How to Paint Wrought Iron

A wrought iron patio set in a lush garden

Andreas von Einsiedel / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 6 - 8 hrs
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 days
  • Yield: 8 feet of wrought iron handrailing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $100

Wrought iron railing, fences, posts, and other elements are elegant touches to home exteriors. But wrought iron is subject to the worst that the outdoors can deal out: heat, cold, water, corrosion, and above all, rust. Painting the wrought iron is the fix that will help these beautiful items last for many more years to come.

Before You Begin

Painting wrought iron requires special primer and paint formulated for metal:

  • Primer: Use an oil-based metal primer, not an ordinary wood primer. It's best to use a metal primer designed to control rust. Metal primer in spray can form works well due to the details found on most wrought iron pieces.
  • Paint: Use an oil-based enamel paint for metal that resists rust and corrosion. The paint dries to the touch in two to four hours but requires a full 24 hours before recoating.


Black is a favorite color for wrought iron. But paint for metal also comes in a wide palette of colors: yellow, red, green, almond, silver, leather-brown, blue, orange, and more.

When to Paint Wrought Iron

Because most wrought iron is located outdoors, paint wrought iron when the weather is warm and dry. This is especially important because you'll need to wash down the wrought iron. The wrought iron must be fully dry before you can paint it. Paint only when temperatures are above 50°F and when humidity is below 85-percent.

Safety Considerations

The wrought iron may have been painted with lead-based paint, a proven health hazard. The U.S. federal government banned lead-based paint in 1978.

If you suspect that the current paint on the wrought iron may be lead-based, use a home lead paint testing kit or call a local testing company.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Brush
  • Paint scraper
  • Wire brush
  • #60-grit sandpaper
  • Old screwdriver
  • Utility knife
  • Bucket
  • Bottle brush or wheel brush
  • Brush or clean broom


  • Enamel paint
  • Metal primer
  • Mineral spirits or paint thinner
  • Lead paint test kit


  1. Clean the Wrought Iron

    Wearing waterproof gloves, thoroughly clean the wrought iron with a sponge or cloths and with warm, soapy water. Start at the top. Switch to the bottle brush or wheel brush for tight areas as you work down. Rinse down the wrought iron with clean water from the hose when finished.

  2. Remove Loose Paint and Rust

    Let the wrought iron dry. Starting at the top of the wrought iron, peel and scrape away the largest pieces of paint and rust. Begin by using scraping tools like the screwdriver, putty knife, paint scraper, and utility knife. Remove any paint or rust that has a pronounced edge and that could possibly flake off after painting.

  3. Brush Rust With Wire Brush

    Vigorously brush the wrought iron with the wire brush. Brush off the rest of the loose paint and rust. The wire brush will sand away some of the embedded rust, but your goal is not to sand it off or to bring the wrought iron back to its bare state.

  4. Sand Rusty Areas

    Manually use the #60-grit sandpaper to further sand away small remaining bits of rust or paint and to lighten, but not remove, embedded rust.

  5. Dull Down Glossy Paint

    With the coarse sandpaper, lightly sand any of the remaining paint—but only if that paint is glossy. Dulling the glossy paint will help the new paint stick.

  6. Clean the Wrought Iron

    Clean the sanded debris off of the wrought iron with dry methods to avoid creating more rust on the metal. Brush off with a clean brush or with a hand brush.


    You should be able to run your finger or a paper towel across the surface and have it come up clean. It doesn't have to be immaculate, but mostly clean is usually good enough.

  7. Prime the Wrought Iron

    Prime the wrought iron with the rust-control metal primer, by brushing it on or with a spray can. As long as you get all areas, one coat of primer should be sufficient. Since it is oil-based, the metal needs a full 24 hours before coating with paint.


    Clean up or thin oil-based metal primer with mineral spirits or paint thinner, not with water.

  8. Paint the Wrought Iron With a Roller

    Paint large areas of the wrought iron (like the top handrail) with the narrow roller. Be sure to use a thick 3/8-inch nap roller cover. It's helpful to do as much as you can with the roller to minimize hand-brushing.

  9. Paint the Wrought Iron With a Brush

    Fill in the rest of the wrought iron with paint by brushing it on. Use light, even strokes with the brush. Do not apply thickly. Watch out for details where the paint tends to pool up or drip, and catch them immediately.

  10. Paint a Second Coat

    Wait 24 hours, then apply a second coat of paint to the wrought iron.

When to Call a Professional

Though painting wrought iron isn't complicated, it is tedious because a majority of the work is concentrated around cleaning and scraping. If you have more than 8 feet or so of detailed wrought iron, you may want to call a professional painter.

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  1. Protect Your Family from Sources of Lead. EPA