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How To Clean & Maintain Wrought Iron Balusters

Most of the time, our only encounters with iron involve fussy cast iron pans and rusty equipment. Yet wrought iron balusters are beautiful and fairly weather-resistant, if they’re taken care of. Why are they durable, and what do you need to do to keep your decorative iron clean and rust-free?

What Is Wrought Iron?

Wrought iron has very little carbon, making it soft and flexible. To remove slag from the base metal, it must be worked repeatedly. However, this still leaves some impurities, which create a fibrous, almost wood-like texture. Silica in the remaining slag acts as a corrosion protectant.

While wrought iron was replaced by mild steel for basic construction almost two centuries ago, it’s still sought after for ornamental fixtures. Thanks to its unusual texture and the marks left by working it into shape, this metal has a unique look that is popular for balusters, fencing and decorative accents. Unlike cast iron, it doesn’t require any more care than other materials used in your home. Most problems are caused by the use of harsh cleaners, or lack of cleaning.

What Should I Use To Clean Wrought Iron?

Dusting alone isn’t enough to keep iron clean. For regular cleaning, use an all-purpose household cleaner, or a mixture of two parts water to one part white vinegar. Microfiber cloth does the best job of getting into all the intricate shapes on decorative iron.

When Should I Clean Wrought Iron?

Stair cleaning should be done weekly to prevent dust buildup. Spills should be cleaned up immediately to prevent corrosion.

How Do I Clean Heavily Soiled Balusters?

If you need to remove layers of mud and debris, fill a bucket with water with a few drops of dish soap. Scrub the iron with a soft brush. If this solution isn’t powerful enough, add a little white vinegar. Once the iron is clean, wipe it down with a clean rag and plain water to remove any residue.

How Do I Protect Outdoor Iron Balusters From Rust?

Regular cleaning is enough to keep indoor wrought iron fixtures looking new for decades. Outdoor fixtures need a little extra care since they’re subjected to moisture from rain and snow.

After cleaning the balusters, apply a thin layer of furniture wax, liquid car wax or wrought iron spray wax. All three waxes offer rust protection. However, wrought iron wax maintains the metal’s satin finish while other waxes may leave it looking shiny. Avoid paste waxes, as they are almost impossible to remove from the iron’s rough surface, especially around fine decorative elements.

How Do I Remove Rust From Wrought Iron?

To remove surface rust, scrub the area with steel wool dipped in kerosene. Wear gloves and safety glasses to protect your skin and eyes.

To remove flakes of rust, coat the area in vinegar, lemon juice, oil or a paste of water and baking soda. After the solution sits for a few minutes, scrub the area with steel wool. If the piece has thick surface rust, you may need to repeat soaking and scrubbing. If this doesn’t work, you can use a wire brush or sandpaper to knock off the rust. Clean the area and apply wax as soon as possible to stop corrosion.

For severe rust, apply a rust remover. There are several options available. Be sure to pick a solution that leaves a bare metal surface, not a coating that requires paint. Tannic acid is usually the best choice for matching the look of bare iron. However, it may be wise to do a spot test before coating the entire baluster.