How to Clean Rusty Shovels

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Save money by restoring shovels insteads of replacing them.
Save money by restoring shovels insteads of replacing them. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Many shovels have wood and metal handles and metal blades. Exposure to humidity, dampness and outdoor conditions causes the metal shovel handle or blade to rust. Without intervention, the shovel blade and handle will continue to rust, weaken and become too fragile to use. Removing the rust from the shovel blade or handle restores the shovel to a usable condition. Cleaning a rusty shovel also lengthens the life of the shovel.

Things You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • White vinegar
  • Rags
  • String
  • Wire brush
  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Linseed oil
  • Paintbrush
  • Steel wool
  • Rust remover

White Vinegar

Place the blade end of the shovel into a bucket that rises at least 2 inches above the top edge of the shovel blade.

Pour enough white vinegar into the bucket to cover the shovel blade. Soak thick rags with white vinegar and wrap the rags around a metal shovel handle. Tie the rags tightly in place with string. Let the shovel soak in the white vinegar overnight.

Remove the rags from the handle and take the shovel out of the white vinegar. Brush the rust off the surface of the shovel with a stiff wire brush until no rust remains on the shovel. Sand difficult to remove areas of rust with 80-grit sandpaper.

Add a squirt of liquid dish detergent to a bucket of water. Dip a scrub brush into the soapy water and wash the shovel to remove the vinegar residue. Dry the shovel thoroughly with a rag.

Linseed Oil

Apply a liberal coat of linseed oil to the metal parts of the shovel with a paintbrush. Let the linseed oil soak into the rusty areas of the shovel for 10 to 15 minutes.

Scrub the metal surface of the shovel with steel wool or brush the surface with a wire brush until the rust is no longer visible. Remove stubborn rust with 80-grit sandpaper.

Wash the shovel with liquid dish soap and water. Dry the shovel with a rag.

Rust Remover

Apply a coat of commercially available rust remover to all rusty metal parts of the shovel according to the manufacturer's directions, which usually including spraying or brushing the rust remover onto the surface. Let the rust remover sit on the metal surfaces for the time as indicated by the manufacturer, usually 10 to 20 minutes.

Wipe away rust with a rag or wash away rust with a garden hose. Each manufacturer has its own specific directions for removing the rust-remover from the metal.

Dry the shovel with a rag to remove all moisture from the surface.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear gloves and eye protection when restoring rusty shovels.
  • Coat metal shovel handles with a rust-inhibiting paint to protect the handle from future rust.
  • Fill a bucket with sand and add 4 cups of cooking oil to the sand. Blend the oil and sand thoroughly. Insert the shovel blade into the oily sand whenever the shovel is not in use to protect the shovel from rust and corrosion.
  • Follow all safety precautions listed on the rust remover label, as these are sometimes strong chemicals.

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References

  • "New Fix-It-Yourself Manual: How to Repair, Clean, and Maintain Anything and Everything In and Around Your Home"; Reader's Digest Editors; 1996
  • "Grandpa's 5001 Handyman Secrets"; Dr. Myles H. Bader; 2006
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