Adding a rustic touch to mild steel, corten steel, or weathering steel can enhance its aesthetic appeal, and if you’re looking to expedite the rusting process, this how-to rust steel guide is for you. Follow our quick recipe for fast rusting to achieve a beautifully weathered patina in no time. The natural rusting process can take several years, but why wait?
Please note that not all steels are created equal. Applying this solution to mild or standard steel may increase the aging process and cause the item to degrade faster than intended. If using corten or weathering steel, this application helps to protect the rest of the steel from weathering. See our blog post here for more information.
How To Rust Steel Quickly
Ingredients and Supplies needed:
- Steel object – you can always buy one here
- Protective gear: rubber gloves, safety glasses, tarp or mat
- 16 oz hydrogen peroxide
- 1/2 tablespoon table salt
- 2 oz White vinegar
- Spray bottle
- Prepare the Steel: We ensure that each piece that arrives at your door is sanded smooth for any rusty or painted finish (how to paint video here). You will want to take a rag to clean off any dust that may have accumulated during shipping. If you didn’t order from us, sanding or wire brushing can help achieve a smoother finish and remove any oils. This should be done before you assemble it to ensure you don’t miss any overlapping areas.
- Gather protective gear: Ensure you have minimal safety gear: safety glasses and rubber gloves. You will also want to do this in a well-ventilated area. This is a corrosive solution. So be careful!
- Lay down a protective tarp or mat: Rusty runoff will occur during this process. Be sure to protect the surface you plan to do this over. No one wants rust stains to deal with.
- Mix the Solution: In a plastic container, combine white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Add a half tablespoon of table salt. Store-bought concentrations are sufficient for this application. Stir well until the salt is dissolved. You will want to mix up small batches each time to ensure it’s the most effective. Hydrogen peroxide can quickly degrade when mixed with other items and will lose its effectiveness.
- Spray the Solution: Transfer the solution to a spray bottle. Liberally spray the steel object, ensuring complete coverage. The reaction between the solution and the metal will initiate the rusting process.
- Allow for Oxidation: You should see the oxidation process right before your eyes! You will want each round of spraying to take effect before you apply the next round. Typically, this can take 6-10 applications before a full rusty patina is visible. Oxidation works best with alternating wet/dry cycles.
- Air Dry Times: The dry times can vary based on environmental conditions (especially slow on humid days/environments). You may even have to wait 24 to 48 hours between applications.
How to Rust Steel Quick Tips:
- Ventilation is Key: Ensure proper ventilation during the rusting process, as the solution may produce fumes. This also will speed up the drying process if air can move around the piece.
- Experiment with Ratios: Adjust the solution proportions based on your preferences. More vinegar may accelerate the process, while less can slow it down. We have seen others use equal parts vinegar to peroxide.
- Weathering Effect: Exposure to natural elements like sunlight and rain can enhance the weathering effect over time.
Experiment with this rapid rusting recipe to achieve a beautifully aged appearance on your steel objects. It’s a quick and cost-effective way to add character to your creations, from DIY projects to artistic endeavors.