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Have you ever had a difficult time painting your car or metal furniture? There is a chance you might overlook priming since it can seem like an unnecessary step. By skipping the step of priming, you’re more likely to encounter many paintwork issues in the future. Therefore, one must apply a primer before painting. 

With the right spray paint primer for metal, your metal fixtures will not only look brand new but they will also be protected from further damage. Compared to wood or plastic, metal is a less adhesive surface to spray. Finding the best primer for rusted metals is necessary before beginning your painting project. However, with so many products and brands today, picking one is not always easy. That’s why we did the work for you! Here we have selected some of the best primer for metal picks, along with some of their best features. 


Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter-Best Primer For Rusted Metal
Corroseal Water Rust Converter Metal Primer 

  • Features:
  • Water based
  • Rust converter
  • Non flammable
Rust-Oleum Spray Primer Paint For  Rusty Metal
Rust-Oleum Spray Primer Paint For Metal 249331

  • Features:
  • Oil based
  • Provide twice the rust protection
  • Quickly dry
Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer review
Rust-Oleum Clean Metal Primer

  • Features:
  • White primer
  • Oil based
  • Resistant to weather and corrosion
Best Rust-Oleum Professional Gray Primer for Metal
       Rust-Oleum 7582838 Primer For Metal

  • Features:
  • Good for ferrous, non-ferrous metal
  • Industrial paint formula
  • Excellent Adhesion
Rust-Oleum 2081830 Stops Rust Automotive Primer
Rust-Oleum 2081830 Stops Rust Automotive Primer

  • Features:
  • Oil based
  • Durable coating
  • Stop Rust formula
XIONLAB 2 in1 Best Metal Primer Rust Converter
XIONLAB 2 in 1 Best Metal Primer & Rust Converter 

  • Features:
  • Anti rust formula
  • For all top coatings
  • It ca be applied on damp surface
TotalBoat Best Rust Stopping Primer
TotalBoat Best Rust Stopping Primer

  • Features:
  • Water thin formula
  • Use for new metal or rusted metal
  • Spray on steel, stainless steel or iron

What is the best primer for metal?

primer for metal surfaces

Best Rust-Oleum Professional Gray Primer for Metal

1. Rust-Oleum 7582838 Primer Spray Paint For Metal

Professional Primer from Rust-Oleum is our favorite metal primer spray, as it includes all the features that I need. It gives you convenience and makes the job easier for surfaces ranging from metal furniture to metal roofs.

The drying time of some primers for rusted metals can take 24 to 48 hours or even days, which is quite annoying. This primer dries rapidly within 15 minutes, preparing the surface for a topcoat. But don’t forget to sand the surface first.

Fast drying doesn’t affect the anti-rust properties of the product. Also, with its durable formula, it can be used as a primer and paint. Thus, this product prevents corrosion and is resistant to harsh elements, making it suitable for indoors and outdoors.

In addition, we find the 360-degree spray angle to be an advantage, especially when dealing with massive structures and projects. 

The enamel spray disperses solution evenly when you spray it from different angles, unlike some spray primers. This coating works well on corroded metals, whether they’re on the underside of a car or any other metal that’s prone to rust. Furthermore, it is not restricted to ferrous or non-ferrous metals. It may be used to prepare wood, brick, concrete, and other metal surfaces for painting, making it the finest primer for a wide range of applications.

It’s quick, simple to use, and does the job without drips or runs. The odour, on the other hand, is a minor negative. So, you need protective gear like mask, gloves, mask, and safety goggles.

If you’re searching for a quick and simple application of primer for corroded metal, Rust-Oleum Stops Rust Spray paint is the finest option. It’s a proven formula that provides excellent corrosion resistance and heavy-duty protection.

  • Metal paint primer that dries quickly.
  • It protects against corrosion to the fullest extent possible.
  • For maximum coverage, it can be used at any angle.
  • Simple to use
  • Chemical odor is unpleasant.

The experience I had with Rust-Oleum Professional Gray Spray Paint Primer 

The Rust-Oleum Professional Gray Primer was recommended to me by a friend, although I had never tried it before. When I was preparing to paint my metal shelf, I decided to give it a try. I bought new spray paint primer and got started on my project right away.

As a result of the primer, the surface was smooth and provide even finish. It covers really well, even over darker colors. It dries in no time. In addition, if the primer is properly applied, it can protect against corrosion. So, if you want a product that will prevent damage to your home over time, this might be your best choice. Rust-Oleum professional primer is a great product, I highly recommend it!

Useful Resource: Does Dollar General offer spray paint? Learn more about their paint selection.

2. Rust-Oleum 2081830 Stops Rust Automotive Primer

Rust-Oleum 2081830 Stops Rust Automotive Primer

Rust-Oleum Stops Rust is a tough, anti-rust primer spray for most automotive paints and finishes. The primer can be applied to all metals except galvanized ones.

It is also a wet sandable, so you won’t have to wait for it to dry before sanding!

Auto touch-up paints can be used over auto primers, but it is advisable to test a small area first. This formula contains oil-based and is specifically intended for automotive use, so it will stop rust in its tracks.

It should be used outdoors or in an open garage where it is well ventilated and try to avoid spraying when there is a lot of wind and dust. Plus, you need to protect the surrounding area by covering it with a cloth.

The spray paint can be held upright 10-16″ from the surface and apply it by using a back-and-forth motion with slightly overlapping strokes. Make sure that the can is held at the same distance from the surface.

You can apply two or more light coats of it. In addition, you should try to keep it away from open flames.

Whether you are working with rusted metal or you are just trying to get amazing paint adhesion, this spray paint is the best choice for you.

Useful Resource: Wondering, Do you need primer before painting? Check out the comprehensive guide to understand the role of primer in the painting process.

  • Sandable
  • Quick drying
  • Adhesive for metals and fiberglass
  • Best primer for steel
  • It overspray according to some customers
  • Occasionally the nozzle clogs

My favorite brand of spray paint is Rust-Oleum because they have always worked well for me and are affordable.

In my experience, this particular primer has good adhesion and dries quickly. Last month, I coated three times on a car, waiting an hour between coats, and got excellent results.

Rust-Oleum Spray Primer Paint For Rusty Metal

3. Rust-Oleum Spray Primer Paint For Metal 249331

This Rusty Metal Primer is not only a great primer in general, but it also works great for rusted metal. 

You can use this best metal paint primer on any surface, including vehicles such as cars and trucks. A 12 oz. can of this primer cover 12 square feet. Also, you can spray from any angle and with a comfort tip.

Due to its flat finish, this high-performance primer can be mixed with nearly any paint to get a beautiful topcoat finish on almost any vehicle. This primer usually dries in 15 minutes. So, you can speed up your job.

In comparison to enamels, the Rust-Oleum automotive rusty metal primer provides twice the amount of rust protection.

With Stops Rust technology, you can expect your finish to last for years. Despite maximum exposure to corrosion factors, your treated item will last longer due to superior bonding with the most rusted surface.

  • Spray with a comfort tip that works at any angle
  • It covers well and dries fast
  • Excellent adhesion
  • Heat-resistant up to 2000 degrees
  • Ideal rusty metal primer for automotive work
  • It t is reported that users need to cure this primer at 600 degrees for the paint job to maintain its hardness

My experience using Rust-Oleum spray primer paint for metal

I applied this primer on my old car that sits in the sun all day last week. In fact, I’ve been using the primer for over a year without any problems. I also have a rusty metal gate and I used this primer to stop rust. This primer works wonders on rusty metal.

Therefore, this is also a good choice if you want to cover existing rust and it prevent the metal surfaces from further corroding.

Rustoleum Clean Metal Primer review

4. Rust-Oleum Clean Metal Primer review

Rust-Oleum is the ultimate anti-rust solution. Stop Rust Clean Metal Primer Spray from Rust-Oleum gives your indoor and outdoor metal projects maximum rust protection.

It should be used on clean, lightly rusted, or painted metal surfaces.

This product bonds right to metal provides outstanding adhesion, and can be top-coated with any Rust-Oleum color.

It has angle spray technology and a comfort tip nozzle that makes application quick and easy. 

My friend had a great experience using Rust-Oleum 7780830. She was looking for a primer for metal surfaces recently. She wanted something durable, protective, and easy to apply – something long lasting and able to give her great results every time. Upon researching, she found that Rust-Oleum 7780830 Metal Primer meets all of these requirements.

It took her no time at all to apply the primer, and it dried in a short time. According to her, the paint covered well for a thin coat, smelled good, and looks fantastic on metal surface. Furthermore, you are pleased to know that this primer is applicable for wood surfaces as well.

  • Long-lasting and corrosion-resistant
  • More rust protection than enamel 
  • Interior/exterior use
  • Its shelf life is good
  • For cleaning and priming purposes
  • Good adhesion for finishes
  • Use any color topcoat
  • 12oz. aerosol spray can
  • The spray pattern should be wider
  • The can gets dented quite easily sometimes

The Stops Rust 7780830 formula offers twice the rust protection. It can help you get rid of rust once and for all!

5. XIONLAB 2 in 1 Best Metal Primer & Rust Converter

XIONLAB 2 in1 Best Metal Primer Rust Converter

This two-in-one rust converter and primer from XIONLAB is perfect for those who don’t have the time to dry and prep the surface. Even if the surface is wet, you can apply it with no scraping or blasting required.

It is a highly effective rust metal primer, regardless of its quantity or application. It does not require extensive preparation.

If you do not have a topcoat available, you can use this multipurpose primer alone as no topcoat will be needed. A single coat of flat red paint leaves a smooth and highly pigmented finish that covers metal surfaces quickly and easily.

The application method for treating a metal surface is either by brush or spray gun. A gallon of this product will cover 1,000 square meters, and a paint will cover 125 square meters, so it is most suitable for large-scale projects.

Moreover, it is environmentally friendly and safe to use. The material is inflammable and does not contain harsh chemicals. Furthermore, you can clean the tool with soapy water.

As the drying process is important. A second coat should be applied 24 to 48 hours after the first coat is dry to the touch; otherwise, paint won’t adhere well and would be easy to remove. Thus, reading the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly before you use the product is imperative.

  • It protects metals from rusting
  • Directly applied to rust
  • No top coat needed
  • Simple to use
  • Easily washable after use
  • Large areas of rust can be covered
  • Needs to be dried thoroughly

Its rust-inhibiting properties ensure maximum protection, so you do not have to worry about rust re-forming. You can finish it with paint, enamel, or any of your preferred finish materials. 

6. Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter-best primer for rusted metal

Corroseal Water-Based Rust Converter-Best Primer For Rusted Metal

Corroseal is widely regarded as one of the best rust converter and metal primers on the market. Corroseal can be applied by using a roller or paintbrush in one step. 

A unique feature of this product is that it is water-based. The use of Corroseal is also extremely safe since it is non-flammable and non-corrosive.

The liquid doesn’t come in a spray bottle, but if you have your own, you can spray it. 

It usually takes just one coat of Corroseal to finish a job as opposed to most rust converters that require at least two coats. 

One gallon of this product should last longer than other brands because you will need less product for each job.

Sanding is necessary for the best results with this product, whereas some products do not require any prep work at all. The cost of Corroseal is also a bit higher than other alternatives.

  • It comes in good packaging
  • Value for money
  • Water-based formula
  • Ingredient quality
  • Good adhesion
  • Easy to clean up
  • Last long non-corrosive formula
  • Non flammable
  • It works well for rust, but not as a primer on light-colored cars

When it comes to the number of coats, Corroseal provides superior performance. Thus, we really enjoyed this best primer for rusty metal because of its excellent coverage.

TotalBoat Best Rust Stopping Primer

7. TotalBoat Best Rust Stopping Primer

We chose TotalBoat Rust Primer converter because it follows most of the conventions of rust converters. 

To begin with, it consists of phosphoric acid, the most common substance found in rust converters. A toxic substance is indeed present in TotalBoat Rust Primer.

With TotalBoat Rust Primer you should use protective gear, since getting it on your skin alone can cause inflammation and burning. 

Plus, it is a water thin formula so you might have to apply multiple coats, but you’ll still be able to cover up to 500 sq ft. coverage on lightly rusted metal.

When I first saw the consistency of the liquid, I had a concern about its effectiveness. I didn’t need to worry because this primer works well. The product performs as advertised and my experience on metal surfaces was positive.

  • A gallon covers 500 square feet
  • Fast drying time 
  • Phosphoric acid rust converter
  • Ensuring maximum adhesion
  • Water-thin formulation
  • Best rust inhibiting primer
  • Non-toxic
  • Unsuitable for priming
  • It requires more cleaning after treatment 
  • Very thin and may require more coats than other competitor

TotalBoat Rust Primer also takes longer to cure than many of the other products on our list. TotalBoat Rust Primer, however, needs two or more full days of curing time before painting or treating it in any way.

Rusty Metal Primer Vs Rust Reformer

Comparing Rustoleum Rusty Metal Primer and Rust Reformer, their major differences are their targets and methods for application.

While both were designed to prevent and solve metal rust issues, Rusty Metal Primer targets rusted objects that do not completely damage metals. Meanwhile, Rust Reformer deals with objects that are extremely rusted and are beyond restoration.

Let’s look at the features of each to help you understand how they differ:

Rusty Metal Primer
  • Great for moderate to heavy rust issues
  • Prep work may include sanding and cleaning 
  • It requires two coatings
  • Dry to the touch within approximately 15 minutes
  • You can paint afterward
  • It covers up to 20 sq. ft
  • Reddish brown or rusted metal color
Rust Reformer
  • For heavily corroded metal
  • Not necessary to sand or clean before application, but a recommended step
  • Apply one coat
  • Let it dry for 20 minutes before touching
  • Prime the surface before painting
  • It can cover an area of up to 12 square feet
  • Black color

Why Should You Use A Primer?

Primers are applied to objects before they are painted. By applying primer, you create a smooth, even surface for your topcoat, making it easier for that next coat to stick properly.

Primer spray paints come in all types, including automotive primers, oil-based, water-based, epoxy.

Remember to keep all surfaces clean and dry before priming any project.

When Should You Apply Primer?

The primer provides an excellent surface for the paint to adhere to, so it is essential to ensure it bonds well with the metal. People often use primer on metal surfaces at the following times:

  • Working outside can cause oxidization of brand new items which will prevent rusting.
  • Ensure that new steel tools are clean and primed before painting. 
  • Oil-based products adhere better to bare metals when they are primed.

For the best results, you should prime any surface before painting.

What is the Best primer for metal roof?

Selecting the appropriate primer is crucial for safeguarding your metal roof. I’ve tried a few, like Rust-Oleum Primer, and KILZ Premium, and they’re pretty user-friendly, drying up real quick. However, epoxy primer which is great for durability – you won’t need to redo it as often. You can also use Silicate primer which is another solid choice, especially for metal roof projects.

Before you begin the priming process, ensure that you have properly prepare the metal surface. Clean it up and tackle any rust or old paint hanging around. This way, when you lay down that primer, you’re setting the stage for a long-lasting and effective metal roof coating.

Buying Guide of a primer for metal

rustoleum rusty metal primer vs rust reformer

Find out the rust issue, surface, and primer compatibility

Choosing a primer requires ruling out rust issues. Manufacturers offer a wide range of specially formulated rust removal products and primers designed for a range of different problems. You should also consider the type of surfaces you’ll be working on when choosing the correct primer, as to avoid any adverse reactions.

For extensive metal rust, you may need heavy-duty primers that are not appropriate for treating new metal or minor rust issues.

Types Of Paint Primer

Rust-related problems can be addressed by different primers for rusted metal. 

  • Oil-based primers
  • Red Iron Oxide Primer
  • Acrylic primer
  • Water-based rust converters
  • Self Etching Primer
  • Zinc Chromate Primer


Oil based primers provide excellent adhesion as well as remarkable properties that contribute to the rusted metal’s quality and durability, regardless of the weather conditions and temperature. They are ideal for people who work in the commercial production industry or on large-scale outdoor projects.

Red Iron Oxide Primer

Red Iron Oxide Primer (RMP) is a water-based, direct-to-metal primer known for its high solids content, including zinc and red iron oxide pigments. It creates a robust barrier against rust on metallic surfaces, particularly beneficial for untreated metals like wrought iron exposed to moisture. Unlike galvanized metal, which has a built-in zinc layer to prevent rust, iron oxide primer is specifically designed to inhibit oxidation on untreated metal surfaces.


Acrylic primer is a water-based paint that contains a small number of organic solvents, which improves adhesion, and allows for multiple coats before the final finish.

Based on our study, this type emits more VOCs than their counterparts. Look elsewhere if you want lower emissions!

Related Resource: Find out step by step method for painting metal with acrylic paint.


Water-based acrylic and latex primers are not recommended for use on metallic surfaces because they may result in finish failure over time. If applied on metal, these primers may initially give the appearance of durability, but heavy chipping or peeling is likely to occur within weeks or months. It’s essential to opt for anti-corrosion water-based paints designed specifically for metal protection. These paints offer highly effective shielding against moisture, UV rays, and mechanical damage, making them suitable for priming various metal items such as equipment, vehicles, furniture, and structures made of both ferrous and non-ferrous metals.

Self Etching Primer

Self Etching Primer acts as a rust preventive coating and primer in one, featuring an advanced spray system for application at any angle, even upside down for difficult-to-reach areas. This primer is well-suited for smooth metal surfaces prone to finish failure. While professionals typically use sanding techniques to roughen surfaces like tile, vinyl, acrylic, and fiberglass, these methods are not effective on durable slick metals. Metal-etching primer, with its acidic base, is specifically formulated to etch onto such slick metallic surfaces.

Zinc Chromate Primer

Zinc-rich primers are used to shield iron, steel and aluminum surfaces from corrosion, providing effective protection against moisture and preventing rust. They are particularly valuable for safeguarding critical equipment. Similar to iron oxide primer, it forms a strong bond with metal to inhibit rust.

Application and drying considerations

The method of application will depend on the surface type, project size, and convenience. Primer for rusted metal can be applied with a brush or diluted with a solution. Also, some products come in spray containers for quick application. Each method covers large surfaces, but may vary in durability, consistency and drying time.

Check the Primer’s Quality and Effectiveness

Primer is primarily designed to protect rusted metal or surface rust from future damage. Hence, it is important to check the formulation of the product,  primer’s durability and its potential benefits.

Determining the Quantity Required

If you are having a large-scale project then you might need more than a spray primer. Primer also comes in gallons to ensure thorough coverage.

Safety and Toxicity Content

A primer’s content should be checked for safety before use. The lower the toxicity level, the safer and easier it will be for you to use the product. Manufacturers minimize potential hazards by offering a variety of non-flammable, eco-friendly rust primers.

Ease of Cleaning

Rust primers and paint primers require thorough cleanup after application. Therefore, if you’re engaged in multiple projects, an easy clean-up primer will save you from a lot of trouble.

Should I use primer over rust reformer?

Rust Reformer is great for turning rust into a paintable surface using oxalic acid. However, it’s not a primer. Use Rust Reformer to treat rust spots, then apply an oil-based exterior primer to the entire surface. Finish off with oil-based house paint for a durable result. Follow product instructions for the best outcome.

What to use after rust reformer?

When painting over Rust Converter, use oil-based or epoxy paints for the best outcome—avoid latex or water-based options, as they might not adhere well. Here’s a simple guide:

Rust Converter Application:

Treat rust spots with Rust Converter to make the surface ready for painting.

Primer Application:

Apply an oil-based exterior primer for a strong base before painting.

Paint Application:

Choose oil-based or epoxy paints for the final coat, ensuring good adhesion and robust rust protection.

Conclusion On Best Primer For Metal

In a nutshell, metal primer can make a difference in the quality of your work by protecting the surface from corrosion. 

When buying a primer, it’s important to consider the level of corrosion, type of primer, durability, safety, and effectiveness of the product.

For a professional-looking finish on your next DIY project, Rust-Oleum 7582838 spray primer is the way to go. Also, we have the Rust-Oleum 2081830 Primer spray paint which is suitable for use on wood, metal, fiberglass surfaces and for automotive purposes. In addition, if you wish to get the best primers for rusted metal, we suggest you get the Corroseal Rust Converter Metal Primer. It is a quick and easy way to turn a rusted item into a new-looking one.

Finding the perfect choice for your needs and preferences may require some research. Hopefully, the detailed review of the products, and buying guidelines above will help narrow down your options.

FAQS On Best Primer For Metal

How many primer coats should I apply to metal?

Considering the environment in which the metal surface is located and what elements it may be exposed to is important. At least one coat of primer must be applied to all bare metal, and the more specifically you can specify the type of primer, the better quality results you’ll get in the finished product.

Is epoxy primer suitable for metal?

The corrosion-inhibiting properties of two-part epoxy primers are strengthened by the addition of zinc phosphate. Epoxy is the ideal primer for metal bare surfaces, making it ideal for parts that have been newly fabricated or fully stripped.

Should you apply a primer to metal before painting?

A primer is essential for painting metal. You should clean previously painted metal surfaces with a wire brush to remove old paint, grease, grime, and debris. 

What is the best paint for metal?

Painting metal surfaces and items with oil-based paint is typically considered the gold standard. Oil-based paints adhere better to metal, which gives them a longer-lasting finish.

Do I need to sand the primer before painting metal?

Yes, whether you’re priming a porous material like wood or a smooth one like metal, you need to sand it first. Sanding removes the glossy surface of a material, allowing primer to adhere to it more effectively.

Jennifer Marie-Holapaints writer

Jennifer Marie

Jennifer Marie is a general contractor with over the years of experience in home remodeling, DIY projects, and commercial painting projects. Her experience includes working with paint sprayers, painting tools, and other painting supplies. You can follow her on Facebook.

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