Non-Toxic, No-Nonsense, No Foolin’ How to Make Metal Rust with Potatoes

How to make rust with potatoes


Once considered junk, rusty old items have become trendy furniture, garden art and home decor.   I myself haven’t mastered this look, but I have needed to make newer nails and hardware look rusty from time to time,  and along the way, I discovered a non-toxic, no-nonsense method to make rust, using potatoes!  There are plenty of ways to make nails and metal rusty, so I have included a list of several other methods, too, but if you want to know how to make rust with potatoes, here is how:





Soaking Method for Vinegar, Salt, and Oxidized Potatoes
  • Pour some vinegar into a glass or plastic container then add some salt
  • Use this ratio: ½ cup vinegar to 1 tablespoon salt
  • Slice a few pieces of potato.  Allow slices to sit out uncovered to oxidize (turn reddish, brown)
  • Once potato slices have oxidized, drop them in the vinegar/salt mixture.
  • Next, drop in your nails or other metal objects.
  • This method works quite fast.  You will see the metal darken right away.
  • Let soak for about an hour or so.
  • Remove and dry on paper towel or cloth, and rust will begin to appear.



This method will work on standard metal items with iron properties such as steel or cast iron nails, screws, hardware, chains, and other unpainted decorative items. If item is metal, but has paint on it, you may want to sand down some of the paint and then try to use a rusting method.

Avoid  trying to rust metals such as stainless steel, heat-galvanized, zinc and aluminum, as these metals are designed to be rust-proof.


Is there a spray method for Vinegar, Salt, and Oxidized Potatoes?

I haven’t tried making a spray solution with the potato method, so I cannot tell you that it would work, but I will be giving it a try once the weather warms up and provide an update.  In the meantime, if you happen to try it yourself, let me know how it goes!!



Alternative Rusting Methods:

If you don’t have a potato handy or just want to try another method, here are several that I have used in the past and several others, as well.

Salt and vinegar

Ratio 1:1

This method is slow, but it has worked for me in the past

Try any of the following in combination with salt & vinegar:

  • Add a dash of baking soda
  • Place jar in warm place to speed up the process.
  • Use a tin can instead of a jar
  • Use less liquid and partially expose the nails to air at the same time, the exposure should also speed up the process.



Iron Oxide Paint Method

From Leslie @

Works great for larger pieces and galvanized metal


A Combination of Household Products:

Six step process from Laral @

Works great for larger items.


I hope these are helpful on how to make rust.  Some of it is trial and error, because you don’t always know what type of metal you have, just make sure to research and read all directions for any method you may try.  Happy Rusting and let me know how it turns out!!

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10 Responses to Non-Toxic, No-Nonsense, No Foolin’ How to Make Metal Rust with Potatoes

  1. Anne@DesignDreams March 21, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Wow, the things we’ll do! I can’t believe how many ways there are to do this – so cool!

    Have a great weekend!

    • Amycha March 22, 2013 at 6:11 am #

      What we do for DIY!! Thanks for stopping by, Anne, and you have a great weekend, too!!

  2. Mel March 28, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    Fascinating who knew it was that easy!

  3. Bliss April 20, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    That’s crazy! My son said at dinner once, who ever thought of pulling on “those things” to get milk from a cow?, and I’m thinking, who ever thought to put nails in taters to get rust!

  4. Misty July 31, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Am I missing something. For the potato method there is no step for when to put in the nails. Please add this essential step!!

    • Amy August 1, 2015 at 8:01 am #

      Thank you Misty, for pointing that out. I have corrected the directions and added that step.


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