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Rust Removal

Back on Listserv #1976 there was a post about a chemical for removing rust & corrosion from steel and aluminum parts. It's designed to be used for cleaning brick and tiles. I found the idea really interesting since I have 3 1970's vintage bikes that are in various stages of repair / restoration. I went to Home Depot and found a product made by Zep. It's for removing calcium, lime and rust from just about everything. It cost me $10 Cdn for a 1 gallon jug.

Use tongs or rubber gloves when handling this stuff. Protective eye wear would also be wise - read the directions carefully first.

I put a few ounces in a metal can and dropped in an old rusty U-bolt  that had been on my '75 Goldwing for 25 years. I let it sit for about 15 minutes. As it's working, the liquid foams slightly. I pulled the U-bolt out with tongs and rinsed it in warm water. You can see the result. Note that I did not scrub this thing at all. I pulled the tank petcock bowl off an old gas tank and soaked it for 5 minutes and it came out looking like new. It didn't harm the steel or aluminum in any way that I could see. When I put a pair of slightly rusting crimping pliers in, the rust was removed but the paint seemed to be ok but I don't know if I would want to use this on something where I wanted the paint unharmed. Next, I'm going to try it on the rusty innards of my '72 Yamaha XS 650's gas tank. I'll see if it takes out the rust and leaves the paint intact.

Here's another method I found at

Rust is easily removed with Oxalic acid. It can be found in your local hardware store, labeled as wood bleach. It comes in a plastic tub. You mix the granules with hot water and simply soak the rusted item's in it. I have used it in a fuel tank to remove even thick scaly rust. It seems to only have a harsh reaction with the rust itself. If left on a painted surface it can discolor it. Clean metal seems to be unharmed by the solution. After a couple hours of soaking, I neutralized the surface with a baking soda solution and rinsed with plain water. Remember it is acid, so read the warning label.

Article By: David J. Morrow

August 2001 

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