If your DIY skills are rusty, there is a good chance that your tools are, as well. If not used on a regular basis, metal tools and sockets are prone to some nasty issues. Over time, steel and iron that has been exposed to moisture and oxygen is affected by a chemical reaction known as oxidation.
It is this chemical reaction that causes metals to rust and covers them in burnt orange spackling. Eventually, your tools can become so rusted that they are unusable. Here are some ways you can clean the rust from your tools and make sure it never comes back.
Method One – Oxalic Acid
The first method for removing rust from your tools involves soaking them in oxalic acid. This is a great option for those who want to save themselves time and energy. Oxalic acid is effective at dissolving moderate and light rust problems.
The mild acid seeps into the crevices and joints of your tools to penetrate the most problematic areas. This makes it particularly useful for removing rust from hard-to-reach spots and tight spaces. Oxalic acid is inexpensive and can be found at most department and home improvement stores, or you could purchase some online.
What you’ll need
- Rubber gloves
- A large plastic bucket
- Dish soap
- A towel
- Oxalic acid
You’ll want to start by cleaning your tools with warm water and dish detergent so that no dirt or grease will get in the way of the chemical process.
Then, put on your goggles and rubber gloves and submerge the rusty tools in the oxalic acid solution. Even though this chemical is a mild acid, you’ll want to work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling toxic fumes.
Mix three tablespoons with a gallon of water in your plastic bucket. This bucket will need to be big enough for the tools to be fully submerged. Then, place the tools in the solution and make sure they are covered completely.
Soak the tools in the solution for about 20 minutes, or until you can see that the rust has dissipated. Next, rinse and thoroughly dry your tools and place them in storage.
Note: you may need to soak the tools for longer depending on the severity of rust.
Method Two – Scrubbing
This method is for folks who don’t mind doing a little manual labor since it involves scrubbing the rust away. Be sure to pick an effective material for scrubbing when dealing with moderate or light rust problems. More intense rust issues might need more than just scrubbing, but this method is a great first step.
What you’ll need
- A scouring pad
- Dish soap
- Steel wool
- Coarse sandpaper
- Fine sandpaper
- Electric drill
- Wire wheel drill brushes
First, remove any grease and dirt using dish soap. Clean the rusted tools in soapy water, then rinse the tools with clean water and dry them thoroughly.
For light rust, scrub the surface of your tools with a scouring pad, steel wool, or sandpaper. You should always start with your most coarse abrasive to remove the rust and pockmarks that have built up. Then, change to a finer material to smooth out any grooves that the coarse material may have caused.
If you can still see rust, you’ll need to take a more heavy-duty approach. Coat the surfaces of your tools with kerosene. This will function as a cutting lubricant. Wait a few minutes, then attach a wire wheel to an electric drill.
Use the drill to file away the most stubborn rust on your tools. Finish with some sandpaper, preferably of a finer grain, to remove any residue that may be leftover. If the rust has vanished, your work is done.
Preventing Your Tools From Rusting
There are a couple of things that you can do to make sure you never have to deal with rusty tools ever again.
Avoid wetting your tools
This may be quite obvious for some folks, but it’s worth mentioning anyway. You should do as much as you can to avoid getting your tools wet.
Folks who use their tools outside struggle with this the most. Don’t use them when it’s raining or near a pool.
If you notice that your hand tools are becoming susceptible to rust, try adding a gel pack to your drawer or toolbox to absorb moisture. These special desiccants are capable of absorbing excess moisture and reducing the overall level of humidity in enclosed areas.
You could also use a VCI, or Vapor-Corrosion Inhibitor. These non-polluting, water-based molecular coatings protect metals that are stored in enclosed spaces for more than a year at a time.
The VCI fills the space and bonds via electrochemistry to the metal surfaces, blocking moisture and protecting against rust and corrosion. The best thing about VCIs is that they are able to protect any metal surface that the air is able to touch.
Apply protective coating
Butcher’s wax can help keep the metal surfaces of your tools free of rust for a long time. You can find some at most hardware stores or automotive stores. Be sure to look out for automotive-paste-type wax.
You should regularly wax to keep the rust away. Try to avoid oily sprays, as they tend to stain the wooden handles of your tools. They can also leave an oily residue on the hands when you use the tools.
Caring For Sockets
You should regularly wipe your sockets to prevent any dirt and grime from building up, especially if they are often exposed to corrosives. You should also store them in a closed box or bag to prevent exposure to the elements.
Try not to drop your sockets, as they are often covered in a protective coating that will wear out and accelerate the speed of corrosion. Finally, be sure to clean any light rust from your tools and sockets the moment you notice to prevent it from worsening.
As with most things, taking good care of your tools is important and vital to keeping them performing to their max potential. We hope that we’ve made caring for your tools a little easier!