How to Remove Rust From Tools
Make do and mend is back in a big way, partly in response to the financial crisis and partly because we have come to realise that our granny’s way of fixing things and reusing things rather than throwing out and buying new was far more eco-friendly. Many of us have a box of old tools kicking around in the garage, and if they are not used for a while, they can start to get rusted. If this happens there is no need to throw them out and buy new, as rust is easily removed from most items using basic products which many people will have in the house already.
Let’s get on to talking about how to remove rust from tools.
What is rust?
Firstly, rust is not dirt, and whether there is rust or not bears no connection to how much dirt there is on an item. Rust is the product of a chemical reaction which happens when iron items such as saws, screwdrivers or chisels are exposed to the open air. The chemical name for rust is iron oxide. As the metal needs to be exposed to the open air for rust to appear, something with a heavy coating or mud or dirt is less likely to rust than something that is sparkling clean.
When rust starts to appear, it will appear as little spots on the surface of the metal item. If your tools are still at a very early stage of rusting act immediately and this will stop the rust from becoming any worse. The easiest way to treat rust which is just little surface spots is to give it a good squirt of WD-40 and then use either a fine sandpaper or a brillo pad to gently rub away at the surface of the object until the spots have disappeared. Take your time and don’t scrub away too hard at your rusted item – you will be surprised at how easily the rust comes away.
More Severe Cases
If you have tried the WD-40 and the sandpaper and there are still rust spots or larger areas on your tools, you can get a bit scientific to solve your problem. Rust is a chemical compound, and when iron oxide is exposed to an acid, it dissolves. You don’t have to rush out and buy a heavy duty acid to do the job as there are many household items which will work perfectly. Mix up a paste with some baking soda and lemon juice or vinegar, and then apply it to the rusty tools. Leave it for a few minutes for the chemical reaction to get to work, and then just wipe the tools clean with a paper towel, or run them under the tap. If you don’t have baking soda, salt can also be mixed with lemon juice or vinegar for a similar effect. You may have to repeat this a few times to get the rust off completely.
If messing around with vinegar and baking soda is just not your thing, there is a huge range of rust removing products on the market. Many are aimed at the classic car market, but just because something has a picture of a car doesn’t mean you can’t use it on other items too. Always read the instructions on commercial products careful, as they will often be stronger than your home made soda and lemon juice remedies. Also balance up the cost of buying a rust remover with the cost of buying a new screwdriver or saw; sometimes the cheaper option is to buy a new one.
Stopping the Rust Coming Back
Once your have managed to eradicate the rust, take steps to stop it coming back or in another six months you’ll be back to square one. Stop the rust by “sealing” your tools with a light coat of WD-40 or other lubricating oil after you use them, and keep them clean and dry, preferably in a toolbox in the house rather than lying on shelves in a damp shed or garage. Many other DIY enthusiasts keep a bucket or box in their garage filled with a mix of oil and sand where they can bury tools after use which will stop the air getting to them and prevent the rusting process altogether.