How to Remove Rust from Metal

One of the reasons why metal is losing out to synthetic products such as vinyl, is because it rusts. However, it is not a very difficult task to remove rust stains from metal. This Buzzle article explains how.
Metal―such a useful substance is brought down to nothing because of rust. Not only is it one of the most unsightly marks on the visage of a metallic object, but over a period of time it cripples this object and basically ruins it for good. It's quite comparable to how termites ruin wood. So, how do we go about removing rust stains from metal effectively without damaging it? The following sections explain the same.

What is Rust?

One of the disadvantages of metal is that when it comes in contact with oxygen for a period of time, it rusts. The process of oxidation is popularly known as rusting. When oxygen comes in contact with a metal such as iron or aluminum, it oxidizes the metal to form a compound from what was previously an element. So the resulting compounds are iron oxide, aluminum oxide, etc. The process of oxidation is usually a slow one unless acted on by a catalyst. A catalyst is something that helps speed up a chemical reaction (in this case oxidation). Water acts as a catalyst to oxidation; hence, we see that a lot of rust accumulates on pipes, doors, windows, and other metallic objects exposed to water.

Removing Rust Off a Metal
  • The answer to efficient rust removal is different depending upon how old the rust stains are, and how much metal has been ruined. The older the stains, the harder it is going to be to remove them. You can put all the effort you want, but the metal is probably ruined and the action is going to be a futile exercise. Having said that, remember that if the stains are really, really old, it is better that you find a replacement instead of trying to remove them.
  • Some stains may be fiercely lodged into the metal, but the metal isn't exactly ruined yet. For these stains, you will need to use commercial rust removers since the homemade ones may not work. Most people are fearful when it comes to using commercial rust removers as they are toxic. But if you take the necessary precautions, there is nothing that works as effectively as the commercial products. If you are using them, make sure that the room is well ventilated and you are wearing gloves and something to protect your eyes as well.
  • For recent rust stains, you are going to be rewarded for discovering them early, as they are much easier to clean off. All you need is vinegar, baking soda, and a wet cloth. With these humble substances, the vinegar acting as an active agent and the baking soda acting as an abrasive, you can very easily clear up the rust stains. If the stains happen to put up a real fight, you can defeat them by using a dash of lemon juice. Lemon juice has citric acid, which supplies more ammunition to vinegar's acetic acid, and surely helps you defeat the most stoic stains.
Also, if you never want to be plagued with the problem of metal rusting ever again, coat the newly formed non-rusted surface with some wax. Wax acts as a coat for the metal against water and thus avoids the problem of oxidation. Paint is also equally effective, as it performs the same function.
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