Wrought iron stairways and railings can add beauty to your home, but if the railing inside your house is several decades old, then rust may start to appear on the surface. When this happens, you need to consider either replacing or restoring the railing. If you decide that restoration is best, then you need to remove rust carefully and you need to make sure that new rust does not form. Follow the steps below when you are ready to work on your restoration project.
Remove the Rust
If there is a thick layer of rust on the exterior of your iron stairway or railing, then you will need to remove the oxidized metal with a variety of different tools and products. Before you begin, you need to protect your stairwell, so place a large plastic tarp over your staircase and secure the covering with painter's tape along the edge of your wall. Start removing the larger rust flakes at this time with a wire brush. Gently sweep the brush across the rust to prevent damage to the iron underneath.
Once the majority of the rust is removed, work at the remaining oxidation with a piece of medium grit sandpaper. Paper with a grit of 80 is best to remove rust without scoring the metal. Use a piece of fine 180 grit sandpaper to remove the rest of the rust. Inspect both the paint and the exposed metal of the railing at this time and look for any rust stains that remain.
If you see rust stains, pour a small amount of either vinegar or lemon juice on a rag and wipe down your railing. The acetic acid in the vinegar and the citric acid in the lemons will dissolve the rust. Use soap and water to clean the railing when you are done.
Fill in Pits
When rust forms on your railing, it leaves holes of pits behind where the metal has oxidized. These openings need to be repaired before you can finish restoring your railing. This helps to both protect and restore the shape of the metal railing pieces. The best material you can use to fill in the spaces is epoxy putty.
Epoxy putty consists of two clay materials that react with one another when they are mixed together. The reaction starts the hardening process where the clay turns into a solid material within several hours. Some types of epoxy start to harden within a few minutes, so mix small amounts of the material at one time.
Cut the epoxy from the tube and knead the material in between your fingers until the epoxy is a uniform color. Fill in the pits in your iron railing with a thick layer of the material. Once you have filled in all of the holes, allow the epoxy to cure for about 24 hours. Use a piece of medium grit sandpaper to smooth the surface of the putty once it hardens.
Protect and Paint the Railing
Once all the rust is removed from your railing, you need to make sure that new rust cannot form. This can be accomplished by applying an anti-rust primer to the surface. A red oxide primer is a good product to help the railing resist rust, and you can find this material at your local home store. When you purchase the primer, buy an oil based paint as well to apply over the primer. Oil paints are best, because they repel water and keep your railing as dry as possible.
Use a paintbrush to apply two thin coats of the anti-rust primer to the surface of your railing. Wait about six hours for the primer to dry and then apply two coats of the oil paint.
If you have an old and corroded wrought iron railing in your home, then you may consider replacing it. You do not need to purchase a new railing though, if you like its beauty and ornamentation. You can restore the railing instead with the instructions outlined in the article.