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Old 05-05-2016   #1
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How to remove rust with just water.

How to remove rust with just water .
No kidding this is true, and it uses a little known technique of electrolysis .

I am currently re building a Fiat Tipo 1.6 DGT , I am removing every part and de rusting , re painting and putting the car back together to make the ultimate Tipo

So here is how its done , First you need a container that the rusted part will fit into , Here I am de rusting a bracket that holds the flexible rubber brake pipe on the rear subframe of the car.

You also need a DC power source , I am an electronics engineer so I have a few to hand but you could use a 12 volt car battery charger.

Connect the NEGATIVE of the power source to part you want to de rust , the polarity is VERY important, then you need an old steel plate , I have used the back panel from a old flat screen TV set , bend this into a U shape and place it into a plastic container , connect your POSITIVE of the power source to this metal plate.

Now suspend the rusted item in close proximity with the U shaped metal plate but dont let the two touch as it will make a short circuit.

Fill the container to the top with water from the tap and switch on the power source, if you power source has a amp meter like mine you will see the current consumption is only in the order of a few milliamps due to the relatively high resistance of the water , now we need to lower the resistance of the water so you can pass a larger current through the water , I am using a few big tablespoons of baking powder , stir this into the water and you will see a big increase in the current consumption , in my photo the water is now passing over 1 amp.

The baking powder serves no purpose whatsoever in the removal of rust, it is only added to reduce the resistance of the water.

Now just leave it running , for best results I leave it for a couple of days for the magic to happen , by electrolytic action all the rust and dirt will be liberated from from the metal item connected to the negative pole and will collect of the POSITIVE pole which is the sheet metal in the container.

A word of warning though, you will see bubbles emerging from the water , this is HYDROGEN GAS and if you make a spark there is going to be one hell of a bang , I did this once and it shook me up ! so do this is a well ventilated space .

After a couple of days the current consumption will have reduced , this is due to migratory rust building up on the collector plate and also a good indication the the part has been de rusted.

As rust migrates you will see the water goes brown, this means its working.

Switch off the power and remove the de rusted item , you will see it comes out black and very dirty, you can now either scrub the black off with a tooth brush and running water or my preferred method is to let the part sit on a shop bought bare metal rust remover to microscopically deep clean the item, a quick wash in clean water, dry with hairdryer and paint immediately .

The last photo with green wire shows the item in bare metal just after removal from the electrolysis bath and washing under the tap, you can see how dirty it is , The very last photo shows the item after removal from the shop bought deep clean rust remover, this has not yet been painted.

Of course you could achieve the same results by just using a shop bought bare metal rust remover but its expensive and its effectiveness reduces the more times its used, electrolysis rust removal will cost you just some water, baking powder , and a bit of electricity.

Any DC voltage of between 12 - 30 volts at 1- 5 amps will do fine , its not critical at all , BUT you must get the polarity right, Negative to the rusted item and Positive to the collector plate , in order to get a good connection to the rusted item you may need to scrape a bit of rust off first so you can make a good connection .
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Last edited by Michael Dranfield; 05-05-2016 at 21:44.
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Old 10-05-2016   #2
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

So in thoery - a car battery could technically do this as well....

Electrolysis type thing this is isn't it?
Its a neat idea, but as i understand its time consuming.....

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Old 10-05-2016   #3
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Thread title is misleading, should be "How to remove rust with just water and electricity."
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Old 10-05-2016   #4
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Indeed correct , you could just use a 12 volt car battery but there is no current limiting if anything goes wrong like a electrode short in the water.
Yes it is time consuming but so is using a shop bought rust remover which may cost you over 10 and the efficiency of the shop bought bare metal dip reduces with every use, so a shop bought product will be even slower after its had a lot of use, with the electrolysis method you only need to replace the water and the collector plate after every use and you have 100 percent efficiency again.
However where the electrolysis method scores big points is when the metal is very heavily rusted, as shop bought product will tell you to remove as much rust as possible before dipping, with electrolysis there is no need to remove any loose rust or dirt apart from making a good electrical connection to the rusty item
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Old 11-05-2016   #5
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Time consuming it maybe but the result speaks for itself. I think you are going to have one very clean Tipo when it is completed Michael!
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Old 12-05-2016   #6
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Hi , Thanks for that, when I was at school some 30 odd years ago my metal work teacher once said "the quality of the finish is directly proportional to the amount of time put into it"
And he was right ! If you are going to do a good job it takes a long time.

I must start another thread detailing the restoration .
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Old 08-06-2016   #7
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

I'd be wary about using tap water as it will likely have other chemicals in. Pure water will split into oxygen and hydrogen but who knows what else will come out and I'm not too sure what baking powder splits into either.
I've heard people talk about using table salt - anyone want to breathe in chlorine and sodium?
I'm tempted to try but I think I'd use distilled water and, amazingly enough, sulphuric acid as the catalyst as it breaks down to less noxious gases
Whatever you do make sure it's well ventilated as the hydrogen and oxygen only need a spark to explode back to water
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Old 08-06-2016   #8
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Quite correct this must be done in a well ventilated space I have already made a big bang by accidentally making a spark ,and yes I would not use salt as it liberates chlorine gas.Not sure about using acid but I guess you would have to wear goggles,gloves and be even more carefull.
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Old 08-06-2016   #9
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Quote Originally Posted by TaDa View Post
I'd be wary about using tap water as it will likely have other chemicals in. Pure water will split into oxygen and hydrogen but who knows what else will come out and I'm not too sure what baking powder splits into either.
I've heard people talk about using table salt - anyone want to breathe in chlorine and sodium?
I'm tempted to try but I think I'd use distilled water and, amazingly enough, sulphuric acid as the catalyst as it breaks down to less noxious gases
Whatever you do make sure it's well ventilated as the hydrogen and oxygen only need a spark to explode back to water

Though your theories are sound you clearly are no chemist.

You'll use harmful concentrated acid to begin with, but you worry about insignificant amounts of other chemicals.

You probably get more chlorine gas produced when you bleach your toilet than you would doing this.

You will never get pure sodium out of a water solution as sodium reacts very easily with water (what you actually get is more oxygen release and sodium hydroxide which is pretty harmful but again insignificant.

Pure water won't conduct electricity so you will likely go no reaction at all with pure water. You need salts in the water to break down the resistance of the water and increase conductivity, they are not catalysts.
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Old 08-06-2016   #10
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

It looks cool. The best thing is that on a complex shaped part, you'll get better rust removal than if you scraped or chemically stripped it..


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Old 08-06-2016   #11
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Quote Originally Posted by AndyRKett View Post
Though your theories are sound you clearly are no chemist
Guilty as charged

I've always been too concerned to try this myself - maybe I will now - but definitely in a well ventilated place.
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Old 09-06-2016   #12
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Give it a go.you will be amazed at the result.when I did the swinging arms I did them outside and had 2 wires running out the window from the supply.i will add this though disregarding the liberation of chlorine gas I would not personally recommend using table salt to lower the resistance of the water unless you have a current limiting power supply,salt lowers the resistance between far to much and it's easy to pass 10 amps plus through the water which results in a more violent reaction and the water Boil's up and evaporates.
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Old 22-10-2016   #13
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Quote Originally Posted by Michael Dranfield View Post
Give it a go.you will be amazed at the result.when I did the swinging arms I did them outside and had 2 wires running out the window from the supply.i will add this though disregarding the liberation of chlorine gas I would not personally recommend using table salt to lower the resistance of the water unless you have a current limiting power supply,salt lowers the resistance between far to much and it's easy to pass 10 amps plus through the water which results in a more violent reaction and the water Boil's up and evaporates.
hoping to do my brake hangers on the panda.., will do a bit of a before and after.,
Charlie
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Old 22-10-2016   #14
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Good luck,the results are amazing,it removes rust from the deepest pits in metal.
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Old 10-11-2016   #15
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Re: How to remove rust with just water.

Good to know! I haven't tried this yet but it's worth keeping an eye on. It looks like it can remove quite a lot of rust as well!
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