Rust is a nuisance that’s constantly after your metal and stainless steel tools. If you’re a DIY person, you’ll find that your tools can gather rust quickly from lack of use.

If you’re not making sure your tools are always clean and properly stored, rust will form on them due to oxidation. Left unattended, your tools will continue to gather rust and corrode over time.

Luckily, rust can easily be cleaned and scrubbed off your tools before it does any damage. You don’t even need to use any harmful chemicals in the process; some simple substances can help remove rust.

How to Remove Rust From Tools Without Harmful Chemicals

Although there are products specifically made to remove rust, it can be achieved easily using only simple items and materials. Chemical rust removers work well, but they’re not the safest approach considering their hazardous nature.

You won’t need to spend much money or time buying products for this purpose, as the things you’ll need can mostly be found in any household, especially if you're into DIY projects.

The steps aren’t specific to certain tools; they will work well with any metal tool.

Things You’ll Need

The best thing about this method is that you won’t need to get any complicated products, you can save the trip to the hardware store as some of what you’ll need can be found at home and possibly the next-door supermarket.

White distilled vinegar

To help break down the rust on your tools.

Lemon Juice

It has acidic materials that remove rust.

Big jar or bowl

Inside of which you will soak the tools in vinegar.

Scouring pads

For clearing stubborn rust off tools. Aluminum foil, steel wool, or coarse sandpaper can also be used.

Lubrication oil

To protect from light rust after use and also further damage.

Heavy-duty soap

It’s used to clean afterward with clean water.

Baking soda

It’s used for tools that have heavy rust layers. It's ideal for eating away at gunk within a rusted area.

Quick Tip: You can also use something called citric acid powder which acts in the same way as baking soda.

Step 1: Soak your rusty tools in a vinegar bath

Start by giving your tools a vinegar bath. Dip them in a bowl filled with vinegar and let them soak for a while. The acids in the vinegar will gradually break up the rust.

At this point, we can see the rust falling slowly to the bottom of the bowl, and the surface starts to clear up.

One misconception about this is that you need to leave the tools in vinegar for a day. Like stainless steel and iron, some metals can be damaged if exposed to vinegar for too long.

An hour or two would be more than enough for the vinegar to work. The tools won't come out shiny, but that’s left for the next step.

Step 2: Scrub the rusty tools with the scouring pad or sandpaper

Next, you’ll want to use a scouring pad or sandpaper to scrub your rusty tools. It will start to come off quickly after the vinegar bath.

Let’s keep in mind that it’s preferable to use heavy-duty scouring pads. If the rust is heavy, you’ll need a pad with metal in it to handle the heaviness of the rust.

Most rusty tools would be clean by now. It’s essential to dry the tools right away with any cloth or paper towels.

Step 3: Squeeze on lemon juice and rub salt onto the rust

Afterward, you can rub salt and squeezed lemon juice onto the surface of your tools. They have acidic properties that will further break up the rust particles.

Step 4: Scrub again with wire wool

Then, scrub again using the wire wool. This will help take care of heavy rust. In some rare cases, you might find the color still rusty after the previous steps. Not to worry, we can do a bit more to fix that.

Step 5: Stains still there?

If your tools are still a bit rusty after carrying out the above-listed steps, create a baking soda paste and cover your tools with the paste, then leave them for a couple of hours.

Step 6: Rinse off in the vinegar

Wash off the paste and rinse it in vinegar, then leave them to dry.

Step 7: Leave to dry and lubricate with oil.

After the tools dry, lubricate them carefully with oil. Any rust on the tool should be removed by now.

How to Prevent Tools from Rusting

The easiest way to avoid rust on your tools in the garden is to prevent it from happening in the first place. There are some very simple ways to do this.

1. Dry your tools after use

Preventing your tools from rusting is all about controlling moisture. Oxygen in the air is always ready to start the oxidation process, with the moisture on your tools creating rust.

It's essential to keep in mind that screws and wrenches are often the main attraction for rust. It can also form in the smaller gears of most electrical tools.

It would be a hassle to have to dismantle your tools to clean them, so make sure they don’t get exposed to moisture for long.

A paper towel will do the trick, or you can use what the pros prefer, a shammy leather.

2. Make sure your toolbox is moisture-free

It's preferable to keep the tools inside a moisture-free box. This will help prevent your tools from developing rust over time.

3. Keep them in a cool dry place

Make sure to dry your tools and store them above ground, preferably where humidity is low.

A cool dry place like a plastic container will do just fine if you don't have a toolbox.

4. Get a dehumidifier

Alternatively, you can install a dehumidifier in your storage and work area.

Using products like WD-40 can be very helpful with this step. If you spray it on the metallic parts of your tools, it can help prevent rust from forming altogether.

In this case, make sure it only touches the metal parts, as the product might be damaging to plastic or rubber. We can use a cloth to clean any oil dripping on the handles of the tools.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you can't find an answer to your question below, get in touch and we'll be happy to help.

What is the fastest way to remove rust from tools?

You can quickly and efficiently remove rust from your tools by dipping them in vinegar. As the tools soak, the rust begins to break and fall. It works for most tools if the rust isn’t too much.

You can use preventative products, but it’s more convenient to use vinegar as it’s easily found in any household. You can take a look at the simple process here.

What is the best rust remover for tools?

Liquid rust removers are the most effective. Yet, products work differently with different kinds of rust. The best for car rust isn’t necessarily the best for tool rust. However, the short answer is that Evapo-Rust is the best rust remover for tools.

Is WD-40 a rust remover?

When you look up rust removers, WD-40 is a name that will show up a lot. It’s a multi-use product that can be used to clean more than just your tools. WD-40 is perfect for handling light-surface rust.

While it can work with rusty tools, it can also work with rusty furniture and bike gear. It’s very important to keep in mind, however, that chemical rust removers are pretty toxic and shouldn’t touch your skin. If you use one, make sure to have protective gloves on.

Can you use steel wool to remove rust?

You can use several items to clean rust off of tools, but you can’t use them alone. Steel wool, sandpaper, and scouring pads can scrub the rust off tools and metal, but after the rust has been soaked in vinegar first.

Depending on the level of rust layers and corrosion, steel wool should be sufficient in removing rust. The rustier the tools, the stronger you’ll need your wire wool to be.

Does hydrogen peroxide get rid of rust?

Hydrogen peroxide can speed up the rusting process, but it can also be used to remove it. In fact, it’s pretty safe to use when cleaning most surfaces at home, not just rust.

Hydrogen peroxide is as efficient as vinegar and baking soda in cleaning rusty tools and surfaces. You can even use it to clean stained fabric.

Does apple cider vinegar get rid of rust?

Yes, it certainly can. Apple cider vinegar isn’t that different from regular vinegar; both can get rid of rust.

The acids found in most kinds of vinegar are the effective ingredients that clear rust by gradually breaking up its particles. You can even use apple cider vinegar to clean different jewelry.

Does vinegar damage metal?

Yes, vinegar can damage and corrode metal and stainless steel. While it’s used to clean rusty metal, it’s important to be careful when doing so.

The acetic acid in vinegar can damage metal, especially at high temperatures. So, it’s wise not to leave the vinegar on the metal you’re cleaning for long.

Surfaces most affected by vinegar are made of iron, stainless steel, bronze, and copper; they’re prone to acid damage.

Final Word

In a nutshell, you can clean rust off your tools easily with simple items from your house. You’ll only need to make sure to have a few things in store.

Vinegar, sandpaper, wire wool, and baking soda are more than enough to take care of any rusty tools. The cleaning process is simple and doesn’t require too much work.

You can also make sure your tools are stored above ground, dry, and dehumidified. Making sure they’re dry would prevent them from getting rusty in the first place.