Top 8 Best Rust Converters and Removers
By | Last updated: December 7, 2021
best rust converters and removers

Before you get bent out of shape, know that this post isn’t about those infernal gadgets that late-night television tries to sell us. You know the ones – they promise to send an electric charge through the body of a vehicle to allegedly neutralize conditions in which rust normally forms. The less said about those, the better.

No, this post is about product for the person who’s tackling body repair on their vehicle. Knowing the average TTAC reader (and writer), it’s likely a vehicle with copious amounts of rust, not to mention several hundred yards of increasingly sketchy wiring repairs. These products are intended to remove surface rust without excessive scrubbing or sanding, thereby making it fit for paint prep.

And, before you go out and thrown down money on items like these, use patience and common sense with this stuff. Read all the warning labels and use gloves if recommended.

1. Editor's Choice: Evapo-Rust Original

Despite its dollar store-style brand name and anonymous packaging, Evapo-Rust seems to be one of the most popular options on Amazon. It is an environmentally-safe water-based product that removes rust in minutes, without scrubbing or sanding.

Critically, it is non-toxic, said to emit no odors, and is safe on skin and eyes. Best of all, the seller claims it requires no special equipment (gloves, protective eyewear, masks) and will not harm unrusted steel or affect plastic, PVC, and most paints. It’s even claimed to be reusable, with one gallon de-rusting up to 300 pounds of steel. That’s about the same amount of steel remaining on Mr. Tonn’s personal Mazda MX-5, by the way.

Pros/Checks all the boxes for safe use, toxicity, and reusability
Cons/Requires soaking of the affected metal
Bottom Line/Science is a wonderful thing

2. Rust-Oleum Automotive Rust Reformer

If Mr. Miyagi taught the Karate Kid to ‘wax on, wax off’, this product teaches us to, well, spray on, at least. Rust-Oleum has been around since approximately five minutes after metal was invented, so there’s little doubt they know what they’re doing. In the grand scheme of things at Rust-Oleum, this is technically one of their most recent products.

This product instantly bonds with rust and transforms it into a non-rusting, flat-black paintable surface and prevents future rust. It saves the user all that infernal effort of sanding rust down to the bare metal. Use a wire brush to get rid of large rust flakes before applying.

Pros/Well-known, easy to use
Cons/Hope you like black paint
Bottom Line/Quick n' easy

3. JENOLITE Rust Converter

Evoking a sense of British pride while making the jar look like a tub of Marmite? That’s a sure-fire ticket to inclusion on this list. Its claim of being a quick and simple one-stop solution for dealing with rust on any iron or steel object doesn’t hurt, either.

According to the seller, just one application of Jenolite Rust Reformer converts a rusty surface into a smooth and stable ready-to-paint finish in 3-4 hours. Simply brush onto rusted areas and leave the product to dry. The water-based formula converts rust into a stable hydrophobic complex that seals and transforms the surface into a smooth protective polymer coating.

Pros/Actually attempts to back up its claims with science-y words
Cons/May attempt to make British tea at break time
Bottom Line/Available in 8oz or gallon tubs

4. Loctite Extend Rust Neutralizer

Loctite apparently makes products beyond ones that make engine disassembly impossible for the next mechanic. This rust neutralizer is a solution to mild surface oxidization, chemically converting the rust to a neutral black surface that’s ready to paint.

To use, simply apply Henkel Loctite Extend Rust Neutralizer on the rusted surface and follow up with a coat of oil-based or lacquer-based paint to protect the surface from future exposure to moisture. Like Rust-Oleum, Loctite has been around forever which gives some peace of mind when splashing out your hard-earned money.

Pros/Majority of reviews are very positive, great for tackling small jobs
Cons/Tiny bottle, light duty
Bottom Line/Eight ounces of prevention

5. Rust Converter ULTRA - Pro Grade Rust Repair

A gallon of this stuff apparently covers 500 square feet of smooth metal, or roughly the size of one engine cover on a Dodge Challenger. It converts rust to an inert coating that seals out moisture to prevent further corrosion.

Like others, it recommends to Remove large rust and scale particles with a wire brush or sandpaper and then clean the area to remove dust and dirt. One can apply the product with a brush, roller, or pump sprayer. Oddly, it exhorts in ALL CAPS to shake or still this stuff well before using.

Pros/Dries to a finish in 20 minutes
Cons/Costly, surface temp must be +50°F
Bottom Line/This jug should last for ages

6. Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter

Using a brush, roller, or spray, users are directed to apply a thick coat of Corroseal to the offending metal after removing large pieces and flakes of rust. According to the company, the thicker the coat of product, the better. It will be white when first applied, then begin to turn black as it converts rust.

After leaving it to sit for 15 minutes, check for brown or gray spots peeking through. If any are present, apply another thick coat. A second coat is encouraged to get all rust covered with no seepage. While this might sound like a ruse to sell more product, real-world reviews seem to support this application procedure with some users recommending three or more coats depending on the surface.

Pros/Large fan base of satisfied customers
Cons/You'll probably need lots
Bottom Line/Apply profusely for best results

7. VHT Rust Convertor Can

This is a product designed to be sprayed directly on rusted areas to help prevent future rust from forming. It sprays on clear and turns to a black metal protectant coating. The seller states that it can be sanded to a smooth and even finish.

The ad says it is specifically formulated for application over metal, body filler, or fiberglass. While the last two definitely don’t form any rust, it’s good to know those surfaces can handle a bit of this stuff on overspray. According to reviews, a couple of cans will be enough to coat the underside of a midsize car.

Pros/Convenient can, easy to apply
Cons/More than one can will likely be required for many jobs
Bottom Line/Allow 24hrs dry time before applying a top coat

8. Rust Kutter- Rust Converter

The spellcheck-vexing Rust Kutter is yet another liquid spray that is intended to eliminate rust and prime metal to prevent rust from forming again. Ready to use the minute it shows up on your doorstep in an Amazon box, it comes in a plastic bottle complete with sprayer.

Based on feedback, it would seem this stuff is best used in light-duty applications and not for wholesale car repair. Also be aware that, while it isn’t mentioned in the ad, some buyers said using gloves is essential with this stuff; make sure to read the label.

Pros/Easy-peasy spritzing application
Cons/Might be more irritable than similar products
Bottom Line/Good candidate for small jobs

What is the most effective rust converter?

Usually, rust converters comprise two major ingredients, namely organic polymer and tannic acid. When applied to the affected area, the two compounds of these water-based solutions interact with the rust and convert the iron oxide (the chemical term for ‘rust’) into an adherent layer that works as a strong protective shield against moisture, thus preventing the metal from any further corrosions.

When talking about the most effective rust converters, some commercial solutions have additional acids that help expedite the process of conversion. Therefore, while buying one, you may want to check what kind of ingredients does it have, and whether will it be able to speed up the chemical reaction of turning iron oxide into moisture-resistant armor.

Should I use rust remover or converter?

Honestly, it depends on the object you want to treat. According to the basic characteristics of the two, rust removers use concentrated acid to strip iron oxide from the iron, whereas the converters use a chemical process to turn rust into a moisture-resistant protective shield that prevents the metal from future corrosion, and the effect is long-lasting. Considering this, you may want to use:

  • Rust Remover

If you want to restore the metal to its original state, and no repainting or further polishing is required. Some of the good examples could be the interior of a gas tank, screwdrivers, etc.

  • Rust Converter

If the affected area needs to be repainted after the treatment for finishing looks and future protection, and want the iron to stay safe for a longer time. Some examples include the exterior of a gas tank, external body parts of your vehicle, etc.

Furthermore, removing rust with a rust remover is a slow process as it may take a while for the chemical to loosen up iron oxide before it is stripped off from the surface. On the other hand, rust converters can be applied as paint and work comparatively faster, thus saving a decent amount of your time.

What is the best rust removing product?

Because rust removers have concentrated acid formulation that attacks iron oxide deposited over the base material, it is imperative to pick a quality solution from a trusted brand. Some of the top products reviewed by the users include:

Available in a concentrated formula, Rust 911 is mixed with water in the 16:1 ratio (8oz per gallon) while applying to remove rust from the metal. Because the product is a water-based solution, it is pocket-friendly as compared to its competitors.

Although POR-15 contains phosphoric acid along with some other hard chemicals, this reusable and biodegradable solution still doesn’t do any harm to the objects with PVC or Viton as base material, and is safe for the paints as well.

This solution is the cheapest on the list and offers good value for money as it works pretty well on threaded rods and metal sheets. For best results, the only thing that the manufacturer suggests to do before its application is to remove oil and grease from the affected area.

Depending on your usage and budget, you can pick any of the above to restore the iron in your vehicle to its original and pure state.

Do rust converters actually work?

A short and quick answer would be, yes, they do. Because rust converters comprise tannic acid and organic polymer along with some other acids to expedite the process, they convert iron oxide into a strong moisture-resistant black adherent layer that safeguards the metal from further corrosions, thus offering longer life to the body part of your car.

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: This post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main photo credit: Boophucket / Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

21 Comments on “Best Rust Converters and Removers: Rid the Iron Oxide...”

  • avatar

    We have a place on the east side of Indy with the old-style huge boiling tanks of some toxic stuff. Your parts go in and come back completely clean. All of my 67 Camaro body parts (except the unibody) went through there.

    Now if there’s any bondo in the part that’s gone too. Sometimes you get surprised.

    • 0 avatar

      Probably decarbonizer. A local auto parts store / machine shop I used to use (long gone) had a decarbonizer tank in the machine shop, and I took steel wheels, engine blocks, heads, etc., to be tanked. The stuff worked great.

  • avatar

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve read accounts where Por15 worked well and others where the user had issues. If I’m remembering correctly some had issues with opening the can a second time due to the substance acting like an epoxy bond welding the lid to the can. Another reported using it on the bed of their pickup/van with very good results. The review went on to share that the vehicle had been involved in a fire which destroyed it – except the bed/floor which was the only piece of the vehicle that was still intact and seemingly untouched by the fire. Strong stuff indeed!

  • avatar

    One of the only problems with my ancient ’02 Dodge Dakota (at 118K now) is rusted wheel wells in the pickup bed. They are rusted to the point where you can push your finger thru them. Something that changes color to indicate complete coverage seems good to me. My plan was knock away the lose bits, apply one of these products then attempt to fiberglass some structure back in. After that plenty of coats of rubberized undercoating and/or bedliner spray to cover the mess. A showroom finish is not required… I just don’t want Swiss cheese wheel wells.

    All the damaged occurred from picking up saltwater on the rear tires from years of using boat ramps on the FL coast. Its really disappointing how badly the wells rusted out – as if Dodge never painted the underside of the pickup bed at all. When I get my next truck job #1 will be coating these same areas with multiple coats of bedliner stuff.

  • avatar

    a) If your panel is rusted through, you need a welder.

    b) If you have light surface rust, knock it off using Scotch-Brite Bristle Discs – 4.5 inch for your angle grinder and 2 inch for your die grinder. The green ones (50 grit equivalent) will remove the rust and leave the sound steel. It’s kind of magical to watch.

    With either a) or b), whenever you see shiny bare steel your first thought should be “Self-Etching Primer”. Dupli-Color makes a good one (try a can of the Rust-Oleum one and you’ll come back to the Dupli-Color). Don’t wait to prime it – not even overnight (flash rust).

    [This assumes you aren’t considering an epoxy primer – if so, go for it. But the self-etching primer is *dramatically* better than any other single-part (non-catalyzed) product.]

  • avatar

    First picture: If you get a touch-up kit and jump on any little paint chips when they first appear (carefully inspect the leading 2 feet of your hood, for example), you can avoid the kind of cancer we see here. A “fiberglass scratch brush” is a huge help for cleaning the chip area [and yes you can shape the end of it into an angled point].

    • 0 avatar

      Get yourself some “disposable micro brushes” in 1mm “Superfine” or 1.5mm “Fine” (try “ABN” or “TCP Global”) for doing tiny primer/base/pearl/clear touch-ups.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the tip. The brush that comes with touch-up paint is always way too big, and the paint is way too thick.

        • 0 avatar

          You’re very welcome. Try some “plastic razor blades” (available in different ‘durometers’ – mine are blue) to ‘level out’ the layers. [If you use this method, timing is important.]

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    If you love your car, and want it to last, take the time to get a serious rust preventer and find out where every single internal space is in your car’s structure. Stray it onto surfaces and into seams, making sure to keep any drain holes clear. Moisture is inside every car, and it needs a place to go. A properly treated car will last far longer than an untreated one, and aside from the time and effort required, it’s affordable.

    The one I’ve used is from Kano Labs, and despite their silly misspelled product names, they seem to make great stuff.

  • avatar

    Hirsch Miracle Paint

  • avatar

    Years ago (like 35 years ago), Loctite made an Extend Rust Converter product that came as a brush-on, and in spray cans. The stuff turned the rust black. It looks like they don’t make that anymore, but the VHT Rust Converter sounds like the same stuff.

  • avatar

    what bout good old “naval jelly”?

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