July 19, 2021

How to Clean Rusty Chisels

A chisel is a great tool for woodworkers, but they are not always easy to clean. In this post, we explain how to clean your chisels and keep them rust-free. As a woodworker, you use your chisels often, so you should take care of them. When you don’t, they rust and become unusable. In this article, I’ll explain the four steps of cleaning steel chisels.

Clean thoroughly 

The cleaning process involves decreasing, cleaning, and drying the chisels. Using chemicals and natural methods is for high rustic chisels. When the rust is not much, wash the chisel using soap and water. Use a clean cloth to apply the soap and rinse in clean water. Use the clean cloth to scrape off the rust and leave it to dry.

Soak in vinegar and salt to eat rust

Knowing how to get rid of rust from rusty chisels is an economic skill using the available ingredients in your home. One of the ingredients is vinegar, a natural cleaner that attacks rust and makes it disappear in a moment. 

Collect your tools and materials that include a bowl and vinegar. Soak chisels in a bowl of vinegar and let them sit in the bowl overnight. When it is time to remove the chisel, take it out of the bowl and use a metal brush or steel wool to scrub the chisel. 

Use clean water to rinse the dirt and remove particles. Use a towel to dry the chisel and let it rest. If the chisel is bigger enough not to fit in a bowl, soak it in a clean cloth and wrap it around the chisel. Wrap the affected area and let it sit overnight. 

When it is due, scrub the rusty area and repeat the above process. The later process comes with a disadvantage, and it is slower. However, it remains an effective process that gets rid of the rust. Expect a long life of the chisel even if you have to repeat the process after years. 

Scrubbing with baking soda and lemon 

Lemon juice

Lemon is a source of acid that is a natural cleaner to rust, and it works as a combo with salt so that the acid becomes active. Take salt, rub it on the rusted area you want to clean and rub it over the rust using your hands. 

Make sure it is coated and get ready to use the lemon. Cut the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice onto the coated area. Use limes in place of lemons. The salt and lemon mixture has to sit for two hours onto the affected area. 

After two hours, scrub the lemon mixture off the chisel. The chances are high that there are tough stains from the rust that are difficult to get rid of. Use steel wool or a scouring pad to scrub the remaining off the chisel. 

If you are uncomfortable using the scratching material, use a soft bristle brush or a clean cloth. These gentle tools require more energy from the user. Some chisels turn black when using lemon juice to remove rust, and they will get back to their original color when you get done with the process. 

Baking soda

When using baking soda, you are free to use water in place of lemon as you make a paste. Mix the paste in the bowel and apply it on the rusted chisel. Wait for a couple of hours before you use a toothbrush to scrub off the mixture. 

Use clean water to rinse and a clean cloth to dry the area. That can be a towel or a rag. You are allowed to check the process when using baking soda on your chisel. Baking soda is a replacement for borax. Mix any of the two with the lemon juice to form a paste. 

Allow the paste to sit on the chisel for 30 minutes if the area is highly affected. When the paste starts drying out, spray a bit of water to re-wet the formula. The scrubbing process has to lift all the rust from the chisel, and a toothbrush works wonders. 

Potatoes also work wonders with baking soda. Potatoes are a source of oxalic acid that gets rid of rust. Slice it in half and sprinkle it with salt or baking soda on the cut side as you prepare the potato. Rub the rusted area using the cut side, and the potato lifts the rust off the chisel. Rinse and dry the chisel before you return it to the storage. You are free to scrub the rust off. 

Use an abrasive pad

An abrasive pad requires one to scrap rust, and the process demands more effort and hard work. It is possible to get rid of the rust, but the process is time-consuming and painful. The chances are high that you will have breaks in between the scraps. 

An abrasive pad works the same as a screwdriver or steel wool. If you choose to go for the sandpaper, be careful about the grain of the sandpaper. Expect scratch marks when using the abrasive pad. Your local store advises you on the type of pad to use to clean the rust on your chisel. 

After scratching using the pad, dust removal follows. You are allowed to use an electric dust remover such as an electric sander. Operate it from the rough grain of the chisel. That lessens the roughness of the chisel. 

Neutralize the acid with baking soda

Neutralizing acid with baking soda removes rust from the chisel, and the combo is magical without additional chemicals. Cover the area with acid, and the acid has to be neutralized to start the process. 

Add soda to the water and acid. That loosens the trapped rust as it starts peeling off. Leave the chisel in the mixture for as long as you are satisfied with the process. You are allowed to repeat the process when not done.

Soak in vinegar overnight for up to 48 hours

There is stubborn rust that does not come off in a few hours. It needs up to 48 hours to completely get rid of the rust. The chisel is submerged in vinegar, and it sits in the vinegar for up to 48 hours. Check the processing time and again since chisels react differently. Vinegar also reacts differently depending on the brand. 

Rinse with water and detergent 

Detergents come in multiple forms, and they allow you to mix them with water as you rinse 9ff the rust. They are of oxalic and phosphoric acid that is hazardous to the skin, and precautionary measures prevent skin damage. 

The detergent comes with instructions you have to follow. Read, understand and use the substance following the directions given. The detergent has to be applied for hours to lift the rust from the chisel. Some of the detergents are not for users running under a tight budget, and hence some resort to natural methods. 

Polish and wax

For a well-polished chisel, use fine-grit sandpaper, sanding the rough edges and making the surface even and smooth. Rough sanding is for uneven surfaces. Keep sanding till you are satisfied with your chisel, and make sure it remains flat. 

Polishing alone is not enough, and that is why you have to finish the process using wax. Choose the wax of your choice and gather your application tools. 

Wax is a protective coating and polish for chisels, and it fills cracks and makes the chisel abrasive resistant. 

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David D. Hughes
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