How to Fix Rusted Patio Chair Legs (And Keep the Rust from Returning)

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Patio furniture is an investment and, in many households, is seen as a one-time purchase.  So, we try to maintain it for years of enjoyment. 

Sadly, the luster of metal patio furniture often diminishes after prolonged exposure to the weather elements.  Eventually, even the most durable metal furniture may end up with unsightly rust.

Rust can present itself in different colors like brown, red, yellow, or green. That’s because different colored compounds can be formed when iron oxidizes in the presence of moist air.

Any metal furniture containing iron –even trusty ‘ole wrought iron– is susceptible to rusting without proper care.

Although many people see rust as a visual eyesore, it can be even more problematic.  Rust can eventually weaken the structural integrity of the metal if it’s ignored for too long.

It’s pretty easy to envision what the effects could be if rust eats through a patio chair leg. Someone innocently taking a seat on the chair could eventually end up on the ground if the chair leg breaks.

That’s why it’s important to take action at the first signs of rust on patio furniture.  In this article, we’ll look at how to fix rusted patio chair legs.

How to Fix Rusted Patio Chair Legs

It’s important to know that once you remove the old rust, there’s a chance that new rust will develop. This process involves exposing the bare metal of the chair leg, which could increase the risk of more rust developing.

For best results, ensure the furniture remains protected from moisture until after you’ve finished the repair and re-coating. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Determine the Level of Damage

First, you have to evaluate the degree of damage caused by the rust.

If there are just a few rusty spots on the chair legs, it’s fixable. However, if the rust has eaten away holes, then it’s likely unsalvageable and this could be your cue to buy new patio furniture.

This is because the legs bear a lot of weight, and they need to be sturdy.

Step 2: Grab a Few Supplies

Next, you’ll need to grab a few items before you start fixing the legs of your chair.

Here’s everything you’ll need for your DIY project:

  • Rust remover
  • Wire brush
  • Drop cloth
  • Medium grit sandpaper
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Rust converter
  • Patch and fill (optional)
  • Rust inhibiting primer (optional)
  • Spray paint

Step 3: Apply Rust Remover

Now, you can finally begin your work!

Apply rust remover and let it sit on the chair legs for the duration recommended by the manufacturer. Some rust removers come in spray cans and others come as a liquid soak.

Spray cans are easier to use and more convenient, but they might be more expensive. On the other hand, liquid rust removers that are sold in bottles are more affordable, but they’re less convenient.

It’s your call to determine which type works with you best!

When the wait is over, scrub off the rust with a wire brush.

Step 4: Sand the Chair Legs

Put the chair on a drop cloth and use medium-grit sandpaper to sand the rust off the legs. You shouldn’t only focus on the rusty spots but also on the whole surface area, particularly if there’s any flaking paint

Next, use fine-grit sandpaper to sand all over the furniture legs.

Step 5: Wash the Chair and Dry It

Now, wash off the sanding powder and any trace of the rust remover from the chair legs. Then, wipe them dry with a microfiber cloth or let them air dry.

Make sure the chair is completely dry because any moisture can risk forming new rust on the vulnerable, exposed metal.

Step 6: Apply Rust Converter

Next, spray the chair legs with a rust converter solution. Some products come as a liquid that you paint with a paintbrush, but the spray is more effective in reaching the small curves and corners.

You can skip this step if the chair legs are straight and flat, and the damage caused by the rust was only surface deep. However, using a rust converter solution will help prevent rust from developing under the paint later on.

Step 7: Fill in the Grooves

This step is optional because it’s only necessary if the damage caused by the rust has left a rugged surface that would look unsightly once the paint goes on.

To fix this problem, mix the metal patch-and-fill compound and fill all the grooves with it. Then scrape off the excess with a putty knife –don’t worry about getting it totally smooth yet!  

Bondo is a resin compound commonly used in auto repair and can be useful when repairing metal furniture.

After the compound has been applied, let it dry.

Step 8: Sand the Dry Patch-and-Fill Compound

After the patch-and-fill compound has dried, use medium-grit sandpaper to sand down any elevated bits. 

Then, smoothen the surface with fine-grit sandpaper until it’s level with the surrounding area.

Step 9: Spray with Paint

In a well-ventilated area, spray the patio chair legs with spray paint for metals. Spray cans are the easiest to handle for a beginner and are the most affordable option.

Alternatively, you can use a paint sprayer and rust-proof paint.

If you live in a particularly humid area, you can prime the furniture first with a rust-inhibiting metal primer. Then, spray with the rust-inhibiting metal paint.

Apply several coats of paint and wait for the paint to dry between each layer. The drying time varies depending on the type of paint you use, and this is usually indicated on the can.

Safety Precautions to Keep in Mind When Fixing Rusted Patio Chair Legs

While renovating your patio chairs, you’ll inevitably have to handle some chemicals. So, you need to follow some safety measures:

  • Use gloves to protect your skin when handling sprays and solutions
  • Wear a paint respirator while painting the chairs
  • Wear a dust mask while sanding down the rust
  • Always paint in a well-ventilated area or outdoors
  • Get into old clothes that you don’t mind staining

How to Keep Metal Chairs from Rusting on Concrete

When rust bleeds on concrete floors, it can cause unsightly stains that may seem near impossible to clean.

To prevent this, you need to create a protective barrier between the chairs and the floors. A few ways to do this include using rugs and floor pads.

Use Furniture ‘Shoes’

Floor pads create a protective layer between the furniture legs and the floor. Furniture ‘shoes’ prevent the bottom of the chairs and tables from scratching, while also protecting the concrete floor from rust stains.

A few materials used for this purpose are felt, rubber, and plastic.

Place the Metal Chairs on a Rug

Outdoor patio rugs made of polyester or polypropylene are great additions to the garden aesthetic. But more importantly, they prevent friction between rusted chair legs and the concrete floor.

These rugs come in different sizes, shapes, and designs; and are commonly made of synthetic materials like nylon and acrylic.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Concrete Floors

Rust stains are gross and tough to remove, especially if they have been lying there for a long time on concrete. This is why you should try to clean them as soon as they appear and take measures to prevent future spots.

Here’s how to get rid of these stubborn rust stains on concrete floors:

  • Remove any dust and grime by scrubbing the floor with soap and water
  • Soak the floor with lemon juice or vinegar for about 15 minutes, then scrub the spots with a wire brush
  • If the stains are still visible, use a commercial rust-removing product that contains oxalic acid, trisodium phosphate, or hydrochloric acid
  • To use such a product, soak the stains with the acid for the recommended time written on the package
  • Scrub the rust until the floor is clean
  • Hose away the acid and let the floor air dry

How to Keep Patio Furniture from Rusting

As beautiful as it was when you had just bought it, rust on patio furniture is far from pretty. Fortunately for everyone, preventing rust is easy with just a few steps.

The key idea is to protect the furniture from moist air and water, and you should be good to go. Here’s how to do that:

Keep the Furniture Dry

Wipe down any moisture as soon as you see it with a dry cloth, like after a rainy day, on a foggy morning, or when the little ones spill some juice. 

This should limit the chance of rust forming on the metal.

Cover the Furniture When Not in Use

During the winter, or if you’re going on an extended vacation, your patio furniture will be just lying there doing nothing. Nothing but wearing down, that is.

To protect your beautiful outdoor property, you can store them in your garage or cover them.

Any type of cover will do, even a bedsheet. Just throw one over the chairs on the days you know you’ll not be using them.

You can also cover them when in use! 

Yup, you guessed it, using cushions and throw pillows will protect the metal parts of the patio furniture from moisture and abrasions.

Wash Your Patio Furniture Regularly

Since patio furniture sits outdoors, there’s a good chance it can get dirty and grow mildew on its surface. Mildew can hold moisture and eat away the paint over time, which causes the metal to rust.

This is why you need to make sure that your furniture is always clean to keep mold and mildew at bay.

To wash your patio furniture, use a sponge, mild soap, and water to scrub it down. Then, hose or wipe it with a wet cloth.

In place of soap, a mixture of water and vinegar works great, too, by killing any fungus and removing small rust particles.

If you happen to have a pressure washer lying around, it’s going to make the job even more effective (and more fun, obviously). Just make sure you use an appropriate pressure setting with wide-angle nozzle to avoid damaging the furniture.

Once you’ve cleaned the furniture, just make sure you dry it off quickly to prevent it from rusting.

Protective Coating for Metal Outdoor Furniture

Your outdoor metal furniture looked shiny, strong, and indestructible when you first got it. But over time, garden furniture gets exposed to moisture, dust, bird droppings, and other unfortunate events.

Luckily, there are several protective coatings you can choose from to protect that beauty from the elements. 

Paint It with Wax

Wax can be a great coating option because it acts as a barrier on your metal furniture against water and moisture. 

This is the right way to use wax as a protective coating for metal furniture:

  • Wash the furniture thoroughly with soap and water to remove dust and grime
  • Dry the furniture with a rug or let it air-dry completely
  • Paint the wax in several thin layers, taking care not to miss any curves or crevices

Apply Grease Sealant

Grease is known for preventing hinges from being squeaky, but it’s great for keeping moisture away, too. To grease your furniture:

  • Paint some grease over the corners, joints, and screws to keep them from rusting
  • Handle the grease with care and avoid applying it on the seat, back and armrests, since they’ll likely leave stains on clothing
  • Afterward, you can scrub off any grease spots from your driveway with soap and water

Spray with Rust Prevention Products

Did you know that several manufacturers have made sprays specifically for protecting your outdoor metal furniture?

Bottled or canned sprays are very convenient since they’re dispensed in small quantities and their droplets tend to reach even the smallest crevices. Some spray cans come with an in-built straw to spray hard-to-reach areas.

Paint the Chair Legs

While paint sprays can work very well on the whole metal surface of the chairs, they will be less effective for the feet. When the chairs are moved or dragged, the thin protective layer might be scraped off.

Therefore, try to avoid dragging your patio furniture and lift it instead when adjusting its position.

Here’s the right way to apply paint to metal chair legs:

  • Turn each chair upside down or on its side
  • Shake a clear vinyl or epoxy paint can for a minute and spray its contents all over the chair legs, especially at the bottom of the ‘feet’
  • Allow the paint to dry then bring the chairs back right side up

Final Takeaway

Rust can surely ruin metal patio chair legs.  At best, the rust may be an eyesore; at worst, it could completely ruin the furniture.  

Fortunately, if you spot rust early on, you might be able to reverse the damage.

Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, which is why you should protect your metal furniture from rust from the very beginning. You can do this by keeping the furniture dry, cleaning regularly, and covering or storing it when not in use.

Additionally, you can use wax, grease, or paint to protect the patio chairs.

Finally, if you think that metal furniture maintenance is too much work, you can always opt for plastic or wooden chairs.

Happy Lounging!

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