Will A Pressure Washer Remove Rust From Metal? [HERE’S HOW]

As a general rule, all pressure washers rated at 3000 PSI or greater, with a narrow-angled tip, can remove rust from most metal surfaces. If the rust has been allowed to set in for too long, some rust-removing chemicals will need to be used before spraying the metal with the pressure washer.

Pressure washers are versatile machines. They can be used to gently wash your car yet tackle the more demanding tasks, such as rust removal. However, when cleaning away rust, you need to use care as you don’t want to damage any surfaces.

Rust not only causes damage to your house, car, and other structures; it’s also ugly. It forms when there is too much moisture in the air. A pressure washer can be used to get rid of the rust.

If you are attempting to clean rust for the first time, approach the task with caution. Test an inconspicuous area, then, when you’re feeling confident, work the rest of the location.

Let us run you through how you can remove rust using your pressure washer.

metal with rust peeling paint

Related Reading: Will A Pressure Washer Remove Paint From Metal?

Can Rust Be Removed From Metal With A Power Washer?

Suppose you have rust on your metal siding, outdoor decorations, tools, or furniture. In that case, it can be an eyesore that you simply cannot live with. How much time do you want to spend cleaning it up if you do not plan to hire a contractor to come and do it? If the rust stains are nasty, you may have to get some chemicals to help lift the damaged areas off the rust, which we will cover in a minute.

Another thing that you need to be aware of is that some rust will get so bad that it will eat a hole through the metal. If this happens, no amount of pressure washing will fix the problem. In this case, you will need to do one of two things.

  • Repair The Metal – Depending on the type of metal and where it is located, it is possible to cut the rusted area out and repair it with another piece. You can weld it in place or use glue and metal tape to get a solid backing.
  • Replace the Metal – The best way to handle this situation is to remove the offending piece of metal and replace it. This will ensure that the area is rust-free and does the job initially intended to do. Take care to match the new piece with the metal already in place.

Using a power washer to remove rust is a simple process if you stay ahead of it. That means that you should be taking care of the rust as soon as you notice it. Leaving it for another day will end up leading to substantially more damage. If you let it go too long, this will lead to rust spreading to the adjoining areas.

How to remove rust using a pressure washer

Before you start pressure washing, make sure that the surrounding area is safe. That means keeping kids and pets away. Also, put on your protective gear.

1. Attach the appropriate nozzle

You want to have a nozzle that has a smaller opening. This forces more water out, and so the pressure is automatically increased.

If you are working on wider areas that are hardy, then go with the yellow nozzle. This creates a wider spray, so you are covering more space as you wash.

The 25-degree tip is better suited for less durable materials such as wood or metal.

For stubborn rust and rust marks, you can try the 0-degree nozzle. However, proceed with caution as this tip provides the most pressure.

2. As you go, adjust the pressure

You don’t want to cause damage to the area you are removing the rust from, so start at the lowest pressure setting. The ideal starting point is 2000 PSI.

As we mentioned, start your task by testing the pressure on a small area. Adjust the pressure to higher levels until you reach the ideal setting. Then you can start working on the rest of the surface.

3. Don’t rush

You may be tempted to get the job done as quickly as possible once you start seeing results. Don’t hurry through the task. One moment of inattention or spraying the wrong surface can have the potential for disaster.

Take your time. Be thorough. Enjoy the process.

4. Use a rust sealant

Once the rust has been removed, you want to stop it from returning. You can use either a sealant or paint to keep the rust at bay.

Before you start with your paint, check to make sure that all the rust has been cleaned away. If you miss an area, you will find that the rust will eventually leak through the paint. That can have you needing to pressure wash the rust away again.

If you are going to repaint the surface, apply a primer first. If you are located in an area that is prone to attracting rust, then consider two coats of primer. After priming, use rust-resistant paint on the area you just washed. Also, consider applying a top coat for extra protection.

Driveways and other concrete areas can be victims of rust runoff. That is when rusty water makes its way across the surface of the area. Once you have completed pressure washing your concrete area, apply a sealant over it. This can stop the rust stains from returning.

Safety first

Whenever you are using any high-powered machine, there is always the risk of being injured by debris that has been blasted. By having the proper protective gear, you will minimize the chance of getting hurt.

Earplugs

The bigger the pressure washer, the more noise it can potentially create.

Removing the rust requires a lot of water pressure, so you will be running your machine from the middle to the top end of its ability. That means quite a bit of noise.

Goggles

As the water hits the surface you are cleaning, there will be a chance of blowback. Pieces of metal and rust can make their way toward you and your eyes.

Safety goggles will keep you safe.

Dust mask

As you are spraying with your pressure washer, chips and rust are pushed into the air. The last thing you want to be doing is inhaling these nasties.

That’s where a dusk mask comes in handy. It protects you and your lungs.

What Is the Ideal Pressure That I Need?

Now that you’re suited up for the job, let’s talk about pressure.

It’s kind of a Goldilocks and Three Bears situation: not enough pressure and you’ll find the rust refusing to budge. Too much pressure and you can ruin the surface you are cleaning.

So, what is that sweet spot of pressure?

To get the task done, you will need a pressure washer that delivers between 2000 and 4000 PSI. Stubborn rust stains on your concrete can require at least 3000 PSI.

A medium-range gas or electric washer will be sufficient for the task at hand.

What Is The Proper Type Of Pressure Washer Needed?

Using the proper power washer for the job will decide how easy the job is and how much frustration you can expect during the process. The problem that you will quickly find is that many pressure washers that you can buy at the store are designed to wash decks and cars, not to put actual power into the job. Make sure that you choose the correct type from the beginning.

  • Brand Of Power Washer – The brand of the unit is not that important, as long as it is built solid and performs appropriately. Do a quick Google search to see what previous owners have said about it. If they say that the power washer is good, it is a safe bet that it will work for you.
  • Power Of The Power Washer – You will also find that there are many different types and sizes when looking for one. Whether buying or renting one, make sure that the pressure rating is at or above 3000 PSI.
  • Tip Size Of The Power Washer – As with every other part of this project, the wand’s tip size will make a huge difference. To remove rust from metal, you will want to ensure that the end has a small hole instead of one that feathers the water out.

Getting the perfect power washer for the job is one of the most important steps you can take before starting the task. The higher the unit’s pressure is, the faster the rust will peel off the metal. You do not want to get a machine you cannot handle, so make sure the power rating is an amount you can comfortably control.

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What nozzles do I need?

Which nozzle is best for your pressure washer depends on the job, as well as the surface. To remove rust from metal, use a narrow nozzle such as a 0-degree red tip or a 25-degree green tip.

To rid your concrete of rust marks, use the wider 15-degree yellow tip.

As always, when starting to wash an area, begin by testing out the pressure on a small area. Start with a lower PSI and work your way up to a higher pressure setting.

What Chemicals Should Be Used Before Trying To Remove The Rust?

If the rust has gotten too bad to remove it by spraying the metal with a power washer, you will have to use some type of chemical. There are hundreds of brands and types of products on the market that you can use and some homemade concoctions that work very well. These are the top five ways to remove rust. As long as it has acid in the mix, you cannot go wrong.

  • Salt, Lemons, And Limes – This combination of basic food items will act like sandpaper with an acidic compound. You need to sprinkle the area with salt and squeeze the lemon and lime juice onto the site. Let it sit for a few hours, then scrub with the rinds you kept.
  • Vinegar And Table Salt – This is similar to the one discussed above. You will need to add ½ cup of salt to a gallon of white vinegar, shake it up and pour it into some type of container that allows you to soak the rusted items overnight.
  • Aluminum Brightener – If you have rust on your metal that is not polished or chrome, aluminum polish would be a good choice for you to use. It comes in a liquid form that can be attached to the end of a hose or mixed in with the pressure washer tank that you are planning to use.
  • Oxalic Acid – This is a natural acid, such as the acidic compounds found within the stems of plants. The best place to find this chemical is in a raw potato. Cut it in half and use the end without the skin to rub onto the rust after coating it with salt.
  • Muriatic Acid – This is a typical product used to clean concrete. It can be purchased at most home-improvement stores or large retail outlets. Be extremely careful when using this acid because it is some nasty stuff. Follow the directions on the bottle.

Whichever chemical you decide to use, you will want to take precautions. Wear protective eyewear and gloves, and clothes that cover your skin. The acid is not potent in some homemade products, but it can still damage your eyes or lungs. Remember, after applying the chemicals, you use the pressure washer to remove them from the area.

Continue Reading: Will A Pressure Washer Remove Mulch Stains From Concrete?

Conclusion

If you live in an area with humidity levels of 50% or more, your property and the items around it can become victims of rust.

A pressure washer can be used to remove this type of corrosion, but you need to take care. Too much pressure can cause harm to the surface you are trying to clean. Start at the minimum required level, then adjust the PSI.

The amount of pressure and the appropriate nozzle all come down to what surface you’re cleaning.

It is possible to remove rust with a pressure washer. Just approach the task with caution.