Removing Rust from Metal Tools

Tools that are free of rust are much nicer and easier to use. Whether you accidentally left them out overnight or picked up some tools cheap at a garage sale, sometimes you need to clean the rust off of metal tools. This is a guide about removing rust from metal tools.

A photo of rusty pliers.
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I forgot some gardening tools in a bucket of topsoil last fall and discovered them just a few days ago. The hand clippers were especially encrusted with rust.

I disassembled the clippers and drowned the parts in a solution 50 percent regular bleach, 50 percent white vinegar. I left the whole mess to stew outside for a day and a half. All the rust had lifted off. I only had to rinse the parts with hose spray.

A 'natural' steel patina remained on the shears. It may come off easily or not -- but who cares, as long as the cutting edges maintain sharpness.

Warning: We all know bleach and vinegar are marvelous cleaning agents. I lucked out when combining them the way I did. Beware of fumes from the combo at first, which is why I put the pan outside.

By Chuck from Canton, OH

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Remove rust from garden tools with steel wool dipped in kerosene or turpentine. Then oil the tools lightly to prevent the rust from forming again.

Source: My grandparents did this.

By duckie-do from Cortez, CO

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Is there a good way to remove rust and recondition sewing machine needles?

By Judith C.

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Do not try to scratch the needles ! Especially with sandpaper !Otherwise the needles will become rough and will not be able to go softly along or into the threads of the textile.

From the softest to the most agressive, here are 3 methods :

1 . Let the needles stay a few days in oil (mineral oil)

2 . Stick the needles into an onion. After 15' wipe them with soft cotton.

3 . Put the needles in lemon juice and then put them in a box with fine salt and shake the box for a few minutes.

To finish the process you should put petroleum jelly or mineral oil again on the needles and use them on your sewing machine. Make them sew without thread through a cotton rag the textile will softly abrase the needle.

Hope this help!


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I have a number of gardening tools that need a good cleaning and de-rusting. Can any one out there give me some ideas? The more organic, the better! Thanks.

By Maria R. from Blue Ridge, GA

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Bucket of sand with any oily product will help a lot. Naval Jelly will be good if heavily rusted, to start with, then the oily sand routine.

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Tips for keeping rust off tools. Post your ideas.

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Another good and easy way to keep tools from rusting, is to put a couple pieces of chalk in your tool box. The chalk will absorb any moisture in the air, and they won't rust. It works great for fishing tackleboxes too! Just toss a piece or two in, and keep fishing!

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To remove rust, try using table salt and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Apply the paste to the rusted area with a dry cloth and rub.

By duckie-do from Cortez, CO

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How do you remove rust from metal tools? Tips from the ThriftyFun community.

Sand It Off

The only way I know to restore rusted tools is with LOTS of elbow grease - sand the metal parts, either by hand or you could try one of those abrasive attachments for an electric drill. Once the rust is removed, coat the metal with some butcher's wax (available in hardware stores, kmart, walmart, etc.) when storing the tools to prevent further rust damage.

Clean and dry tools after each use, and periodically apply butcher's wax throughout the season of use. Hang them when storing - don't let the metal parts rest on the damp ground or damp basement/garage floor. Depending on how bad the tools are, you might need to use a bench grinder to put a new edge on shears or even shovels. Wax afterward.

By one_ramp

Oil and Sand Bucket

Fill a 5 gallon bucket with sand, pour used motor oil in there. When you're done using the tool, shove it in the bucket. It cleans it, coats it with oil and sharpens it slightly, works great.

By Leann

Salt and Lemon Juice

Here's a sharp idea: remove rust from household tools by using Morton's Salt and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Apply the paste to rusted area with a dry cloth and rub.

By MrsMoted2

WD-40 And Wire Wool

Spray with WD40 then use a metal wire wool to remove the rust.

By Stuart

WD-40 and Steel Wool

Spray WD-40 and wipe it off with steel wool.

By Twin Turbo

Remove Rust and Then Oil

The best and least expensive way to remove rust is using a wire brush to knock off all the heavy stuff and steel wool to finish it with and after you get it all cleaned up coat it with car polish or regular old cooking oil

By Deniser

Blackstrap Molasses

A eco friendly product which is great on rust is Blackstrap Molasses. You water it down, 1 part molasses to 9 parts water. Use this on steel products only, no alloys as they will be eaten away. It's safe to handle except it is sticky but washes off in water. Drop the rusty steel in the brew and check it in a couple of days, most surface rust will be gone.

Badly rusted objects can take as long as 3 weeks. Wash down occasionally and give parts a scrub to remove any dirt or oil then put back in the brew. When happy that object is clean, wash down and oil or use WD40/CRC to stop from rusting again. Old idea used by vintage engine restorers like myself. It keeps working for about a year but does get a bit smelly so leave outside. When finished, dump it in the garden as plants love it, no dangerous chemicals!

By Brent from New Zealand

Naval Jelly or Rust Converter

Naval Jelly is made for removing rust and works well on tools. There are also products that are rust converters and turn the rust back into metal. It still requires some sanding but they work quite well.

Susan from ThriftyFun

Post your own advice below.


Removing Rust From Tools

Soak in undiluted vinegar, wipe dry and put in the sun to dry completely. Then spray with oil, such as Spray and Cook, wipe and that's it! (09/27/2007)

By gurth

Removing Rust From Tools

I'm a carpentry student, and the rule is if the rust doesn't come off with a wire brush and elbow grease, the tool is not safe to use as it has become corroded.

If you can not afford to replace it, check with the freecycle group in your area.

By octoberbabye

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Home and Garden Cleaning MetalAugust 25, 2011
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