How to remove rust by electrolysis?

This blog post will answer the question, “electrolysis to remove rust” and cover topics like how to remove rust by electrolysis, and frequently asked questions related to the topic.

How to remove Rust by Electrolysis?

Steps of removing rust by electrolysis are given below:

  • Immerse the tool in a baking soda and water solution overnight, then attach it to a battery charger. 
  • The corrosion will have sheared off by the next day. 
  • Electrolysis for corrosion removal has the advantage of not scratching the tool and losing metal.

Steps of removing rust by electrolysis:

Rust can be removed by electrolysis in the following ways:

PREP

  • Clean the tool you’ll be working with. Make sure there’s no oil or wax on it that can interfere with the electrolysis procedure. Using soap and water, give it a thorough bath.
  • Construct an anode. For this, you’ll need some form of sacrificial steel. The anode should encircle the tool so that electrolysis may occur from all sides. The electrolysis process will eat away at the anode, and it will need to be changed after a few uses.

Steps for Electrolysis:

  • One of the cable leads should be connected to the anode. Check for a strong, firm connection and that the line is long enough to reach the battery charger from outside the bucket.
  • Attach the item to a lead. The procedure will not operate unless you have a decent connection. With a rusted tool, this may be difficult. To ensure that you have contact, you may need to sand a tiny area of the tool using sandpaper.
  • To make the electrolyte solution, combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Enough water is required to thoroughly immerse the instrument. Per gallon of water, add one tbsp of baking soda or washing powder (either one would work). To dissolve the powder, stir the contents.
  • Check the setup by suspending the item in the vat. Try to position the anode such that it completely surrounds the tool, but don’t allow the tool and anode to come into contact.
  • Connect the battery charger’s clips to the tool’s and anode’s leads. Make certain you get this correct. Attach the positive to the anode and the negative to the device while the charger is disconnected. 
  • Your instrument will become the sacrificial anode if you do it backward. Plugin the charger and set it to a 2-amp charge. Allow no contact between the charger’s connectors and the electrolyte solution.
  • You should observe bubbles emerging from the instrument within minutes of connecting it in. Allow 15-20 hours for the gadget to “cook.”

RESULTS

  • The top of the vat will be coated with muck after a while. This is a positive development. The sludge is the corrosion that has formed on the tool.
  • Take the tool from the liquid and unhook and disconnect the charger. It won’t seem to be much at this point. It’ll have to be cleaned.
  • Clean the muck from the tool with a fine Scotch Brite pad while wearing protective gear. It just takes a little wiping and a little elbow grease.
  • To go into the areas where the pad can’t reach, use a fine bristle brush. Using a paper towel, wipe the instrument clean.
  • Coat the instrument with paste wax after it has been cleaned and dried to prevent it from rusting again.
Materials Needed
Plastic container
Insulated copper wire
Small battery charger
Wire brush

Rust Removal via Electrolysis

This is a simple, safe, and inexpensive method for removing light or severe corrosion from any metal item. This method was used to refurbish an ancient wood plane that I purchased for $1. (it looked totally unusable because of the rust). This procedure, unlike crushing, strong wire scrubbing, and acid bath treatments, destroys no basic steel and is neither loud nor caustic.

This is how it works:

You submerge your rusty item in the mixture and connect it to the power supply’s negative end. Turn on the power and connect the positive end to the anode. The current flows through the mixture, peeling off the corrosion in the process – the flaking/softening is caused by a reaction at the good steel’s surface that pushes the corrosion off.

Steps of Electrolysis:

  • Put the Tank and Anodes Together
  • Assemble the electrodes and the tank
  • Put the Hanging Clips in Place
  • Connect the Charger
  • Attach the corroded tool 
  • Increase the Effort
  • Inspect the tool and clean it
  • Collecting samples
  • Rust Proofing in the End

Put the Tank and Anodes Together

NOTE: The electrodes should not be made of stainless steel. As a reader on the intro page noted out (thanks!) “During electrolysis, the chrome in the stainless will bleed out and generate chromium complexes in your solution. These are incredibly harmful to your health.” This is correct; stainless steel should not be considered for this project.

Assemble the electrodes and the tank.

Steps of assembling electrodes and tank:

  • Arrange the rebar equally along the edges of the bucket (running top to bottom). Make a note of the places.
  • For each rebar, drill two tiny holes approximately 1/2 inch apart and 2 down from the rim.
  • Tie wire looped through the openings around the rebar and out. Using an anti-oxidant compound, lubricate the ends of the bar, and coil the wire tight.
  • UPDATE: The tie wire corrodes out over time; mine did so in less than a year. Consider utilizing a rust-resistant material – ideas are welcome. Electrodes, on the other hand, are always sacrificial, as is the wiring system that connects the water, and so on.
  • Once all of the rebars are in place, link each rebar cable with four lengths of copper cable with the ends peeled off.
  • Use a segment of cooper wire to wire nut each rebar to the next (connecting the protruding tire wire). The first and final rebars should not be connected (ie: X—-X—-X—-X—-X—-)
  • Fill the bucket with clean water to within 2 inches of the rim and add 5 teaspoons of washing soda (adding extra soda will not help&)

Put the Hanging Clips in Place

  • Lay a board (or any other non-conductive item) over the container’s top.
  • Connect a short lead of copper cable to the water end using an alligator clip. (The wire was simply tacked to the board.)
  • The clip should dangle just below the water’s surface. (The first shot below displays three clips; I was working on three different segments at the same time.)

Connect the Charger

Don’t get this step wrong — the polarity is crucial:

Ensure that the battery charger is turned off:

  • Connect the battery charger’s positive (red +) end to the rebar wire.
  • Over the water, hook the negative (black -) end of the charger to the alligator clip.
  • I remind myself that “the corrosion runs off the item towards the positive side.”

Attach the corroded tool 

How to hang rusted tools?

  • Clean a tiny section of the tool where you’ll connect the clip – make sure it’s in a secure location.
  • Hang the tool entirely in the water using the alligator clip (which is linked to the negative terminal of the charger). It’s OK if the clip is submerged in water; it won’t harm it. To make sure you have a good connection, wiggle the clip.
  • Double-check that the item is securely attached and that it is not in contact with the rebar or any other element of the setup that is connected to the positive lead.
  • Areas of the tool with no “line of sight” to the rebar will not be cleaned; if you have a complicated item, you may need to rotate it or add extra rebar electrodes.

Increase the Effort

  • Turn the battery charger down to a low setting (6v – 1.5 amp for me)
  • Plugin the charger and turn it on.
  • Small bubbles should start to develop all over the device. The corrosion will begin to flake off as the process goes, and the water will turn muddy with corrosion, goop, and froth, depending on how quickly the bubbles develop.

Inspect the tool and clean it

The operation may take anywhere from an hour to two days, depending on the size of the instrument, the amount of force utilized, the quantity of rust, and your patience. The longer you keep it in the liquid, the less work you’ll have to do when it comes time to clean it up. The tool will get black, and the rust will change shape and peel away.

You should be capable of wiping the rusted off with your fingers and finding a clean (though pitted) surface if you leave it in long enough. The good news is that the rust is considerably simpler to eliminate with a stiff brush after just half an hour.

NOTE: The tool will not be ready to paint when it comes out of the tank. Wire brushing or a final polish with steel wool will be required. Prior to final rust-proofing or painting, the procedure leaves a gray/black coating of oxidant that you should probably remove.

The saw is shown in three steps in the figure below: The left side was brushed after an hour of running. The right side is the original corrosion, but the central place was steel brushed for the same length of time but without the electrolysis (and rust remained).

Collecting samples

Here are a few such examples:

The chisel was heavily corroded; typical rust reduction would have had extensive original steel grinding to eliminate the deep holes that a scrub brush would not have been able to reach. Take a look at the stamp that emerged after cleaning.

The whole process began when I purchased a beautiful aircraft that was completely corroded. I just spent a few dollars, but I understood that a used one that wasn’t corroded was worth a lot of money. It took approximately an hour after the tank process to polish it up with the light wire brush wheel on the Dremel – but it would have been impossible without the electrolysis beforehand.

Rust Proofing in the End

If you are not planning to paint the tool, it will need to be rust-proofed right away. There is a spray available in the market called T-9 that I use. – but, I believe there are some less toxic and simpler to clean up alternatives available, such as Camellia oil.

Materials Needed
Steel rebar
Plastic container
Insulated copper wire
Wire nuts
Washing soda
GFCI protected outlet
Small battery charger
Drill
Wire brush

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs), “Electrolysis to remove rust?”

How long does it take for electrolysis to remove rust?

The operation may take anywhere from an hour to two days, depending on the size of the instrument, the amount of force utilized, the quantity of corrosion, and your patience. The longer you keep it in the liquid, the less work you’ll have to do when it comes time to clean it up.

What is the best electrolyte for rust removal?

Electrolyte: The finest electrolyte for eliminating corrosion is washing soda (caustic soda), such as Arms & Hammer Washing Soda. It’s marketed as a laundry enhancer and may be purchased in shops among laundry detergents. Warm water dissolves the electrolyte more quickly, but tap water is OK.

Will a trickle charger work for electrolysis?

This charger was purchased to power an electrolysis tank, and it works well! It is highly recommended for electrolysis. Just keep in mind that it’s a manual charger, and it won’t automatically shut off after the battery is completely charged if you use it to charge batteries.

Does electrolysis remove paint?

According to LaRue, electrolysis works by turning rust to iron oxide, depending on his experiences and expert investigations (a black powder). “The gas bubbles that develop on the good steel loosen and push the paint and rust away.

Can I use salt to remove rust?

Another option for removing rust from metal goods is to use lime and salt. Simply Pour some salt over the corroded portion of the item and make sure it’s well coated. After that, squeeze a lime or lemon over it. It has the power to remove rust from metal without causing any harm.

References:

https://www.agriculture.com/machinery/maintenance–repair/electrolysis-option-f-stripping-paint_567-ar52274#:~:text=In%20simplest%20terms%2C%20electrolysis%20is,submerged%20in%20an%20electrolyte%20solution.
https://www.instructables.com/Electrolytic-Rust-Removal-aka-Magic/
https://www.nchasia.com/en-id/nch-insights/industry-news/rust-removal-electrolysis
https://todayshomeowner.com/how-to-remove-rust-using-electrolysis/2/

http://www.rickswoodshopcreations.com/miscellaneous/rust_removal.htm

https://www.qsl.net/2e0waw/rust.htm
https://wp.awwg.info/wp/PDF/Electrolysis.pdf
https://www.semcocarbon.com/blog/recycle-to-recycle-electrolysis-rust-removal
https://www.htpaa.org.au/resources/rust-removal

http://workshopcompanion.com/Demos/Sawdust_Sessions/Rust_Removal_Classroom/Rust_Removal_Classroom_files/Electrolysis.pdf

Leave a Comment