Top 5 Best Paint Primers For Rusted Metal (2020 Review)

Are you looking for the best paint primers for rusted metal?

Good news! We've got them listed here, and more!

In this ProPaintCorner Review, you'll discover:

  • What are the different kinds of primers for painting rusted metal?
  • What to look for when buying a primer for rusted metal
  • Our top paint primer for rusty metal picks

And much more!

Top 5 Best Paint Primers For Rusted Metal (2020 Review)
Image Product

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Rust Converter Ultra
  • Efficient
  • Easy application
  • Multi-use
  • Efficient
  • Easy application
  • Multi-use
View on Amazon

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Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer
  • Heavy rust primer
  • Fast drying
  • Value priced
  • Heavy rust primer
  • Fast drying
  • Value priced
View on Amazon

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Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter Metal Primer
  • Non-flammable
  • Non-corrosive
  • Easy cleanup
  • Non-flammable
  • Non-corrosive
  • Easy cleanup
View on Amazon

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Krylon Rust Protector
  • Satin or flat finish
  • Multiple color choices
  • No-drip nozzle
  • Satin or flat finish
  • Multiple color choices
  • No-drip nozzle
View on Amazon

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TotalBoat Rust Primer Converter
  • Phosphoric-acid based
  • Excellent coverage
  • Easy application
  • Phosphoric-acid based
  • Excellent coverage
  • Easy application
View on Amazon

Our Overall #1 Rated Pick

(updated 6/25/2020)

Rust Converter Ultra takes our overall top honors for its incredibly easy application. Simply brush it on. 

Beyond its easy application and impressive effectiveness, it comes with the peace of mind of knowing that a full 30 day, no-questions-asked, return policy is in force from the manufacturer.

Top that off with the confidence that comes from being able to order it through a trusted supplier, like Amazon, and we're sold on recommending it.

Top 5 Best Paint Primers For Rusted Metal

In a hurry? Check out our top five paint primers for rusted metal! Keep reading to discover more about our top picks.

  1. Rust Converter Ultra
  2. Rust-Oleum Rusty Metal Primer
  3. Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter Metal Primer
  4. Krylon Rust Protector
  5. TotalBoat Rust Primer Converter

Why Use A Paint Primer Over Rusted Metal?

Durable and popular in decoration and fabrication, metal has only one weakness-- water. Yes, you read correctly. 

The very tiniest bit of water, too, over a long period of time can erode into metal's molecular structure, eventually causing rust.

All rust needs to develop is for metal to contain iron or alloys imbued with iron, along with simple exposure to oxygen and moisture. These ingredients together and you could have rust.

Paint over rust without first priming it and you'll be painting again in no time. Before long, those rust bubbles will surface.

That is why proper prep and priming is so important.

Read More >> How Can You Paint  Aluminum The Right Way?

What Are The Different Types Of Paint Primers For Painting Rusted Metal?

Primers for rusted surfaces all have their various advantages and disadvantages.

Read on to determine which is best for you. 

Oil-Based Primers

Whether sprayed, brushed, or rolled on, oil-based primers are designed to stop rust. Sure they may be considered the old way of priming metal, but it still does work.

The paint primer particles create a glue-like seal over the rusted metal surface and thereby prevent additional water from entering the metal.

This prevents rust from spreading.

Then, once you paint over that primed paint layer, your top-coat can adhere and remain fresh and clean looking for years after, as the old rust has now been fully abated by the oil-based metal primer.

Rust-Oleum and other popular paint companies make rust-stopping primer, in fact, we've even recommended one of their's as our best budget pick.

Rust Converters

As you may have heard, rust converters are the new thing in the world of rust abatement.

Rather than simply being a rust protector primer, these rust conversion formulas actually turn the rust into a new chemical compound. That prevents it from spreading.

Then, this layer self-seals with a protective coating onto which you can confidently paint.

Read More >> What Are The Top One Coat Paint + Primers On The Market?

Did you know: Rust occurs in iron and other alloys when it's exposed to oxygen and/or water for an extended period of time. Rust slowly corrodes iron into other chemicals, because of a reaction with the oxygen molecules.

How To Prepare For Priming A Rusted Metal Surface

If you've done any painting in your life, you know how uncommon it is that you dip a brush and start painting anything without some prep.

That goes for painting rusted metal as well.

Materials needed

As you plan your DIY rust removal task, here are some basic supplies you'll want to have on hand in addition to the primer itself.

  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection
  • A wire metal scrub brush
  • Sandpaper

Sanding 

The first step is to create a nice, smooth, paintable surface. Do this surface preparation by using sandpaper or a metal wire brush to remove loose rust off the metal surface.

If the surface is very large and the rust is more advanced, prep may need to involve using a sandblasting gun rather than simple hand sanding methods.

If you do, be sure to follow proper safety protocols. OSHA has written guidelines about metal surface preparation. 

Read these guidelines to learn how to prepare your metal surface for rust abatement properly.

Also, be especially mindful when using rust converters. 

They won't work if you scrape off every last bit of loose rust particle from your surface. In fact, with rust converters, sanding can be skipped entirely.

Read More >> What Are The Best Ways To Get Primer Off Your Hands?

Isn't it nice when a product tells you exactly what it does, right in its name?

That's precisely what Rust Converter Ultra does. 

Brush on the milky, thin material and watch once corroding rust turn into a now inert coating that seals out moisture to prevent further corrosion.

You'll get 500 square feet of application out of each gallon. 

Use it on anything that can rust, including cars, machines, handrails, tools, and more.

Pros

  • Efficient
  • Easy application
  • Multi-use

Cons

  • Requires vigorous mixing
  • Inconsistent surface color

Our value pick, the Rusty Metal Primer from Rust-Oleum is a useful tool to have on your shelf in your garage or shop. 

Even though it is technically a type of spray paint primer in a can, it's a cheap cure for rust.

For about five dollars, you can go around your entire house and inspect everything made of metal. 

Anything that's got a tinge of rust, even a few specks on it, you can give a quick blast of this spray paint and -- boom -- the rust is gone. 

Not only is this spray a cover to actually hide the rust, but it's also a rust preventative in that it will keep new rust from forming around the areas that are painted. 

Pros

  • Heavy rust primer
  • Fast drying
  • Value priced

Cons

  • Loose spray pattern
  • Short shelf life

This stuff works. At its price and its coverage of about 1/2 that of our overall number one pick, you're making a bit of a premium choice with Corroseal. 

It's a great primer, and rust converter in one specifically designed to be used on metal boat hulls.

Sure, you can use it one your old tools and your rusty barbeque grill, but it also could create a watertight seal on some old rusted boat hull. 

If it's trustworthy for marine use, you surely can trust it for any rusty metal remediation task.

Absolutely make sure to wear rubber gloves when using Corroseal. This stuff is quite messy when it gets anywhere it shouldn't be.

Pros

  • Non-flammable
  • Non-corrosive
  • Easy cleanup

Cons

  • Dense material
  • Messy

Here's a primer spray that comes from a brand you know has serious chops in the world of spraying paint.

That brand is Krylon, and their Rust Protector in a can is one of the best spray primers for rusted metal that you'll find anywhere.

You'll benefit from the adjustable spray nozzle on it that can set the spray pattern into a verticle or horizontal fan shape.

Pros

  • Satin or flat finish
  • Multiple color choices
  • No-drip nozzle

Cons

  • Color inaccuracy
  • Must apply gradually

Another boat-worthy brand of rust primer that works as a converter, here we have TotalBoat.

It's easy to apply, but be mindful of the white, chalky layer that it leaves after it's dried. 

You can sand that layer off easily, but it is another step that you may not have foreseen being part of the task.

While it does have the word boat in the name, it does have many uses. 

Use it on vehicles, outdoor railings, steel doors, rebar, tools, and more.

Pros

  • Phosphoric-acid based
  • Excellent coverage
  • Easy application

Cons

  • Leaves white waxy layer
  • Needs finishing

Our Top Pick: Rust Converter Ultra

Ultimately, we decided on the powerful Rust Converter ULTRA.

It's an easy pick. You'll get professional-grade rust repair in a rather easy to use system.

One gallon of this stuff is enough to rust abate an old rusty dumpster. 

Besides, with the manufacturer backing it with a 30-day, no-questions-asked return policy, you can feel confident giving it a try.

Check out the lowest price now on Amazon!

Read More >> What Are The Ultimate Auto Primers To Cover Old Paint?

Final Thoughts on Using Primer Over Rusted Metal 

How you actually apply the primer is mostly up to personal choice. 

For smaller tasks, a simple paintbrush will work fine. When priming larger areas, use a paint sprayer to apply the primer.

Surface rust only

If the rust on your metal surface is rooted deep, you may need to explore grinding it off. 

For only light surface rust, these products will work for you.

Application

Apply rust primer like you'd apply regular primer or paint.

Only in this case, the work won't be as detailed. Cover the rusted areas, but don't worry about going far beyond. 

Apply the material over the rusted areas. Apply a normal wet coat, like you'd do with paint, being sure not to allow it to drip or to spread it too thin.

For some direction on this, have a look at how one of our top picks, Corroseal, is applied in this helpful YouTube video.

Meet Your Pro Paint Corner Author

RJ Parker

RJ Parker

My first job as a painter’s assistant at the ripe young age of 13 charted a path ahead in my life that would gravitate around painting. Now as a freelance handyman and writer, I paint both with the brush and with words. If I’m not edging-in trim or rolling on a top-coat, you might find me out in the fields tending to a flock of goats. Literally. No lie. Or, perhaps you may catch me engaged in my other favorite pastime, eating. It’s fair to say that I’ve painted outside the lines, so to speak, prior to finding my natural stroke. Now, these misadventures and mishaps that I’ve experienced don’t have to happen to you. My mission at ProPaintCorner is to continue painting remotely through the advice, inspiration, and confidence that I give to my readers.

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RJ Parker

RJ Parker

My first job as a painter’s assistant at the ripe young age of 13 charted a path ahead in my life that would gravitate around painting. Now as a freelance handyman and writer, I paint both with the brush and with words. If I’m not edging-in trim or rolling on a top-coat, you might find me out in the fields tending to a flock of goats. Literally. No lie. Or, perhaps you may catch me engaged in my other favorite pastime, eating. It’s fair to say that I’ve painted outside the lines, so to speak, prior to finding my natural stroke. Now, these misadventures and mishaps that I’ve experienced don’t have to happen to you. My mission at ProPaintCorner is to continue painting remotely through the advice, inspiration, and confidence that I give to my readers.

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