Is Rusted Metal Recyclable?

It happens to the best of us. After a long day of scrapping, you spot a beautiful piece at the other end of the yard. As you get closer, you notice that one half is obscured by an old barrel. By the time you move the barrel, the jig is up—the entire lower section of your piece is coated in rust.

So what should you do? Is the rusted metal recyclable? And even if it is, will the scrap metal recycler pay for a rusted piece?

In this case, you have a few options. But before you decide what to do next, it may help you to know a bit more about rust.

What Is Rust?

Rust is a form of corrosion that occurs when a ferrous metal, or a metal containing iron, is exposed to water. How long it takes for rust to form depends on the exposure level, the type of alloy and whether the metal was coated. So an old bike left in a humid basement may begin to rust after a few weeks, or it could stay rust-free even after a winter outdoors.

Because this type of corrosion is specific to iron and its alloys, rust does not impact copper salvage price or the scrap value of aluminum. These metals may show signs of corrosion, but they are different from rust. Rust is an issue specific to iron scrap, which already is one of the lower value scrap metals.

Can I Recycle Rusty Metal?

Yes. Ferrous scrap metals go through a purification process when they are recycled to clear off paint and coatings. This process will draw out the iron, but the amount may be smaller than in non-rusted scrap. Because of this, the price offered per pound of rusty scrap may be less than that of iron scrap with a cleaner appearance.

How to Remove Rust

There are plenty of products on the market for removing rust. Visiting your local hardware store is a quick way to get recommendations for the best product for the type of rust you are trying to remove.

If you are looking for a DIY option, some people swear by using soda pop or other home-blended mixtures for a cheaper rust solution. If you want to go that route, your best bet may be to get a few lemons, cut them in half and dip them in salt—then use them as scrubbers to clean the rusted areas.

Whatever your method, remember that rust is iron oxide, so it contains iron. As you clean off the rust, you are also cleaning away the metal itself. 

Getting the Best Iron Scrap Price

Most metal scrap recyclers will pay for items by weight. They may also consider things like condition when they are determining the rate that they will pay you per pound. While cleaning the rust off of iron scrap may improve the appearance (and therefore the price per pound), it also reduces the weight.

So, when you are deciding whether to haul and clean that rusty piece of metal, consider if your efforts match what you expect to get back in increased value at the scrap recycling yard.

The guaranteed way to get the best price on ferrous scrap metals is to prevent rust formation in the first place. Keeping metal in a low humidity environment and using protective paints or coatings will help ensure that your metal stays clear of rust.

Would you like a free quote on your scrap metal? Contact us at Gardner Metal Recycling today to find out how much cash we can pay for your stash.