The best rust converters excel at transforming stubborn spots of rust at the chemical level, allowing you to safely paint over them. Our top pick, Evapo-Rust, goes a step further and makes it easier to remove rust entirely so you never have to worry about it again – plus it comes in a one gallon container that makes it easy to tackle larger jobs.
We also chose Evapo-Rust because of its safe, biodegradable nature, which makes it easier to use for a wider range of products, especially around the house. However, there are also a number of useful rust converters for the hardest rust products, so be sure to check out our full list to learn more!
Top 5 Best Rust Converters
#1 Evapo-Rust Converter
Award: Top Pick
WHY WE LIKE IT: This powerful rust remover can fix your rust problem entirely – and handle 300 pounds of steel with one container. It’s great for removing spotty rust problems permanently when restoring a variety of materials.
The best rust removal projects allow you to get rid of all the rust that’s causing problems, allowing you to restore the component or keep on using your machine without a problem. Evapo-Rust excels at this removal process, using chemical reactions to help burn away any rust present to get rid of the problem permanently. Just one gallon can handle up to 300 pounds of steel!
This rust remover is also very safe to use: It’s biodegradable, doesn’t create fumes, and doesn’t require special protective equipment to use. That makes it ideal for around-the-house projects like cookware, grills, antique restoration, and more. However, note that this formula doesn’t behave in quite the same way as a full rust converter, so it’s not as suitable for large or very bad rust problems. Thankfully wood does not rust, so you can just use the best wood polish on it.
#2 Corroseal Rust Converter
Award: Honorable Mention
WHY WE LIKE IT: This top Corroseal rust converter includes a powerful primer layer that’s ideal for painting afterward, and one gallon can cover up to 250 square feet! It’s ideal for larger rust conversion projects.
Corroseal’s effective rust converter does a little bit of everything: It can convert rust and seal a surface with a layer of primer for further painting – or you could just leave the primer layer as a sufficient coating all its own. As you can imagine, this makes the mixture perfect for restoring larger surfaces on vehicles, boats, industrial machines, and so on.
You can choose whether to paint, roll, or spray this formula, and a single gallon can cover 200 to 250 square feet, depending on the rust problem. Several different sizes are available, but we like the all-purpose one gallon version for most projects. Its non-flammable, water-based formula is easy to clean up as well, almost as if it were soap and water. Be sure to check out this effective product that works great at protecting against future rust on Amazon.com. This is what you want for rusty surfaces, rather than the best spray paint.
#3 VHT SP229 Rust Converter
Award: Best for Hard to Reach
WHY WE LIKE IT: VHT SP229 is the best converter for truck frame projects and other serious tasks. The easy spray-on helps in tight spots, and it can also work on fiberglass.
A rust converter needs to be effective – it’s not much good if part of the rust is left unconverted and unsealed. This VHT formula is especially powerful, fit for extreme rust cases where deep, thorough conversion is needed. It’s also a particularly versatile version, able to treat metal, body filler, or fiberglass.
While a single can may not be large enough for every project, it is easy to spray and reach hard-to-get places without the work of transferring the formula to your own sprayer. You may want to buy two or three cans if your project is the size of, say, the full underside of a truck. To get rid of excess rust you can use the best power scrubber.
#4 Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer
Award: Best Budget
WHY WE LIKE IT: This Rustoleum rust converter is an affordable option for around-the-house projects. The spray nozzle is also high-quality and especially easy to use.
Those looking to save will be pleased with Rust-Oleum’s low price, and happy with the result of its powerful formula. The bottle has an “any angle” spray nozzle that works particularly well for reaching hard-to-get places while also spraying a steady stream for reliable application.
Rust-Oleum’s spray is particularly good if you’ve already sanded down a surface with plans on re-painting it, but there are still some rust spots that won’t go away. Make sure you cover the surface with a thick coat for best results! For aluminum you can use the best aluminum polish if you want to go another route.
#5 FDC Rust Converter Ultra
Award: Best Quality
WHY WE LIKE IT: The professional-grade nature of this rust converter makes it ideal for commercial projects, and one gallon can cover up to 500 square feet. It’s a great choice for industrial work!
This professional grade converter is excellent for serious restoration projects – and efficient, too. A gallon can cover 500 square feet (about the size of a dumpster), and the spray includes primer capabilities that make it ideal for preparing a surface for painting later on. The formula is designed for the toughest projects, including machinery, railing, industrial structures, and more.
There’s also no thinning out or difficult measuring steps. You simply thoroughly stir the mixture and then apply it however you want, from a paint roller to a pump sprayer. This adaptability – and the converter’s strength – make it a great choice for commercial projects. Just don’t leave it outside in cold temperatures! Another one of the best rust removers and converters is the TotalBoat Rust Primer Converter, which comes in a gallon that can cover over 500 square feet as well. This rust treatment converts rust on a metal surface into an inert substance, making the surface ready for a metal primer or paint. First clean off the surface with a wire brush, apply the phosphoric acid-based rust primer to the rusted metal, then to be safe, wait anywhere from 24 hours to up to 48 hours for it to dry completely. You need a rust converter in your arsenal, just like the best rubber mallet or a good hammer.
How We Decided
The best rust converters have formulas that work. As we discuss more below, converters are made from a careful balance of chemicals, and it’s important that they produce powerful results. So we were careful to only choose converters with proven formulas that yielded excellent results on thick rust projects.
But effectively dealing with rust is only the beginning. We also gave extra consideration to formulas that went beyond and offered additional properties like combined primer to prepare surfaces for another coat of paint. Biodegradable, safe formulas are also a plus for those who want to avoid making a mess.
Finally, application is key. We liked to see large containers with plentiful formulas that could be used for larger projects, which can be measured in tons or square feet of metal. However, some small cans are great for hard-to-reach spray projects, especially if they are particularly strong for treating tough spots.
Best Rust Converters Buying Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
- Ease of Use and Spraying
How do you prefer your converter liquid? Some converters come in larger, multi-gallon bins that are designed to be painted on with a brush. Others come in smaller spray bottles, which are easier to apply but can’t cover as much of an area. Find the right ground between ease of use and the size of your project.
- Primer Features
Some converters include primer features that are designed for painting. These converters will transform and seal over rust, but they will also prepare a surface for a new coat of paint. These options are great for repainting certain surfaces, but they have more limited use compared to simpler sprays. Keep in mind that converters made with a primer layer combined need to be applied to a surface that’s ready for paint, which means sanding down rust spots. Sometimes a simple converter sprays and a converter with primer make a good combination in these circumstances. However, you will still need to sand away the converter rust before applying a primer layer.
- Formula Base
Converters can be water or oil based. Oil bases (not as common) tend to be more permanent and powerful, but aren’t as environmentally friendly. Water bases (more common) are suitable for a broader range of surfaces, and are easier to clean up if spills happen, but may not be as useful if you want to paint over the surface afterward. Choose the base that’s right for your project, and when in doubt look at the instructions to learn more.
Rust Converter FAQs
How Exactly Does a Rust Converter Work?
Science! A converter contains a combination of an organic polymer and tannic acid. Rust is simply corrosion of iron (caused by oxygen exposure, often via water), and the acid immediately interacts with that particular type of corroded material. It turns the rust it contacts into a new material called tannate - a dark residue that’s the primary reason converters turn rust black. The polymer part of the liquid then covers and stabilizes the tannate so it doesn’t just flake away and leave more metal exposed. The result is a new surface that can’t be corroded and covers up any exposed metal.
What is a Rust Encapsulator? Is That Like a Converter? Which is Better?
A rust encapsulator is actually a different chemical combination with a different purpose. A rust converter is for extreme cases where there’s lots of rust that can’t be removed, or a broad patch of rust that has to be dealt with before using the component again. Here, the rust needs to be neutralized in some way, and only a converter can do that. An encapsulator is more like a sealant, designed for less extreme problems where a worn surface needs new treatment. An encapsulator can help seal up small spots of rust to prevent them from spreading, but it can’t deal with serious rust problems.
Can Rust Converters Be Used for Marine Craft?
Usually, yes. Water-based versions will work best here. However, even the best rust converters won’t work very well on surfaces that are still wet at all. So you will have to dry drock your craft, make sure it is fully dry, and scrub away any scum/algae before you begin the application. It’s a bigger project than some, but still entirely doable.
Can I Use These Converters on Stainless Steel?
Rust converters are primarily designed to be used on steel and iron surfaces that don’t have any coatings on top. These coatings (which are designed to fight rust themselves) interfere with the chemical process that the converter is designed to create. That means stainless steel isn’t usually compatible with steel converters - nor is galvanized steel. Oil-based converters may be more useful here, but we don’t recommend it unless instructions specifically mention stainless steel. On a similar note, not all corrosion is rust. Materials like aluminum, copper and silver can all corrode. But rust converters won’t help with these materials at all.
How Do I Prepare a Surface for a Rust Converter?
This can require a careful balancing act, so go slowly when preparing your surface. You want to remove all rust flakes and easily dislodged particles, but you don’t want to remove all the rust, or this will defeat the purpose of using a rust converter. As you brush and sand the surface you may find that a rust encapsulator may be a better choice if there is very little rust left. If you aren’t sure, clean and sand the surface before you choose a treatment.
Also why not check out: