How to Loosen Rusted and Painted-Over Nuts & Bolts

Written by lisa parris
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There are few things less irritating to those trying to perform home maintenance than stumbling upon a nut or bolt that cannot be budged, particularly if the immobility is caused by the hardware being covered in paint or rust. Attempts to use brute strength often end with damaged or broken bolts and smashed fingers. To safely loosen stubborn hardware, first take off the paint and then remove the rust with inexpensive, easy-to-use chemicals.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic cling film
  • Tape
  • Nail polish remover
  • Clean cloths
  • Kerosene
  • Paint stripper
  • Deep penetrating oil
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Coke

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Remove latex pain by coating the surface of the hardware with isopropyl alcohol. Dampen a clean paper towel or cotton ball with alcohol and place it over the target area. Cover the alcohol-soaked material with plastic cling film to prevent evaporation and secure the plastic with adhesive tape. Leave in place for 30 to 60 minutes. Remove plastic and wash paint away with warm water, exposing the surface of the hardware.

  2. 2

    Remove oil-based paints from hardware by covering the target area in nail polish remover or turpentine. Douse a clean cloth in the solvent of your choice and place it against the painted-over nuts and bolts. Rub gently to remove the paint, reapplying the solvent as needed. A similar result can also be achieved with a light application of kerosene, though it may take a bit longer to see the results of your labour.

  3. 3

    Use commercial paint stripper to remove enamel-based paint. Available in most hardware stores, these products are extremely effective, though they are highly volatile and must be handled with care and caution.

  4. 4

    Spray the rusty nuts and bolts with a deep-penetrating oil product once you have all the paint removed. Aim for the threaded areas and wait. Be sure you allow adequate time for the oil to trickle down into the rusted areas. If the hardware won't budge after 30 minutes spray it again and wait for two to three hours to try again.

  5. 5

    Empty one can of Dr. Pepper into a bowl. Add one can of Coke. Place a towel into the bowl and allow the fibres to soak up the soda. Wrap the towel around the rusty hardware and leave it for one hour, then try to loosen the nuts and bolts one more time. If none of this has worked, you may have to cut the hardware off.

Tips and warnings

  • Handle solvents with care. Keep chemicals away from open flames or heat sources and work in a well-ventilated area. If at any point you feel dizzy or nauseated, leave your work area and go outside, leaving the door open to allow fresh air in.

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