Four Ways to Remove Rust from Tools

Remove rust from tools with this expert guide.

When water comes in contact with any of your metal tools, rust is pretty much going to form. If you don’t do anything about the rust, it will lead to long-term damage. Follow this guide with tips on how to remove rust from tools. It’s not difficult and all you’ll need is a basic amount of products on hand to do this. You can use something known as a commercial rust remover or other DIY techniques and make your tools sparkly again.

Why does rust come onto your tools?

Rust is a result of the reaction between oxygen, iron, water, and steel. The water and oxygen come together to connect with the metal, leading to oxidation and rust. If the tools are constantly exposed to water vapor or humidity, rust forms even faster. Stainless steel is protected against rust but not corrosion. 

Ways to Remove Rust

If there’s rust on your tools, you don’t have to throw them away. There are other options to increase their lifespan, and all it takes is a few materials. The main point is that there shouldn’t be any holes in your metal to make the process easier.


Sanding is a great first attempt and is effective in taking out rust from your tools. While this method might need some hard work, it does remove quite a bit of the rust. 

To do this, follow these steps:

-Degrease the tools if needed and clean them, rust included. Eliminate any debris or dirt with a tack cloth and then keep the tool for trying.

-Take steel wool or a brush with a stiff wire and try to clean the areas which have maximum corrosion. 

-With coarse grit sandpaper, take out thick rust patches. 

-There still might be some subtle rust layers left. To take care of these use finer grain sandpaper and remove whatever remains.

-Rinse the tool and dry it. In case, even after all this work, rust remains, a chemical rust remover can come to your rescue. 

Vinegar and salt

If your tools have large rust areas, then the vinegar and salt method is highly useful. It’s also a useful method to get rid of the rust that’s not too easy to reach normally.

Follow these steps:

-Degrease your tools, clean them, and then put them to dry.

-Find a container that’s big enough for soaking the whole tool’s metal part.

-With one-fourth cup of salt every liter, mix with white vinegar, and then pour this into the container. Dissolve the metal part completely and add salt according to the measurements mentioned before.

-For tools that are much too large to be put inside a container, you can keep them wrapped inside a soaked cloth, and pour vinegar and salt on them. The final step is placing it within a plastic bag.

-This mixture is very effective but does need time to work. Leave it on for at least one day, or even up to three days. 

-Make sure to keep checking on the tool and see if the rust is softening.

-If you see the rust has softened, take steel wool or a metal brush and work towards scrubbing it off.

-After all the rust of off, wash and rinse thoroughly, and dry it. 

Baking soda

Another wonderful material for cleaning rust is baking soda. It can be found in any essential store nearby.

Here’s how you can clean with baking soda: 

-As always, the first step is to degrease the tool, clean it up, and dry it. 

-Take a bowl and put baking soda inside it. Add water and mix in a one-to-one ratio to form a paste. 

-Take this paste and apply it across any areas that are rusted.

-Allow this to sit for some hours.

-With a brush, scrub the paste off.

-Rinse everything off and dry it.

Oxalic acid

If the other methods haven’t been useful to remove rust from tools, you could try a commercial rust remover. Make sure to wear safety gloves and protection for your eyes, and be in a well-ventilated location.

To use this, do the following: 

-Degrease the tools, clean and dry them.

-Put on safety gear such as your goggles and rubber gloves. 

-Put around one gallon of water into a bucket or container that is big enough to keep your tools.

-Take around three tablespoons of the oxalic acid and mix it carefully with the water. Make sure there is no splashing. 

-Place the tools within the mixture, and let them soak for around 20 minutes or so.

-Rinse away all the rust and dry it properly. 

Tips on how to prevent rust

-Make sure that moisture or water doesn’t make contact with metal surfaces. For this to be possible, keep your tools in a dry area, and clean them properly after using them each time. You could also put on a protective coating which is both thin and has multiple uses. Specific oils in hardware stores can help. 

-Try keeping your metal tools indoors as much as possible. If they are kept outside they might get wet faster and increase the chances of rust accumulating.

-Store your tools in a place with low humidity. If you try putting them in a basement or garage, it might not be the best due to higher humidity levels. If you have a workshop check for humidity. In case there is, you could try using a dehumidifier to take care of it.

-Tools for your yard might garner moisture as you make use of them. A good option is to hang them after they are done to keep them away from the ground and let them dry fully.

-Rust can find its way to power tools, and you need to keep these clean. As soon as you’re done using these, unplug them, and then with a rag or cloth, wipe them dry. Even when you’re not using them, try cleaning them with a damp rag.

-Bring a touch of lubricant to your power tools, especially the moving parts, to keep rust at bay. An owner’s manual of your tool can help you check what type of lubricants you can use safely.

Follow these tips on how to remove rust from tools.

Do remember that just one method to remove rust from tools might not be your best bet. You would need to experiment and check what’s the best way forward. Through trial and experimentation, you might find the best methods. Moreover, if you focus on rust prevention with the tips mentioned above, the task becomes far easier as well.

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