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How to Remove Rust from Your Tools (Quick & Easy)


If you’re an avid DIY enthusiast, you know just how important your tools are. Without them in proper working order, you wouldn’t be able to produce top-notch projects and constructions. But what if your tools are a bit rusty and need some TLC?

Keeping your tools rust-free is important. Fortunately, removing minor rust from them is relatively simple. However, heavily-rusted gear is going to need a little more effort. In this article, we’re going to take you through different methods you can use to shine up your tools starting with the most gentle solutions.

Sometimes all it takes is a light scrub and some elbow grease to make your tools feel brand new again. Here are three all-natural methods that are easy on both you and your tools.

1. Vinegar

Photo by StockSnap on Pixabay

Acidic solutions are great for removing rust. And chances are, you have one of the cheapest ones sitting at home already: Vinegar.

Soaking your tools in vinegar overnight can work wonders. Here’s how to get the most from it.

  • Use a container large enough to fit your entire tool.
  • Completely cover the tools in vinegar. We find a simple distilled white vinegar to be the best option—and the cheapest!
  • Let the tools soak an entire 24 hours inside the vinegar solution.
  • Pour out the vinegar and wipe your tools down with a damp cloth.

After doing this, your tools should be noticeably less rusty. And if they were relatively clean to begin with, they’ll be shining good as new.

2. Lemon Juice and salt

Photo by stevepb on Pixabay

Lemon juice and salt is another great natural solution to your rust problem. However, it’d be impractical and far from economical to just dump your tools in a bucket of lemon juice.

Instead, cover your tools in salt and rub it in first. The salt acts like sandpaper in this method, so be sure to choose the proper salt. If you have a bigger rust problem, choose a bigger salt such as rock or ice cream salt. If you have just a bit of rust, table salt should work just fine.

Next, squeeze some lemon juice over the salted rusty areas. Afterward, let it soak for a few hours.

The last step is simple. Use either a steel toothbrush (wire brush), steel wool, or even the lemon peel itself to scrub off the solution and rust.

3. Baking Soda Paste

baking soda paste
Photo by Monfocus on Pixabay

Employing the use of baking soda in another cheap, effectual way of removing minor rusting from your tools. Just like the above methods, this is best for tools that only have minor rusting.

In order to use this technique, you’re going to need to turn the baking soda into a paste. And it’s super simple to do. Just pour some baking soda into a bowl and slowly add water a tablespoon at a time mixing well as you do. You want a relatively thick paste but not plaster-like.

Once you have your paste mixture, cover the rust spots on your tools with the paste. Let them soak a few hours before scrubbing off with some steel wool.

Rust Remover Chemical Solutions

As much as we love a good natural solution, sometimes you’re going to have to get serious with your rust remover. We recommend these three products as viable rust removing options.

1. WD-40 Rust Remover Soak

WD-40 - GID-156724 Specialist Rust Remover Soak -...
676 Customer Reviews
WD-40 - GID-156724 Specialist Rust Remover Soak -...
  • Wd-40 Specialist Rust Remover Soak, One Gallon
  • Dissolves Rust And Restores Old Metal Or Parts. This Non-Toxic Soak Made With Biodegradable...
  • Wd-40 Specialist Line Is Designed With Industrial-Strength Quality And Extreme Penetration For Your...

You may be familiar with WD-40. It’s been a household staple around the globe for years. But did you know that they create a soaking solution to help you clean your tools?

The formula they use is both non-toxic and biodegradable so you shouldn’t have any fears of using this within the confines of your home. It’s still recommended though to keep this out of reach of your children and household pets.

To use the soak, find a deep enough container to contain your rusty tools and completely cover with the WD-40. For lightly rusted tools, a three-hour soak should be sufficient enough. Simply remove your tools and wipe them clean with a damp cloth. I’d keep some steel wool handy though just in case you need to lightly scrub.

For heavier or deeper rust, adjust the soak time to overnight or 24 hours.

2. CLR

CLR PRO Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover, 1 Gallon...
  • Industrial Strength: CLR PRO Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover is a non-toxic, multipurpose cleaner...
  • Fast Acting: Quickly removes calcium, lime and hard water deposits, soap scum, discoloration and...
  • Multi-Purpose: Versatile cleaner for home or office surfaces. Use on plastic, ceramic tile, glass,...

This is another rust remover solution that you may be familiar with. And if so, you know this is some powerful stuff. As a matter of fact, it’s not recommended to use this at full strength. It needs to be diluted 50% with water. You also need to ensure that you’re in a well-ventilated area when performing a CLR soak.

All that being said, CLR really does do the trick. It’s a perfect soak for heavier rusted tools. Just be sure to follow the directions on the bottle to ensure that you’re using the right concentration.

3. Rust Converter Ultra

FDC Rust Converter Ultra, Highly Effective...
1,105 Customer Reviews
FDC Rust Converter Ultra, Highly Effective...
  • CONVERT RUST: Convert rust to an inert coating that seals out moisture to prevent further corrosion
  • SAFE TIME & MONEY: Eliminates the need for sandblasting, grinding or scraping
  • EFFICIENT: 1 Gallon Covers 500 square of smooth, nonporous surface – That‘s an entire Dumpster!

There’s another option in your fight against rust. And that’s to convert it into an inert material to stop it from spreading. And our favorite choice for doing so is FDC Rust Converter Ultra.

Its unique chemical makeup interacts with the existing rust and turns it into a hardened black polymer. This doesn’t mean that it’s back to the original stainless. But the polymer should be strong enough for just about any future use the tool will have.

Using a rust converter is advantageous when applying to a tool that will be painted. You can guarantee that after the rust is converted and painted over that no rust will form again on those parts of the tool.

Abrasive Actions

Electrolytic Rust Removal
Image credit: Electrolytic Rust Removal. Instructables

There are times where you’ll find your tools to have big flaky rust. This isn’t as easy to combat as light surface rusting. You’re going to need to take some abrasive actions to slough off the excess flakiness.

We recommend using something like a chisel or paint scraper to really flatten and smooth out the area as best as possible. Afterward, apply one of the methods described above to finish the job.

Sandpaper and Wire Wheel

For more intensive rusting, a simple soak may not cut it. You’re gonna have to really dig in.

Using sandpaper and a compressor-operated wire wheel will take care of most any rust issue you have. To do this, you need to first clean the surface of your tools. Use any mild dish soap to make your tool’s surface free from dust and dirt.

Starting with larger grit sandpaper. grind the rust away, wiping off the dust as needed. There may be some rust left even after the sanding process. And for larger jobs, that’s to be expected.

But that’s what the wire wheel’s for. Using proper PPE, crank up your wire wheel and buff out the affected areas. This method is not particularly easy on your tools, but it should get the job done.


If you’ve gone through all of our previous methods and you’ve still got rust, there’s one more method out there that’s a surefire way to eliminate it. Electrolysis is the process of producing a chemical decomposition of a substance (in this case, rust) by passing an electrical current through a solution containing ions.

Sounds neat, right? But this method does require a good bit of setup. Thankfully, we’ve located a handy step-by-step guide to electrolysis if you’re looking to try it out.

And if you do, this could be a great teaching tool for the kiddos. Just be sure to keep an eye out and supervise them accordingly.

What’s Your Ideal Rust Solution?

All of these methods will work, depending on how bad your problem is. We recommend starting off slow first, especially if you’ve only got minor rust issues.

The natural solutions may be all you need. And they are the cheapest and less involved of any of the other options. However, don’t be afraid to opt for something a little more as needed.

Featured image credit: Rusty tools by lisapadgett, Pixabay

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