Favorite rust remover for hand tools

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Forum topic by gdpolk posted 06-23-2015 01:36 AM 1990 views 2 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 1104 days

06-23-2015 01:36 AM

Whats your favorite rust remover to use when restoring old hand tools from antique stores?

26 replies so far

View Holbs's profile


1863 posts in 2023 days

#1 posted 06-23-2015 01:49 AM

#1: electrolysis (1 tablespoons of arm & hammer washing soda for every gallon of water) for being economical and effective. #2: EvapoRust. I bet 85% of folks here will say EvapoRust ($25 per gallon) wins hands down.

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter

View johnstoneb's profile


2910 posts in 2166 days

#2 posted 06-23-2015 01:53 AM

Electrolysis works well especially on large items. Evaporust or equivalent is good. Both electrolysis and evaporust leave a coating that need to be removed by hand. Citric acid is very good also.

-- Bruce, Boise, ID

View lepelerin's profile


495 posts in 2318 days

#3 posted 06-23-2015 01:56 AM

metal rescue is a clone of evaporust at a fraction of the cost where I live. Works great.

View Tim's profile


3802 posts in 1955 days

#4 posted 06-23-2015 01:57 AM

For chemicals, I’m partial to citric acid, but Evaporust does work very well. Citric acid is very cheap. If I had a good place that I could ventilate I would do an electrolysis setup. After citric acid you need to neutralize with a baking soda and water bath then rinse in clean water. Naval jelly is a thick gel so it is good for parts that can’t be dunked all the way in a chemical solution because it has wood parts or something.

What I really do now though is wire wheel anything that can’t be damaged by it or the rust is bad enough that keeping the patina isn’t possible. The chemical methods kill the patina anyway. Anything with inside areas the wire wheel can’t get to have to go in the chemical methods.

View BurlyBob's profile


5487 posts in 2259 days

#5 posted 06-23-2015 02:05 AM

brass wire wheel on a grinder.

View Deycart's profile


444 posts in 2251 days

#6 posted 06-23-2015 02:08 AM

Ditto ^^ what Tim said. Citric acid is awesome. Although it works best when hot. I keep mine on a hot plate that is plugged into a temp sensor that keeps the plate at about 120 F. It is not really good at getting really dense rust. Most of the stuff like that were used at boat anchors and its no surprise that the rust is hard to remove. Even a wirewheel will not touch the stuff. I like to use a blunt crappy chisel to remove 95% of it and then use acid.

All chemical methods work even better after you degrease the tool. I like to use purple power from any auto store. Some sell it in 5 gal pails for about 24$. That stuff works like magic. It will take the paint off of stuff so be careful of later tools that were painted instead of japaned.

Degreasing plus evapo-rust is my go to method for nice stuff. Don’t do this with nickle plated stuff. It won’t damage it, but the nickle tarnish(yellowish silver almost un noticable) will turn a bright yellowish green color that is a pain in the butt go get off. For nickle I use citric acid. It will get it nice and bright with little effort.

I also soak brass in the same acid. Works great if you remove the oil from them. DO NOT put brass and nickle stuff in the same acid. Brass is made from copper + misc metals. This will result in plating your nickle stuff with copper and it will turn pink!

View gdpolk's profile


9 posts in 1104 days

#7 posted 06-23-2015 02:08 AM

Thanks for the tips. I’ll look into both electrolysis and evaporust. I’ve been having fun finding hidden treasures in the antique stores to fund my shop.

View MrUnix's profile (online now)


6696 posts in 2192 days

#8 posted 06-23-2015 02:36 AM

Evaporust. It may be $20 a gallon, but you can use that gallon over and over again until it just plain gives up, so it’s cost is spread over a lot of items. Plus it’s non-toxic, biodegradable and there is very little mess. I keep an old paint can half full of the stuff, with a wire basket in it to make things easier, and it will last almost a year before I need to change it out with fresh stuff.

Electrolysis works great as well, but is fairly messy. Plan on trashing whatever container you do it in after you are done… or just keep a bucket designated for that task and nothing else. It works just as well on rust as evaporust, but it will remove paint if you let it. You don’t need a fancy setup, and you don’t need tons of ventilation – The hydrogen generated is minimal and almost instantly absorbed into the atmosphere once the bubble bursts on the waters surface, so unless you do it in a sealed container, there isn’t any risk. For fun, get one of those BBQ lighters and explode the bubbles with the flame (really, I’m serious.. it’s pretty cool). If you DO want to contain the hydrogen though, it makes a really good torch, can be piped to a stove, or even increase the gas mileage of your car (see: HHO generators).

Pretty much all other methods involve abrasives, and will remove stuff other than the rust..


-- Brad in FL - In Dog I trust... everything else is questionable

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2964 days

#9 posted 06-23-2015 02:44 AM

I have used Coke to de-rust the shot in my burnishing machine.
Have seen it used to remove rust from pitted chrome bumpers and such.
It’s the phosphoric acid in the Coke that does the work.
Not sure if it would work on tool surfaces. But, might be worth a try.

View timbertailor's profile


1594 posts in 1417 days

#10 posted 06-23-2015 03:21 AM

WD40 Specialist – Rust Inhibitor to finish her off.

-- Brad, Texas,

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19949 posts in 2677 days

#11 posted 06-23-2015 03:35 AM

Usual go to item is a wire brush in the drill press. I had an asortment of sizes and shapes. mainly Brass wire ones.

Tried the white vinegar route once…..Meh. Had to spray the drill bits and such down with WD40 with they came out, then used the wire wheels…

So, no chemicals in use, other than the WD40.

Have a few wire wheels for a Dremel, as well. Just for the hard to reach places.

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View ksSlim's profile


1275 posts in 2883 days

#12 posted 06-23-2015 06:20 AM

Depending on depth of rust, wire wheel for the light stuff, evaporust for the lighter stuff, electromagic for the heavy stuff. You must treat all after treatment for rust preventive. Oil, wax, etc.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View RobinDobbie's profile


133 posts in 1728 days

#13 posted 06-23-2015 06:23 AM

I’ve had equal luck with electrolysis and vinegar. Electrolysis is a pain in the ass, vinegar is easy. I’ll be using vinegar from now on.

View Tony Slattery's profile

Tony Slattery

83 posts in 1088 days

#14 posted 06-23-2015 07:05 AM

Have tried vinegar once before on a rusty plane. Problem is that it removed a bit more of the plane that I thought was really necessary – either left it in too long or the rust had penetrated too deep. Left me with paper thin steel plane body.

-- Tony, Australia,

View Drew's profile


350 posts in 3093 days

#15 posted 06-23-2015 01:52 PM

I use a product called Kroil made by Kano labs.


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