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How to Remove Rust or Loose Paint from Metal Gates & Railings

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Do you have an existing metal gate or railings that have started to rust and therefore seen better days? If so this article is designed to show you first steps towards getting them back to looking their very best.

Surface Preparation

If you want to achieve a professional finish that will look good for many years then surface preparation is the key. Whilst this may be boring and time consuming it pays dividends to ensure that as much rust, flaking and loose paint is removed as possible otherwise all your hard work will prove to be in vain. With this in mind here is our suggestion for the best way to remove rust from existing metal gates and railings.

Use a Wire Brush with Drill Attachment

The most effective way we found to remove rust and flaking paint from metalwork is using a drill with a metal brush attachment as this is more effective and less labour intensive than working the metal by hand. Please be aware however that when working with a wire brush you will need to be careful not to hurt yourself so we recommend using the appropriate safety gloves and glasses.

The aim of the game is to remove as much of the existing finish and rust as possible so don’t skimp on the quality of the wire brush as you will get what you pay for and make sure to get right into the hard to reach places as neglecting these spots will lead to rust returning in a short period of time.

Wire Brush and Sandpaper

Trust us this is one of the hardest ways of removing rust and old paint from an existing metal gate. Be prepared to spend hours working your finger to the bone to get professional results. If you choose to go down this route due to the cost savings make sure you work methodically and have some patience when dealing with intricate scrollwork as these are the areas where rust is most likely to return to first (as water can become trapped in the detailing).


Although this is by far the fastest and easiest way to remove rust from the surfaces of existing metal gates and railings the simple fact that most people do not have the equipment lying around means the costs will be far higher because a specialist company will need to complete the work for you. Furthermore, the noise, mess and risk of damaging the surrounding area means this method is not suitable for restricted spaces and we only really see it as a viable option if large expanses of railings need maintaining.

So now we have looked at the 3 most common ways of removing surface rust and flaking paint you will now need to take some additional steps to prevent the rusting process from starting all over again which brings us onto the finish.

Final Preparations Prior to Painting

When you are confident you have removed all the problematic areas of rust and loose paint we recommend using a medium grit sandpaper to ensure the entire metal surfaces are smooth, free from loose paint and defects. At this stage if you find any damaged metal work it should be filled with the appropriate type filler and left to cure for the specified period of time. Any excess filler can then be sanded back to blend in with the surface of the metal.

Once these steps have been taken repeat the whole process only this time use a fine grit abrasive paper and rinse the metal down with a paint thinner type solvent and allow to dry.

Paint Finish

Now the surface is fully prepared for repainting don’t just slap any old paint onto the gate as you will simply waste all the hard work you have done so far.

If you are planning on using a standard exterior grade paint then we would suggest you first apply a coat of rust inhibiting primer to all surfaces making sure no spots are missed as these will lead to rust returning. Alternatively there are now many zinc based paints on the market that will so a similar job. Once you are happy with the coverage and it has cured for the correct amount of time all that is left is to apply a minimum of 2 coats of finishing paint to all the metal surfaces and you are all set.

In conclusion we hope that you have found this article useful and given you the confidence to have a go yourself. If however you feel that a replacement metal gate or railings may be a more sensible options due to excess damage or major deterioration in the steel then why not take a look at the designs detailed for sale within our online shop or call us on 0844 804 5577 to see how we can help you out.