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How to Remove Rust From Tools

Rusted wrenches

Even if you’re careful, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually need to know how to remove rust from tools. Rust can form as a result of particularly humid weather or a slightly damp garage or a tool not being used in a long while. Here’s how to remove rust from your tools so they’re ready to help you out with your next maintenance job.

Light Rust? Try Elbow GreaseRusted Wrench

Light and moderate rust can often be removed by simply scrubbing it away by hand. First, clean the tool with soap and water to remove surface dirt. Next, soak it in white vinegar for a few hours. If the item is too large to soak, one trick is to wrap it in vinegar-soaked paper towels.

Rinse and dry the tool thoroughly, and then use an abrasive pad like sandpaper or steel wool to scour away the rust. Tougher rust buildup may require using a wire wheel buff attached to a drill. Lastly, use a fine-grain sandpaper to smooth out the finish.

Heavy Rust? Break Out the Rust Remover

Moderate to heavy rust might require a bit more work. A rust remover specially formulated to break up and remove rust from tools without damaging them works well for these situations. It can even be used for lighter rust removal projects if you don’t want to try to scour away the rust by hand.

It’s also a great way to remove rust that’s stuck in joints or crevices. These spots are tough to reach with your hand but not with a rust remover. Follow the directions for use on the bottle, and be sure to use proper safety procedures and wear the right protective equipment to protect your eyes and hands from the solution.

What About Power Tools?

You can’t just toss a power tool into a bucket of rust remover any more than you can immerse one in water, but you can still remove the rust. It’s a bit more time-consuming because it requires that everything be done by hand, but it is possible to scour and scrub away the rust.

Try using smaller scouring tools like mini wire brushes to get into cracks and crevices that can’t be soaked. Remove parts that can be soaked, like blades, and clean those as you would non-power tools. A small rotary saw with a wire wheel can also be helpful if you’re trying to remove rust from hard-to-reach areas of power tools.

Protect Your Tools From Rusting Again

Store your tools somewhere clean and dry to prevent future rust buildup. It’s also a good idea to treat them with a rust inhibitor, especially if they have components that are prone to rusting, such as hinges or crevices. Use a rust inhibitor after you’ve removed rust buildup and anytime you use the tool.

It’s no fun to find out that your tools have rusted, but with a little effort you can remove the rust and keep your tools rust-free and ready to use for your next project.

Check out all the cleaning products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to remove rust from tools, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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