How to Prevent and Remove Rust from Metal Furniture

Aside from the glimmering texture it provides in any space, metal is one of the most durable furniture materials both indoors and out. Available primarily in aluminum, wrought iron and stainless-steel, metal furniture is constructed to remain durable for decades, whether it’s exposed to the elements on your patio or to some rowdy fun down in your game room. When it comes to outdoor furniture, many pieces also incorporate other metals, such as brass and copper, as well as non-metal materials, such as wood and wicker. Despite the fact that these materials are generally low maintenance and more resistant to harsh outdoor elements, there are some key methods you can use to keep them looking their best.


Exposure to the elements can cause damage and corrosion without proper maintenance and care. Even with the special finishes and coatings that protect metal furniture surfaces, the sun and outdoor precipitation can chip away and strip off these protective barriers after prolonged time outside. Baked-on enamel or mattifying finishes may last for years, but they do eventually peel off. Paint and varnishes are more vulnerable and are typically only effective for a season or two. With these protective coatings gone, corrosion and rust might start appearing on your outdoor metal lounge or dining furniture. As a solution, we at Pottery Barn have a few metal-furniture maintenance tips that’ll help you enjoy your pieces for years to come.

Give It a Thorough Cleaning

This is by far one of the easiest ways to maintain your metal furniture. Removing dirt and debris in joints, creases and other hard-to-reach areas helps prevent moisture from accumulating and causing rust. To get started, dilute liquid detergent in a bucket of warm water. Then, use a sponge to apply the solution to the furniture. Using an old toothbrush, scrub the areas where dirt usually accumulates. Rinse off the detergent thoroughly with a hose. Use an old rag to wipe off excess moisture, or air dry the furniture pieces under the sun. If you’re planning to put furniture covers back on the pieces, make sure the furniture is completely dry first to keep the moisture from getting trapped.

Use Furniture Covers

Covers for metal furniture go a long way in protecting your outdoor chairs, tables and sofas. Covers that are a combination of polyester and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material are water-repellent, providing ample protection from rain or snow. Choose furniture covers with vents to prevent moisture and condensation from building up inside underneath the covers.

Take Your Furniture Indoors

If you have light outdoor furniture and enough indoor storage space, this is one of the easiest ways to protect the furniture. Bring the pieces inside just before the weather gets rainy or snowy for the season. Giving the pieces a thorough cleanup before storing them is even better – again, be sure they’re completely dry.

Use Paste Wax

Applying paste wax on your outdoor furniture does more than make it look shiny and new. Wax naturally repels water, so it adds an extra barrier layer of protection on your metal furniture – just like it does on your car. Clean the pieces before applying the wax and following the product’s directions for removal.

Remove Rust Immediately

If you already see rust buildup on your outdoor metal furniture, don’t worry! It’s possible to strip off the rust, along with the remaining paint or coatings on the furniture. Doing this can stop the rust from causing any further damage. This method can work on all your outdoor furniture, including lounge sets and dining furniture. Here’s how to get started.

  • 1. Strip Off the Rust. Use an angle grinder to remove rust down to the metal underneath. This creates small metal shavings, so be sure to wear eye protection.
  • 2. Sand the Surface. Sand the entire surface of the furniture to prepare it for a new coating. Brush off the sanded particles from the furniture before proceeding to the next step.
  • 3. Apply a New Coating. Using a spray or a brush, apply a rust-preventive primer. Allow it to dry thoroughly. Apply the fresh paint. Use several coats for even coverage. Apply a clear sealant once the coats are dry.

With these easy tips in mind, it’s a breeze to keep your metal furniture looking and working its best.