by Harry Webb
(Burbank, California, USA)
Ornamental ironwork can add interest and elegance to any home, in the form of railings, gates, arches, arbores, indoor and outdoor furniture, etc. The only problem with ironwork, particularly if it is kept outside, is rust. Making regular inspections of your ironwork will bring any potential rust problems to your attention and allow you to treat them before they spread.
It is a good idea to dust indoor ironwork regularly and mop up any spills immediately using a soft cloth. Washing over iron furniture periodically with warm soapy water, rinsing and drying thoroughly, will help to keep it in good condition. This method can also be performed on outdoor furniture. Remember that ironwork for outdoor use is best placed somewhere covered during cold and very damp conditions; otherwise this will only contribute to rust problems.
Rust begins on the surface and is produced when iron compounds corrode in the presence of oxygen and water. If not treated it will gradually eat away at the iron and eventually spread, lifting off the paint and rendering holes in the ironwork.
Rust stains can appear on the surface of ironwork and these can be removed by dipping a fine steel wool pad into kerosene and then gently wiping. Any flakes of rust can be scrubbed off with an ordinary wire brush, or sand paper suitable for metal, without the use of any chemicals.
Joints of ironwork are especially vulnerable and you need to take care when cleaning off rust, that you manage to get into even the smallest areas. Sandblasting can be very effective and this can be used to remove rust and old paint -small hand-held units are available and are suitable for outside use. It may be that in some cases you will need to get a professional opinion on your ironwork before attempting to treat it yourself.