Cleaning your balcony seems like such a simple task until you see rust peeking from between the rails. As a homeowner, you have probably dealt with corrosion on different metals.
However, the battle with one particular metal is quite challenging, and that’s iron. As the most used metal in the world, it is quite strong but susceptible to rust.
Knowing how to remove rust from your balcony railing is vital to ensuring the metal does not break. It’s possible that a little weight on it can cause a head-first fall, which can be quite dangerous for small children.
The good news is that removing rust from metal is not that difficult, given the reddish-brown stains are caught in time.
There are four steps to making your balcony railings look as good as new again: cleaning, repairing, priming and maintenance, and finishing.
Rust on Balcony Railing
Any part of your railing made with iron can rust. All metals oxidize, but iron is the only metal that rusts. While copper does rust, it does corrode.
The metal turns a sickly shade of green, which is called verdigris. Similarly, metals such as aluminum and steel (containing traces of iron) corrode as well.
Apart from balcony railings, you will also find rust on outdoor furniture, doors and windows, and flooring.
Sometimes, you will also see rust stains on outdoor furniture fabric. These occur when iron rusts and mixes with water.
The color rubs off on the fabric and makes the furniture look dirty and old. Unlike cleaning the balcony railings that require a little elbow grease, these fabric stains are easy to remove.
Often people throw away rusted tools because buying a screwdriver or wrench is much cheaper than immersing them in a bucket full of white vinegar.
In the case of balcony railings, you don’t have the luxury of removing them and installing new ones because it might be out of your budget.
Plenty of products on the market allow you to remove rust with a single spray.
Then there are the DIY methods involving lemon juice, baking soda, soda pop, a potato, and white vinegar.
You are probably wondering how these household ingredients can remove rust, right? Well, the acidic content in them and the alkaline reaction they cause are what loosen up rust and allow you to remove it with a cloth.
How Rust Forms on the Balcony
It’s common to see rust on any item that is placed outside.
You will even see rust forming on certain parts of your car and bike, rakes, and garden chairs. Rust forms due to oxidation.
A chemical reaction happens when iron reacts with water and oxygen, forming hydrated iron (III) oxide. On the periodic table, iron and oxygen have opposite charges.
As a result, they attract each other.
When the reaction takes place, iron loses its electrons to stabilize oxygen.
The rusting process speeds up when the metal comes in contact with more water, and your railing starts to deteriorate.
The three elements, which cause rust, are iron, oxygen, and water. Since the latter two are already present in the atmosphere and your balcony railing is made of iron, rust occurs naturally.
Though rust can be difficult to deal with and is unsightly, a few simple steps can help you eliminate it. Let’s take a look at them:
Step #1 Clean the Railing
Use a Commercial Rust Remover
Most people dispense with the DIY remedies and go straight to the good stuff. A quick search online will offer plenty of sprays that help remove rust surprisingly well.
All you have to do is spray on the rusted area and then scrub for a few minutes. Some take the night to work their magic, while others take around 30 minutes.
Commercial rust removal is great when you are short on time, but some contain harmful chemicals that damage your balcony railing in the long run. In comparison, natural alternatives are much better.
Use White Vinegar
White vinegar contains acetic acid (CH3COOH). When this acid reacts with rust, it forms water and a salt Fe(CH3COO)3. This process is called neutralization.
Since this is a more potent acidic option for cleaning balcony railings, it’s important to remove all traces of vinegar, or it might burn through the bolts.
Combine two parts vinegar and 1 part water in a bottle and spray the solution on the railing.
Make sure to drench it completely. Wait for a few minutes, and then use a wire brush to scrub off the rust.
Use Lemon Juice
One of the most common natural solutions that helps remove rust effectively is lemon juice.
Its acidity loosens up rust and, combined with salt, acts as a scrub that does not leave any scratches on the metal.
Since lemon juice and salt are environmentally friendly, they won’t damage your lungs or skin.
The acid in lemon juice separates oxygen and iron, which gives it a shiny coat. To use this method, rub salt on rust.
Next, squeeze lemon juice on it and let the solution sit for 15 minutes. Use a brush to remove the rust and wipe it with a cloth.
Have you ever dropped a nickel or penny in a glass of soda and seen it become as shiny as new? This rust-busting power is brought to you by phosphoric acid.
Soda also contains citric acid that removes stains.
While soda is an effective solution that removes rust, its sugar content is the biggest problem. Soda might make your balcony sticky with sugar and attract bugs.
If the rust is too stubborn, we recommend using soda as a last resort.
Use Baking Soda
Baking soda is another natural ingredient found in every kitchen cabinet. It has an abrasive texture that removes stubborn stains.
When water and baking soda comes in contact with rust, it dissolves the reddish-brown oxide thanks to the powder’s alkaline nature. You can also use it with vinegar to speed up the reaction.
Make a paste of baking soda and use a brush to rub it all over the railing.
The paste should be thick enough that it sticks to the surface. Let the paste sit for at least 15 minutes, and then use a wire brush to scrub it and the rust off.
Use a Potato
The oxalic acid in potatoes breaks down rust. This remedy is more useful in cleaning hand tools, such as knives, screwdrivers, etc. If you are free on the weekend, go to town on the railing.
Cut the potato in half and sprinkle salt on it. Make a paste of raw potato and use a toothbrush to scrub between the railings and any unreachable corners.
You can soak small, rusted items in vinegar overnight. When it comes to balcony railings, using a vinegar spray is effective.
Still, there are other ways to get the job done faster. WD-40 is helpful in such situations.
This popular product allows you to remove everything, from gum stuck to carpet to bugs in cars and rust from furniture and railings.
WD-40 is not only a rust remover but also a cleaner and primer. The spray cuts through rust and exposes the bare metal.
To use this product, cover the railing with WD-40. Wait for ten minutes for the solution to work. Use a brush to scrub the rust. You will see it breaking apart from the metal.
Next, use a steel brush to remove the stubborn rust. Make sure to scrub with a light hand, so you don’t scratch the railing. Once you see the metal underneath the rust, clean the railing with a cloth.
Step #2 Repair the Railing
You can repair sheet metal with a polyester resin or epoxy. Some products have paste-like filters that you can use to fill up empty spaces.
You can then ground them flat to match the overall design. If you have experience with a welding machine, this part of the process will be fairly simple.
Step #3 Prime the Railing
The most important rule of cleaning iron is to prime the surface to protect it from rust. Once the metal is cleaned, apply an alkyd primer immediately.
If you live in a humid environment, even the smallest amount of moisture will cause rust to develop on the railing.
If it takes you more than a day to remove rust, you need to wipe down the surface with mineral spirits when you start again.
You will find primers for rusty metal and clean metal. For light metals, you can use a cold galvanizing primer.
For restoration work, a rusty metal primer is the best. This product contains a small amount of rust but is stable, so it won’t corrode the railing further.
The compounds in a rusty metal primer bind to the metal and form a non-reactive film.
A cold galvanizing primer contains zinc dust. When the compounds in this primer come in contact with iron, it removes rust through galvanic action.
WD-40 Specialist Corrosion Inhibitor is a spray that keeps metal safe when used. So, if you are going on a long vacation, we suggest spraying the railing with this.
Step #4 Paint the Railing
The last step of the process is to apply a metal paint finish on the railing. A spray will apply an even layer of paint, but you should use it multiple times for a thick coat.
On the other hand, painting the railing with a brush will be time-consuming, but you will complete the task in two coats.
Rust is invasive and can take over you’re railing in just a few days. Hence, you should prime the surface after cleaning it.
Try the natural cleaning methods first before moving on to chemical products. Don’t forget to give the railing a final coat of WD-40 to prevent the railing from rusting in the first place.