5 Steps to Remove Rust & Protect Your Tools

When iron or an iron alloy reacts with oxygen and water, this process is known as oxidising. Rust is the result. Rust can be pretty catastrophic for metal tools. 

Rust related issues include spoiled appearance and serious structural weakening of the metal. A rusty drill head will be far more likely to break; a rusted support structure will be significantly weaker and potentially dangerous.

How do you prevent your valuable tools from ever coming into contact with water and oxygen? The short answer is you can’t – what you can do is follow these simple steps to prevent or slow the oxidisation process. This guide will also provide some tips for how to tackle rust when it is too late for prevention.

IMPORTANT

If you notice any rust building on your tools, the time to act is right now. Never leave rust alone, as it will only get worse with time unless you tackle it head on. From a warranty perspective, rust equates to neglect and will therefore void your warranty!

Baking Soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is cheap option that can be found at any supermarket.

  1. Give the metal a good rinse and dry off any excess liquid.
  2. Lightly dust the rusted areas with the baking soda – be particularly generous in the most affected areas.
  3. Leave for around an hour.
  4. Scour the surface with something rough like a metal brush or scouring pad. You want to be working through the full layer of rust, right down to the metal. This may require some effort to remove it all.
  5. Rinse the metal once more and then dry thoroughly with a towel or cloth.

This method is cheap, accessible and very safe. If your rust problem is excessive, you may need to look at more heavy-duty methods, but for milder rust problems, baking soda could be just your ticket!

Vinegar

Another cheap but surprisingly effective home remedy for rust is simple household vinegar. The acidity of vinegar is excellent at loosening the rust for an easy removal. Like baking soda, it’s also cheap and available at any supermarket.

Weak acids, such as vinegar, can dissolve and loosed the iron oxide to form a soluble salt, which is far easier to scrub or scour away. 

  1. Make your vinegar solution – depending on the size of the tool you need to clean, you might need up to a gallon (4.5 litres). Add cup or two of table salt to the mix, which will make the acid stronger and more effective. Aim for a ratio of 1 cup of salt per gallon of vinegar.
  2. Make sure your basin is a non-reactive material, such as stainless steel or ceramic, so it remains sturdy. Avoid reactive metals such as aluminium, iron or copper.
  3. Place the object into the solution, submerging it completely.
  4. Wait for at least one day. For severely rusted items, the wait could be significantly longer, but keep checking the looseness of the rust every 12 hours or so.

As you can see, vinegar is a relatively cheap and effective method of rust removal; however, it can take a long time to work. If your tool is extremely rusty, it can take a number of days, or even weeks, to remove it completely. 

The following metals can be cleaned with a vinegar solution, but be aware that some metals may experience damage if soaked in vinegar for too long.

  • Cast iron
  • Chrome
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Pewter
  • Stainless steel

Chemical Rust Removers

If your rust problem is a little more severe, you may wish to opt for a store-bought solution such as a chemical rust remover. There are countless different chemical solutions which feature ready mixed compounds designed to remove rust with minimal fuss. 

Always be careful and follow any instructions careful when using any chemical products as they may be harmful to skin.

Diesel

Soaking your rusted tool parts in diesel can also be an effective way of removing the oxidation.

By soaking the affected metals in diesel for around 24 hours, depending on severity, the rust should be gradually weakened and worn away, making it much easier to scrub off. 

Simply follow the same process as you would for vinegar, but remember diesel is extremely flammable. Be sure to keep everything a safe distance from anything that may give off excess heat or sparks.

Rust Converters

Rust converters are special solutions that can be applied to a rusted surface, covering it up and reacting with the iron oxide, thereby converting it into a moisture and corrosion resistant layer.

Rust converters will stop an existing rust problem expanding and worsening, but they will not remove it completely. If your tool has been weakened by rust, this weakness may still exist with or without the use of a rust converter.

How can you prevent rust altogether?

Given that water and oxygen are quite difficult to avoid, especially for an active tradesperson, you might be wondering if there are any measures you can take to prevent rust before any oxidization has even occurred. Fortunately, by following three simple rules, the chances of your tools rusting will be dramatically reduced.

Keep everything as dry as possible

Moisture and oxygen are the key ingredients of rust so, needless to say, the dryness of your tools is critical to the prevention of rust. Whatever you use your tools for, always keep them as dry as possible. This means thoroughly drying any tools immediately after use, and storing them securely in containers that will not allow water in.

Humidity control

Moisture isn’t just found in water. Rusting can also occur when the tools are perfectly dry, but the air around them contains high levels of humidity. A simple and affordable solution to humidity is to buy a special moisture-absorbent silica gel pack and place it in your tool box, storage or carry case for a particular tool. These help by removing excess moisture from the air. 

Spray Protectors/Displacers

You can also use a special protective spray on your cutting tools, which cleans thoroughly to penetrate and loosen any rust present on metal surfaces. It also dries out any moisture, un-jams and lubricates.

These sprays are also ideal for spraying onto the router cutter shanks and sawblades to prevent rust altogether.

This kind of solution is cheap to buy and is available at any reputable DIY store.

Good luck

Too many great tools are lost to rust, and it can sometimes feel like an endless battle. If you, like us, are passionate about tools and want to keep them healthier and more useful for longer, we hope this guide has been of some assistance. We wish you the very best of luck in your rust-busting! 

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