Jul 10

Using Electrolysis to remove rust from your parts

Basically this process uses electrolysis to reverse the rusting process. Its a neat way to remove rust from your parts without having to scrub and scrape. Its also nice because it doesn’t remove unwanted material that isn’t rust ie your part is in better shape than using abrasives.

I previously linked to some articles showing how to setup electrolytic rust removal and have been wanting to try it for quite some time.  The problem is finding a power supply….recently that problem has been solved and I have found two low cost power supply solutions.

1.) Borrowing an old battery charger capable of 6v/12v and 4amps charging rate

2.) Adjustable current ebay supply, these can be picked up for around 5-10 dollars us and set using potentiometers to run the current and voltage that you desire…excellent for this application

Example 1, Example 2

If the links are dead…which they probably will be eventually since they go to ebay just search for constant current supply on ebay and because of the high number of LED drivers available you’ll find one thats suitable

How much current and voltage do you need? well theres no correct answer.  (Most people use 12v, on my battery charger setup I used 6v to reduce the current) however it really depends on your part size.  Larger parts require larger amounts of current and smaller parts require less current for the same rate of rust removal.  Also the faster you remove rust the harsher it is on the part.  Ideally it is better to use less current and leave the part in for longer.

High quality sketch….yes I know.

Basically you need a few things to get this going.

1. an insulated container I used a 5 gallon homer bucket from home depot, rubbermaid containers are also popular

2. An electrolytic solution of washing soda and water, roughly 1/2 cup per 5 gallons, keep in mind washing soda is different from baking soda

3. Anodes: Re-bar is cheap and easy to get your hands on but it will rust you can also get carbon anodes from mcmaster if you’d like a better option

4. Power source:  Car battery chargers are often used or custom built adjustable setups or you can buy one

5. Wire:  I used bailing wire to wire the two anodes together but you could also use lamp cord and some alligator clips for a more professional setup

My setup nothing fancy a few dollars worth of equipment from the local hardware store and you’ll be started

Before Pic:  A very large old tap, my first attempt at electrolytic rust removal

A few hours in you can see all of the rust at the surface pretty gross but its better than being on your part

After.  This tap went from being un-usable to very usable My first part was a success.

Unfortunately the before pic of these didn’t turn out but you can see these very old fence pliers look great now and they articulate smoother than ever.


Note:  This process releases hydrogen gas so make sure you do it in a well ventilated area, preferably outside.  Also you must exercise caution when using electricity and water.  Always use a GFCI outlet when connecting your power source.  This page is informational only please research and perform at your own risk.

Also it is important to note to double check that the polarity is correct or else you will increase the amount of rust on your part and this process only works on iron oxide corrosion so it won’t work on aluminum or brass etc… After testing this method I would say its something I’m definitely going to keep doing. This is an easy way to remove rust from parts without scrubbing, scraping or getting dirty. Additionally you can remove rust from your parts without scratching and damaging them which is ideal for restorations.