Do Chain Link Fences Rust? (5 Maintenance Tips)

Chain link fences are a great fence option but do require general maintenance, especially as time goes on. 

Chain link fences can rust over time. This can happen anywhere, but especially in cool, wet, and humid areas. Cleaning the fence and scrubbing it can help remove rust while adding protective coating can prevent rust from forming.

There are many ways to keep a chain link fence looking well-kept and in-tact, especially when it comes to rust. Rust on a chain link fence can cause irreparable damage if it’s not taken care of right away.

So, here are 5 ways to regularly maintain a chain link fence to aid in the battle against rust:

1. Spray Paint Every Season

The main reason rusting occurs on a chain link fence is because it’s exposed to water and air; the fence gets wet, then it air dries. That causes a chemical reaction that results in rust.

So, in order to eliminate the access water has to the fence, you can simply coat the fence. An easy solution is to use spray paint on the chain link fence. It’s recommended to do this at least once every season, but you can opt to do it more often for good measure.

Spray painting the fence not only keeps the water from touching the metal directly, but it also keeps the fence looking nice and well-kept.

Another perk of spray painting is customization! There are so many different color options to choose from.

2. Pressure Wash Weekly

Another great way to remove rust from and maintain a chain link fence is to pressure wash it. This may seem like you’re causing the problem by spraying water on the fence, but just the opposite is true.

Rust appears from the constant presence of water and the repeated process of getting wet and air drying. But, if the fence is being pressure washed at least once a week, even if rust is present or starting to appear, the pressure washer gets rid of it.

Now, if the fence is pressure washed inconsistently, then yes; this will be causing rust to form and it will not help alleviate the problem, it will just make it worse. Therefore, consistency is key with this maintenance method.

3. Naval Jelly Application

Admittedly, rust can be difficult to avoid and, when it is already present, it can be harder to remove. Luckily, there are products on the market that help remove small amounts of rust that have more recently formed.

LOCTITE brand sells a naval jelly that is a great solution for rust that is already present on a chain link fence. These rust spots are most commonly found on the spots where the metal is touching or overlapping.

As soon as rust forms on these spots, simply use a small scrub brush (or old toothbrush) and apply a small amount of naval jelly. Leave on for the recommended period of time and wipe clean.

This should eliminate the presence of rust, at least for a short time. Again, maintenance is key in rust removal/prevention.

4. Use a Wire Scrub Brush

Using a wire scrub brush to remove any rust spots is also a very effective removal method.

In addition to a wire brush, you’ll need to use some sort of liquid to wash away the dust and residue. This can be just plain water, it can be vinegar or water with some dish soap.

As long as you wash away what’s left over after you’ve scrubbed all the rust spots off, that should resolve the issue.

Now, this method of removal is pretty time and labor-intensive, so be prepared to put some elbow grease into this project. Depending on the amount of rust on the chain link fence, this could take all day or even multiple days.

Using a wire brush means your result is directly related to the work and detail you put into it. So, if don’t try very hard, chances are, rust will be an ongoing issue.

5. Soak Fence with Vinegar

Vinegar is naturally acidic and, because rust is basic, is a very effective tool when it comes to getting rid of rust on a chain link fence.

For this method, you’ll need white vinegar, paper towels, old rags, and a small scrub brush or old toothbrush. It is not recommended to use apple cider vinegar. Use either white vinegar or regular vinegar.

To remove the rust, soak the paper towels in vinegar and wrap them around the rust spots on the fence. Leave them for at least 30 minutes, depending on how bad the rust is.

Take off the paper towels and dip the toothbrush or small scrub brush in the vinegar. Then, with the soaked toothbrush, scrub away the rust spots. The vinegar should have loosened up the rust so you shouldn’t have to scrub very hard.

If there is any leftover residue or dust, simply wipe it away with a dry cloth or one dipper in plain water.

Preventative Methods

Now, if you’re a very determined person and like to stop an issue before it even happens, there are a few things you can do to prevent rust from forming in the first place.

Apply a Galvanized Coating

The one main reason to put a galvanized coating on a chain link fence is simply to increase its longevity. Exposed chain link fences rust because of humidity, water, and air.

With a galvanized coating, the wire is covered and protected from the elements thus: preventing rust and breakdown from water.

You can purchase galvanized chain link fences, or purchase cans of coating anywhere fences are sold. It’s a pretty simple process: make sure the chain link fence is completely dry. Apply one or two coats of the polish and let dry.

If you choose to apply the coating yourself, it may need to be done every season to ensure there are no vulnerable spots on the fence.

Apply a Vinyl Coating

Vinyl coating on a chain link fence is very similar to a galvanized coating, but it tends to look a bit more polished.

Putting a vinyl coating on the fence, just like a galvanized coating, protects it from the elements and helps keep rust from forming. Some chain link fences come with a vinyl coating already on them, but you can also have one put on the fence after you’ve purchased it.

One downside to a vinyl coating is it needs to be professionally applied. Because of the process, there are no DIY ways.

What is Rust on the Fence Anyway?

Rust is the end result of a chemical reaction that occurs when iron (found in metal) is exposed to water and air. It’s distinctive with a red-orange color and the texture is almost like a powder when it’s first formed.

Rust usually isn’t an issue if the fence is in a warm, dry place. But, it can be very troublesome if you live in a cool, very wet, and humid area. If a chain link fence is not properly taken care of, rust could have detrimental effects on it.

Superficial rust isn’t really an issue, it just doesn’t look very clean. But, if the rust has been on the surface for a long time, it could start to corrode the metal and cause damage to the integrity of the fence.

However, the few things we discussed to prevent rust from happening (for a time) and general maintenance tips will keep your chain link fence clean and in-tact.

Alternative Fences (that Don’t Rust)

Vinyl Fence

A vinyl fence is a great alternative method to a chain link fence if you don’t want to deal with the issue of rust, at all.

These fences are pretty simple to install. They also provide great privacy and look beautiful. They tend to add aesthetic to any yard and can be personalized in the specific style you want.

Even though rust isn’t an issue with vinyl fences, you do need to worry about mold. So you’ve basically traded one issue for another.

Traditional Wood Fence

Another great way to avoid rust is to install a traditional wood picket fence. There are many reasons to want a wood fence: they provide privacy, beauty, and they’re easy to maintain.

Rust isn’t an issue with any wood fence, but mold can be. In addition to mold, wood can rot and decay when it’s exposed to the weather and elements.

Wood tends to require a bit more maintenance than other types of fences, but if the maintenance is done regularly and correctly, this is a great alternative.

Brick Fence/Wall

Another alternative to a chain link fence is a brick fence or wall. Rust definitely won’t be an issue with this type of fence.

However, this alternative can be very costly and hard to maintain. Brick can be susceptible to mold and moss. Because of this, there’s a chance of breakdown and eventual failure.

So, chain link fences do rust over time. But, there are ways to prevent that from happening and fairly simple ways to clean the rust after it’s already formed on the fence. Otherwise, you can just choose an alternative fence option.

Fence Frenzy

We at Fence Frenzy absolutely love taking on the challenge of building, or even restoring, a fence. Especially elaborate and exotic fence designs that really make us scratch our heads! We're happy to share everything we've learned with you.

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