed it off and the rust came off with the water.
Any suggestions?? I wish to rust a steel item quickly, and finish it with a polyurethane spray.
Laral (author)  wroughtirondesigns2 years ago
You should not rinse it. Let it dry. Don't touch it. It is very delicate at this stage. Once dry, you can spray it with poly. Work on getting your spray bottle to work. It gives much more even and controllable results.
It did work for me in a great way,thanks a million.
metalartpro2 years ago
That is so cool! I was shocked at how fast it rusted!
I am going to post a pic on my website for people to check it out. It is the 32 ford custom coupe. www.Metalartpro.com
FOOLPROOF !!!! thank you so much !!!
Laral (author) 3 years ago
Holy cow, I can actually see all my steps at once AND download a PDF of them! It looks as if all my rants have paid off. LOL. Thank you for (somewhat) restoring my faith in my fellow man (and woman). ;-)
I feel compelled to indicate that the "Rust Accelerator" solution is essentially peroxyacetic acid. This is a corrosive and possibly harmful chemical which can damage the airways and in strong concentrations can be hazardous.

It is created by mixing the hydrogen peroxide with the vinegar.


I'm not saying it's not a great idea, but I'm saying be super careful not to get it on your skin. It's extremely corrosive and will probably destroy plastic it is stored in over time. It works well for rusting things because it oxidizes whatever it touches at an accelerated rate. Including skin. So I might not agree in saying this is SAFE. SAFER, perhaps, than using more frightening chemicals, but...
Laral (author)  BenderBendingRodriguez3 years ago
First of all, see all the cautions given in Step 2 Safety First. While I didn't identify the compound that you ferreted out via Google, no doubt, which, according to the article you cite, is more commonly called peracetic acid, I gave a description of essentially the same properties mentioned and precautions for dealing with them. That said, you are obviously not a chemist, and neither am I, but I know enough college chemistry to know the difference between concentrated acetic acid and vinegar (5% acetic acid), and between concentrated hydrogen peroxide and the 3% household variety. Note also that I am not advising anyone to do what the article outlines: "Peracetic acid is produced by continuously feeding acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide into an aqueous reaction medium containing a sulfuric acid catalyst." The solution produced by these common and safe household chemicals is obviously no where near the concentrations produced by this industrial process. I also note in the article that "Peracetic acid is an ideal antimicrobial agent due to its high oxidizing potential. . . . It also breaks down in food to safe and environmentally friendly residues (acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide), and therefore can be used in non-rinse applications." and "The United States Environmental Protection Agency first registered peracetic acid as an antimicrobial in 1985 for indoor use on hard surfaces. Use sites include agricultural premises, food establishments, medical facilities, and home bathrooms." Also, "Exposure to peracetic acid can cause irritation to the skin, eyes and respiratory system and higher or long-term exposure can cause permanent lung damage. In addition, there have been cases of occupational asthma caused by peracetic acid." I clearly advise measures to be taken against the first 3 of these exposure hazards. And I clearly don't advocate "higher or long-term exposure" which obviates the risks of the 4th and 5th symptoms. As for any possibility of this solution destroying plastic, have you ever seen a gallon of muriatic acid, available in hardware stores? It comes in plastic jugs. It is far more corrosive than this very weak solution of peracetic acid. So, in conclusion, although you may mean well, as the preacher sayeth, "We A-L-L know what road is paved with good IN-TEN-SHUNS!" Let's be honest, you really didn't read the article you cited very carefully, and you jumped to highly unlikely conclusions. Yes, be careful if you make this stuff. If you follow my instructions--and the dictates of common sense, you should have no problems. If not, you are on your own. . .
Great work. It worked like a charm for me on some screws for a more rustic look.
Laral (author)  wright.or.wrong3 years ago
I'm always glad to hear of how someone used this. Thanks.
fzumrk3 years ago
If the metal you would like to rust is galvanized, you can remove this with the 'pickling' step. I have been de-galvanizing screws to use in restoration projects with a bath of 90% vinegar/10% lemon juice. I just leave the screws submerged in the solution overnight and rinse them off when done. I let them air dry afterwards and they get just a little bit of rust on them. You may want to degrease them first, but I have skipped this step and it has still stripped all of the galvanizing.

Note that the stuff I have stripped is likely electroplated or cold-galvanized. I haven't tried anything with a heave hot-dip galvanized coating, but it probably takes longer to dissolve all of the zinc.
doomsdayltd4 years ago
d@mn i shouldn't of bought my rust type paint, this does the exact same effect for 6 dollars when i spent like 16 for the real rust paint :(
Laral (author)  doomsdayltd4 years ago
Rust paint? What is it, rust-colored paint or paint that promotes rust? How did you spend $6 using this method? You must have rusted a battle ship. :)
well what the rust paint does is it puts a layer of paint with iron oxide in it, then the other solution you put on promotes rusting of the iron oxide. and yes this method is only like 6 dollars since how inexpensive the items were for this.
Laral (author)  doomsdayltd4 years ago
I guess if you bought everything from scratch it might be $6. I had every item on hand so, in a sense, it didn't cost me anything because those items were already being used for other purposes. Just the negligible cost of the ingredients.

I didn't know there was such a thing as that paint but this way must be cheaper than any commercial product. I also found a very cheap way to produce a nice green patina on copper and brass. the commercial products to do this are outrageously expensive.

gypsyloot Laral3 years ago
Hi Laral- your details were really helpful to me, so glad I came across this. I didn't notice if you posted your "cheap way" to produce the green patina ... if you're able to I would very much appreciate it!! ... thanks ;-)
Laral (author)  gypsyloot3 years ago
Have a look at:

http://asuwlink.uwyo.edu/~metal/patinas.html -- the second formula.
I got a sal ammoniac block from Ace at the time but I don't see it now at their website. I found that eBay has ammonium chloride powder cheaper than what I paid for the block. It would also dissolve much easier than the hard block.
JGsoldier3 years ago
can this work on coins or other metals?
Laral (author)  JGsoldier3 years ago
Only if they contain iron (steel).
mrlunna134 years ago
I have always hated the rusted look, and have been almost obsesive about removing even the smallest hints of rust. But I have to admit, it looks kinda cool.
Mr. Lunna XIII
Laral (author)  mrlunna134 years ago
I'm glad you like it. I think it's kinda cool too. Rust is one of those things that, in the right circumstance, is to be embraced rather than shunned. That's the whole idea behind Cor-Ten steel. Instead of trying to prevent rust, let the rust form a thin rust-proof surface. Now that is really cool. ;)
shealyum4 years ago
You wanna see a rust world visit www.rustpainting.com there you will see a variety of rust paintings from all over the world. There is a good interview on rust painting with an Irish artist Sean Healy.
Vision Quest.jpg
Laral (author)  shealyum4 years ago
That is definitely very cool. The changing rust changes the image over time.
soapmaker724 years ago
I have used this proceedure on my latest work. Please visit www.jtbmetaldesigns.com for more information.
Laral (author)  soapmaker724 years ago
Nice job! I'm glad someone found a good use for this. Thanks for the kind words and for linking to this instructable.
Did you strip the paint off of the bell or did you apply the solution right to the painted steel?
Laral (author)  Zeppelinfreak4 years ago
See Step 3 - Degrease the Metal.
YoungPyro195 years ago
This instructable has been very helpful to me since I'm trying to produce Fe2O3. 5 stars...
Laral (author)  YoungPyro195 years ago
Yes, well there are much easier ways to obtain Fe2O3. Be careful. Don't get burned you naughty boy! ;-)
Yes, I know but this naughty boy has plenty of steel wool and little money to pay for shipping.
Laral (author)  YoungPyro195 years ago
OK. I hope you know what you are doing. Thermite is vicious stuff! It sputters and spits molten iron everywhere. Needs to be lit in an open pit with no vegetation near it. A quarry or gravel pit comes to mind. You need protective eyewear and welder's gloves at the very least. Don't say you weren't warned. Best get your chemistry teacher involved. He/she will know how to do things properly and will probably have decent grade chemicals as well. Let us know your experiences.
I appreciate your concern but this 19yr old kid is out of high school and has never taken a chemistry class in his entire life. Although, I have taken biology but that was out of a text book. I have more research to do before I get started on thermite but producing Fe2O3 is just another stepping stone. Did you see my instructable on making German Dark Al powder from foil? I might mix my homemade Al with my homemade Fe2O3 for thermite. I’ll let you know how it goes. Here is a picture of my final product. One sheet of steel wool got me 14g of Iron(III) Oxide. It took approximately 4 days for the steel to transform.
1st time producing Fe2O3.JPG
Laral (author)  YoungPyro195 years ago
That looks quite nice. I did see your Instructable for making dark pyro aluminum. I see you do seem to know some of the dangers involved. Be really careful with any finely divided aluminum product. The stuff can spontaneously explode when suspended in air like when you open your mill, or when you mix it with any compound. All it takes is a tiny spark such as is generated by static electricity accumulated on your body. Always ground yourself first. The same goes for the containing vessel. BTW, I don't understand how you can afford a ball mill but can't afford to buy relatively cheap Fe2O3. If you milled it, which it looks like you must have, you probably spent more on electricity than you would on the purified product. But you live at home don't you. So it's not costing YOU anything. LOL. Is it that you just want to do it yourself? Be careful. Those molten iron blobs would really sting when they cling to your seared flesh. Ouch! And forget it if they were ever to get in your eyes. Wear a welding face shield. They don't cost that much. Maybe a welding shop would donate one if you ask them real nice and tell them what you're doing.
Thank you… You know I never thought to ground myself until I watched something on T.V. about the science of fireworks and Zambelli Fireworks. Before the pyrotechnists enter one of their buildings to construct fireworks they ground themselves on a copper plate. I have some copper wire so I think I’ll start doing that. I want to practice safer procedures as I carry out more of my experiments. Back in ’05, ’06, and ’07 I was very ignorant about safety and pyrotechnics. Over these couple of years I have learned plenty. Actually, believe it or not, the steel wool rusted into somewhat of a coarse powder. There was no ball milling needed. I did however; grind the iron(III) oxide a little in a plastic container with a paint stick. The process was easier and cheaper than you think thanks to your and acecase’s instructables.
Laral (author)  YoungPyro195 years ago
I remember hearing about an explosion in a fireworks factory that killed several people a few years ago. This was a family owned business for generations and they knew what they were doing. All it takes is ONE mistake. I would not encourage you to mess with this stuff, especially the aluminum. If you ground yourself and not the container, a spark could easily be transferred to the container. You AND the container need to be at ground potential at the same time.
Wait a minute, I misspoke here. I'm not going to ground myself; I'm going to discharge any static build up I may have onto a plate that is grounded before I get to work with my explosive compounds and chemicals. That’s what the pyrotechnists were doing, sorry. Grounding myself and the materials I'm working with would be going overboard. As far as I know the Chinese don't do that while making fireworks and they don't have a lot of accidents.
I love these bells - a few of them together makes a really eerie melody. We cleaned and painted one with a sea scene for fun, but I like the rust (ours refused to rust, so we think it was 'proofed). Yours looks like a good match for a beach house or old trawler.
Laral (author)  valhallas_end6 years ago
"a few of them together makes a really eerie melody"

I'd love to hear a recording of all of them together. Can you upload one?

"Yours looks like a good match for a beach house or old trawler."

Or a house next to the desert in Arizona. You see rusted artifacts everywhere here. Rust is a natural resource. But sometimes nature needs a little push. :)

You know, I never thought of recording them ringing...I wish we still had all of ours. After we painted the seascape, we did the rest for relatives, so we only have the one left...although a salvage shop I like on Cape Cod always has a few, so I might pick up some this year. Maybe I'll make a tuned wind chime with them....hmmm...
Laral (author)  valhallas_end6 years ago
"a salvage shop I like on Cape Cod always has a few"

You're kidding. So you can buy used ones cheap? This is a salvage shop like metal salvage and not a thrift shop?
Yup - every three or four months, they buy derelicts' salvage from the divers, or buy pieces tourists managed to grab on the licensed dive spots all along the coast. They also buy from shipyards and outfitters. Granted, they also resell stock from other stores mixed with real salvage (gotta make a living somehow!), but the buoy bells are authentic and all of their brasswork is real. It's pretty cool to sort through. There's another, more hardcore salvage shop further up the Cape, but his prices are far higher.
Laral (author)  valhallas_end6 years ago
This place sounds fantastic. So these bells have been on the bottom of the sea and are already rusted?