The Detroit Post
Tuesday, 19 October, 2021

How To De Rust Tools

Ellen Grant
• Thursday, 15 October, 2020
• 8 min read

We’re out in the garden: pruning, hoeing, clipping, thinning…and we forget to pick up a tool. You’ll want to leave them in the jar for at least 24 hours to allow time for the acidity of the vinegar to do its work on the surface of the tools.

rust metal remove remover tools using rescue bath


For a tool like my pruners, it’s important to get into the nooks and crannies, including the gears. Don’t be afraid to be heavy-handed here: we’re going to dry and lubricate the tool next, so it’s important to get off all the rust.

Apply liberally and then use another towel or cloth to really rub it into the tool surface. In the case of my Telco 2’s, I shouldn’t need to repeat this process unless I foolishly leave them out again, which I’ll try my hardest not to do.

This reaction doesn’t actually clean the metal, it just removes existing rust. To find a store near you, visit and click on the Where to Buy button.

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If you don't take care of the rust, it will corrode the metal leading to unrepeatable damage. Rust forms on steel or iron when the material is exposed to oxygen and water for a length of time.

rust lubricating spray 400ml abrasive

Rust or oxidation is a chemical process that occurs when water and oxygen bonds with the iron. The sanding method is a good starting point for removing rust from tools.

With a steel wool or a stiff wire brush, clean the areas most corroded by rust first. Next, use a coarse grit sand paper to continue to remove any thick patches of rust.

If there are any fine layers of rust left, switch to a finer grain sandpaper and continue to remove any remaining speckles. The vinegar and salt method works best for tools with large areas of rust.

Place the tool in a bin large enough to fit the entire piece. The vinegar and salt mixture need time to break down the rust.

Once the rust has softened, use a metal brush or steel wool to scrub off the surface. Pour baking soda in a bowl and add enough water to make a paste.

rust tool tools steps follow frame

You will need to wear rubber gloves and eye protection and use the acid in a well-ventilated area. Add one gallon of water to a container large enough to hold your tools.

Rust can be prevented by not allowing water or moisture to stay in contact with metal surfaces. You can do this by spotless and drying tools after each use or by applying a protective coating onto the metal.

Keeping metal tools dry and out of the elements as much as possible and adding a protective coating can further reduce the odds of rust appearing. Get all the supplies you need to remove rust from your local The Home Depot.

Now spray some wd-40 or engine degreased to loosen up the rust then rub away with a toothbrush. Now start sanding to remove the last layer also use the dry sponge again.

Over time, iron and steel exposed to oxygen and moisture form a chemical reaction called oxidation. The visual evidence of this reaction is the burnt orange speckling that covers your metal possessions.

tool rust

Choose an effective scrubbing material when dealing with light to moderate surface rust problems. Deeper rust issues may require more than just muscle, but this physical solution is a good first step.

Start by cleaning the rusted tools in soapy water to remove dirt and grease. For light rust, scrub the surface with a scouring pad, sandpaper, or steel wool.

When you want to save yourself some energy, italic acid offers an effective chemical-based treatment for dissolving light to moderate rust problems. This mild acid gets right into joints and crevices to penetrate the problem areas, making it especially good at removing rust in tight spaces and hard-to-clean spots.

First, clean the tools with dish detergent and water before you begin so grease and dirt won’t block the chemical process. Before you pull out any chemicals, don’t forget to strap on a pair of goggles and rubber gloves for protection.

Mix three tablespoons of italic acid with one gallon of water in a plastic container large enough to submerge the hand tools you’ll be cleaning. While there are a variety of different methods for removing unwanted rust, one solution tops the rest: prevention.

rust tools rusty remove workbench garden

Use silica gel packs (available at your local home improvement store) to absorb excess moisture. Finally, for maximum protection, invest in a dehumidifier to control the climate and limit the humidity.

“Everybody has them, these little hidden jewels,” says contributing editor Richard Roman ski, a fine woodworker and unrepentant tool collector. We gathered a bunch of forlorn rusted tools and went to work in his studio, a cavernous former church in North Salem, New York.

And we discovered that all it takes is some basic chemistry, a little patience, and some elbow grease to restore old, rusted tools to like-new condition. The rust isn’t only unsightly, it also makes it difficult to slide wood across the table, which should be perfectly smooth.

We knew we had to move the saw to a warm, dry location, so we unbolted it from its rolling stand, hoisted it into a Ford F-150, and drove it down the street to Roman ski’s studio workshop. Next came the tedious disassembly process: We unbolted the cast-iron wings from each side of the saw table and then removed the motor.

After letting kerosene penetrate for about an hour, we buff away the rust using a variable-speed drill outfitted with a 2½-inch-diameter nylon cup brush that’s embedded with 240-grit aluminum oxide abrasive. We ran the drill slowly at around 500 rpm, and move it back and forth across the surface for several minutes.


We then mounted the wings back onto the saw and aligned them flush with the saw table by carefully tapping them with a dead-blow mallet. That’s an important step because if the pulleys aren’t aligned, excessive vibration will prematurely wear out belts and bearings.

We then buffed paste wax onto the restored metal surfaces to help deter future rusting, bolted the saw back onto its stand, and made several test cuts. Rusty hand tools seem to turn up everywhere: in sheds, basements and garages; in old, forgotten toolboxes; in car trunks; and, of course, at tag sales all across the country.

To dissolve years of corrosion, we submerged the heads in a bucket containing a gallon of white vinegar. Back into the vinegar the tool heads went, and this time we let them soak overnight.

We rinsed the tools thoroughly in clear water to remove any last trace of vinegar and wiped them dry. The cutting edges on the hatchets were hand-honed on a series of water stones used for woodworking tools.

In the case of the smoothing plane shown here, the body wasn’t as badly corroded as it first looked. Then we lapped the sole of the plane on a succession of abrasive papers, beginning with very coarse 60-grit and proceeding through to super-fine 1,000-grit.

tools rust clean hand

Senior home editor Roy Bandsmen, buffingNext, we sharpened the plane iron on a horizontal wet sharpening wheel and even honed its back surface so that it was flat several inches behind the cutting edge. This ensures that the chip breaker will snug up tightly against the iron, so no wood shavings can be trapped and torn off.

Roman ski has more than forty years of woodworking experience, so he did the final inspection of the plane iron. He followed the machine honing with a careful trip over his water stones, leaving the plane iron with a mirror finish.

He assembled and adjusted the rescued plane and took it for a test flight across a piece of clear pine. The result was a tool that cut perfectly, taking long, silky-smooth shavings with every pass.

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