How to Remove Rust From Garden Tools
The basic way to remove rust is to sand it or use a wire brush. You can also dissolve it with tea, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and cola.
If the rust on your gardening tools bothers you -- and it should -- be thankful that you don't live on Mars -- the entire surface of the red planet is coated with a thin layer of iron oxide, or rust. You can always remove rust from your clippers, shovels and hoes by sanding it off, but a number of common household products can make the job easier.
Basic Rust-Removal Procedure
Painters and metal workers usually remove rust by abrading the metal with sandpaper or a wire brush. Before using this method on a pair of clippers, it's best to disassemble them, but don't do this if it means releasing a spring that automatically retracts the jaws. The spring can unwind violently, and in addition to the risk of injury, you'll probably never get the clippers back together. Sand the blades with 120-grit sandpaper or rub them with a wire brush. Stay away from the beveled edges -- sandpaper and wire brushes will dull them. Remove rust on the bevel with a file or stone when you sharpen the blade.
If you have a pair of clippers with a serious rust problem -- and the clippers are spring loaded -- you can dissolve the rust with a number of household acids. One example is the tannic acid in black tea.
Brew enough strong black tea to fill a bowl and completely cover the clippers, let it cool and immerse the clippers.
Wait a few hours, then wipe the rust off the blades with a cloth. Put the clippers under running water to dissolve rust in the joint between the blades.
Dry the blades with a cloth, then coat them with motor oil to prevent rust from forming again.
Fast-Food Rust Removal
Moisture promotes the formation of rust, so it's important to dry your metal tools after using them and before putting them away. Keep them in a dry place -- moisture condensing from humid air also causes rust. Coating your metal tools with motor oil or mineral oil after treating them for rust or sharpening them not only prevents new rust from forming, but it keeps them lubricated and ready for service.
If tannic acid isn't your cup of tea, you need look no farther than your local burger restaurant for other rust-removing chemicals:
- Vinegar tastes great on french fries, and it contains acetic acid, which effectively dissolves rust. Spray it full-strength on the blades, let it work for several minutes, then wipe it off. Rinse the blades off with water so the acetic acid doesn't damage the metal and then dry the blades with a clean cloth.
- The citric acid in lemon juice makes a tangy dressing for your salad, and it also dissolves rust. Mix it with salt to make a paste and rub it on the metal with a steel wool pad. After the rust dissolves, be sure to thoroughly rinse the metal with water and wipe dry.
- Cola contains high levels of phosphoric acid, which also happens to be the main ingredient in rust-removal products. Fill a bowl with cola, immerse your rusty tool and wait for several hours. Yes -- unfortunately, cola probably also does that to your body when you drink it. Rise the cola off the metal after removing the rust and wipe dry.
Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.