How to Remove Rust from Tools

If what you have are a bunch of ugly rusted tools lying around in your shed, you have probably contemplated throwing them away and investing in a new collection altogether. However, they probably cost you a small fortune so that fact has you trying to find ways to get them in a better condition. Good tools can motivate you to keep working while rusty tools will kill your DIY spirit. Well, those rust-filled tools can be salvaged and rendered useful.

And guess what, you are not limited to one method. Below you will find several methods guaranteed to leave your tools looking better than their current state and working just as great. Just remember that the process of rescuing those tools will require a little more than patience from you.  Once you are done revamping your tools, you will also be required to look into rust prevention tips.

If you are ready, read along and find out how to refurbish your old tools by removing the rust while also preventing any future recurrence of rusting.

Method One: Use Multi-purpose Oil

This is the easiest method as it will only take you a few minutes. It is designed to remove light rust from the surface of tools. All you need is multi-purpose oil specifically made to clean, lubricate and protect tools and a rag or cloth.

Step One: Pour some oil on the tool

As a tool owner, you are requited to have multi-purpose oil that is designed to do three things to your tools; clean, lubricate and protect. Take the oil and pour a few drops onto the joint then proceed to manipulate the tool to and fro. This alternating movement grinds both the rust and lubricant together which results in a slurry.

Step Two: Clean off the slurry

Now take an old rag or cloth and use it to clean the tool. All you need to do is it to wipe off the slurry from the joint. Be sure to apply the oil and manipulate the tool as many times as it takes for the slurry to stop forming. Once the slurry stops forming, you can now use your tools.

As earlier mentioned, this process applies for light rust. Below you will find other methods that can be used for to remove stubborn rust.

Method Two: Vinegar Bath

This method might seem slow as it requires the tools to sit in the overnight bath overnight but the result will be a rust-free tool.

  • The first step is to assemble all your tools and materials. This particular method only requires the materials and tools listed below:

White vinegar

An old rag or cloth

Plastic container

Steel wool or metal brush


  • Once you have all that you need, pour the vinegar in the container and then proceed to submerge the tool. Allow it to sit overnight.

Note: If it is impossible to submerge the tool in the white vinegar, just soak some rags in the white vinegar and wrap the corroded area.

  • Once the time is up, remove the tool from the vinegar batch and scrape it with steel wool or a metal brush. Now rinse the tool in clean eater and then dry it thoroughly using a dry cloth or rag. Lastly, store it in a cool and dry place.

Method Three: Scour, Scrape then Sand Your Tools

Let’s call this particular method the three S’s. It will require you to fold your sleeves and maybe even have an energy drink beside you to provide the much needed boost. However, that should not worry you as the whole process will produce great results.  Just remember to classify your tools depending on the level of corrosion as that will allow you to have an idea of what you are working with.

Step One: Gather all the necessary tools and materials

Start by gathering all the tools and materials that you will need. These will include:

  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Dish detergent
  • Scouring pad
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Steel wool
  • Electric drill
  • Kerosene
  • Wire wheel brushes for the electric drill
  • Plastic brush or toothbrush
  • Two large plastic containers
  • Protective goggles
  • Water

Step Two: Clean the dirt and grease

Now that you have all the necessary materials, it is time to clean the tools. This will ensure that you get rid of any dirt or grease that would make the scrubbing process more difficult. The first step is to lather the dish detergent in enough water for all your tools. Take a plastic brush or toothbrush in the absence of the former and proceed to thoroughly wash the tools in the soapy water.

Once the tools are clean, rinse them then dry them thoroughly. If you fail to ensure that they are dry, the next step will prove to be quite difficult.

Step Three: Use the abrasive pads to scrub the tools

This is the particular step in this method that requires a little elbow grease but that should not deter you. If what you are dealing with is the lightly rusted tools, then it is definitely easier.

Tip: As far as it goes, always begin the process with the coarsest abrasive pad going down. If you start with the coarsest abrasive pad, it allows you to remove any and all accumulated rust and pockmarks and finish off by flattening any grooves that could have come about as a result of the coarse grit. By the time you are done scrubbing, the rust should have come off. However, if you can still see traces of rust then it’s time to pull out the big guns.

Step Four: Use the drill-powered wire wheel to do away with the stubborn rust

This is a more aggravated course of action that allows you to buff away the remaining stubborn rust. First, you will need to put on a pair of protective goggles. Once that is out of the way, apply a thin layer of kerosene on your tools to act as a cutting lubricant. Allow it to rest for a few minutes then take the wire wheel and attach it to the electric drill.

Now buff away all the stubborn rust then finish off the process with fine grain sandpaper. The sandpaper will serve to get rid of any remaining residue. By the time you have done all that then all the rust that was on the surface of your tools should be gone. However, if that is not the case then the second method below should do the magic.

Method Four: Soak your Tools in Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is an inexpensive chemical that you can find at any local home store. It is effective as it easily penetrates any crevices in which rust has accumulated that would otherwise be difficult to reach. It is a chemical-based treatment which necessitates precaution during use. Grab yourself the tools and materials listed below and proceed to get rid of that problematic rust.

Step One: Gather all the necessary tools and materials

The tools and materials that you will need include:

  • Rubber gloves
  • Protective goggles
  • Oxalic acid
  • Dish detergent
  • Plastic brush or toothbrush
  • Towel
  • Two large size plastic containers
  • Water

Step Two: Clean all the rusty tools with the dish detergent

Begin by mixing a solution of dish detergent and water in the large plastic bucket. Once you have done so, clean all the tools that you intend on removing rust from in the soapy water using a toothbrush or plastic brush. This ensures that you remove all the grease and dirt that has accumulated on the tools as they would otherwise prevent the chemical process from effectively taking place.

Step Three: Protection and mixing the oxalic acid solution

Safety is necessary when dealing with any chemicals that could harm you. You are therefore required to now wear a pair of protective goggles and rubber gloves in a bid to protect yourself. Note: Ensure that your workspace is well-ventilated in order to avoid nay fumes that may be produced during the chemical reaction. Once you are fully protected, it’s time to make the oxalic acid solution. Take three tablespoons of the oxalic acid and mix with one gallon of water.

The solution should be mixed in a plastic container that has enough space to allow you to submerge all the tools that you intend on cleaning.  Once the solution is ready, take your tools and submerge them one at a time to prevent any backsplash that might happen if you dip them all at once. The solution should cover all the tools complete. Failure to do so will not produce the expected results leaving your tools with rust in the uncovered areas.

Step Three: Soak all the tools for approximately twenty minutes

Now that you have submerged the tools in the oxalic acid solution, allow them to soak for at least 20 minutes or until no rust can be spotted. However, if the tools are severely corroded, you will need to be more patient as they will need to soak for more time for the rust to come off.  Keep in mind that the plastic bucket prevents a chemical reaction between the solution and the container from taking place.

Once the time is up, remove the tools from the solution and rinse them with clean water in the second bucket. Proceed to dry them thoroughly to ensure that further rusting is not accelerated by the wet state. Once you are sure that the tools are completely dry, store them in a cool, dry place. You are re not yet done but this is the last part. Carefully pour both the oxalic acid solution and the rinsing water.

Tips for Rust Prevention

And while you may have an array of options to aid you in removing rust from tools, prevention is always better than cure. Below is a list of some of the tips that will prove to be useful and effective in the prevention of rusting.

  • Always store all your tools in a clean and dry place. This is important as dust has a tendency to attract moisture which in turn results to rust. You are therefore advised to constantly dust both your house and toolbox.
  • Once you are done using your tools, dry them. You can even go the extra mile and spray them with your preferred type of rust inhibitor. Just be sure never to leave your tools in a wet state.
  • Control the humidity in your house or tool shed by using a dehumidifier. It might seem like an unwanted extra cost at first but it will prove to be well worth it. A dehumidifier controls the climate while also limiting the humidity in the house which are both paramount in the prevention of rust.
  • Apply protective coatings on your tools. You can choose to apply non-oxidizing oil such as mineral oil, motor oil or paste wax in order to keep your tools free of rust for a longer duration. However, be sure to remember to clean your tools often as oil attracts dust which in turn attracts moisture.
  • Constant use. This tip requires you to use your tools frequently in order to prevent rust. If you leave you tools to sit in the shed for ages without using them then they collect dust and moisture on their surface which results to rusting.

The methods listed above are tried and true, guaranteed to leave your rust-filled tools looking a ton better and working effortlessly. You do not need to wait for your tools to hit rock bottom for you to think about taking care of them. Prevent rusting as much as you can and deal with the light rusting that is bound to occur when it occurs.

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