A DIY Guide to Refinishing Rusted Metal Yard Furniture
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A DIY Guide to Refinishing Rusted Metal Yard Furniture

Restoring your metal patio furniture to like new condition is a good first project for the new DIYer. Restoring metal furniture can be labor intensive or relatively easy depending on the approach you take.

The first step in restoring metal patio furniture is to remove all the accumulated rust. Commercial furniture restorers do this by sandblasting but the average DIYer does not have access to sandblasting equipment and it’s not cost effective to rent it to do just a few pieces of furniture. Most DIYers resort to using a wire brush to remove all the rust but that’s very time consuming and labor intensive. There’s a better and easier way to remove all the rust from your metal yard furniture, it’s called Naval Jelly and is available at all home centers and hardware stores. Naval Jelly eliminates the need to use a wire brush until the bare metal is visible.

Naval Jelly is a very caustic chemical so be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection when using it. Make sure that you use it in a well-ventilated area and avoid inhaling the fumes. Like with any chemical that you use you should read and have on hand a copy of its MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). After nearly fifty years as a DIYer and forty years working as a home handyman, I have half dozen 3” binders full of these MDS Sheets. I suggest that you download this MSDS as a PDF and start your library now.

Using Naval Jelly is a relatively simple process, just follow these steps.

  1. Using a wire brush, remove all the loose rust from the metal.
  2. Using a 1” foam brush as an applicator, apply a liberal coating of Naval Jelly to the metal.
  3. Allow to set for 5 to 10 minutes, but not for longer then 15 minutes, then rinse the metal free of the Naval Jelly using a garden hose.
  4. If any rust remains repeat step 3 until all traces of rust are gone.
  5. Dry thoroughly and you are ready to refinish. You need to refinish within 24-hours all new rust will start to form on the metal


There are many good metal primers and paints available but I recommend Rust-oleum spray primer and paints. Rust-oleum has been a trusted name in metal finishes since 1921. You can check out their complete product line catalog as a PDF here. Rust-oleum is available at all home centers and most hardware stores in both aerosol sprays and liquid forms. For metal furniture, the aerosol sprays are easier to apply and produces a more professional finish then those that are applied by brush or roller.

Rust-oleum primers come in four colors and you should pick the primer whose color comes closest to the color of the paint that you will be applying.

Rust-oleum paint comes in two finishes, glossy and satin. Personally, I prefer the satin finish for patio furniture, but that simply my personal choice. Either finish will endure for years when applied correctly. In many cases a single application of a primer base coat and a single color coat will be all that is necessary to produce a beautiful finish but I strongly urge you to go on and apply a second finish color coat. For added protection I always finish up a restoration project by applying a single coat of Rust-oleum clear spray.

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Comments (1)

Our site will help anyone wanting to refinish their own front door. We have a video that you may find very helpful. We have a door completely refinished and completed within three hours. We are located in the Houston, TX area and #1 in the business.

Your information here is right on! Thanks for sharing and Happy 2012.