Can You Use Paint with Rust in It? A Painter’s Guide to Salvaging Rusted Paint

Bob Thomas


As a qualified painter and decorator, I've encountered many situations where a can of paint has developed rust.

Whether it's due to improper storage or an old paint can, you might wonder if you can still use the paint.

In this article, I'll guide you through the process of salvaging paint with rust in it and how to prevent rust from forming in the future.

Quick Summary

 If you find rust in your paint, it's possible to salvage it with proper steps: 1) Remove rust particles, 2) Check paint quality, 3) Strain the paint, and 4) Use anti-rust additives. Following these steps will help you save money and achieve a smooth, rust-free finish.

Remove Rust Particles

First, you'll want to remove any visible rust particles from the paint.

This can be done using a spoon, paint stick, or any other suitable tool.

Be careful not to damage the paint can, as puncturing it may cause more problems.

Pro Tip: Use a plastic spoon or tool to remove rust particles, as metal tools can scratch the paint can and cause more rust.

Check Paint Quality

Next, check the quality of the paint. If the paint has separated, mix it thoroughly until it reaches a smooth consistency.

However, if the paint smells bad or has a lumpy texture, it's best to dispose of it and buy a new can of paint.

Strain the Paint

To ensure that you remove all rust particles from the paint, strain it using a paint strainer or a fine-mesh sieve.

Place the strainer over a clean container and pour the paint through it.

This will help separate any remaining rust particles and other debris from the paint.

Use Anti-Rust Additives

If you're concerned about rust affecting the paint's performance, consider adding an anti-rust additive to the paint.

These additives can help protect the painted surface from rust and corrosion, ensuring a long-lasting finish.

Preventing Rust in Paint Cans

To avoid encountering rust in your paint cans in the future, follow these storage tips:

  1. Store paint cans in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture.
  2. Wipe the paint can's rim and lid clean before sealing it to prevent rust formation.
  3. Use a rubber mallet to close the paint can lid, avoiding damage to the rim.
  4. Invert the paint can for a few seconds after sealing to create an airtight seal around the rim.

Fruqenelty Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. Is it safe to use paint with rust in it?

  A: While using paint with rust particles is not ideal, it can be safely used if the rust particles are removed and the paint's quality is good.

Follow the steps outlined in the article to salvage rusted paint.

Q. Can I use rusted paint on outdoor surfaces?

  A: Yes, you can use salvaged rusted paint on outdoor surfaces.

However, it's crucial to use an anti-rust additive in the paint to prevent rust and corrosion on the painted surface.

Q. How can I prevent rust from forming in my paint cans?

  A: To prevent rust, store paint cans in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture.

Ensure the paint can's rim and lid are clean before sealing, and use a rubber mallet to close the lid securely.

Q. What should I do if the paint is lumpy or smells bad?

  A: If the paint has a lumpy texture or a foul smell, it's best to dispose of it properly and buy a new can of paint. Using such paint can result in poor adhesion and an uneven finish.

Q. Can I still use paint with rust particles on metal surfaces?

  A: While it's possible to use salvaged rusted paint on metal surfaces, it's essential to remove all rust particles and use an anti-rust additive.

This will ensure proper protection and prevent further rusting on the metal surface.

Q. How can I dispose of old, rusted paint properly?

  A: To dispose of old, rusted paint, contact your local waste disposal facility or recycling center for guidelines on paint disposal.

Some centers may accept old paint for recycling, while others require specific disposal methods to ensure environmental safety.


While using paint with rust in it may not be ideal, it's possible to salvage the paint with the proper steps.

By removing rust particles, checking the paint quality, straining the paint, and using anti-rust additives, you can save money and achieve a smooth, rust-free finish.

Additionally, proper paint storage will prevent rust from forming in your paint cans in the future.

Last year, I encountered a rusted paint can while working on a friends home. 

By following the steps mentioned above, I was able to salvage the paint and achieve a beautiful finish. My friend was delighted with the results, and they saved money by not having to purchase a new can of paint.

Suggested Products:

Paint Strainer: Trimaco SuperTuff Paint Strainer -  A paint strainer is essential for filtering out rust particles and other debris from salvaged paint, ensuring a smooth and even application on your painting surface.

Anti-Rust Additive: Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Inhibitor - Adding an anti-rust additive to your salvaged paint helps prevent rust formation on the painted surface, especially for outdoor and metal surfaces.

Paint Can Sealer: Shur-Line Paint Can Lid - A paint can sealer or lid replacement ensures an airtight seal on your paint cans, preventing moisture and air from entering the can and causing rust to form.

Rubber Mallet: TEKTON 30603 Fiberglass Handle Rubber Mallet - A rubber mallet is crucial for securely sealing paint can lids without damaging the rim, minimizing the risk of rust formation inside the can.

Paint Stirrer: Red Devil 4040 Heavy-Duty Paint and Mud Mixer - A paint stirrer helps in thoroughly mixing salvaged paint and additives, ensuring an even consistency and improving the overall quality of the paint before application.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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