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


Step 5: Rust the Metal

Picture of Rust the Metal
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Now for the step you just can't wait to do. This is the exciting part.

Wearing your safety goggles and gloves, mix up a batch of rust accelerator adding ingredients in the order given:

  • 16 oz Hydrogen Peroxide (use a fresh bottle)
  • 2 oz White vinegar
  • 1/2 Tbsp Salt

You can use any of the pickling vinegar that is left over from the previous step. You can mix this accelerator solution directly in the spray bottle if it has a wide mouth or you can mix it first in the measuring cup, making sure to dissolve the salt, and transfer it into the bottle with a funnel. By the way I did see recommendations of up to 8 oz of vinegar but I tried that and it didn't really work as well as 2 oz. You can experiment with the proportions but this worked well for me. Same with the salt. It won't hurt to add a little more but again, this worked for me. Tighten the spray bottle cap and shake well to dissolve the salt.

I assume you have placed your awaiting object in a safe place away from people, pets, and things you don't want to get rusted and by now you are dying to see some rust. Are you ready? OK. Let's go.

Spray some solution onto your object, soaking it from top to bottom all around. Now sit back and watch the magical transformation. It will start foaming and begin to rust before your eyes. Is that something or what? If it doesn't rust then you didn't degrease it enough or you didn't pickle it enough and will have to repeat one or both of those steps. Another possibility is the temperature is too cold. This works best at elevated temperatures. It is best to let the object sit in direct sunlight and heat up a little. Let it dry and repeat. I only had to let it dry for 5 minutes but YMMV (Your mileage may vary) depending on the ambient temperature. The rust patina should deepen each time you repeat the spraying and drying cycle up to a point beyond which there is no noticeable change. Keep spraying and drying until you are satisfied with the degree of rusting. I repeated the cycle about 6 or 7 times but again, YMMV. The pictures show the progression of the rusting process.

Congratulations! You have greatly accelerated a natural process and now have a piece of metal with an attractive aged-looking patina.

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.

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.
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.