Wondering how to clean rust off antique metal like this adorable toy firetruck while maintaining the aged character and patina?? Let me show you how!
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Rusted antique metal toys can be part of the history that we want to preserve. They can hold memories for many of us.
Whether it was a toy we actually played with or one that we remember our parents or grandparents talking about from their childhood. Restoring these treasures from the past can be so much fun!
One of our custom clients asked if we could ‘fix up’ this treasure. She asked if we knew how to how to clean rust off antique metal like what she found on this toy firetruck she had. It had been in her family for some time and she wanted to breathe some life back into it.
Can you blame her?? I mean, look at this adorableness!!
Can’t you see a child playing and pretending for hours and hours in this toy firetruck?
But she didn’t want all of the character removed. A complete restoration wasn’t what she was looking for and it isn’t something we offer here at Reinvented Delaware.
bring in new life
What we do offer, is bringing new life to an old and discarded piece. We love to maintain the character of any piece we bring into our workshop but we like to make things a bit better.
So I told her, of course, we can clean rust off of antique metal while maintaining the patina!
clean rust off antique metal
We started off by removing some of the rust. A mouse sander, a package of #0000 steel wool, worn-out sandpaper, and a couple of wire brushes were the tools and supplies I started with.
And of course, a respirator face mask. Rust makes a dangerous type of dust so even if you are outside in a well-ventilated area like my garage with the big door open, wear a mask!!
This little mouse sander is perfect for getting into tight areas as this fire truck had. It has a pointed end and a squarish end so it fits into all sorts of areas.
I used the mouse sander in all the areas it would reach.
Then I pulled out the wire brushes. I keep two sizes – one is the size of a toothbrush and the other is a bit larger. It is actually used to clean the grates on an outdoor grill.
The #0000 steel wool came in handy for the areas that I wanted to be careful in so that I wouldn’t remove any of the original paint.
Most of the rough texture that the rust creates was removed. I worked on it for a couple of hours while I listened to an audiobook. And I didn’t worry about every bit of the rust.
clean and neutralize
The fire truck got a good vacuuming with the shop vac. The next step was to spray the whole piece down with white vinegar. The vinegar neutralizes the rust and prevents it from spreading further.
I learned this little trick while watching Salvage Dawgs from Black Dog Salvage. They are masters at reinvention!
A little more scrubbing with the vinegar and then I let the piece dry in the sun.
I turned the fire truck in several directions while drying to make sure the vinegar wasn’t pooling in any areas.
wax on, wax off
The next day I applied wax to the outside surfaces of the fire truck. Miss Mustard Seed Furniture Wax is my go-to wax. It’s super soft and so easy to apply and buff off.
I applied it with a chip brush and then lightly buffed the surfaces with a blue shop towel.
BTW, wax isn’t just for old rusty metal. You can use it on an upcycled lamp project like this one too!
And this project too!! Omgoodness, I’m on a roll!
The surfaces on the underside would be difficult to wax so I opted to use Miss Mustard Seed Hemp oil. I applied it with a chip brush and wiped off the excess with a shop towel in the areas where I could reach it. The moving gears also got a good once-over with the hemp oil.
It was a bit chilly outside so I brought the project indoors. I also made a little video for you to watch the process!
Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel while you’re there!
fire alarm bell
The bell on the front of the toy fire truck needed some attention. My hubby removed all of the rust but left some marks on it for the sake of character. I applied Miss Mustard Seed Zinc Wax. It helped to bring a beautiful antique silver look to the bell.
The fire truck has just enough sheen to make it look well-worn and aged, don’t you think?
And take a look at the sweet license plate! And that bell on the top! I can’t get enough of this sweet toy fire truck!
perfectly preserved patina
The furniture wax will prevent the remaining rust from going any further while keeping the aged character and patina of this adorable toy fire truck.
Steel wool helped me to pay careful attention to the lettering on the side of the fire truck too.
The toy fire truck is a pedal car. I bet some child had a blast pedaling around pretending to be a fireman! It makes me wonder if that child grew up to be one!
Our client loved it! She said she will use it during the Christmas holiday to hold a small Christmas tree!
Can’t you just see it displaying a tree during the holidays??
preserving the past
See how easy it is to clean rust off antique metal like this toy fire truck? A couple of hours, simple supplies, and an audiobook is all you need to breathe new life into this sweet vintage toy.
Thanks for stopping by!
Did you enjoy this tutorial? I know I sure did! Working with metal toys is so much fun
Let me know if you have any questions about this project or any others you see here on the blog. I would love to help you out the best I can!
Until next time….