How to Remove Rust From Your Metal Raised Garden Beds

By Oscar Collins

Author bio: Oscar Collins is the editor-in-chief at Modded, where he writes about the outdoors.

Spring has sprung — for gardeners, that means the beginning of the growing season. Metal raised garden beds look good, are easy for most to lift and allow your plants to grow safely. However, they do have a significant downside — some metal material can rust. If you find rust spots on your metal planters, don’t panic. Several safe and effective methods exist to remove it quickly and return to gardening.

The Reason for Rust Forming on the Metal Sheets

Because most metals are chemically active, they easily react with other substances such as oxygen to form metal ions and then rust. Metal raised garden beds are most commonly made of zinc, aluminium or magnesium. A metal garden bed made of a single material is more prone to rust. You can observe the question if someone is using it.

Garden bed manufacturers have developed a combination of Zn-Al-Mg steel (What is Zn-Al-Mg steel?) for metal raised garden beds to solve the rusting with "pollution" problem. The majority of the data testing confirmed that this type of metal garden bed will effectively inhibit rusting. Therefore, if you choose Vegega metal garden beds, you don't need to worry about the rust problem. However, if you continue to use standard metal garden beds, you can easily solve this problem.

What Is the Fastest Way to Remove Rust from Metal

rust metal sheet

1. Lemon

Lemon juice is an effective tool to remove rust from metal planters. Sprinkle some salt on the rust before rubbing the inside of the lemon onto it and let it sit for around an hour before wiping the juice off and rinsing it with clean water.

Don’t let the juice stay on the salt and rust for more than a couple of hours, as the acid could deteriorate the area. Add a small amount of vinegar to the lemon juice for a more substantial effect.

2. Vinegar

Vinegar itself makes an excellent rust remover. For a severely corroded planter, submerge the affected areas in white vinegar for several hours. Wipe off the vinegar and scrub the rust off with steel wool or a scouring pad.

While you can submerge a thick planter in vinegar for up to 24 hours, less is more. If the vinegar doesn’t remove all the rust at first, dip it again for a longer period and use the same approach with the scouring device. Start scrubbing gently, increasing intensity as necessary to remove the rust without damaging your planter. 

3. Potato

Believe it or not, you can remove rust with half a potato. This is similar to the lemon method, but you apply the salt to the inside of the potato first.

Rub the potato on the rust, scrubbing the items until it’s gone. Depending on the size of the affected area and the potato, you might have to cut the end off and reapply salt for a better result. Once the rust is gone, rinse off the salt and wipe your planter dry.

rusty galvanize stainless steel sheet

4. Baking Soda

Baking soda is a versatile pantry staple that can help you remove rust from your planter. Combine it with water until a paste forms and slather the mixture onto the rust spot, covering it completely. Pour a small amount of white vinegar onto the paste for greater effectiveness and leave it to soak for a few hours.

Use a wire brush or crinkled aluminum foil to scrub the mixture before washing it away with warm water. Depending on the rust's severity, you may need to repeat the process.

5. Citric Acid

Citric acid is a condensed form of the acid in lemons, oranges and limes. You can often find it at health food stores and it’s great at removing rust. Combine 2–3 teaspoons of citric acid in a bowl with a few inches of hot water. Submerge the rusted area in the mixture and leave it to sit overnight. Use a brush to scrub off any undissolved remaining rust flecks, rinse the area with clean water and pat it dry.

6. Grinder

A grinder is a tool that can easily remove rust. It’s a quick solution to your planter woes, but wearing face and eye protection is necessary, as particles will fly as you use it. This tool is especially useful if a liquid solution struggles to break through a thick layer of rust. Simply grind away at the rust layers until you reach the metal’s surface. Then, use sandpaper to remove the surface-level rust.

7. Store-Bought Cleaner

Chemical rust removers are an effective option if you’re dealing with severe rust and aren’t planting for a while. Sold at many home improvement stores, they typically use sodium hydrosulfite, solvents or acids to eat away at rust.

Though these cleaners are highly efficient on iron and steel, you must stay vigilant while using them. Unlike other solutions, many removers could completely remove rust in a few minutes. Without removing it in time, the acid could eat through your planter and make it unusable. It’s also essential to wear eye and skin protection to avoid irritation and burns.

Preventing rust on your metal raised beds

metal raised garden bed grows tomato.jpg

Metal rusts when exposed to water. That’s a hard thing to prevent when you're using it to grow plants. However, there are some ways to help avoid rust problems for the next growing season:

  • Use a protective lining: By lining your planter, you can prevent most water from reaching the metal.
  • Spray it with a waterproofing solution: Several manufacturers produce plant-safe waterproof coatings you can apply to your planter before the growing season.
  • Place them in a greenhouse: Portable greenhouses can protect your metal planters by letting the sunshine in but keeping heavy rainfall out.
  • Securely store them in the winter: Store the metal raised beds correctly in winter. Keep your planters in a warm and dry shelter outside the growing season to prevent moisture exposure.

Keeping your metal garden bed rust-free

Metal garden beds are great for growing produce or your favorite plants. By using these methods, you can catch rust before it gets out of hand, so you have a planter you can use year after year.

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