Rust: A Horror Story – How I Saved Our Patio Furniture

Imagine my horror. I sat on our new outdoor furniture on our recently completed flagstone patio, enjoying a warm, late-spring afternoon. As I admired the results of our recent hard work (we regraded the backyard and built two 16′ x 3′ retaining walls and three terraces), I noticed it. The not-so-new iron furniture and fire pit were dull and rusted. You know the kind of rust that looks like it’s bleeding, yeah, that’s our fire pit. Womp-womp, buzz-kill! Thoughts began racing through my head – Why didn’t I notice this before? When did this happen? How can I save them?

According to, “rust occurs when iron or its alloy, such as steel, corrodes. Corrosion begins in the presence of oxygen and water. Given enough time, any piece of iron will change entirely into rust and disintegrate”.

Sadly, this was an obvious outcome of the furniture sitting outside unprotected. Why hadn’t I covered them or stored them in our garden shed for the winter? Lesson learned. Nonetheless, I had to act fast to get rid of this blight before it got worse. Especially since we’re spending more time outside (because we’d go mad if forced to stay inside one more minute!)

I assessed all the pieces. The iron bench and side table were dull and had some surface rust, but nothing that was damaging the pieces so far. The fire pit (which maybe isn’t iron), on the other hand, was peeling and very rusted to the point that the rust was threatening to stain the new flagstone patio, so it needed immediate attention. 

Side by side of rusty iron table and bench
Rusted fire pit base.

I headed to Home Depot in search of a rust solution. While in the spray paint aisle, I discovered a product called Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer. The front of the can reads “instantly converts rust to a protected, paintable surface!” Rust protectant and primer in one can! Yes, please!! I grabbed a can of Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer and one can of Rust-Oleum High Heat spray paint (which also stops rust, because I really want it gone) and headed home to save my rusted patio pieces. (By the way, this post is not sponsored by Rust-Oleum.)

iron bench before with wire brush, drill with wire brush attachment and Rustoleum spray paints

This is what I did:

1. I started by cleaning and drying each piece using mild dish soap and a scrub sponge to remove dirt and moss (yes, moss, so weird.)

2. I then scuffed the surfaces of all pieces using a wire brush and a drill with a wire brush attachment to remove rust and chipped paint. Steel wool also works. I wiped the rust dust from each piece with a clean cloth.

3. Wearing a disposable glove on my spray paint hand, I primed with Rust Reformer. I used the Rust Reformer as a primer on all pieces because they all had rust. Using a steady back and forth motion, I slightly overlapped as I sprayed each piece. Tip: Hold spray can at least 10” from the item you’re spraying to avoid over application which leads to dripping paint. Only use spray paint outdoors or in a well ventilated area when the temperature is at least 70°F (and not over 90°F) with low humidity.

4. I Waited….24 hours for the Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer to cure. Yes, waiting! Admittedly, not my strong suit.

5. Time for paint! I painted everything with Rust-Oleum High Heat spray paint, which is for grills, engines, and fire pits (you know, super hot things). I used this on the fire pit as well as the iron furniture (the furniture sits in the hot, summer sun all day, so while not necessary, I figured high heat would be the most durable). I used the same back and forth application method, with a slight overlap.

6. Then I waited 1-2 hours for the High Heat spray paint to dry! Okay, this wait time was much more do-able. Apply additional coats as needed.

Iron table and bench after. Looking great!!

To avoid marks on the patio from the bottom rim of the fire pit, I used an additional product called Plasti Dip, a multi-purpose rubber coating spray (like the rubber coating you’d find on the handles of pliers). This product takes 3 to 4 coats (I used 3) with a 4 hour wait time between applications. (Note: I actually used the fire pit 4 hours after the first coat, then applied 2 additional coats of Plasti Dip the next day.) This stuff works great. The metal base of the fire pit now has a rubber coating and should keep the flagstone patio free from marks for the summer.

Pasti Dip can
Plasti Dip sprayed on fire pit base

The fire pit can be used as a table when not in use and has a hammered copper table top. I decided to clean the grime and patina from it while the Plasti Dip dried. Using items from our pantry, salt and white vinegar, to create a paste, I scrubbed away the grime, revealing the beautiful hammered copper beneath. I’m digging the bright, yet sightly weathered look.

Copper fire pit top before with grime and patina.
Fire pit top being cleaned with salt and white vinegar to remove patina and grime.
Firepit after - cleaned top, rust protected and plati dipped base

Overall, this project was quick, easy and took under an hour of hands-on time to complete. However, like Tom Petty says “The waiting is the hardest part,” well, for me, at least!! The iron furniture and fire pit look brand new with a price tag under $22 compared to the hundreds it would’ve cost for a new iron side table, bench, and fire pit!

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