How to Remove Rust Using Vinegar

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Rust often forms on iron or alloys containing iron after too much contact with moist air ⁠— a process known as oxidation. When you discover rust on objects such as hand tools, nails, screws, brackets, and other types of hardware or even a picture frame, reach for distilled white vinegar, a nontoxic household staple that contains acetic acid, which can dissolve rust. Combining vinegar with salt and allowing rusted items to soak for several hours makes it even easier to scrub off rust. Here's how to remove rust using vinegar.

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Things You'll Need

How to Remove Rust Using Vinegar

1. Make a Vinegar Solution

Add 1 gallon of vinegar and 1 cup of table salt to a large plastic container and mix well. When salt combines with vinegar, the acidity is increased so the mixture eliminates rust more quickly.

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2. Soak the Rusted Objects

Let the rusted items soak in the vinegar and salt mixture for a minimum of 12 hours and as long as three days. The longer the objects soak, the easier it will be to remove the rust.

Tip

Each type of metal reacts differently to vinegar. Aluminum, for example, doesn’t handle salt and vinegar well, so if you're trying to remove rust from an item with aluminum parts, reduce the amount of time it soaks in the mixture. Note that this method may not be a good idea for any type of metal that's delicate or valuable.

3. Scrub Off the Rust

Put on rubber gloves and use an abrasive pad to scrub off the rust. If the rust is extra difficult to remove, opt for a brass-bristle brush.

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4. Neutralize the Acid

Once you've removed the rust or as much as you can, it's time to neutralize the acid.

  1. Empty the container, rinse it well, and add 1 gallon of clean, warm water.
  2. Submerge the object in the water and then mix in 1 cup of baking soda.
  3. Let the items soak for around 10 minutes to neutralize the acetic acid.

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5. Scrub With Steel Wool

Remove the items from the baking soda mixture and scrub them with very fine 0000 steel wool to bring out their shine.

6. Wipe With Denatured Alcohol

Wipe the items with a cleaning cloth soaked in denatured alcohol, which will remove any moisture that may still be on the metal.

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7. Seal the Metal

Add a thin coat of camellia oil to your shined-up items to help prevent rust.

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