Introduction: Electrolysis Rust Removal - DIY Tutorial

Picture of Electrolysis Rust Removal - DIY Tutorial


To preform a electrolytic treatment of your old/new rust tools or other metal objects you will need some basic objects that most people have laying around at home.

  • 1 non-conductive container (I used a glass jar)
  • 12v power supply (car charger, or for smaller project a regular power supply for home electronics which you cut of the plug so you can use the two wires)
  • Salt (regular table salt works great!)
  • Metal piece (witch have a larger aria then the object that we want to clean)
  • (Metal Object to clean from rust...)
  • Wires (to wire it all together, two wires with alligator clips is enough).
  • Water
  • Sponge (to clean of the remains)

Do this in a well ventilated aria!

Step 1: Watch This Video!

This is a instruction video I made for this project. All steps are shown together with how the "reaction" should look like, which is hard to show with photos.. :)

Step 2: Setup... Go!

Picture of Setup... Go!

Start of by filling your non-conductive container (glass jar) with hot tap water. Leave a few cm from the top, it will bubble! Then try to dissolve as much salt as possible into the water. Stop when the salt stops from dissolving.

Place both your metal piece which you will "sacrifice" (you can reuse it for similar experiments later on) and the object that you want to remove the rust from. Use a larger piece of metal as "sacrifice" then the object you want to clean.

Wire it up by placing the negative wire to the object you want to remove the rust from, and the positive to the other. Make sure that the peaces do not touch each other. Also check so the wires used do not touch the salt water!

If you use a power supply for indoor 12v electronics it can some time be hard to know which wire is negative/positive. Simply plug the power supply into the wall after all is connected as you think is right. If the piece that you want to clean is not "bubbling" most of the two pieces, you have connected it wrong. Simply change the polarity and your good to go!

Step 3: Clean!

Picture of Clean!

You can check your process now end then. I used a interval of 30 min - 1h between my checkups. After roughly two hours my tool where clean enough. I used a sponge and clean water to clean of the remains on the tool. If you not happy with the result simply place it back in and let the process continue.

Thanks for reading! And have fun experimenting/repairing your rusty things! :)

If you liked this please take a look at my YouTube page. Subscribe to make sure you do not miss any fun projects that I do not post here. It means a lot to me! :)


svigness (author)2016-08-22

cool project easy to do

tomatoskins (author)2014-11-13

I love this idea! How many amps would you recommend that the power supply is rated for?

Victor Does (author)tomatoskins2014-11-13

Mine where just 1A, good enough for most applications. Lowe amperage works as well, just takes longer. :)

ac-dc (author)Victor Does2015-11-08

It would depend on the electrolyte properties and concentration, but if you really want specifics once you specify those variables then it's not what the rating was on the PSU you used but rather how much current you measure coming from it IN use.

gravityisweak (author)2014-11-14

I forgot to mention, you can also use this electrolysis to permanently etch metal by applying vinegar to it, then passing the current through.

And if you add some kind of "blocker" (nail polish..) as a pattern you can etch that on the metal!

peppypickle (author)2014-11-13

Great, thanks for sharing! Do you know the safest way to dispose of the waste solution?

kbeyer4 (author)peppypickle2014-11-13

to dispose of it simply wash it down the sink with water. All that will be in the solution is water salt and rust particles, nothing really toxic, the most dangerous part in this experimental setup is the use of table salt as the electrolyte however.
Good job on telling people to perform this in a well ventilated area because the salt will break down in this process letting Cl2 turn gaseous which is toxic. If you want to avoid those fumes I would suggest using something like Potassium Hydroxide because the potassium will stay in the solution and H2O and H2 are the only byproducts that can become airborne.

Victor Does (author)kbeyer42014-11-14

Great tip! Would the potassium have any damaging effect on the nature if desposed in the sink?

Yes,it would. It is very similar to strong chemical drain cleaner and is a strong base, corrosive, and much more dangerous to work with without using eye protection. A splash in the eye would be really bad, it also burns skin.

It is true that it works slightly better for electrolysis though.

Ohh, yhea. Now I know what it is. haha It have a slightly different name in swedish. But that needs a well wentilated area aswell as far as I know from soap making..

kbeyer4 (author)Victor Does2014-11-14

As far as I know you don't need any extra ventilation for potash (KOH) in electrolysis because of the reaction that is happening, when I did my research on this a couple of years ago for the creation for hydrogen for a fuel cell I remember reading that extra ventilation isn't required for the reaction. In the use of soap making I have no idea, because I don't know the entire reaction that is happening. Also with disposal you could also just mix in an acid to neutralize the base and dump it down the drain, at least in the US, which is how we normally dumped these sorts of waste in my University's chemistry lab.

gravityisweak (author)kbeyer42014-11-14

That's an excellent solution (no pun intended) . Or if you know of anyone who might need their drains unclogged I guess you could use it straight. I'm not sure the rust particles would aid the unclogging though.

Victor Does (author)kbeyer42014-11-14

Ok, good to know! Great to have some one who have studied chemistry to comment! In mechanical engineering we never even get close to any chemistry-calculations. :)

Victor Does (author)peppypickle2014-11-13

Thanks! I recommend leaving the wast water where you can dispose old paint, oils etc. In Sweden often placed together with junkyards/dumps.

peppypickle (author)Victor Does2014-11-13

Thanks so much for that tip!

gravityisweak (author)2014-11-14

Nice instructable! If you want to avoid chlorine gas you can also use baking soda instead of salt. Obviously this will still produce hydrogen no matter what you use as a catalyst.

Also people should know that using too much current can cause pitting in your tools, so be careful of that!

kbeyer4 (author)gravityisweak2014-11-14

While baking soda does work, I remember reading that it also causes a layer of sludge to form on both the bottom the the vessel and the electrodes themselves. Really any salt would work for this process and many have their pros and cons.

gravityisweak (author)kbeyer42014-11-14

I believe that's true, the sludge will be the pieces of your electrodes that have reacted. In this case rust etc. I'm not sure about sludge on the electrodes themselves though. The drain cleaner leaves you with the cleanest looking solution for the longest time, but you have to deal with its hazards.

Also, I don't know if you mentioned it in the video, but one of your electrodes will be giving off the hydrogen, while the other will be giving off oxygen. If I remember correctly, Browns Gas is HHO so the hydrogen to oxygen is a 2:1 ratio. That's why one appears to bubble more than the other.

Better to collect the H2 for other fun projects then!
Great information, have never tried any higher current, so good to know! :)

srohwer (author)2014-11-13

I've done this using washing soda, which hard to get now-a-days. Good to know that salt works, too.

Victor Does (author)srohwer2014-11-14

Simple and cheep! But be aware of the fumes.. outdoors or well ventilated area is the way to go :)

Wired_Mist (author)2014-11-13

I might have some fun with this tomorrow :D Thanks for sharing !

Victor Does (author)Wired_Mist2014-11-14

Hope that it turns out good then! :) Would be fun if you shared a picture with before and after if you do this ^^

About This Instructable




Bio: As a hobby I post DIY/tutorials on crafting and mechanical builds on YouTube:
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