User Reviewed

How to Make Metal Rust

Four Methods:Acid and Copper SolutionVinegar and BleachPeroxide and SaltVinegar and Peroxide

Whether you are doing a science experiment, using rusted metal in an art piece, or simply want to try rusting something, causing metal to rust is very simple with the right solutions. Various methods are provided here for you to choose from.

Method 1
Acid and Copper Solution

  1. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 1
    Ensure that the metal you are working with will rust. Only metals containing iron will rust, and some iron alloys will rust slowly or not at all. Stainless steel, an alloy of iron and chromium, will be very difficult to rust. Cast iron or wrought iron will rust most easily.
  2. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 2
    Measure some hydrochloric acid into a plastic bottle. Hydrochloric acid is readily available in low concentrations at hardware stores, often labeled as muriatic acid. Handling it carefully, pour about 2 ounces (60 ml) into a sturdy plastic bottle. You should wear rubber gloves and safety glasses when doing this.[1]
  3. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 3
    Dissolve a bit of copper in the hydrochloric acid. Dissolving copper into the acid solution creates a wash that will speed the rusting process. The best way to dissolve copper in the acid is to wrap a short length of copper wire into a coil and submerge it in the acid for about a week.
    • When leaving the copper to soak, do not cap the bottle tightly. The gases produced during the chemical reaction will cause pressure to build inside the bottle. Also, make sure to clearly label the bottle and store it out of reach of children or pets.
    • Copper coins can be used as well. Make sure the coin's content is largely copper; for instance, United States pennies made after 1982 are only 2.5 percent copper. However, pennies made before 1982 are 95 percent copper.
  4. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 4
    Dilute the copper and acid solution with water. After some of the copper has dissolved into the acid, put on protective gloves and carefully remove the the copper from the solution. Once you have taken it out of the solution, you can discard it. Dilute the acid with water in a ratio of roughly 1 part acid to 50 parts water. If you used 2 ounces (60 ml) of hydrochloric acid, you should mix it with about a gallon (3.8 L) of water.[2]
  5. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 5
    Clean your steel or iron thoroughly. The acid and copper solution will work best when the metal is very clean. There are commercially available products designed for cleaning scale or corrosion from metal, but a wash and rinse with soap and water will generally be sufficient.
  6. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 6
    Apply the acid solution. Apply a light layer of the solution to the metal and allow it to air dry. The acid can be applied with a spray bottle or paint brush, although the acid will quickly deteriorate any metal components of the spray bottle. Wear protective gloves and safety glasses when applying the acid solution, and work in a well-ventilated area, preferably outdoors.
  7. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 7
    Allow the metal to rust. Within an hour, you should see noticeable rusting on the metal. You do not need to wipe or rinse away the acid wash; it will dissipate naturally. If you desire a heavier layer of rust, apply another wash of the acid solution.
  8. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 8

Method 2
Vinegar and Bleach

  1. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 9
    Check to make sure that your metal has no finish or sealer on it. This method works best on tin or iron items. Once inspected, mix one part vinegar with two parts bleach in a large plastic container. The amount you use should be determined by the size of the item you are hoping to rust.[3]
  2. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 10
    Place your metal into the container. Make sure that it is fully submerged, unless you only want a section of your metal rusted. Let the metal rest in the solution for approximately thirty minutes. During this time, the metal will take on a nice crunchy rust cover.
  3. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 11
    Dry your pieces off with paper towels. You can also dry them off with regular towels if you don’t care about staining them. As a side note, if you use paper towels, you will get very cool rusted-looking paper towels out of the drying process. Dispose of the vinegar-bleach mixture by pouring it down the drain.[4]
  4. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 12
    Wait until the items are fully dry before doing anything with them. You want to make sure that the item is fully dry before handling them so that you do not expose your skin to too much bleach. When it has dried, rub the rust off to whatever degree you prefer. Some people prefer their rust thick, while others prefer an eroded look.
  5. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 13
    Use a spray finish to seal the rust onto the piece. In general, a matte spray sealer works well when sealing up rust on an item. You can purchase these sort of sprays at your local home improvement store.

Method 3
Peroxide and Salt

  1. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 14
    Select a well-ventilated area to work in. Peroxide can be dangerous if too much is inhaled at a time. Choose a piece of metal that is either iron or tin--both will work with this method.
  2. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 15
    Transfer the peroxide to a spray bottle. The spray bottle will make it much easier to apply to your metal. Spray your piece of metal with a sizeable amount of peroxide. Spraying more peroxide will help to speed up the rusting process.[5]
  3. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 16
    Sprinkle salt onto the piece of metal. You should do this while the peroxide is still wet. The rusting process will begin almost immediately and is actually easy to see. You can pour on more or less salt depending on how thick or crusty you want the rust to be.[6]
  4. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 17
    Let the metal piece air dry. Unlike the bleach and vinegar method, you should let your metal air dry. If you wipe of the salt while the peroxide is still wet, you will disrupt the rusting process and cause your rust to come out blotchy. Once dry, rub the salt off and admire your work.
  5. Image titled Make Metal Rust Step 18
    Experiment with this method. While you have just read about the basic way you can use peroxide and salt to cause metal to rust, the sky is really the limit when it comes to this technique. Rub the salt off and then spray the piece with peroxide again. Try different amounts of salt or dip your metal into water once it has dried. The water will give the rust a smoother texture.

Method 4
Vinegar and Peroxide

  1. Image titled 1563833 19
    Protect your work surface, if necessary.
  2. Image titled 1563833 20
    Spread out the metal items.
  3. Image titled 1563833 21
    Spray the items with hydrogen peroxide.
  4. Image titled 1563833 22
    Immediately spray the items with white vinegar.
  5. Image titled 1563833 23
    Let the items sit for the rest of the day.


  • Always exercise caution when working with hydrochloric acid, bleach, or peroxide. Even in low concentrations, these chemicals can cause skin and mucous membrane irritation.

Things You'll Need

Acid and Copper Method

  • Iron or iron alloy
  • Rubber gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Measuring spoon
  • Plastic bottle
  • Copper wire
  • Gallon jug
  • Water
  • Soap
  • Cloth
  • Spray bottle or paint brush

Bleach and Vinegar Method

  • Household bleach
  • Vinegar
  • Plastic mixing container
  • Paper towels

Peroxide and Salt Method

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Table salt
  • Spray bottle

Article Info

Categories: Metalwork and Wire Projects