Home on the Range · Tutorials & DIY

How to Add Rust to a Project (on Purpose)

As many of you know, we live on a 5 1/2 acre ranch in the outskirts of Hollister, CA. We have a cute little house that we have (are) decorated in Farmhouse style which includes stone, wood, and metals.. including some rusty elements.

Recently my daughter decided to create a ranch sign in her shop class. In the high school’s new CTE department they are fortunate to have access to great equipment including a CNC plasma cutter. Since my daughter is a 3rd year student she is able to create her own projects and use the various equipment.

She designed this sign on the CNC computer program and had it cut out of sheet metal.

We know its a bit off center.. thanks to her teacher. LOL

This is after it sat outside for a week or so. It got misted and fogged on and started to rust but I wanted a much rustier appearance, so I wiped it down and then sprayed the entire surface with white vinegar and left it overnight.

Sprayed with white vinegar.
After leaving overnight.

You can see on the photo from the next day that the vinegar did a good job of encouraging the rust. It removed whatever coating might be left from production and machining. You can also see that our dog walked across it. LOL There are a few places it didn’t get much color, its very dark.
I wanted to encourage more rust so I mixed up a solution of:

  • 2 cups hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/2 TBSP table salt
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar

Simply shake the mixture up in a spray bottle making sure all of the salt is dissolved. Put on rubber gloves and spray over the surface of the metal.

The solution starts working immediately!
You can see how the solution creates a variety of colors and textures in the rust.
It literally changes in front of your eyes.

I did a couple of coats and sprayed the solution in some specific areas repeatedly until I was happy with how it looked. Once everything was completely dry, I sprayed the entire piece with a couple coats of acrylic sealer and then my husband hung it on the outside of our barn.


You could easily use this technique on any metal items though you might have to strip off a clear finish if they are store bought. If using IN your home, you will want to be sure to seal it very well and perhaps add felt or rubber bumpers so avoid any rust rubbing off onto furniture or walls. The possibilities are endless!

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