How to Remove Rust From Hardware

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The term "hardware" can encompass a variety of different items, including nuts and bolts as well as hinges and more decorative metal pieces. In a damp climate, any of these pieces can succumb to rust, and you must use care in removing the rust to ensure that the items are still useful and, if necessary, visually pleasing. Fortunately, there are a variety of nonabrasive rust removal methods you can use to get your hardware bright, shining and useful once more.

Things You'll Need

  • Cleaning rags
  • Liquid detergent
  • Mineral oil
  • Plastic tub
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Baking soda
  • Toothbrush
  • Plastic scrub brush
  • Oxalic acid
  • Gloves
  • Clean off the hardware. Use a damp cleaning rag and two to three drops of liquid detergent to remove as much dirt and grime from the item as possible. This will make it easier to spot-clean rust and prevent the creation of a muddy, grimy mess once you start the rust removal process.

  • Wipe the hardware down with mineral oil. This will further clean the item and can also help remove some larger flakes of rust. However, it is unlikely this will remove all rust on its own.

  • Give your hardware a rust-removal bath. Pour enough hydrogen peroxide into the plastic tub to completely submerge the hardware. Let the hardware sit in the hydrogen peroxide for up to two hours. The liquid will dissolve much of the surface rust.

  • Scrub the peroxided hardware with the baking soda and a plastic scrub brush. You can use a toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach places. Use plenty of baking soda and firm pressure, since it is abrasive enough to remove rust but will not scratch up your hardware.

  • Target stubborn rust spots with oxalic acid. In another tub, combine oxalic acid powder with water to create an acid bath for your hardware. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Since manufacturers make oxalic acid powders at different concentrations, you must refer to the package to determine exact measurements for your brand of oxalic acid (also known as wood bleach). Let the hardware sit in the oxalic acid for no more than 30 minutes. Check your hardware every five minutes to see if the rust is disappearing.

  • Scrub down the hardware again. Leave your gloves on. Use plenty of baking soda and fresh water to neutralize the acid and remove any remaining rust. In nearly all cases, the acid will have dissolved the rust completely by the time you remove the hardware from the acid bath.

  • Clean your hardware. Wipe down the hardware with a damp cloth and two drops of liquid dish detergent, then dry it to prevent flash rust. To inhibit further rusting, wipe down the hardware with mineral oil.

Tips & Warnings

  • Phosphoric acid baths are a good alternative to wood bleach and leave a thin protective coating. However, they tend to work more slowly and may require more work in terms of scrubbing and repetition in treatments.
  • Wood bleach can damage metal if you leave it in the bath too long. Do not exceed 30 minutes in the bath.

References

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