- The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

    Care and Preservation:  Rusty Surfaces

The Problem of Rust

New collectors often ask whether or not rust can be stopped or prevented.  In many cases, this is after having already purchased a "ground dug" helmet from Europe.  These helmets are the typical rusty hulks that have little or no real collector value other than the curiosity they provoke regarding their origins.  It is important to note that helmets with extensive rust are impossible to remedy.  Any attempt at removing the rust will permanently destroy the surface of the helmet.  Once a helmet becomes rusty it will remain rusty.  The rust will continue to advance, but can be modestly slowed in some ways.  It has been shown that a light treatment of furniture spray wax can be effective in stopping rust and causes no harm to the paint over time.  This treatment is best accomplished by spraying a tiny amount of furniture wax onto a clean soft rag.  The wax is then applied in a gentle fashion by dabbing the rag over the surface of the helmet evenly.  Never scrub the surface of the paint with the rag as this will cause damage to the helmet.  There are many varieties of furniture wax polishes that can be used, but it is best to use one that is packaged in as a mild spray formula without any cleaning agents, chemicals, or abrasives in the mixture.  These spray finishes are composed mainly of a silicone based wax that does not damage wood or painted finishes.  The amount that is applied to the helmet is very little and over time the finish will actually 'evaporate' in which case another application might be necessary (once every two years for example).  This method works best on smooth painted helmets and semi-rough finishes.  The thin layer of wax stops oxygen and damp moisture from attacking the already exposed and rusted metal.  This will aid in halting any further spread of rust or related rust patina. No wax or preservatives should be applied to any paint finish where no rust is present!

Rules for rust prevention:

  • Never clean a helmet using an abrasive cleaning agent or chemical formula.

  • Never use sandpaper, steel wool, or abrasive cleaning materials or brushes to remove surface rust.

  • Never use automotive or industrial grade waxes on the helmet.

  • Never use gun, automotive, or machine oils on the helmet's paint surface.

  • Never spray the entire surface of a helmet with shellac or varnish to "preserve" the paint finish.

  • Never coat the entire helmet with Vaseline or clear petroleum jelly to prevent rust.

  • Never attempt to clean off paint splotches, specks or other paint marks on the helmet using paint thinner or paint removers.

  • If a helmet is already in fine condition then leave it as it was found.  There is no need to apply preventive treatments to a helmet that is already in reasonable condition.

  • Always store your helmets in a neutral temperature range without exposure to prolonged damp or hot conditions.

    Preservation Main Topics

Care & Preservation Main

Rules for Care

Rusty Surfaces

Dry & Cracking Decals

Leather Care

Leather Balms

    Quick Helps


Combat Helmet Types


Quick ID Charts

Rusty helmets such as this can not be
reclaimed or preserved.
  - The Online Reference Guide to World War II German Helmets 1933-1945

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