Removing Rust or How to Fix a Red Brick





Introduction: Removing Rust or How to Fix a Red Brick

About: Like all 83 of my current projects... I'm a work in progress.

I have tried everything when it comes to rust removal. Chemicals make your shop smell funny, and can destroy a concrete floor. Sand blasting turns your workspace into a beach, and is way to harsh on metal for what I do.
Today I will show you how to use a very simple houshold item to bring your "red bricks" back to life.

Step 1:

We'll start by finding an appropriat brick to be restored. This one as you can see is to fare gone to be restored. Lets try an other one and see how it goes.

Step 2:

That's better, this one is in much better shape. It still has the general shape of the tool and will clean up nicely. Some of the screws and the adjustment nut are rusted almost solid, but what I have will losen them up and make them usable again.

Step 3:

If you have the money to go out and buy the bead blasting equipment, or expensive, poisonous chemicals to "profeshonaly" clean this thing maybe you have enough money to make me a lone? No? Well, neither do I. So, make a trip down to the frendly dollar general, or dollar store of your choice and pick up these items:
-rubber gloves
-a pack of brillo pads
-any water tight container big enough to submerce your "red brick" into
Vinegar. Yes vinegar, any type or brand will do, but I've found that apple cider vinegar seems to work best.

Step 4:

One note of caution. Get a container MUCH biger than you think you will need. I garantee you will always need a bigger container than what you think. I restore a lot of hand saws so I needed somthing long and flat to set them into. It still isn't big enough.
You will need enough vinegar to completly submerse your "red brick into" so make sure you buy enough. And its cheap! So buy one extra just to be sure. Vinegare is pretty usful so having a bottle around the house should'nt be a bother.

Step 5:

Now comes the hard part. Drop the brick in the vinegar and leave it alone. Let it sit for at least four hours, but if you don't mind the wait go ahead and leave it in the dip over night.
WARNING: this process is not to be attempted by cartoon characters of any kind. Exposure to the chemicals found in the vat may lead to total and permanant disintegration.
Humans may disgard previous warning.

Step 6:

Now for the part thats so simple, a dishwasher can do it. Grab some steel wool, or even better a green brillo pad and go to town on the sucker. It will shine up like a brand new penny in no time. Just be sure that as soon as you are done you get it painted. If you want to keep the metal exposed then get some oil or wax on it "emediatly" or that rust will just crawl back onto it.
Some metals will create a thick black slime on the wrench in question. I think that is litteraly ink. Like the iron oxide ink used in old books and your great grand-dads marine tattoo. I wouldn't use it for that though.
This process doesn't seem to harm anything other than the rust any more than water. Wood tool handles however will absorb the iron from the vat and change the grain funny collors. Looks cool, but remove the handles before putting them in the vat if you want them to stay looking the same.
Also, a word to the wise. As far as I know there is nothing in vinegar that will hurt you. Old tools somtimes used lead based paint, and had zinc plated parts. What that will do to you I can't tell. So, use the gloves. Besides, vinegar in an open wound hurts like a bee sting.

Step 7:

When you're done this is what it should look like. Its not hard, but it takes some time for the vinegar to do it's job. This isn't the first item I cleaned like this and it won't be the last. I'll post more info, pics, and links to mor info as they come down the pipe.
Thanks for reading, and take care!



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    Wow, I've never seen a pipe wrench with a steel handle on it since I graduated highschool. Nowaday we use aluminum to make such a wrench... That wrench must be a vintage. Thanks for sharing.

    Can't find a container big enough?

    Simple enough to get over.

    Mix the vinegar with flour, make it as thick or thin as you need.

    Thick enough to cling to the object, but thin enough to slop on.

    Leave over night and wash off.

    that post is fake vinegar just remove rust but not the corrosion and since it do remove the corrosion then ofc rust will spread again

    Fantastic work. Vinegar is fantastic and you are very accurate about open wounds. owch.

    By the way is the mixture obtained reusable again and again ?

    1 reply

    Depends on your stomach. I keep my "mix" in a plastic bucket in the corner of my shop. It gets full of dirt and iron. Then turns this dark red color, but hasn't lost any of its potency that I can tell.


    Much prefer the electrolysis method. No smell and does a great job. The great part is that it doesn't damage the metal to be treated in any way. I have a 300 gallon tank, one of those industrial types on a pallet and encased in a metal frame, a battery charger to supply the low voltage, washing up soda mixed in to the proper ratio, and the rust simply turns black, then rinsed off after soaking for a while. Recently cleaned up a vintage corn sheller for a friend and it looked like a new one when I returned it after treatment. When the part is "cooking" just leave the top open for the scant hydrogen produced to escape into atmosphere. No explosions, no electrical hazards, no smelly vinegar, most importantly NO RUST! When the water level drops, just fill it back up to previous level. No need to add more soda for a year or more.

    Thanks for posting this. I am restoring a 1963 Sailboat and it has many old rusty items.

    спасибо, очень познавательно.

    Next time try boiling the parts in vinegar, I use this technique all the time to restore carburetors, it has a mild etching action. Boiling speeds the process to less than 2 hours.
    Place it on a low flame gentle boil and the parts come out looking like new.

    Nice writeup. I've used white vinegar for cleaning heavily tarnished brass parts when restoring Coleman lanterns and it works great, gives the brass a pinkish tint but that comes off easily with a 0000 steel wool wipe-off or light polish job. You're right about dealing with the bare metal quickly, here in the south with our humidity, you can literally watch surface rust appear on bare metal.

    Amazing! Yes this works well but beware because it makes your tools shrink (look at the first picture). :)

    Great solution! I hate using strong chemicals that are harmful. I'll give it a go this week. Thanks

    1 reply

    actually vinegar is very nasty stuff in the wrong places and in large quanties so be careful cos its acid.

    Hey thats right, salt helps with oxidization. I try that.

    i will test it out on some re-bar and the head for an old club hammer i am assembling into a mini sledgy

    i was only guessing it would help with this because it works with coins

    Thats cool
    you have some wax in one of the photos, "Johnson paste wax" (which sounds rude and painful) could you tell me what type of wax that is?