Author Topic: Electrolysis Rust removal  (Read 584 times)


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Electrolysis Rust removal
« on: August 07, 2019, 03:19:51 PM »
I read this on West Coast Fireos years ago and thought some people here could benifit from the information. The member (Romeo) had good results from this and did a good job writing it up!!

Here is his post!!

"When Patty, Johnny Boy, Clynt and I went to Pick-A-Part last week, one of the topics discussed was using electrolysis for rust-removal. Having stripping off a few pieces of the Sierra (Which is from Quebec, although it spent many years in Ontario, which is notorious for it's excessive salting on it's roads) and decided to try it out. Despite Patty's and Clynt's assertations that the method work, I was skeptical of how well such a system could work. After all, we're not talking about a highly expensive set-up here. Still, scientifically, it was sound, and word-of-mouth said it was awesome. So, grabbing my reservoir housing (A metal cage that holds the plastic coolant reservoir), I went out and picked up all I needed. Parts and prices are as follows:

Battery charger, $19.99 from Canadian Tire. Provides the electrical current for the electrolysis effect.

Electrode Metal, $0-$2 from any available source. Provides the transfer of metal material to the object you're working on. As the electrode needs a direct path to your part, I suggest as wide an electrode as possible. I actually used a trimmed sheet of mild steel. Note: Do not use anondyzed or zinc-coated steel. Only use stainless steel, mild steel or iron. If you use stainless steel, ensure it does not hexavalent-chromium as a coating. This coating will break down and can cause skin caner if touched, and lung cancer if inhaled. Anondyzed metals will give off noxious fumes, and zinc-coated materials will weaken the target object.

A plastic tub, $13 from Home Depot. Holds the electrolyte mix. Note: Do not buy a conductive container. Ensure it is plastic, PVC or any other non-conductive material.

Washing Soda, $7 from London Drugs. Helps with the electrolyte process. Note: Some sites recommend using Lye. Using Lye will work just fine, however, it will make the mixture into a very potent base, which will damage your skin. Use gloves if you use Lye.

The only other things you need are water, which is free, electricity, which is cheap, and your part, which you should already possess. This mean your rust removal station will cost around $40 total.


Now, to start with, put your tub in to an area with some airflow. If you've followed by advice, the mixture shouldn't be volatile to breathe, but the process will give off quite a bit of hydrogen, which can be a danger if it combusts. Hydrogen goes up, so if you have a window cracked, or if you're outside, you'll be fine. Now, fill your tub up with water, and place the part you want to clean in the water.

Add a little bit of washing soda to the mix. I didn't measure, but more soda will not mean better or quicker results. All it will do is make the mixture increasingly harder on your hands, and make it more expensive. Just do it enough to "tint" the water slightly.

Now, clamp your positive electrode (Red, in almost all chargers) on to your sacrificial electrode (That steel or iron we talked about earlier). Make sure to keep the charger's electrode out of the mix, and make sure the steel/iron is far enough away from the part it wont short. Connect the negative to the part you're working on. Note: IF YOU GET THESE BACKWARDS YOU WILL DESTROY THE PART.

Now, assuming you've got that all working well, turn the charger on and walk away. Maybe watch a movie, or make an awesome sandwich. Or whatever grown-ups do.

Depending on how big, and how rusted the part was, will affect the amount of time required. If it's working, you'll see adorable little bubbles coming out of your part. Don't worry about leaving it too long, the process will only affect the rust. You wont accidentally destroy the part from leaving it too long.

After it is done, turn off the charger and retrieve the part. You may notice that some of it has turned black, or that there's still rust on the part. That's fine. Just grab a brush (I used an old one my mother used to use for the sink that was headed for the garbage) or a cloth, or really, anything non-abraisive. Use it to wipe off the rust. Note: You arn't trying to sand off the rust. If you're having to use a steel brush, or really having to work hard to see the clean metal underneath, the part isn't finished yet. Put it back in the mix and turn it on.

By this point, you should be looking at one very clean part, and one very dirty mixture. Online guides say you can keep this disgusting orange mix and just add a bit of water to keep using it indefinitely. I hadn't read that, and as a result, ended up tossing my mix down the drain. Don't worry, it is safe to do so. As I mentioned, the part should be perfectly clean. As in, flawless metal. It wont restore metal lost to rust, but unlike sanding, wont take off perfectly good metal in the process. I am actually blown away that a $40 D.I.Y. job took of rust as perfectly as was claimed. I strongly endorse others to pick up the supplies. Not only does it let you "re-shiny" parts, but you also nab yourself a good little battery charger, useful all on it's own.


As I lacked a camera when I did it, I haven't any pictures to post, but when I use it again, I will snap photos all along the way."


79 Esprit but like many, it will be a T/A clone
(19 years and counting but still have her)

Electrolysis Rust removal
« on: August 07, 2019, 03:19:51 PM »
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