How to Take Rust Off

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Rust is the corrosion of iron due to long-term exposure to oxygen in air moisture or water. Over time, all iron in an object can be corroded away, so the sooner the rust is removed, the better. The longer you wait, the farther rust will spread. There are a few different methods for effective rust removal, including sanding it away, using a chemical product to convert it into a more easily removable substance and electrolysis. The most effective and complete method of getting rid of rust is electrolysis, because it reverts surface rust back to iron and removes corrosion without damaging any unrusted metal, unlike other methods.

Things You'll Need

  • Large plastic bucket
  • 12 volt, DC power, battery charger
  • 4 clean iron rebars, cut 4 inches taller than bucket
  • 3 small non-copper C-clamps
  • Arm and Hammer washing soda
  • Copper wire
  • Steel wire
  • Water
  • Fill the bucket with water, adding approximately a half-cup of washing soda per 5 gallons of water. Mix until the soda is completely dissolved.

  • Place the rebars into the bucket at equal intervals along the sides. Use the C-clamps to hold each rebar in place around the bucket. There must be enough room in the bucket for the rusted item to fit without touching the rebar.

  • Twist the copper wire around the top ends of each rebar, connecting them together. This allows the rebars to act as electrodes, completely surrounding the object to be treated.

  • Place a rebar across the top of the bucket and hang the rusted object from the rebar into the bucket, using the steel wire. Make sure it hangs in the middle of the bucket without touching anything.

  • Attach the battery charger by connecting the black, or negative, lead to the object being cleaned and connecting the red, or positive, lead to one of the rebars. Double check that the rusted object isn't in contact with anything else.

  • Turn on the charger. You will know that electrolysis is occuring when you see many tiny bubbles rising to the top of the bucket. The process is complete when no more bubbles are produced. How long the process takes depends on the size of the object being cleaned and the amount of rust present.

  • Rub the object under water immediately after rust removal. A paper towel may be necessary to clean any remaining rust debris on the object. Dry it immediately and completely. The surface of the rusted metal will have turned black and may be cleaned with soap and water. It is important to treat or paint the iron soon after electrolysis to prevent more rusting.

Tips & Warnings

  • The leftover water may be safely poured onto the ground, though it is iron rich and may harm certain plants.
  • For larger items, larger containers, more electrodes and more water are necessary for rust removal. You may consider using a child's wading pool or large plastic crate.
  • The electrolysis solution is usable until it becomes too dirty and must be replaced. Also, rebar will erode over time and will need to be replaced occasionally.
  • It is crucial to remember how to connect the battery charger to the rebar electrodes and object. The negative (black) lead must be attached to the object to be cleaned and the positive (red) lead must be attached to the rebar.
  • It is important to perform this procedure outside or in a well ventilated area, away from any source of flame. Electrolysis produces potentially harmful and flammable gas.
  • Do not use a stainless steel, either for the container or as a placement for rebar because it produces a harmful and toxic waste product that is illegal to dump.

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References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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