Monday, May 05, 2014

Salt and Vinegar to Remove Rust

"Solution for rusty tools. Soak overnight in vinegar and salt for good as new!"


I have a problem with moisture in my studio, which means if my tools don't get put away properly, rust happens. I found a cache of bits and burs I had left in a jar tucked away on my bench, and they were a mess of rust. I realized this would give me a great chance of testing out a pin I found awhile back, suggesting that vinegar could easily remove rust. 


Having used up all of my white vinegar for egg dying, however (I mean really, what else were we going to do with dozens of eggs after our test of popular hard boiling methods?), I did have some apple cider vinegar on hand, and it has the same acidity level as white vinegar (5%) so I figured I'd go ahead and test this out. I bought a commercial rust remover just in case and decided to test them out side by side to see which comes out the winner. I was honestly a bit nervous about testing this out since these aren't cheap burs, and I know salt water is just about the worst thing you could introduce to your tools. 



They both smelled pretty bad honestly and my kids were complaining, so I had to keep them stored overnight in my studio. After 24 hours I checked on the bits to see how they were doing.. The commercial rust remover in the forefront there, was looking pretty murky and dark. The vinegar salt combo in the back, on the other hand, just looked dingy and oddly foamy. 


I washed them with a bit of dish soap and then patted dry with a paper towel.



Can you guess which is which? 


The burs with rust still on them were the ones who got the vinegar salt bath, the blackened, yet rust free, burs are the ones who got the chemical bath. 

Now I've since seen a few youtube videos on this, and it seems that yes, it does work, to a degree at least. You have to admit the bits do look less rusty compared to the before photo, but they aren't rust free. The videos recommend scrubbing the rusted item with a coarse bristle brush. However these bits are tiny. Something like this might be worth a shot on random tools you pick up at a yard sale, but when faced with delicate costly work tools (or burs and bits in this case) I'm going to reach for the chemical bath. Not only that, but scrubbing alone will remove the rust. So the vinegar might loosen the rust, but you still have to scrub - if that's the case, you might as well soak it in anything and go to town with a steel wool pad.

Though really, I'll work better at putting my tools away, so I hopefully won't have to test this out again any time soon.

16 comments:

  1. Anonymous3/5/15

    You've done it wrong! :-( you just have to wait like 4 days and all the rust goes away, believe me!

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  2. Anonymous8/5/15

    I use a vinegar and baking soda combo to remove rust. Works like a charm

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    1. Anonymous6/12/16

      Isn't adding both baking soda and vinegar counter productive?

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    2. Sure. They would cancel each other. For success you must use only the vinegar for two or three days. Then rinse in water and finally let it in the alcaline baking soda solution for 10 minutes or so only to remove the remains of the acid vinegar solution.

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    3. Fyi baking soda or bicarbonate soda is neither acidic or basic, it neutralises both. Keeping it simple, bicarb either accepts hydrogen protons or donates them until the 'potenz' (~power) Hydrogen (which is the initial pH) is neutral. Why this is amazing is that no matter how acidic or basic a substance/concoction is, a surplus of bicarb will not turn the substance/concoction basic or acidic respectively. Comparatively to neutralise an acid-something requires a specific amount of a basic-something. Rounding out why this is relevant to this article, use vinegar (acid) until all of the rust is removed and then use bicarb to stop the acidic reaction, which promotes rust, from continuing.

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  3. Maybe it was something about the cider vinegar. I just soaked some rusty tools in plain white vinegar for about 8 hours. I went over them with a Scotchbright pad and a nylon detailing brush. Got rid of all but the worst rust with very little scrubbing. The one really bad piece will go back in with some salt over night. I would much rather use vinegar, it's non-toxic, won't hurt your skin and is easily disposed of (I poured it on some weeds in a brick patio - bonus use!)

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  4. here is the right way to do it. vinegar to cover tools. add 1 cup salt per gallon vinegar. 3-4 days soak, then rinse in water with 1 cup baking soda per gallon to remove the "acid" dry. then wipe with alcohol . finished. http://www.finewoodworking.com/item/113083/salt-and-vinegar-natures-rust-remover

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  5. Anonymous20/11/15

    also, once you're done with the vinegar bath, throw in some steel wool and let sit until you need a decent wood/leather stain.

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  6. Anonymous4/7/16

    I soaked some rusty parts in apple cider vinegar(no salt) over night and the rust brushed right off with an old tooth brush. I thought it was pretty amazing.

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  7. It works, but the salt is counterproductive. Better to use straight vinegar. It won't magically remove all the rust either, just break it's bonds so you can brush, scrape, and wipe it off.

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    Replies
    1. Could you tell us why the salt is counter productive? I was told it would power up the vinegar. If not why use it was my thought. Thanks!

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  8. Anonymous9/9/16

    The white distilled vinegar worked for me. Let my 1/2" socket set soak for about 30 hours. Yes, it was foamy and rust-colored on the bottom of container. Rinsed in a baking soda an water bath, that turned a very balck color. Wiped off and used a toothbrush to scrub off the rust and Volia I can read the socket sizes again. Only had to wire brush a couple. Dries off and coated with USED motor oil overnight. Look almost new when I bought them 40 years back.

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  9. You really have to let the vinegar/salt solution 'sit' for a few days not hours...the longer the better. Hadda friend do that with his small bits and whatnot he showed me what they looked like to start with and a few weeks later brought it up and he showed me the finished product and they all looked like brand new..I was amazed...they were barely discernible before...he also did the baking soda rinse off and wipe down with alcohol thing plus a light coat of oil deal. It works folks.

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  10. After you're done, keep some silica gel desiccant packs in your tool drawer to absorb moisture.

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    Replies
    1. You can also use a little bag of cat litter. :)

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  11. Once rust is gone, you can inhibit future rust by containing your tools somewhere with limited oxygen and moisture (who isn't going to put them back in the basement or garage?). By wiping down the tools you use and putting gel packs, charcoal or mothballs in the tool box, you will keep your tools nice and clean!

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