How do I clean rusted heat registers as easily as possible?


Help please!! I would like any ideas on how to remove rust from metal plates them to look good as inexpensively as possible. I have had three operations in the last 3 and 1/2 months and am legally disabled but I would like them to be presentable. The builder didn’t put any green board behind them so the rust is the result. Thank you for your time and consideration. I appreciate your help.

  18 answers
  • There is a product called Evapo-Rust. It's a non-toxic rust remover. After the rust is removed, you can repaint your registers, Elaine.

  • William William on Mar 20, 2020

    You would need to sand or brush as much of the rust off. Prime with Kilz primer. Then paint your color. You can use blue painters tape and tape off the wall around them before you paint. My crew and I used regular house paint. Most clients wanted to match the wall color.

  • Chloe Crabtree Chloe Crabtree on Mar 20, 2020

    Can you sand them and then paint them? That is what I would do.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Mar 20, 2020

    You might try a product called CLR,(calcium, lime, rust) to remove the rust. If that does not work, then I would go to a stiff wired brush, or steel wool, or sand paper. I have never used Evapo-Rust as Anne suggested. It must be a good product, Rustoleum rarely disappoints. Once cleaned up, prime and then paint. I like the idea of matching the register vents to the color of the walls.

  • Mogie Mogie on Mar 20, 2020

    Mine looked bad so I sanded them and then applied several light coats of spray paint. Be sure to apply light coats you don't want this to run and look like a bad paint job. After sanding be sure to wipe the registers down well to remove any dust so you paint sticks well. I used cheap paint from walmart and they still look good (about 3 years later).

  • GrandmasHouseDIY GrandmasHouseDIY on Mar 20, 2020

    Yep, as mentioned by others here, Rustoleum spray paint would make those look like new again!

  • Vimarhonor Vimarhonor on Mar 20, 2020

    Spray paint I completely agree. It would be recommended to remove the rust first

    Rustoleum recommendations


    Always work in a well-ventilated area. Cover the floor and nearby items with a drop cloth. Lightly scuff any glossy surfaces and wipe clean with a lint-free cloth. Use Painter’s tape to hide any surfaces you don’t want to paint.


    Using slow, back-and-forth motions, spray paint each item with several light coats of spray paint, making sure to overlap each stroke slightly. Apply 2-3 coats of spray paint, waiting a few minutes in between each coat.


    Let spray paint dry for approximately 1 hour before handling.

    Tip: Use of 2X Ultra Cover Primer in White provides better paint coverage and color.

  • Dee Dee on Mar 20, 2020

    Use a product called Navel Jelly it will dissolve the rust. Then get Rustoleum spray auto primer. When dry lightly sand. Then spray with Rustoleum Light even coats. You can use either a metallic or whatever color goes with your decor.

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Mar 20, 2020

    I would take them off, clean the rust off. One method is to soak it in a plastic container with coke. I've used the generic cola from the dollar store to good effect. Then scrub them and sand or wire brush the remaining rust. Dry thoroughly before painting. I like Rustoleum products for painting metal.

    • See 1 previous
    • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Mar 21, 2020

      Glad to be of help! Give it time to soak. My husband used this recently to clean rust off a metal panel. He thought I was crazy when I told him to let it soak overnight, but, is a convert after trying it. He covered it with a garbage bag to keep it from evaporating while it did its thing.

  • You can paint them with heat proof rust safe paint. Just go to the hardware store and ask what you should use.

  • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Mar 21, 2020

    Hi Elaine, I'm so sorry to hear about your ops. I hope you're recovering well. I found this video that will show you how to get rid of the rust on your heat registers - Hope it helps and get well soon.

  • Betsy Betsy on Mar 21, 2020

    Hi Elaine: You can use Rust-Oleum spray paint for metal to paint the registers. Sand the rusted areas first. An easy way to sand is to get one of those metal bar-b-que brushes. It should fit into the openings. Good luck

  • I've used a metal brush and rust remover. Then i use a spray paint primer and then spray paint for metal...they'll look brand new!

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Mar 23, 2020

    Clean well, scuff with steel wool, then spray paint with RustOleum.

  • Kmdreamer Kmdreamer on Mar 23, 2020

    Use rustolium on them that should work and get a small roller it’s easier.

  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Mar 24, 2020

    I cleaned mine then I spray painted them and they look like new

  • Lynette Lynette on Mar 24, 2020


  • Kmdreamer Kmdreamer on Mar 25, 2020

    Pick them up lightly sand them then paint them with rustolium paint