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Speeding up the rusting of ferrous metals

I am playing around with some patina ideas and would like to speed
up the rustbuilding on ferrous metals. Is there any known magic, or
am I condemned to wait? Thanks!

I have a great idea…Get flooded by 5 feet of salt water storm
surge from a hurricane and BINGO!!! everything you own is instantly
rusted. Hmmmmmmmmmm…two years later and I’m not still bemoaning
Wilma am I?

Hi Andreas,

For rust to occur you will need to expose your ferrous metal to both
water and oxygen, so just find a nice moist atmosphere (maybe like
your bathroom) and it should work. I looked on the internet and
noticed that someone was trying to do the same by using hydrogen
peroxide, a very strong oxidising agent. The results weren’t posted
but it may work?


I am playing around with some patina ideas and would like to speed
up the rustbuilding on ferrous metals. Is there any known magic,
or am I condemned to wait? 

Just place the ferrous metal anywhere near the pickle pot, a little
above it would be the best and you’ll have more rust then you know
what to do with in a short time. Else, you could take and seal the
piece your trying to rust in a plastic bag or storage container with
a couple of teaspoons of pickle dry mix and a couple drops of water.
I have a 40 lb bucket of Sparex that I’m trying to get rid of that
would be perfect for this application… :wink:

Rick Copeland
Silversmith and Lapidary Artisan
Colorado Springs, Colorado


Fumes from dilute HCl (Hydrochloric acid from local hardware store)
will rust everything near. It’s so effective that I won’t even keep
it in my shop. A home brew alternative is vinegar with excess table
salt… rusted stuff completely submerged is de-rusted, anything
exposed to the fumes is rusted quickly. Slightly ironic symmetry. My
chemistry is rusty, but I believe this mix is basically producing a
weak HCl solution.

Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing

Start by degreasing the metal completely, put it in a sealable
container and spray it with salt water, add an small open container
of vinegar or other weak acid, and close the container. Depending on
you local conditions and the grade of steel/iron the reaction can be
pretty quick, so check it every 4-8 hours. Once you get the degree of
rust you want, open the container, remove the vinegar, and let it

Here in humid, salt air prone, FL, often you can get the same effect
with just the salt spray and an open shelf.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL

There are ferrous metals like steel, which can rust to a gorgeous
brown, some alloys are designed to do just that, but the world of
ferrous metals includes stainless steel (many of which actually can
rust to limited extent) and many exotic alloys. If you have a
non-stainless steel you are encouraging to rust you need moisture and
oxygen at a minimum. The quickest way I have found is to spray the
metal with a little acid (muriatic or hydrochloric), keep damp and
rust is a few hours away.


Hi Andreas;

Try sandblasting it to open up the surface of the metal. If that’s
too fuzzy, wire brush it down, but at least get the mill scale off so
that you’re working on clean metal. Navel Jelly will work too if you
don’t have a sand blaster. It’s a jellied hydrochloric acid available
in hardware stores. Once you’re working with clean metal, apply a
ferric nitrate and water solution on the heated surface, not so hot
that the solution bounces off, just so it steams when it’s applied.
And keep your face out of the way, put a fan on it to blow the fumes
away. Not poisonous, just corrosive and not good to breath. Keep
heating and applying, you’ll see it rusting, but some of that is the
actual ferric nitrate drying out of solution, so keep at it for at
least a half dozen applications. Then let it sit for a couple days.
Neutralize the reaction with ammonia when you’ve got it where you
want it. After that, I like to rub it down with a thick application
of Johnson’s paste wax, then buff it up. Nice leathery brown look
when you’re done.

Another solution, which I hesitate to recommend, is Plumb Brown
Barrel Finish, available from gun shops, (off hand I can’t remember
the manufacturer). Be REAL careful with that stuff as it’s got a
mercury compound in it and it’s quite toxic. And the various barrel
bluing compounds contain selenium, also deadly poisonous. The blue
color is actually an iron oxide, the first one formed. Ferrous oxide,
I believe. The brown is ferric oxide, which forms after the blue. (I
hope I don’t have those turned around though, I get too many
opportunities to expose my limited knowlege of chemistry).

David L. Huffman

There’s been much advise on this, and I’m no expert. I’ll point out,
though, that the old-fashioned sculpture way is to bury it in moist
soil for a week or a month, and then dig it up… Real rust with
natural patches and stuff… Iron will rust quickly, steel can take
much longer if ever, depending on which steel.

My third year instructor played with square carbon steel bar (bent in
various configurations) on a silver band and to rust the metal he
would use a kettle with the piece suspended over the steam with nylon
(fishing) line.

Best of luck,
K. David Woolley
Fredericton, NB
Diversiform Metal Art & Jewellery