Why the humble potato could save your outdoor furniture this fall

Try giving your metal garden furniture a new lease of life with the help of this potato rust removal hack

two rusty metal garden chairs on a patio
(Image credit: kynny/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

If your metal garden furniture is looking slightly worse for wear after a hardworking summer of entertaining and extreme temperatures, you might be looking for an easy and organic way of removing the rust. 

Rust is a common problem for outdoor furniture, particularly if it is made from iron or steel. Over time, the metal will start to oxidize, leading to unsightly brown or red patches which need removing. Rust can lead to serious decay, even destroying the stability of furniture legs and seats.

If you’re looking for a cheap and chemical-free way of getting your garden furniture back to its best again, Chris Bonnett, founder of the garden plants and products company GardeningExpress.co.uk says you shouldn't overlook the humble potato.

rusty metal bench in a garden

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Using a potato to remove rust from outdoor furniture

Like that already well-known organic lemon juice rust-removal tip, using a potato requires no special equipment or use of chemicals. 

Chris says the first step in cleaning outdoor furniture in this way would to sand down as much of the existing rust as you can with fine sandpaper or a baking soda and water solution. 

Then simply take a potato – any decent-sized variety will do – cut it in half and rub it along the surface of the rust-affected area, applying decent pressure as you do so. You can also rub the furniture with the potato’s skin.

sliced potato on a chopping board

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Why can a potato help remove rust?

'Potatoes contain oxalic acid, which can dissolve rust and remove dirty brown rust stains from metal furniture,' agrees Jamie Penney, home improvement and outdoor design expert and CEO of home advice service The Backyard Pros

When the potato and metal meet, it starts a chemical reaction which weakens the rust. After the rust starts to flake, clean it off with an old rag, Jamie advises.

two rusty metal outdoor chairs on a patio

(Image credit: kynny/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

What kind of potato works best?

It's best to choose a potato with a decent thick skin, so avoid the red-skinned varieties. 

The key is to make sure that the potatoes are not too old, says cleaning expert Maria Ivanova, founder of Master Maid. 'They need to be fresh and crunchy. You can even use frozen potatoes, although they may not be as effective.' 

She is especially keen on using the Yukon variety of spud, because it has a particularly firm texture so shouldn’t crumble easily – or even turn to mash – when you apply pressure.

Will you be giving this potato rust removal hack a go on your outdoor seating and patio furniture?

Jayne Dowle
Freelance writer

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.