Do Metal Swing Sets Rust? Fix And Prevent Swing Set Rust


Swing sets have a simple design but have a structure built to hold up with repeated use for many years. However, if your swing set is made of metal, you may be wondering if it is more prone to rusting, which could lead to damage and the frame weakening sooner than you’d like. 

Metal swing sets left outside and exposed to water and air can undergo a process known as oxidation, leading to rust. If the metal is not treated regularly to prevent rust, then it will certainly rust with time.

Rust can become a deterrent on swing sets because the presence of rust usually indicates that the structure may be compromised. However, you can do a few things to prevent rust from forming in the first place and even remove it after it appears.

What Metal Swing Sets Are More Likely to Rust?

All metal swing sets will rust, but the speed and severity at which they do will depend on the type of metal it is made from and how much moisture and oxygen it’s exposed to.

Certain Metals Rust More than Others

Aluminum and copper are examples of metals more likely to rust slower than other materials. This is because they contain fewer iron alloys.

Copper, in particular, has a greenish tint to its rust, called patina. The patina acts as a protective layer against rusting itself, so the metal has a sort of self-preserving system in place. 

Iron is a metal that tends to rust faster and more severely when exposed to moisture and air.

So, if you want a swing set that will last longer in the elements, choosing one made of aluminum or copper rather than iron will help.

Covered Swing Sets Are More Protected from Rust

Covered swing sets are probably the best option for those who live in wetter climates. These swing sets are perfect because they are more protected from the elements; the cover usually consists of a little roof over the top of the swing set to protect the metals and the swings from getting wet when it rains.

Check out our Swing Set Cost and Compare Guide to find our top picks for swing sets.

Dangers of Rusted Swing Sets

Swing sets can be excellent sources of fun for kids on the playground. However, there are some inherent dangers to keep in mind, especially if you find the metal frame is rusted.

Over time, rust can degrade the swing set’s metal, which can weaken it. If left untreated, rust can ultimately erode the metal surface to the point that any extra weight or movement added to it will break the metal into pieces. When it comes to swing sets, this can quickly become a safety hazard for children.

Before you or your child attempts to get on the swings, be sure to check the swing set and the chains of the swings to ensure that there is no rust or other damage to them. If there is rust, the best advice is not to use that swing set until the rust is taken care of.

How to Fix Swing Set Rust

The best way to treat rust once it has occurred on the swing set’s surface is to attempt to sand it away; this will not take much effort if the rust has not been on the swing set for too long.

  1. First, locate and determine how bad the rust is on the metal. If you find any holes among the rust, that means the metal is too corroded to fix. In these cases, you may need to contact a welder to help repair the swing set’s integrity, as this is a sign the metal has already weakened.
  2. If you have decided that the rust is simple enough to fix, sand down the area’s surface where the rust is. Don’t sand too far deep into the rust as this can cause more damage than do good.

Once you have removed the rust, use a few of the below methods to prevent it from reforming.  

Preventing Rust on Swing Sets

Treating rust on a swing set is usually a preventive measure a person or company takes rather than reactive. This is because oxidation can’t be reversed once it happens, so any damage done to the swing set due to rust can’t necessarily be repaired.

So, to prevent rust from ever becoming a problem in the first place, try one of the following techniques:

Galvanization

One way to prevent rust is galvanization, which is an anti-corrosion treatment process used on irons. The process involves applying a protective coat (usually an element like zinc) over the iron to prevent rusting.

Note: Why zinc? It has no iron or iron alloys, so it will not rust when exposed to air or moisture.

Theoretically, the outer coat applied is exposed to the elements instead of the iron underneath, so the metal is less likely to rust.

Surface Plating

Another way to prevent rust is surface plating. This is when nickel and chrome are deposited onto an iron surface to prevent rusting. This process is a bit more complicated than galvanization but tends to offer more protection.

Like the zinc used in galvanization, nickel and chrome do not have any iron alloys, so they don’t rust. The nickel and chrome are on the outside of the surface, so they will prevent any oxidation.

Add Swing Set Covers

If you want to protect your swing set from water, consider having a water-resistant cover installed. This can be in the form of a playground canopy (link to Amazon) or even a large tarp.

Another option for people wanting to protect their metal swing sets is to find and add plastic coverings over the top of the swing set’s metal pieces like the legs and crossbars.

This way, the metals are covered and protected from the elements, and there is the bonus of having plastic on the outside instead of metals to protect young children.

Painting

A final, and probably the most straightforward measure to take, is simply painting over the surface.

Like the other two processes we mentioned, the theory goes that because the paint is on the outside and the metal is not exposed to the elements, rust is less likely to occur.

Be sure if you go this route to do a couple of things: one would be to use a primer, and the second would be to use a non-lead based paint. The primer should be applied first, and there are even rust-preventative primers that you can find.

Once the primer dries, apply the paint to the same areas to prevent rusting from occurring.

Invest in a Different Swing Set

Check out our Swing Set Cost and Compare Guide to help you find a swing set that will work for you. Or see How To Build Your Own Swing Set.

If you want to avoid all of this, invest in a swing set made with metal that is not iron-based. Wrought iron is a good substitute because it has a higher carbon content than pure iron, making it less susceptible to rust. Though it does not entirely mean rust will not occur, at the very least, it will be less likely to happen.

Along with other metals, wooden swing sets are great options to have as well. There are pros and cons to them, but they hold up over time just as well as metal swing sets. Just make sure the wood is sturdy enough to withstand the added weight once people start swinging.

Conclusion

Swing sets that are made of metal, especially iron, tend to rust. If not removed or treated in time, the rust can begin to eat away at the metal, making the swing set weaker and more vulnerable to breaking while in use.

To prevent rusting from turning your swing set into a safety hazard for anyone using it, use the above tips to remove it, and prevent future rust from forming. Your kids will thank you later!

Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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