Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cheap Rust Removal That Really Works

I have been wrenching on things since I was a small child, over 50 years worth now and I had never heard of using vinegar to remove rust until I ran across a blog post from some guy about five years ago. I wish I had heard about this forty five years ago.
Of course I had to try it immediately and I was flabbergasted at how well it works and just how cheaply.
My biggest problem is finding containers long enough and big enough for some of the parts I would like to clean I'm going to have to invest in a 55 gallon plastic barrel with a resealable lid.

Here is a time lapse video that shows how effective it is, it will take rust out of pitted parts but will not restore the original finish on most things because the vinegar is acidic. It's also something you want to do in a well ventilated area because of the strong smell.
It is amazing to watch the rust literally fall off though.


  1. I've known about that since I was a kid. My Mom used to use vinegar to get rust stains out of clothes.

    I never tried using it because I'd use stronger stuff like Naval Jelly, but it's interesting to actually see somebody use it.

  2. Works good on battery corrosion in battery powered things. A toothbrush helps in cleaning.

  3. I've never seen that before - thanks for linking to it. I have some rusty knife blades that could use some of this treatment.

  4. I seem to remember reading the phrase "Full of Piss n Vinegar" about pre 20th century soldiers, and realized...

    Urine could be used remove blackpowder fouling from rifles and pistols. Vinegar acid can be used to shine up brass...

    Just saying...

  5. Even cheaper if you don't mind a bit of coloring is double strength Kool-aid without any sugar. I learned that in the military - we stole bug juice packets to shine up brightwork, remove rust and corrosion. Remember - on brass, only use orange flavored!

    1. Did not know about that one, thanks.

    2. Hell, yeah. Bug juice!

      Blue Tile Spook

  6. I just cleaned the vinegar off a morse taper shank boring bar thing this morning... Buddy's dad made it for a one off project in the 60's or so.... It's pitted, but usable!!

  7. it does work, wash the metal in a pan of water and baking soda to neutralize the acid

    wait a week to allow the sludge to fall out and decant the cleared liquid into a jug for reuse

    containers like large folger coffee cans or those wide mouth kitty litter jugs are handy for reuse many times

    can you show the costs of improving a harbor freght lathe in a future article?


    1. That could take a while for me to go back through and figure out because some of the improvements require machining and I have a buddy that does it for me in his spare time.
      Also most of the materials are made from scrap pieces here and there.
      I know I am very rapidly approaching the original purchase price when I add up the cutting bits, various holders, the quick change tool post, a new 4 jaw chuck and things like that.
      There are also quite a few man hours involved.
      The brass carriage gib upgrade cost me about 65 bucks in parts and I still need to shim it to the correct clearance.
      So it's hard to put a dollar amount on but it is generally well known that you will wind up spending more than the thing cost up front very easily getting it about half way decent to use.
      It's totally worth it in my book, I love the damn little thing, as aggravating as it can be.
      Look around and find a used one if you are thinking about getting one.
      There was one not too far from me on Craigslist earlier this week for $200.
      If I had that just laying around I would have snatched it right up.

    2. My Dad was a Tool and Die Maker who went to being a manufacture's rep for a compnay that sold Bridgeports, Logan lathes, and other machine tools.

      He always said he made more money selling the tooling and accessories than he did selling them the machine in the first place!

  8. Powdered citric acid has a PH of around 2.2 vinegar's PH is around 3 and citric is around $3.00 per pound while vinegar is roughly $4.00 per gallon.
    You can make quite a few gallons of the same ph acid by mixing the powder or stronger by adding more powder.
    The citric solution will clean aluminum too, just be sure to rinse quite well.
    I have gone the other way by using a strong sodium hydroxide solution to remove heavy rust, but it is nowhere near as safe to use or mix.
    I usually do the strong NaOH for cleaning cast iron cookware that has been abused and is rusty or full of crud.
    Before doing this, one should know the risks of working with NaOH. It is almost always easier and safer to use citric. Just might take a bit longer. And NaOH will destroy aluminum.

  9. I have used vinegar for many years to remove rust, I don't like the black coating it leaves on the metal nor the smell after I rinse the item. I will try the baking soda neutralizing as one suggests here, thanks. For serious rust removal with absolutely no damage to the metal I use electrolysis. Laundry soda, water and a battery charger is all it takes. DO this in a well ventilated area. Great blog

    Deacon in Louisiana


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