Introduction: How to Use a Magnet to Easily Pick Up Metal Filings

Picture of How to Use a Magnet to Easily Pick Up Metal Filings

So, there have been many times when I have stepped on metal filings - they HURT!!

There are also many times where I have rendered magnets practically useless because they are covered in metal "fur".

Then I got it right, I combined a magnet with a simple household item and now have the best filing cleaner ever!

Here I will show you the method I have found best for cleaning metal filings without stuffing up your magnet.

Step 1: Prepare for MAGNET!

Picture of Prepare for MAGNET!

So, you probably are thinking; "I know, this is going to be another 5 minutes wasted..." You need to grab a plastic bag (the ones that will ruin the planet...) and find the bottom corner - there are actually two of them and it MUST have NO HOLES (or you WILL ruin your nice magnet...)

You should notice there is an interesting set of folds to make the corner, they also make a pocket like shown in photo 1 and 2.

You have to put the magnet in this corner of the bag, wrap the bag inside-out over the magnet and tear off the excess, there should be enough bag left to hold comfortably.

Now, start "sweeping" the affected ground with the magnet, you should see all the filings jumping up to the magnet!

Thanks for reading, if you want to see a few other cool things I have done with magnets you might like to check out these 'ibles:



Happy 'ibling!


MikB (author)2015-02-28

If you do make a mistake and get filings on the magnet: Duct tape. Press onto filings, lift away, repeat.

I use an old HUGE hard drive magnet for this (inside a scrap paper envelope) to sweep metal filings/dust up. You do have to be careful how you disengage the magnet from the envelope, so the bits fall into the bin, and not stick to the magnet :)

JM1999 (author)MikB2015-02-28

Interesting! Duct tape or Gorilla grip tape sounds like it would work well - thanks for the tip!

My magnet is a neodimium rare-earth magnet!

MikB (author)JM19992015-02-28

So is mine, about 4 x 2" and 1/3rd inch thick. I salvaged them from a huge old tech 2G hard drive, and removing them was "interesting" as the pair really wanted to stick together once the bolts were removed. Jig needed to keep them apart and extract safely, and they now live separately! They would happily crush your hand otherwise. One and a plate of metal is bad enough as a "clamp". But fine metal swarf and a good adhesive tape will still separate, just keep using clean bits of tape :)

MikB (author)MikB2015-03-01

No adhesive, just feeeeeling the force.

JM1999 (author)MikB2015-03-01

Wow, they look crazy!

JM1999 (author)MikB2015-02-28


I love pulling apart old hard drives, they are so cool :)

The magnets I have are the maximum size allowed for private use, any bigger and one either side of your finger will break it!

_soapy_ (author)JM19992015-02-28

Where do you live that has a law about magnet strengths?

I've got a "death magnet" that will pull a bolt through your hand even through a table, & I've never heard of them being illegal or anything.

JM1999 (author)_soapy_2015-02-28

I Googled it and couldn't find anything about a law but somewhere along the line of owning two of these little things I came across that they were the max size in neodymium that a non-commercial person could have.

The two magnets I have cannot be pulled apart once clipped together, they have to be slid apart!

You should post a forum topic or an 'ible on the magnet - it would be cool to see!

gtoal (author)2016-07-07

This is something that everyone who has ever tried to pick up iron filings does on their second attempt :-) Hopefully by publishing this you'll save a few people one wasted magnet on their first attempt!

gtoal (author)2016-07-07

This is something that everyone who has ever tried to pick up iron filings does on their second attempt :-) Hopefully by publishing this you'll save a few people one wasted magnet on their first attempt!

Michael C (author)2015-03-06

I would suggest a zip lock bag. They are much thicker and less likely to rip. You can also just empty them in the trash and reuse them. Check out the instructable I made on the same topic last year.

JM1999 (author)Michael C2015-03-06

That's cool!

A zip lock bag would be better for screws and such because if you turn it inside out, collect the screws and turn it the right way you have a packet of screws!

CorgiCritter (author)2015-03-02

When I first saw the thumbnail picture, i thought that this was a little sculpture or something. :)

JM1999 (author)CorgiCritter2015-03-02

Oh... It is actually my magnet covered in "nibbles"!

CorgiCritter (author)JM19992015-03-02

I know, that was just my first impression of it. :)

eruger (author)2015-02-27

Good one. You could probably use a paper towel just as well as the bag, eliminating the plastic problem.

JM1999 (author)eruger2015-02-27

The problem with the paper towel is that it isn't enclosed and if you make one mistake the filings will go all over the magnet!

Good idea though :)

eruger (author)JM19992015-02-27

Thanks. :) Hmm. Twist it behind the magnet without cutting the towel down? Then when you're done, wrap the towel forward and close it, then let it untwist and sort of squirt the magnet out, keeping all the filings inside the towel? Better use a blue shop-type so you don't tear it.

JM1999 (author)eruger2015-02-27

A towel can be substituted for a rag (which won't rip) but as I mentioned in the intro I have tried all the methods I could think of and this turns out to be the best :)

shambuda2000 (author)2015-02-27

This is good information. on the other hand, your main magnet picture disgusts me. it looks like you scooped up a thousand filthy toenail clippings......... blech.

JM1999 (author)shambuda20002015-02-27


The main picture - - - those filings are actually what a nibbler makes!

tomatoskins (author)2015-02-27

This is a great idea when needing to clean up metal shavings. I would suggest editing your title, I originally thought that you wanted to clean dirty metal filings. :)

eruger (author)tomatoskins2015-02-27

For that I would put them in a nylon stocking, pull the stocking over a
small, flat strainer and tie it off at the strainer handle. then swirl
in detergent solution, then vinegar, then filtered or distilled water.
Then vacuum the water out through the side of the nylon. I think that's
basically how the industry does it only much smaller. The strainer is mostly to keep the
nylon from getting sucked into the vacuum. This obviously wouldn't work
for very large or very fine filings.

JM1999 (author)tomatoskins2015-02-27

Ah... cleaning dirty filings is a whole different aspect...I'll have to change the title...\

Thanks for the support - I hope you enjoy my upcoming 'ibles!

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