How To Restore Rusted Metal
It's probably happened more times than you care to admit: You go to use a tool you haven't
touched in a while, and it's covered in rust. When this happens, as annoying as it is, don't throw the whole thing away. It's most likely just surface rust, and you can get it off with a few simple things you probably already have lying around the house (plus a little elbow grease).
Wire Brush, Files, and Steel Wool
After you loosen or dissolve the rust with the formulations below, you need to scrape away what's left to expose the fresh metal underneath. The best tools for doing that are a wire brush and steel wool. Depending on the shape of the item you're restoring and the location of the rust spots, metal files may also come in handy. For more delicate items, use a scouring pad or stiff toothbrush.
You know how you can make a paste of baking soda and water to scrub your bathtub or sink? It turns out that the same simple mixture can do wonders to restore rusty metal. Make the paste, rub it onto the rusty spots, and wait for two or three hours. When the time is up, gently scrub off the paste, and the rust will come with it. This method works best for small, superficial spots.
Plain old white vinegar is good for so many things. Who knew it also worked as a rust eliminator?
To treat rust with vinegar, soak the rusty item in the vinegar overnight. The next day, brush it
clean with a wire brush, a toothbrush, or steel wool. Vinegar and a steel scrubber work well for pervasive surface corrosion.
Lemon Juice and Salt
Lemon juice is another weak acid you may already have at home. To use it to restore metal, first, coat the item in salt. Then carefully squeeze lemon or lime juice over the salted item, making sure not to rinse away the salt. Let the whole thing sit for a couple of hours, then brush with a wire brush or steel wool. This method also works well on copper pots and pans if you use what's left of the lemon or lime as a scouring pad. (You should never use steel wool or a wire brush on copper.)
Kerosene works well as a lubricant, which, along with a wire brush, can remove corrosion and bring back brilliance to a piece of metal. To use this method, coat the item in kerosene and let it sit for a few minutes to several hours, depending on the extent of the rust. Once the kerosene has had some time to work, blast off the corrosion with a wire wheel brush or cup brush attached to a drill.
Whether you're trying to clean up tools you haven't used in a while, a decorative metal sculpture, a set of kitchen knives, or vintage implements you found at an antique shop, the methods listed here should work for just about any level of surface corrosion.