Notice some rust on your vehicle lately? You’re not alone. This process, caused by oxidation, frequently occurs in the environment—especially in metal objects used outdoors, like your car. Corrosion that comes with rust is not only unsightly, but it can also cause damage to your vehicle.
If you have a rust problem, consider trying a rust converter. These products utilize phosphoric acids and polymers that react with rust and leave you with a neutral surface you can then seal and paint. In this article, we’ll explain the basics of rust converters, how to find the best one, and give you our choices for the best rust converter.
Bottom Line Up Front
Our favorite is the Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter Metal Primer, whose straightforward application process allows you to paint, prime, and convert rust in one step. It’s one of the most effective, non-toxic rust converters around, which is why when professionals need a fail-proof rust solution, they turn to this product first.
What is Rust Converter?
Before we get any further, it’s helpful to talk about what this product is. Rust converters react with iron oxide, which is another name for rust, to form a black coating that prevents further rust formation.
Rust converter is intended only for use directly on the rust of medium to the heavy formation, and it requires the presence of rust to work. You can’t use it on bare metal or mixed surfaces.
Rust Remover and Rust Encapsulator—What’s the Difference?
You may have heard the terms rust remover and rust encapsulator and think they’re all the same, but there are key distinctions between these three products. While they all treat rust, they do so in different ways.
As its name implies, rust remover works by removing rust from metal surfaces. Rust encapsulator, on the other hand, doesn’t change rust in any way; it merely prevents rust from forming. You apply it to bare metal or surfaces that have a bit of rust.
Knowing how much rust you have and how you want to transform, it is critical to attack your vehicle’s problem areas properly.
Different Types of Rust Converters
Now that you know a bit about rust converter, it’s helpful to understand the most common types. In general, they contain the active ingredient phosphoric acid and come in three formats that make them easy to apply.
Liquid rust converter is the most common type. It’s available in varying thicknesses, but the application process remains the same. You can use a paintbrush or a sprayer to apply it, or you can submerge the damaged piece in the liquid if it’s small enough. The method you choose will depend on the type of project you’re working on.
Though liquid rust converter is highly prevalent, it’s not without its issue—the main one being that it tends to drip and cause a mess.
Gel rust converter is thicker than its liquid counterpart. You can paint or roll it on to the affected area on your car, but you can’t use it with sprayers. People like this kind of rust converter because it drips less, and it’s generally easier to clean after application.
The spray is convenient because it allows for fast application in hard-to-reach locations, but it’s more suitable for smaller projects because spray bottles are smaller than liquid and gel containers.
How to Find the Best Rust Converters
When beginning your search for the best rust converter, you should be aware of five critical considerations. We kept these considerations at the forefront in choosing our top products, and you should have a good understanding of all of them before purchasing or using any rust converter.
Rust converter is most commonly sprayed or painted onto affected surfaces, and it’s a good idea to think about what application method will work best for the project you’re working on.
Whether or not you use liquid or spray depends on certain factors, like the extensiveness of the rust, the size of the problem area, and if you can remove the affected piece. If the surface is small, sprays might be more productive, and liquid is more suitable for painting product in large areas.
Formula viscosity is also something to keep in mind. You may have to apply several coats of a less viscous formula, as well as deal with overspray, whereas thicker rust converters create less of a mess but you can’t apply them with a sprayer.
Toxicity and Flammability
Always remember when using rust converters that these products’ function is to cause chemical reactions, some of which are volatile. Before use, check the warning label to see if you can touch it. While rust converters won’t cause severe burns, they do irritate the skin and cause inflammation.
Many products will also stain your skin until it has shed on its own, so you should always wear gloves. Some brands specially formulate their product to avoid this, though none are exempt from the damaging effects of rust converter on clothing.
Flammability is another cause for concern. Some rust converters are non-flammable, but some aren’t. The ones that don’t require you to store the container at an appropriate temperature, a step that’s critical to maintain your safety, so be sure to read the instructions on the bottle.
We recommend choosing a product that makes cleaning up messes easy. Much the same way it’s easy for paint to end up in places you don’t want it, the same thing happens with rust converter. And like paint, cleaning up this product is not always straightforward.
The difficulty lies in the active ingredient, phosphoric acid, which makes removing messes from these products challenging. The highest ranked rust converters include active agents that speed up the cleaning process, but part of whether or not you’ll struggle to clean excess product depends on the surface you painted or sprayed on.
The chemical reactions that rust converter produces take time to form and the drying time can be anywhere between 24 to 48 hours. While not the most critical factor, curing time is something to keep in mind if you’re in a hurry. Some products dry in just over an hour or two, so if you need more instantaneous results, choose one of these.
Is it Long Lasting?
Once you’ve applied rust converter, the next order of business is ensuring that the excellent results you’ve obtained last. Helping your car remain rust-free generally requires you to apply paint or some other coating over the affected area after the product has cured.
Some rust converters offer the added convenience of not requiring you to take this last step, but not all do. Make sure you understand whether or not you need to take further measures to seal the rust converter once it’s dry, as this will affect the longevity of the rust solution you choose.
The Best Rust Converters
So what are the products with the best reviews that will address your car’s rust problems? Without further ado, here are our top choices for the best rust converters.
1. Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter Metal Primer
Like we mentioned at the start of this article, Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter is our top choice for the best rust converter for your car. Corroseal, a tried and true brand, boasts lots of great features and is a favorite among those looking for a long-lasting rust solution.
- Sizes: 1 quart and 5 gallon
- Coverage: 200-250 square feet/per gallon
One of the best things about Corroseal is that you can paint, prime, and convert rust with just this one product, a gallon of which can cover up to 250 square feet. While two coats provide outstanding results, one coat is enough to see dramatic results, and the formula is thin enough for spray use.
Some of this product’s notable features are that it’s non-flammable and non-corrosive, which is impressive considering it provides industrial strength rust conversion. Despite the power behind this rust converter, you can use it safely at home for your projects.
Its power is why Corroseal is well known among professionals in marine settings. The damaging effects of salt are no match for the tremendous rust converting capabilities of this product, which is a fantastic indication of how well it will work on your car, too. Cleanup is straightforward, as water and soap will do the trick.
The only drawback is the rather high price, but the effectiveness Corroseal offers is well worth it, in our opinion.
- Easy brush, roll and spray application
- One-step formula eliminates the need for primer
- Excellent for use around the house, as well as on boats
2. Best Supply MROChem Black Star Rust Converter
Sometimes you need a one-and-done product for smaller projects, and the Best Supply MROChem Black Star Rust Converter is perfect for those needs. Businesses and marine organizations alike turn to this product for its capabilities, and it’s fantastic for your car and any small projects around the house.
- Sizes: 13 ounces
- Spray application
You won’t need to sandblast or sand before applying this rust converter because the product acts as a primer and final coat. It converts to a dark brown or black surface once dry, which you can then paint over. Given that the can is only 13 ounces, it’s best to use this rust converter on smaller projects.
Aerosol sprays allow you to reach hard-to-access areas, so the Black Star Rust Converter’s format is perfect for what your paintbrush can’t reach. The one drawback is that since aerosol sometimes experiences leaks or explosions in transit, certain states limit or prohibit the shipping, so access to this product may be difficult.
- Easy to use
- Spray application allows you access to difficult-to-get-to areas
- The 13-ounce size is less than ideal for covering lots of square footage
- No larger sizes available
3. Plastikote 623 Rust Converter
Environmental effects are always a concern with household products, but with the Plastikote 623 Rust Converter, you can rest assured that you’ll get the best results without any damaging environmental consequences. Plastikote is a fantastic product all-around, but it’s environmentally safe formula helped put it on our list.
- Size: 8 ounces
- Non-toxic, non-flammable
- Environmentally safe product
- Water-based formula
With Plastikote 623, you have the choice to either paint the surface after it’s fully dry or leave it as is. It won’t cause bubbling or foaming, and it doesn’t require sanding. We’ve already mentioned Plastikote’s environmentally safe formula, which means worrying about toxins and flammability is a non-issue.
Aside from its eco benefits, this product’s big selling point is that the formula doesn’t cause bleed-through staining on surrounding surfaces. Any paint near the rusty area will stay the same color, so it’s fantastic for use on your car. Since it’s a water-based formula, you should avoid water-based paint, however.
- Easy cleanup
- Environmentally safe product
- Suitable for use on any metal surface
- Bottle size is small
4. Gempler’s ECO-Friendly RCQ
Next, we have another superb product perfect for those concerned about the environment. Gempler’s claim to fame is that they’re the only eco-friendly rust converter available, and they certainly back up this claim with their powerful formula.
- Environmentally safe
- Water-based formula
- Size: 1 gallon
Gempler’s formula is eco-friendly and non-toxic, so it’s safe to handle. It’s both a primer and rust converter, which is feature users highly appreciate. Despite all the environmental considerations that went into its design, the product is still highly effective at converting rust on any metal surface.
There’s no need for any sandblasting before applying this rust converter, but the brand does recommend using a wire brush first to remove any loose rust. Apply the product using a sponge brush or a standard paintbrush, and let it dry for a full 48 hours. One gallon covers up to 500 square feet, so you’ll have plenty for your projects.
- Manufactured in the USA
- Easy cleanup
- Somewhat high price
- Needs at least 48 hours to cure
5. Rust-Oleum 215215 Rust Reformer
Rust-Oleum manufactures various products that provide trustworthy rust solutions, which is why we had to include their spray rust converter on our list. They are a reputable and trusted brand, and this product performs excellently.
- Size: 8.8 ounces
- Spray application
- Any-angle spray with comfort tip
Rust-Oleum’s chemical formula bonds with the rust’s surface and protects further corrosion from occurring. Application is straightforward. You don’t have to sand the area before applying the rust converter; apply the product directly to the rust at any angle with the ergonomic can, which you can even spray upside down.
You can use Rust-Oleum both inside and out, and for its incredibly low price, you can’t beat this product’s performance.
- Quick drying time
- The product doesn’t smell as bad as other rust converters
- One of the cheaper models available
- The spray is not suitable for all applications
6. VHT SP229 Rust Converter
The last rust converter on our list is one of the best sprays we found, and it is the VHT SP229 Rust Converter. If you’re looking for a product that will transform the ugly rust forming on your car, this product is perfect for auto bodywork.
- Size: 10.3 fluid ounces
- Spray application
The VHT SP229 has a simple spray nozzle, which releases a steady flow of the product. The rust converter comes out as a clear liquid, and it turns black when it’s fully dry, which is generally around 24 hours later. Once the process is complete, you can sand and paint over it.
What we like about the VHT SP229 is that the formula protects against future corrosion, it’s safe to use, and it’s versatile. You can use the rust converter on metals, body fillers, and fiberglass, so it’s well suited to any of your car’s rust problems. And perhaps the best part is the price, which is much cheaper than many other liquid rust converters.
- You can sand it to get the finish you want
- Easy to use
- The drying period is relatively fast
- Only suitable for spray applications
- Comparing the Options
|Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter Metal Primer||1 qt or 5 gallons||Brush, spray, roll|
|Best Supply MROChem Black Star Rust Converter||13 ounces||Spray|
|Plastikote 623 Rust Converter||8 ounces||Brush, spray, roll|
|Gempler’s Eco-Friendly RCQ||1 gallon||Brush, spray, roll|
|Rust-Oleum 215215 Rust Reformer||10.3 ounces||Spray|
|VHT SP229 Rust Converter||10.25 ounces||Spray|
FAQ’s About Rust Converter
There is a difference between rust remover and rust converter, and even though they are doing the same job, one of them makes rust separate from the metal surface while the other makes rust into a stable compound.
Rust can be stopped if you apply rust primer before applying paint, and also if you use maintenance products constantly in order to avoid it, but also if you notice it appears, you can use grit sandpaper to remove it (just be careful not to damage the metal).
Phosphoric and hydrochloric chemicals are usually used to dissolve the corrosion. These chemicals are giving off intense fumes, so you should always have adequate equipment when applying them.
Rust corrodes your vehicle and is incredibly unsightly, but luckily, you have choices when it comes to combating this issue.
It’s essential to understand the distinction between rust converter, rust encapsulator, and rust remover and know which one you need. Investing in one (or all) of these products is a fantastic way to keep rust at bay and your vehicle looking like it did the day you bought it.