by Phil Bruckbauer
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Over the years we have created hundreds of pieces of furniture, ranging from rustic to modern, but with an emphasis on using strictly reclaimed wood. Most often we are taking an old, beat up, piece of wood and aiming to make it look new, however with our newest products we are going with a somewhat backwards approach, taking a new product and making it look old. In an attempt to create some new products for the Eco Chic Design Conference last month, we searched for and tested a new method of rusting steel in a timely manner. After some trial and error we perfected the recipe for rusting success that I will be sharing with you today, so if you want to learn how to rust steel and galvanized metal, keep reading.
A rusted steel item can bring a unique look to almost any space, but with warm weather approaching, we decided to go with some lake themed wall decor (arrows, anchors, and oars) as our first endeavor in the rusting process. With that, here is the step by step process for creating your own rusted steel art in less than a few hours. Below is a raw steel oar prior to any alterations… before and afters to follow.
- Your desired piece of steel
- 1 bottle of distilled white vinegar
- 1 bottle of hydrogen peroxide
- 1 container of table salt
- 1 or 2 spray bottles
- 1 can of spray clear coat
Step 1. Pour equal parts distilled vinegar and hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle container. (Don’t use all of your hydrogen peroxide as you will need a small amount left over for step 5.)
Step 2. Add around a ¼ cup of salt to the container and shake/stir until the salt is dissolved.
Step 3. Spray the mixture onto your piece of steel. I like to spray randomly across all parts until the steel is covered in the solution. Anywhere from a light mist, to a full standing pool of liquid is acceptable.
Step 4. Sprinkle a liberal dose of salt across the steel. Again, sprinkle random amounts to the piece, as it will create a less uniform rusting.
Step 5. Add a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to a new spray bottle(or rinse and re-use your original bottle) and spray the peroxide over the newly salted steel. You will almost instantly begin to see color change and bubbling on the steel. More bubbling equals more rust. Don’t be too concerned with the color at this point, it will turn more orange as it dries.
Step 6. Let sit until the steel is dry to the touch(may take a couple hours). You will have a good amount of salt dried to the steel, so go ahead and lightly wipe off the salt with a rag until your desired look.
Step 7. (Optional) The steel can smell a bit like vinegar and the rust is prone to wiping off to the touch, so I like to add a clear coat to seal the look of the steel. Any simple spray can of clear finish works well.
One of the main reasons I like this DIY project is that it’s a very cheap and simple project that can be done in an afternoon, especially if you’re looking for an activity to do with children or friends! Or if DIY projects aren’t quite your thing but you still like these products, they are also available for purchase on the shop section of our website. If you try this method or find it helpful, tell us about your trials. Good luck rusting!