The Detroit Post
Friday, 15 October, 2021

How To Electrolysis Rust

James Smith
• Thursday, 24 December, 2020
• 10 min read

Electrolysis cleans away rust like magic, and you can set up a simple system in your shop with a battery charger and a few household items. A simple electrolysis rust removal system consists of a shallow container, a battery charger, rebar, a short copper wire, a clothespin and washing soda.

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This gunky water is actually quite safe, although I wouldn’t use it to mix cocktails. I read about this rust removal technique in American Woodworker magazine several years ago and decided to give it a shot.

I’d like to explain all the neutrinomistic-plasmotical physics involved, but, um… I just don’t have the space, so I’ll just tell you how to do it. You’ll need a plastic or glass container deep enough to hold enough water to cover your rusty item.

And you’ll also need a battery charger, a box of washing soda (found with the laundry detergents at just about any big grocery store), a short copper wire and some rebar bent to fit around the object you’re restoring. Tomorrow morning you’ll be amazed to see how rust -free Grandpa’s old hatchet is.

These photos show the cleaning results on Grandpa’s old hatchet head. Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time.

Girls Garage Book Empowers Young Women to Build, Believe Electrolysis is a very effective method for removing rust from ferrous items, without causing noticeable damage.

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Electrolysis has been used to separate many elements from impurities present in their natural form, since the 17th century. Most notably, Martins van Arum’s electrolytic generator in 1785, which effectively separated tin, antimony, and zinc from their respective salts.

This simulates the interchange of ions between the negatively-charged metal and a positively-charged anode, eventually getting rid of all iron oxide. Although removing rust with electrolysis on a large-scale can prove tedious and require complicated machinery, home users who need to clean rusty tools can do the same thing quite easily.

This process is good for antique collectors too, as electrolysis does not remove the patina that is very necessary to maintain the appearance and price of the article. Another advantage that electrolysis has over brushing, grinding, or other conventional rust -removal methods, is that none of the original iron or steel gets removed, and the process is usually not caustic or noisy, besides being comparatively inexpensive.

Unlike other methods, electrolysis can clean rust in the smallest of corners and crevices. This is because electrolysis can create volatile oxygen and hydrogen gas, and sometimes even toxic fumes.

Don’t touch the liquid electrolytic solution when the power is on, to avoid getting shocked. Any spills on the skin or eyes should be washed immediately, and medical treatment should be administered if necessary.

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Washing soda Car battery/battery charger (12 volts) Strong plastic container (big enough to hold the rusted article) Plate steel/graphite (large chunk) Charger cables, with safety clamps Ammeter (if using a car battery and not a charger) Wire brush Scotch cleaning pads Distilled water First prepare the electrolyte liquid solution, which is made with the ingredients of washing soda and distilled water.

Similarly, attach the other black clamp to the rusted object, and the negative battery/charger terminal by the other end. If the reading is significantly higher than 2 amps, or if you see signs of smoke, unplug it instantly.

If there is a lot of rust, a reddish layer of scum will form on top of the solution. During this period, the anode will slowly transfer its molecules to the other object, and will gradually lose shape or become coated with rust.

If you find the anode has become too dirty and is disturbing the ammeter reading, disconnect and clean it before fixing it back. However, it needs to be thoroughly wiped dry immediately, or a thin new layer of rust will start forming on it.

If the process suddenly stops working while the rust removal procedure is still underway, check the electric connections. Don’t try to clean the corrosion of copper, bronze, silver, or lead with this procedure.

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If this procedure is performed carefully and safely, it is surely a superior way to clean rust from such objects, making it an important process for every homeowner to know. Here’s the overview: Submerge the tool in a solution of baking soda and water, connect a battery charger, and let it sit overnight.

It’s better for the tool, especially if you’re concerned about its value if you don’t hit it with sandpaper or a wire wheel. This, and the ease of doing it, makes electrolysis the perfect answer for restoring old tools.

Electrolysis provides a very easy way to get rust out of a tool’s nooks and crannies. You’ll see it go through the rust removal process here and, in future stories, get to follow along as it’s restored and tuned up.

Make sure there isn’t any oil or wax on it that will prevent the electrolysis process from working. It’s best if the anode surrounds the tool so the electrolysis can happen from all sides.

The anode will get eaten up by the electrolysis process, and will need to be replaced after being used a few times. You’ve got to have a good connection or the process won’t work well.

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You may have to clean a small section of the tool with sandpaper to make certain you have contact. Add one tablespoon of baking soda or washing powder (either one will work) per gallon of water.

Connect the clips from the battery charger to the leads on the tool and anode. With the charger unplugged connect the positive to the anode and the negative to the tool.

Don’t let the connections from the charger touch the electrolyte solution. Wearing rubber gloves, use a fine Scotch Write pad to remove the sludge from the tool.

Use a soft bristle brush to get into the spots you can’t reach with the pad. After the tool is clean and dry, coat it with paste wax so it doesn’t start to rust again.

If only I could make a vat large enough for my 1959 Far mall tractor to fit into… The vat of electrolyte solution is pretty benign stuff but will burn your lawn if you dump it all in one spot.

electrolysis rust before after residue microcosmos effect underwent collected treatment sample left

In this project I will use electrolysis to remove the rust from my much neglected Dog N' Brat Cooker. You put food in, stick them into the coals for a while then open, revealing a delicious treat.

The problem is, people forget them beside the fire when they retire for the night. I will show you how to bring this sad looking item back to its former glory.

A table to work on in a protected well ventilated area. If you can't find a manual charger, you would need a 12v automobile battery and booster cables.

The picture with the price of $2.99 was from the same thrift shop as the battery charger. I just snapped the pic to use in this Instructable to show how you could source one.

We will draw the 12 volts required for this project from this cheap source. To set up the power supply,cut off all the plugs.

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If there are any plastic zip ties holding the wires together,remove them as well. Then open the metal box by removing the 4 screws that hold it closed. To do this, slide the plastic protector that holds them open and lift all the wires free.

Collect the orange 3.3v the yellow 12v the red 5v and the black GND wires and put them back into the plastic holder so that they will again exit the enclosure. This wire would have been connected to the computers front power button.

This will make the control board believe that the power switch has been turned on. Now close the box, being careful not to catch any wires in the seams.

With your electrical tape,wrap the same colored wires together into a cord. I did this so that, in the future if I want to do two things at the same time with the power supply, I will have two GRD sources to work with.

Water isn't a great conductor of electricity so it needs some help. Electrolysis involves electrical charge traveling from one piece of iron to another through an electrolyte solution.

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We are now going to create the sacrificial pieces to put into our electrolyte solution. So measure the height of the pails and add an inch for an area to create connection points.

Do not use stainless steel for this it causes toxins in the water and poison gasses. You can use a chop saw like this, a hack saw or, use other items that don't need to be cut.

Concrete reinforcement rods,commonly called rebar, work well. Electrolysis is a line of sight process, so I'm using a piece of sacrificial iron on the 4 sides of each pail.

My sacrificial iron is pretty rusty, so I'll grind it a bit. The items being created will all be kept for future use, so I'm making them less dangerous.

These round head bolts were left over from a tin shed I built over 10 years ago. They were collecting dust in the barn since that project was complete.

rust electrolysis removal

If you don't have this equipment, use longer bolts with nuts and drill larger holes. If using rebar,you can connect the pieces with wire and hose clamps.

I've used a piece of an old skid to prop the halves of the cooker up in the pails. The GND wires are connected just outside of view at the top of the picture.

With the power turned on now, I'll see if enough PH+ has been added to allow current to pass through the electrolyte solution. Without seeing the clamps on the sacrificial iron, they would appear identical. I've checked all the wires and connections for heat build up.

Everything feels fine, so I'm confident that I can leave them going overnight. The computer power supply side left the piece with slightly more rust residue.

Now into the house for a soap and water scrub down and a coat of grape seed oil As for the experiment portion of this Instructable,my conclusion is that, a battery charger will do a slightly better job than a computer power supply.

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