Working in Manhattan as a residential construction project manager, one of the things my bosses clued me into was that the further along you get in a renovation – creating pristine, finished surfaces – everything else around your work starts to look a little rougher. Such was the case with my Airstream’s vintage wheels. I’d already put a lot of work into the systems and interior, but once I’d started polishing the exterior a little bit and put some clean, chrome “baby moon” hubcaps on, the rusty wheels looked particularly gnarly all of sudden:
My concern was that I wanted environmentally-friendly products to use. Unfortunately, I made a snap decision & succumbed to conventional thinking. I’d assumed that there were simply no eco-friendly rust arresting / preventative products on the market, and went for a brand that (anecdotally) I knew would work and that I could easily find locally. My justification was that I needed something that would “really work,” and that the green solution just didn’t exist yet.
A quick Google search just this evening yielded examples of rust-prevention products that tout themselves as “environmentally safe,” “organic” and “biodegradeable,” among other claims. Below are a few I’d be eager to compare and possibly try in the future:
What I actually used was the POR15-family of products:
A quick online search of “POR15” and “eco-” or “environmentally-friendly” didn’t yield clues that it was healthy in its manufacture or use, nor was it indicated in this material safety data sheet (MSDS) for the rust-preventative paint I used, for example. That said, the product line often comes recommended on online forums, and by several contractors & shops. “I’m no expert,” I told myself. And more, I justified my choice by thinking, “the alternative is to throw the existing wheels into the landfill & buy new ones… not sustainable.” Also though, it was lazy justification for not doing my homework first.
Nevertheless, I eagerly set out to work:
First I taped & papered off areas I didn’t want the chemicals to touch, put on some protective gloves, a proper mask (please read the directions about which kind to use!) and safety glasses, then followed a three step process with the products pictured above. The whole thing took a couple of days, and the actual application of the products took just minutes. Aside from drying times, the thing that took the longest was the prep. Taking the time & detailed attention to your preparations (in this case, making sure everything is taped and papered off carefully) almost always gives the best results.
In the end, everything’s looking clean & sharp. We’ll see how it holds up over time.
- Water bucket (for rinsing)
- Rags / towels
- Painter’s Tape
- POR15 Cleaner / Degreaser
- POR15 Metal Prep
- POR15 Rust Preventative Paint (Matte Black)
Up next: Repairing a Vintage Air Conditioner