Jul 4, 2010

an experiment - rusting iron (tutorial)

goodness knows why, i suddenly have this obsession for rusty stuff! i've been nosing around etsy and ebay looking for rusted items, and i've even been picking up rusty nails on the streets! last friday i went to my local hardware store asking the guy for rusty washers. he kindly told me that they dun really have those cos no one would want to buy rusty washers. however he did search in his box full of washers, for ones that have rusted up a little :) good man!

since i can't find them rusty washers, i decided to make some. the guy at the hardware store tells me that acid would make the iron rust immediately and even offered to give me some. but with a little 5 year old octopus in the house ... bad idea. so NO acid.

however i do know that vinegar is acidic :) and i happen to have a bottle of white vinegar stashed away in the kitchen cupboard. so ... my experiment began in earnest!

3/4 cups of water

1 tablespoon of white vinegar

place nice washers in vinegar solution

leave them for a few hours or over night if you have the patience.

and this is what happens when you take them out to dry :

this washer took about 7 minutes to rust. i've however sped the video up (to 26 seconds) cos no one in the right frame of mind would wanna stare at a rusting washer for 7 minutes!

i am actually pretty excited about this! now i can make my own rusted items using cooking vinegar and air :)

just look at some of the beauties i made!
these have been in the vinegar solution several times over the weekend, so they have more depth in color. the different layers of rust stain also create unique patterns on each of the washers.

front side (left image) and back side (right image) ... the back side of the washers are not as smooth, so the rust looks "grainier".

apart from vinegar, salt also makes iron rust. that's why vehicles in places near the sea rust faster.

so i did another experiment using salt water solution.
3/4 cups of water to one tablespoon of table salt. i soaked a couple of ALREADY RUSTED washers into the solution. and this is the result.

see the darker one? that's gone into salt water. salt seems to have a reaction on the yellow rust and turns it black. too long in the salt water solution and all your yellow rust will fall off, leaving only black stains. not nice ... trust me :(

just look at these 3!! cool aren't they?

these have been in vinegar several times, dried, left to rust and then dipped in salt water, dried, then left to rust again ... this process has been repeated over several days and these are the sort of layering and coloring you would get.

simply GORGEOUS !!
this is so fun! and wouldn't they look good on my mixed media journal covers? ;)

just a word of cautionary if you wanna try this. the rust made this way ... they are non too permanent, and will fade if you rub hard enough. they are similar to water stains. afterall, they are made only in the few days:) so ... if you like the rust you see on your iron, fix it with a fixative so you won't accidentally rub it away. otherwise, continue to let the iron rust naturally until you are satisfied then fix it. i use krylon's "workable fixative" on mine. and it works just fine :)

happy rusting! and
happy pimping! :)


  1. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I read your post..first off I'm so happy to know someone who also has a thing for rust..Last week I was outside with kiddies,found the most amazing rusted spring,showed it to hubby...and he just laughed...he doesnt get the beauty of Rust hehehehe...I love your tutorials!!!Excellent and I promise to let you know how my rusting goes..What material did you by the washers?stainless?galvanized?

    Big Hugs-Cat

  2. Thanks Luthien...
    Cant wait to see your new journals!
    I love the colors and patina you achieved...and you did it without chemicals! Bravo :D

  3. Brilliant ideas! I love it !!

    Azilah :)

  4. thanks ladies :) glad you liked the tuts :))

    cat :)
    HAH!! my hubby commissioned a journal from me so one of those washers is gonna go up there whether he likes it or not hahaha!! i used the cheapest washers ... definitely not stainless steel. i think they are normal iron ones and not coated with anything. that's why they can rust so quickly even only with vinegar :)

    lisa :)
    yup! that's what i was aiming for ... no chemicals :)

    1. Hey guys and gals, vinegar and salt are chemicals. I think you mea, ordinary household chemicals.

  5. Very cool luthien!!! I can't wait to see what you create with them! xo

  6. great tutorial! thanks for sharing your experiment.

    one question, when you say "dried" do you mean taking it out of the solution and let air dry or do you physically dry it with a towel or something?

  7. Thanks Luthien ...

    Your magnificent creation is here, today, without doing so on purpose ... in my birthday!
    You made me a wonderful gift!

    A sweet embrace .... soon ... KISSES ....

    PS: Tutorial brilliant, congratulations!

  8. Wo, this was SO cool- and who doesn't love rust? Thanks for the tut, now I'm racking my brains trying to think of something I can rust....:)

  9. Wow, that's SO cool! You're made another wonderful contribution to online learning Luthien ~ thanks bunches!!
    I hope you're doing great and feeling wonderful!

  10. A great tutorial and what a fantastic finished look on the washers.Thanks for sharing this and I look forward to seeing more of your art!

  11. Thank you so much for stopping by Three Muses and sharing your tutorial! We're glad you enjoyed your visit and hope one day you'll have time to join one of our challenges. In the meantime, I've certainly enjoyed visiting your blog!!

  12. oh that is so neat!!! I will have to rust some stuff around here!!! thanks for sharing this!!!

  13. Thanks for sharing your great tutorial.
    It's a great idea.

  14. ~who would have thought a wee little washer could be transformed into such a beautiful piece...i l♥ve your experiment and will definitely give it a whirl {perfect science project for my little ones!!} thanks for sharing this with us...much l♥ve and light upon you always~

  15. Great tutorial! I love anything that's rusty.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of your art!

    Happy creating!
    Gaby xo

  16. hi ladies :)
    thank you so much for visiting and all your sweet comments!! hihihi ... i'm glad so many people love rust too :) my mom would flip if she knew i rust stuff on purpose :)
    HUGS to all!!
    luthien :)

  17. Oh what fun! Ready-made Rust! Enjoy!!

  18. Lol you sound just like me picking up bits of rusty rubbish! I'm definitely going to try this - they are wonderful. Thanks for sharing :)

  19. How lucky we are to be able to go through your "rusty" process with you, especially in a week when our Three Muses challenge is to include rust in art pieces. You mentioned that you thought your work "wasn't really art" but it is. Of course it is and you are generous enough to share it with us.
    Thanks so much. We would love to see your work in some of our challenges. We are always here, every Wednesday with a theme and a sneak peek for the following week.
    Cheers from Marie (aka Ozstuff).

  20. Hi Luthien, I am SO glad that I found your blog. and thank you so much for this tutorial. My husband brought home a whole bunch of different size washers from his work,and this is exactly what I want to do with them--THANK YOU for sharing!! I love rust--all kinds :)

  21. Luthien, this is really gorgeous!!! Any cuka makan will do??. I'm rust crazy already :). HUGS.

  22. I'm another rust junkie! This is a great technique and definitely one I'm going to try.


  23. That rust is superb. I love all of the layering colours and splotches. Rust can give the simplest objects great character! Thanks for the post, I think I will try this out :)

  24. I came across your post when researching homemade rusting solutions for crafting projects. This is an excellent tutorial, very detailed. :)
    I ended up rusting bottle caps. Feel free to check out my results: http://trinketeer.blogspot.ca/2014/05/rusting-bottle-caps.html?spref=fb

  25. The "Stockade" store actually sells rusty items. I picked up a few as well as some "Liver of Sulphur" and "Patina". The bluish patina solution should give a greenish tinge. Hopefully I won't end up needing a tetanus shot!

  26. The "Stockade" store actually sells rusty items. I picked up a few as well as some "Liver of Sulphur" and "Patina". The patina solution should give a greenish tinge. Hopefully I won't need a tetanus shot from working with rust!


thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post :) it makes my day!!
Luthien :)