Best Ways to Protect and Refinish Your Cast Iron Patio Furniture (Stop Rust!)

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The back patio is a great place to host barbecue parties, hang out with loved ones, or simply kick back and relax.  

Having comfortable, stylish, and durable furniture that we can rely on is key to enjoying the time we spend in our outdoor space. And when it comes to those three aspects, cast iron furniture is a winning bet. 

To maintain its aesthetics and durability, cast iron requires protection and maintenance. With that in mind, we’re going to shed light on how to protect cast iron outside and simple steps to restore its beauty. 

Can You Put Cast Iron Outside?

Cast iron furniture is one of the best furniture types for outside usage. Its strength and robustness will keep it around for many years compared to other furniture materials.  

The metal is sturdy; it doesn’t rot or burn and is extremely difficult to break. On top of that, it’s non-toxic and is impervious to insects and rodents.

What’s more, cast iron is chic and inexpensive. No wonder it’s used for structural purposes as well as decorative purposes, such as plaques and historical markers.

Unlike wrought iron, cast iron furniture is shaped through a molding process. You can often distinguish cast iron from wrought iron simply by looking for the mold lines that remain present on the finished piece.

So, the answer to the question of whether or not you can put cast iron outside is a definite yes. 

Although cast iron is impervious to almost everything, it still has one notable enemy: moisture! Cast iron is still iron, therefore, it’s susceptible to rust.

Moisture is all around us. You could be living near an ocean or a sea, or you could be living in a humid area or an area with lots of snow and rainfall.

While rust may be visually unappealing to some, it can eventually eat away at the metal if left untreated. Structural issues could result if the rust eats through the metal.

Therefore, you need to know exactly how to maintain and protect your cast iron furniture from rust when it’s placed outdoors. 

How to Keep Cast Iron From Rusting Outside

You can protect your cast iron patio furniture from rust in several ways, including:

Cover It

You’re probably saying to yourself, “Did I just invest in my patio furniture to end up covering it?” Well, that’s not exactly what we mean by covering your cast iron furniture. 

We’re simply advising you to cover it during the rainy or snowy season. You’re not going to use your patio furniture much during those times anyway, and if you’re going to use it, just take the covers off and put it back on when you’re done. 

Remember, moisture is the number one enemy to iron, so snow and rain are its enemies too. If you’re really serious about protecting your cast iron furniture, it’s recommended to keep an eye on the weather forecast.

When you know that rain or snow is coming soon, throwing a protective cover on your furniture is the easiest way to protect it from getting wet.

You can find covers that are specifically designed for patio furniture. They should fit snugly on your furniture so that they don’t take away from its aesthetics. Vinyl or canvas tarps are good alternatives. Plastic covers work well too. 

Note, however, that you might need to secure the tarps with ropes and straps so they won’t fly off with the wind. Placing a heavy rock or brick on the tarps to weigh them down is advisable. 

Store It During the Off Season

Covering your cast iron furniture might not be the best option for everyone. So, the second best option here is to store it during the off-season, if you have the space for it.

Again, we know that you most probably won’t be using your patio or backyard furniture all year round. So, instead of leaving it outside all year, you should store it during the winter. 

Due to the hefty weight of cast iron, you may find it necessary to recruit some help.  It’s unlikely you’ll want to move it around frequently due to how cumbersome it can be.

Storage of the furniture in your garage, shed, or even your house are all great options. 

Just know, it’s also recommended that you cover your cast iron furniture even when it’s stored.  This will offer extra protection against humidity to protect your furniture, not just from rust but also from mold and mildew.

Build a Patio Shelter

This is the most stylish way to shelter your cast iron furniture! 

Building a shelter, such as a gazebo or a covered deck, will certainly help protect your furniture from rain or snow.  However, it’s likely that the furniture may still get partially wet depending on if the wind blows the rain sideways underneath the deck.

Using a combination of a shelter and furniture covers is a great hybrid approach to protect the cast iron furniture.

Additionally, the shelter will provide a nice flare to your backyard, while also being functional as a shaded area for you and your guests.

Keep It Dry 

This might sound repetitive to you, but it’s crucial to keep your cast iron patio furniture dry. This means that once it gets wet, even if it’s just a small amount of water, you need to dry it as soon as you can –especially if it doesn’t have a protective coating.

Any clean, dry cloth can do the job. This won’t only help protect your furniture from rust but will also help maintain the paint job and keep the furniture clean. 

Clean It Regularly

Usually, cast iron furniture is coated with a rust-resistant coating. This coating can be eaten away due to accumulated dirt or grime.

To increase the lifespan of this coating, it’s important to clean your cast iron furniture regularly. In addition, regular cleaning can help with getting rid of any rust that is starting to develop.

A mixture of dish soap and warm water should do the trick. Just rub the mixture on the furniture using a cleaning brush or a toothbrush.

Make sure to get into the hard-to-reach areas as they’re also susceptible to rust. Don’t use harsh scrubbers or abrasive soaps, as they can scratch the paint and remove the protective coating.

After applying the mixture and rubbing it in, you need to rinse everything off. You can use a garden hose, or even a pressure washer.

A pressure washer can make your job way easier, as it can reach those crevices that you wouldn’t be able to reach with a normal hose. Plus, the pressure of the water helps to cut away easily at the grime.  Just be gentle when using the pressure washer so that you don’t strip away the protective coating.

The most important thing to remember after finishing the cleaning process is to wipe down everything dry!

Apply Coating Regularly

Yes, most outdoor furniture come coated, but the coating is bound to fade over time. So, it’s important that you apply extra layers every once in a while.  

A rust-resistant coating acts as a protective layer that sits on top of the cast iron. This layer will prevent any moisture from reaching the cast iron surface. This simple coating can make a huge difference in the lifespan of your furniture.

A wide range of protective coatings is available on the market, with different textures and colors. So, you’ll definitely find something that suits your furniture style.

Paste wax, grease, and rust-resistant sprays all do the job well. Some paints have rust inhibitors which can provide even better protection than standard exterior paint.

How to Clean and Refinish Your Cast Iron Patio Furniture

If your cast iron furniture looks fine, with no traces of rust issues or paint chips, you may only need to apply a rust-resistant clear spray. Otherwise, if the paint is chipping, it’s likely you may need to re-paint.  

Here are the steps to clean and repaint your cast iron patio furniture successfully at home:


Before you start doing anything, you need to make sure you have all the tools and materials you need for the job. 

This includes:

  • Stiff or wire brush
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Rust-resistant primer (galvanized primer recommended)
  • Rust-resistant paint (oil-based enamel recommended)
  • Clear Coat with UV Protection (optional)

Once you stock up on all that you need for the process, it’s time to clean your patio furniture. This step is crucial so that the final paint job would look smooth and won’t chip away fast.

Aside from that, it’s just nasty to paint a fresh color on furniture that is full of dirt and grime.

Step 1: Select an Ideal Workspace

Before jumping into refinishing your furniture, it’s recommended that you assess an appropriate work area.  

While the various coatings cure you’ll need to keep the furniture protected from any precipitation.  However, since the coatings may emit fumes, you’ll want to ensure adequate ventilation.

If you don’t have a sheltered space to temporarily store the furniture, you’ll want to closely monitor the weather so that you can coordinate this activity during a nice stretch of days without rain.

Otherwise, a garage is a great place to perform this work.  This will provide both protection and ventilation.

Step 2: Scrub Any Rust Stains

Firstly, you need to scrub away any rust stains on your furniture. That’s when you use your stiff or wire brush. Steel wool is also a good alternative in this case. Just make sure you scrub all the rusted areas. 

Step 3: File or Sand Your Furniture 

Scrubbing alone won’t get rid of all the traces of rust, so you need to make use of medium-grit sandpaper to sand your furniture. 

You also need to sand away any loose or chipped paint to bare metal. This step leaves the surface smooth and ready for a new, fresh paint job.

Step 4: Apply Phosphoric Acid

This step is optional, but you should know that it makes a huge difference in the end results. Applying phosphoric acid at this point exposes any rust stains that you’ve missed on your furniture.

It turns rust stains into black crust so that it’s more visible to you. Just make sure to protect your eyes and skin while using phosphoric acid. You also need to wear a mask.

In addition to using phosphoric acid, you can also apply any type of solvent to remove dirt and grime. 

As an alternative, you can use a mixture of vinegar and water. Vinegar works great at eating away any accumulated grime as well as rust stains or loose paint.

Step 5: Apply Primer

Before applying the primer, make sure the surface is dry and brushed off. 

Many of the galvanized metal-etching primers can be found in spray cans.  Follow the primer manufacturer’s instructions to ensure proper preparation and application.

As you apply the primer, take care not to leave any bare spots.  

Step 6: Apply Your Paint

Make sure the primer is completely dry before moving to the painting step. When you’re sure that it’s 100% dry, sand it lightly.

Finally, you can apply the top coat of paint.  An oil-based enamel is recommended for longevity.

Many of these paints also come in spray form for easy application.  Similar to primer, take care to apply uniform coverage without bare spots. 

Step 7: Apply a Clear Coat for Extra Protection (Optional)

After your cast iron furniture has the perfect look, you’ll probably want to keep it that way for as long as possible.  

A marine grade polyurethane or other UV-protected clear coat can be used over many paint types.  This clear coat will help protect the painted furniture for even longer.  

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to apply this top coat to the furniture.  Allow it to dry before exposing it to any sort of moisture.

Final Takeaway

Cast iron is a timeless material when it comes to patio furniture.  While it’s heavy-duty and durable, it is susceptible to rust when moisture is present.  

With that in mind, you should do your best to keep your cast iron furniture away from moisture. If you follow the protective and maintenance steps listed above, your cast iron furniture will stay in tip-top shape for many years to come. 

Happy Lounging!

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