DIY: How To Repaint A Rusty Metal Object

Rust. The effect of decaying metal over time. It’s something we’ll have to deal with as long as we have metal products. Recently, I found an old metal lunch box at a yard sale and picked it up for the sole purpose of fixing it up (and giving it to my father as a present). It was quite rusty, and I was scared some areas were about to rust through, but I was lucky and able to get the job done! Today, I’d like to share my process of repainting a rusty object with you. 

The box started as the image above. It was rusty and pretty dirty. I knew there were going to be a lot of tedious steps to this project, so I got my gloves ready, and got to work! Here is what you’ll need…


  • Gloves.
  • Rustoleum Primer.
  • Rustoleum Enamel.
  • Crystal Clear Enamel (optional)
  • Steel wool.
  • Protective Eyewear.
  • Newspaper.
  • Painter’s Tape.
  • A surface to spraypaint on.


  1. Start off with your clean, spacious work area. Put on your protective eyewear as well as your gloves and scrape as much rust off your object as you can using the steel wool. This may take a few go overs, and you probably want to wipe some rust dust off as you go so you can see what rust is left that needs to come off. *Note* Make sure not to rub too hard on thin areas so you don’t rub a hole in it. You should be able to tell if you are going to go through. Taking the rust off is the most important part of this project to ensure that the object does not continue to rust.
  2. Once you have a smooth rust-free area, apply your enamel in an evenly coated layer (use as directed). Thin, even strokes work best. Once it is dry, go over with another coat. The color is up to you, but since there were some areas I was going to leave the primer exposed, I chose a color that was suiting for the object (grey).
  3. I waited a little longer than suggested for the primer to dry before applying the paint. For my lunch box, I chose red since it is my father’s favorite color. Tape off any areas you do not want painted with painters tape *Note*Any other tape may take the paint off.Apply the paint in the same even technique you did as the primer. Two coats work alright, but if you are using a dark color as the primer, I suggest adding a third, thin layer.
  4. *Optional*Clear coat is a great way to give your item a glossy look and can be applied after enamel and paint, in the same technique.
My end result turned out pretty good and my father loved it. After your item is painted for a little while, there’s nothing wrong with sanding over the paint and repainting it at a later time. It actually will take more rust off than you could get before and give it an even nicer finish.

More To Come

There are tons more Do It Yourself and How To articles coming your way, so stay tuned, sign up for the blog email feeds to the right, and continue creating!


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