Cleaning and Maintaining Metal Armour & Maille

Metal armour is a dream. Its pretty, it looks good when you display it, it functions well on the battlefield, and its something that protects you from sometimes deadly blows. But it can also be a nightmare.

Looking after armour can be painful, but NOT looking after armour is worse. Many times worse. In this article, we want to cover some of the basics for looking after armour you buy from us, or indeed any other store.


The Armour Type

The type of armour, and the grade of polish you have on it will likely determine how best to look after your armour. There is not a single method that works on everything. So, we will have a look at some of the things you want to avoid, and some of the things you want to remember.


When Buying


If purchasing second hand armour, articulate all of the joints, or areas where articulations occurs, to ensure there is no serious rust in the hard to reach places. Also check any impossible to see places with a white piece of paper, or card. Scraping behind those sections will quickly reveal any rust stuck behind those panels or within those creases.

Oil Removal & Replacement

Once you have purchased your armour, it's common to have oil coating. This is almost guaranteed for new maille. This is actually a good thing, as this oil is the coating preventing rust from gripping the surface of the steel. A good way to remove this oil, is with a solution of 50% Windex and 50% water. Fill a large tub big enough to full submerge your item, then fill enough to submerge it. If it's a plate armour, you can always sit the armour in the tub and sponge bath it. Windex cuts grease, without destroying leather and eating metals.

Once complete, take your item and wash it thoroughly with water. Remove every single bit of the solution. For maille, wash it under running water like a hose to remove all the solution. Then find a flat concrete area that is IN THE SUN, and lay your maille out flat. You can also hit it with a blow dryer to speed up this process, as you want to dry the armour in a few minutes. Do not wait for the armour to dry over a few hours, I will explain why. The oil coating now removed, the metal is in a raw state. this means that rusting will take just minutes to begin, and your armour is in a very vulnerable state. 

Immediately after removing all the water, coat your item on it's entire surface with a generous coat of Ballistol. This product is a coating agent that creates a skin on your armour to prevent rust taking hold. We sell this product in two quantities for those in need. Once coating fold your maille up in a towel, and give it a good kneading, this will ensure the coat it even. 

Then you're done!


When cleaning

Using vinegar, salt, lemon juice or indeed any other acid is not recommended on armour, regardless of it's finish or makeup for a few reasons. One of the reasons is that acid will eat into the metal, and create pits for the rust to then imbed itself. This might clear the rust off initially, but it will leave it more prone to returning if you don't take proper measures. Another reason is because if the runoff gets into a crack, a joint, or under a part of the armour you can't reach, it will cause massive rust issues. Finally, acids are not good for your strapping, and will degrade and destroy leathers they are exposed to. 

Many products can be used for rust prevention, as well as removal. Few work better at preventing rust than our own Ballistol. However there are a few mineral and engine oils that will do the job. 

Our method of easy, quick rust removal involves a kit of products shown in this picture.


WD40 - as a cleaning agent, brass wire brushes - both in hand operated and drill operated form, rags, Ballistol, and PPE.

Rust Removal - Plate

First, you need to give the surface a quick clean to remove any loose rust. Hit it, whilst dry with a wire brush, to remove any flakes, chips or skin the rust has created. This will ensure you don't flick them around whilst you clean it. Be sure to do this work in a well ventilated area, with plenty of space, you're going to make a mess.

Once you have a better surface to work on, coat the area you are starting in with a generous amount of WD-40, and with your drill wire brush, abrade the surface in gentle, but slowly increasing in pressure swirls. This abrasion, coupled with WD-40, will almost instantly remove the top layer of rust, and after a few passes, will return the steel to it's original shine, wipe away with the rags as you go to see progress. Repeat this process over the entire piece, using the hand operated brush for the hard to reach or delicate places. Once you have done the entire surface, wash with water to remove any remaining flakes, and WD-40, then you need to decide the next step.

You are a simple soldier, you spill the blood of your enemies, you aren't the kind of flashy things, hell, you let your armour rust, didn't you? You want the matte! Great, your work here is done!


You enjoy the finer things in life, like armour you can see your face in, and RSI or carpel tunnel. You want the polish, here we go...

Get your hands on a set of sanding discs, not just any, you need ones from 60 to around 5000 grit. There is a good drill operated set here. You'll also need a woolen polishing wheel/disc, and some polishing agent, such as Jewelers Rouge.

Starting with the lowest grit (roughest), you'll use the WD-40 to scour the plate, once you have a coat, then move up one grit level, and coat again. Do this from the lowest to the highest grit until you have a solid shine. Once completed, hit the plate with the polishing agent, and the woolen wheel. This will have your plate looking spiffy. Ensure you coat the plate with Ballistol after cleaning it.


Rust Removal - Maille

Maille is actually incredibly easy to remove in regards to rust. When you need is a container large enough to full encase your maille, we recommend a manual cement mixer, a brewing barrel, or some sort of drum. Place your maille inside, with some sort of agitator mixture; gravel, sand, rocks work best. Turn, roll, flip or otherwise beat your maille repeatedly for around 45 minutes to an hour. Take it out, check the rust and see it's progress, then repeat until it's gone. 

Follow the oil removal steps after the maille is rust free, then apply a coat of Ballistol to prevent it's return.


Regardless on how you clean your armour, the important thing to note is that prevention is thousands of times easier than repair and removing rust. If you're going to spend the money getting that fancy armour, don't just let it rust... It might just save your life one day.

Until next time!


- The Bastion


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