How To Remove Rust From Iron, Steel And Other Metals

A brief overview of the different methods for effectively removing rust and oxide from iron and other metals.

The removal of rust and oxides is an operation that can be performed in different ways and with different methods depending on the type of metal to be treated; the problem of oxidation, in fact, tends to affect not only the iron exposed to the elements, but also a wide range of objects made with different types of metals, including precious ones.

Just think of copper pots, for example, or silver cutlery; with the exception of gold, which is unassailable by both acids and oxides, most of the other metal alloys are more or less subject to the phenomenon of oxidation.

The greatest interest, of course, is mainly aimed at the various processes for removing rust from iron, since it is a common practice and frequently applied to maintenance work, including domestic ones, to keep railings, gates and fences in good condition.

In general, however, the methods used are the same as those that also apply in other circumstances and on different metals, and can be divided into two specific categories: chemical and mechanical processes.

The chemical methods

The removal of oxide deposits by chemical process is usually performed mainly on small objects; and to this method, in some cases, the mechanical one is also applied at the same time.

But let’s proceed in order starting from a premise and listing a series of examples in the following paragraphs.

First of all, let’s start by saying that by “chemical process” we mean the use of specific substances, of chemical synthesis precisely, with a low acidity content that allows the oxide particles to be “dissolved” from the surface of the metal.

The possible alternatives, in this case, are represented by the use of industrial products, which tend to be more or less specific according to the type of metal to be treated, or the preparation and use of substances readily available in the home.

Industrial products

A classic example of industrial products designed to remove oxide deposits, but intended for different purposes, are Sidol and Svitol.

Sidol is a generic cream that allows you to remove dirt and oxide from various metal surfaces, such as steel, copper, chrome, brass and silver, without damaging them and without leaving opaque halos; this product is mainly used as a polisher, and therefore is used for the periodic cleaning of small knick-knacks, cutlery and other objects, or of the chromed components of engines and motorcycle frames.

Svitol, on the other hand, is a special lubricant that also acts as a solvent for rust; it is mainly used on mechanical components made of iron, such as bolts and padlocks, in order to remove rust and unlock moving parts.

Unlike Sidol, which is widely used in the home, Svitol is much more used in the industrial and professional fields.

There are a number of other industrial products as well, but they are intended for much more specific applications and therefore we will do without listing them.

Home solutions

As for the domestic chemical processes, however, the most common is that of the mixture of water, vinegar and salt, or of water, salt and lemon juice in place of vinegar.

It is a traditional method handed down from antiquity, but no less effective, and it is especially suitable for removing oxide deposits from copper pots, metal objects and ornaments and silver cutlery.

A particularly effective home method for removing rust from small iron objects, moreover, consists in soaking them in Coca-Cola for about 12-16 hours, and then scrubbing them carefully with a brush or a semi-rough sponge.

Mechanical methods

On the other hand, when it is necessary to remove rust from large surfaces, especially from an economic point of view, the best solution is to resort to mechanical procedures, and to use chemicals only for the next stage of maintenance.

Hand tools and electric ones

The most suitable tools for this purpose are first of all hand tools and abrasives; the most common are glass paper in different grits and brass brushes, if the surfaces to be treated are particularly large, however, then you can also use electric tools such as the grinder, for example, or a good economic sander , thanks to which it will be possible to work much faster and with less effort.

Power tools are therefore recommended if you have to work on large sheets, railings, handrails, fences, gates and so on; brass brushes and abrasive papers, on the other hand, are recommended above all for localized interventions, such as cleaning metal pieces to be welded or the restoration of old motorcycle and bicycle frames, lamps and other furnishing objects made in wrought iron.

The combined use of the chemical and mechanical method

In some cases, to obtain the best results in removing rust, it is necessary to combine the chemical process with the mechanical one.

For small household items, such as cutlery, ornaments or pots for example, the use of the chemical product must be integrated with that of a brush or a semi-rough sponge, in order to apply the product evenly and remove all dirt particles. and oxide, especially from any interstices.

To complete the work, then, it is necessary to rub more or less vigorously with a soft cloth, in order to polish the surface and eliminate streaks and any residual moisture.

As for the maintenance of railings, gates and other metal objects of larger dimensions, however, after carrying out the mechanical removal of the rust with the use of manual or electric tools, it is advisable to treat the affected surfaces with chemical products such as zinc spray for example, or with enamels or paints that have similar characteristics, in order to preserve them as long as possible from the subsequent formation of rust.

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