How to Clean Rust With Acid

Written by kallie johnson
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How to Clean Rust With Acid
You can use acid to remove rust from metal and surrounding materials. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Rust is a reddish-orange oxidation that occurs when metal reacts with oxygen. Although rust is most commonly found on metals, it can occur on other items, particularly if those items come in contact with rusted metal. For example, rust can form on wood, around a rusted nail. Both hydrochloric and phosphoric acids can remove rust. Hydrochloric acid, commonly referred to as muriatic acid, is less corrosive compared to phosphoric acid, making it safer to use on non-metal objects. You can find hydrochloic acid in pool supply stores or in the pool care aisle. Phosphoric acid is a strong acid, which you should use only to remove rust from metal objects. You can find phosphoric acid down the masonry aisle of hardwood stores.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Hydrochloric acid
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Bucket
  • Rag or sponge
  • Cleaning soap

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Instructions

    Hydrochloric Acid

  1. 1

    Mix one part hydrochloric acid with four parts warm water in a bucket, or as directed by the manufacturer's dilution directions on the packaging of the hydrochloric acid.

  2. 2

    Dip the rusted item directly into the mixture, or, if it's a large object, use a cloth or sponge to rub the acid into the rust.

  3. 3

    Allow the acid to work into the rust for no more than 10 minutes. Remove the item and rinse it under cool, running water or wipe the acid from the item with a dampened cloth.

  4. 4

    Repeat the process until all of the rust is removed.

  5. 5

    Clean the item using a soap or cleaning product safe for that product to remove all acid residue. Remove all of the acid, or it will continue to eat away at the item.

    Phosphoric Acid

  1. 1

    Mix one part hydrochloric acid with nine parts warm water in a bucket, or as directed by the manufacturer's dilution directions on the packaging of phosphoric acid.

  2. 2

    Dip the rusted item directly into the mixture, or if it's a large object, use a cloth or sponge to rub the acid into the rust.

  3. 3

    Allow the acid to work into the rust for no more than five minutes before removing the item and rinsing it under cool, running water or wiping the acid from the item with a dampened cloth.

  4. 4

    Repeat the process until all of the rust is removed.

  5. 5

    Clean the item using a soap or cleaning product safe for that product to remove all acid residue. Remove all of the acid, or it will continue to eat away at the item.

Tips and warnings

  • Always wear thick rubber gloves and protective eye goggles when working with acid. The acid can and will eat away at your skin if you are not properly covered. Work with acid in a well ventilated area.
  • Use acid only to clean rust when other rust removing processes, such as baking soda and rust removing products, fail. Acid is extremely corrosive and is unsafe for use on delicate items, such as fabrics and cloth or porous items, such as bricks, unsealed tiles and unsealed concrete.

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