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How to Remove Rust from Old Tools and Prevent Future Rusting

How to Remove Rust from Old Tools and Prevent Future Rusting

Rust on tools preventing you from using them? Refer to the following HomeQuicks article, for some simple and easy home remedies to get rid of the rust and make them as good as new. Also find some tips on preventing future rusting of tools.
HomeQuicks Staff
Important Tip
Experts advice against using sandpaper for sanding off the rust from tools. This action forms abrasions in the metal and leads to more harm than good.
Don't use your metal tools for a long time and Baam!―welcome home, rust, I see you've made yourself comfortable here. Forced cheeky sentences apart, this is a common occurrence in most households, and we bet that you've been faced with this situation at least once in your life. Nothing surprising there, after all, we don't always go about tinkering with the tools all over the house. So what happens once we find that rust has taken over our precious tools? Do we simply discard them? Fortunately, no. There are several ways to remove rust from tools naturally and restore their past glory and also some methods to prevent them from rusting again. And that is exactly what we will be focusing on in this HomeQuicks article. Provided in the sections below are a few home remedies for removing rust from tools and prevent their future rusting.
  •  Removing Surface Rust
  • Preventing Future Rusting
Things to Keep in Mind
• Clean the tools thoroughly for dust and other grime before starting to remove the rust.
• In case the apparatus is made with other materials like wood or plastic in addition to the metal or iron parts, separate them so that these are not damaged.
Removing Surface Rust
Home Remedies
Thankfully, the process of cleaning the rust from cast iron tools or from garden tools is neither very difficult, nor very expensive. It can just as easily be carried out with ingredients and products that are readily available at home.
1. Using White Vinegar
You Will Need
  • White vinegar
  • Cloth
  • Aluminum foil
You Will Also Need
  • A bowl or vessel
  •  If the tool that needs to be cleaned is small, then place it directly in a small vessel that has been filled with vinegar.
  • Let the vinegar cover the entire tool. 
  • Leave the tool in this solution for about 2-3 hours and then wipe it down with a rag cloth.
  • If, however, the tool is too big to soak in vinegar, then pour some vinegar over the surface of the tool instead and let it sit for 2-3 hours before wiping it off.
  • For rust that has set in, use a piece of aluminum foil to scrub off. The foil does not harm the metal in any way and acts as an excellent scrub.
  • Use a cloth to wipe off the grime and clean the tools.
Note - One can even use regular vinegar in place of white vinegar. Make sure that you soak the tool in for 24 hours if regular vinegar is used as an alternative. This method does not require a lot of scrubbing after as well.
2. Using Lime and Salt
You Will Need
  • Lime (with rind)
  • Salt
  • Cloth
You Will Also Need
  • A container to place the tools in
  • Lay out the rusted tools in an old container so that there is enough protective cover.
  • Next, sprinkle liberal amounts of salt over the rusted areas of the tool so that they are completely coated in it.
  • Over the layer of salt, squeeze the juice of a lime to such an extent that it is dripping.
  • Let this mixture sit for about 2-3 hours.
  • After the time has elapsed, use the squeezed out rind of the same lime and scrub the tools. This will further help in getting rid of the rust.
  • Once it has been cleaned, wipe it off with a cloth.
Note - A lemon can be used in place of a lime. It serves the same purpose.
3. Using Baking Soda
You Will Need
  • Baking soda
  • Water
  • Toothbrush
  • Cloth
You Will Also Need
  • A container to place the tools in
  • Make a mixture of the baking soda and water and make into a paste.
  • Next, spread this paste all over the tool, making sure that it is evenly spread.
  • Leave the paste on for 2-3 hours.
  • After the time has elapsed, use an old toothbrush and scrub the rust and grime off the tools.
  • Pat the tools dry with the help of a cloth.
Note - If the mixture seems like it's drying when applied to the tools, make sure to apply more paste that has a runny consistency.
4. Using Citric Acid Powder
You Will Need
  • Citric acid powder
  • Warm water
  • Brass brush
  • Paper towels
  • Oil
You Will Also Need
  • A container to place the tools in
  • Rubber gloves
  • Place all the tools in the large container and fill the container with warm water such that all the tools are sufficiently submerged in the shallow pool.
  • Next, add citric powder to the water at a 1:15.5 ratio approximately. For example, use about ½ an ounce of citric acid for 15 ounces of water. Stir the powder in well. 
  • Leave the mixture in for about 1-2 hours.
  • An hour or so later, small bubbles will start to form on the surface of the tools due to the chemical reaction.
  • Use rubber gloves in handling the tools. Get the tools out and using a brass brush, scrub the rust and grime away.
  • Most of the rust will be cleaned in this process, however, there might still be some rust or some black grime that will cling to the tools. In this case, add some more citric powder to the mixture and let it soak again.
  • Repeat this process of soaking and cleaning till you have clean tools.
  • Once the tools are rust-free, take them out from the water and wash them clean, then wipe them dry with a cloth.
  • Next, use a paper towel and add a coat of camellia oil (or any other oil, if this is not available) all over the tools so that they are prevented from future rusting.
Note - The citric acid solution can be poured down the drainage without causing any harm. Most drainage cleaners have citric acid as one of the main ingredients.
5. Using Cream of Tartar
You Will Need
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Cream of tartar (Potassium bitartrate)
  • Damp cloth
You Will Also Need
  • A container to place the tools in
  • A brush
  • Take hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar in a 1:3 ratio and mix well.
  • Spread this mixture over the rusted parts with the help of a brush.
  • Make sure that the mixture has been applied evenly.
  • Leave the mixture on the tools for 1-2 hours so that it dries.
  • After the time has elapsed, and the mixture has dried, use a damp cloth to wipe the tools clean.
Note - This mixture is especially useful to get rid of tough stains.
6. Using Molasses
You Will Need
  • Molasses
  • Bucket of water
  • Cloth
You Will Also Need
  • A container to place the tools in
  • A brush
  • Fill a plastic bucket with 12 parts water and add 1 part molasses to the solution. Mix well.
  • Next, dip all the rusted tools into the bucket and allow them to sit in the solution for 1-2 hours.
  • After this time has elapsed, check the tools to see if the rust has been cleaned. If not, leave the tools in for some more time.
  • After the tools have been cleaned of the rust, take them out from the solution and wash them with water.
  • Next, wipe them dry with the help of a cloth.
Note - This method is especially effective in cleaning stubborn rust from metal surfaces, like garden tools.
Other Remedies
Other than these home remedies, there are several chemical remedies that can be made use of as well; for which there are many formulas and products that are readily available in the market. The method of usage is similar to the ones discussed above, except, in place of home ingredients, chemicals are used. The process typically includes spraying or soaking the metal in the chemical product and then using a leave-on formula that contains oil. This prevents the rust from forming again. The following is one such recipe using oxalic acid that you can try.
Using Oxalic Acid
You Will Need
  • Oxalic Acid crystals
  • Rubber gloves
  • Plastic container
  • Hot water
  • Handkerchief
You Will Also Need
  • Pumice scouring pad
  • Container to place the tools in
  • Brush for cleaning
  • Start the process by donning plastic gloves and covering your mouth and nose with a long handkerchief.
  • Use a one-gallon plastic container and fill it till it is ¾th full with warm tap water.
  • Next, very carefully, mix this solution with Oxalic Acid crystals in a calculation of about ⅛ cup per gallon. 
  • Stir this solution for 5 minutes.
  • Once the crystals have fully dissolved, top off the water level to make a full gallon. You can store this liquid for whenever you want it. Make sure to keep out of reach from children.
  • Once the solution is ready, take this solution and submerge the rusted tools in it. Let the tools stay for about 15 minutes. After which, check to see if the rust is cleared. If not, leave it submerged for another 10-15 minutes.
  • After this, take the tools out and wipe them dry.
  • You can also make use of the solution in a different way. Instead of submerging the tools in the solution, add a coat of this over the rusted parts and let sit. Then scrub it clean with the help of a brush.
  • In case the rust is very stubborn and severe, along with soaking the tools in the solution or adding a coat over the tools, you may also be required to use a pumice scouring pad to scrub the stains off.
Note - Make sure you check the effect of the solution on a small part of the tool first so that there is no damage caused.
Other than the Oxalic Acid remedy, you can also use the process of electrolysis and make use of Naval Jelly to remove the rust.
Preventing Future Rusting
While it is important to clean and remove the surface rust from tools, it is equally important that you prevent future rusting of these tools. Let's list out some of the chemical and home remedies that can be used for this purpose.
Chemical Remedies
These can be carried out in 3 ways―using an anti-rust solution, using barrier protection, or using sacrificial protection.
1. Anti-rust Solutions
There are several anti-rust chemicals and other products that are available in the market today. These are usually alkaline phosphate and alkaline chromate based. The sodium phosphate is brought to a boiling level and the iron tools are dipped in this alkaline solution. This forms a protective layer and prevents rusting.
2. Sacrificial protection
Certain products can be used such that these undergo oxidization instead of the iron and thereby protect the iron.

Zinc is very commonly used for this purpose and the process is known as galvanization. Once galvanized, this metal forms a thin protective layer of zinc bicarbonate, which comes about as a reaction of zinc, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and the moisture in the air.

Aluminum Paint
Aluminum paint contains a mixture of aluminum powder that has been mixed with varnish. Applying a coat of these over the tools will form a protective layer.

Zinc, Aluminum, and Magnesium Powders
Either of these powders when mixed in paint form a solution that is ideal for protection against rust.
3. Barrier protection
The iron is protected by adding a barrier between the tools and the oxygen from the atmosphere and moisture. This protective layer can be formed by employing either of these methods.
  • Applying a thin coat of oil or grease
  • Painting the surface
  • Electroplating the iron with non-corrosive metals such as copper, nickel, or chromium.
Home Remedies
In this following section, we will give you very simple methods of how to go about preventing rust from afflicting your tools. These are easy-to-do methods that will not require a lot of time, money, or effort.
With Coal
Introduce pieces of coal in the container that you store your tools in. Coal is an excellent medium for absorbing the oxygen from the atmosphere and thwarting the oxidization process right at the start.
With Silica Gel Packs
If you've ever visited a shoe store or bought a new bag recently, you will have noticed that there are these small white packs with small crystal balls in them which are stored inside. These are known as silica gel packs and they work really well in absorbing the moisture from the air. Keep a stock of these ready and place a few in the boxes that you store your tools in. However, there is one thing that must be kept in mind, over a period of time, they get saturated with moisture and might burst and leak. In order to prevent this, make sure that you hold these packs against a light bulb for 15-20 minutes. This will dry out the gel packs and you'll be able to use them again.
With Denatured Alcohol
Once you have cleaned your tools of surface rust, use a cloth that has been dipped in denatured alcohol over them. This helps to remove the excess moisture.
With Camellia Oil or Paste Wax
One of the best ways of ensuring that rust never settles onto the tools again, is to add a thin layer of camellia oil or paste wax on them. The greasy texture ensures that atmospheric moisture is kept at bay and a natural coating is formed. One can use any other oil instead of camellia oil as well. Many people first use denatured alcohol to get rid of the moisture and then top it off with a layer of camellia oil.
With Chalk
It is as simple as that. Simply procure a few chalk pieces and store them in your tool container or in every compartment of your box where the tools are stored. The chalk works in the same way as the silica gel packs and absorbs the moisture from the air.
With a Dehumidifier
One of the main culprits that causes rusting is the moisture in the air; and an excellent way of nipping this right in the bud is to use a dehumidifier. This machine will control the humidity in the air and prevent excess moisture from affecting your tools. Even though many people think that using a dehumidifier is way too expensive, it has to be kept in mind that it will be used to protect your tools that are quite costly to begin with.
With Camphor
Camphor emits a certain gas that reacts with the air and thwarts the oxidization process. Placing a cube of camphor in your tool box will therefore help in preventing your tools from rusting.
With Moth Balls
Also known as naphthalene balls, moth balls are an excellent means of soaking the moisture from the air and thus preventing the rusting of tools. Moreover, it is possible to use camphor and moth balls in combination with one another without causing harm.
With an Airtight Container
Another very, very simple method to follow is to always store your tools in an airtight, sealed container rather than let them hang on the open racks and shelves. Storing the tools in airtight containers will prevent the moisture from setting in.
And there you have it―some of the most effective solutions to remove the rust from tools and prevent future rusting of the same. So the next time you find a tool riddled by rust, all you do is pick one method from among the ones mentioned above and get that metal as good as new.