Removing Rust From Hand Tools

I was working on a project cutting quite a bit of plywood and I came to realize my circular saw had achieved the status of powered splinter maker, it was time for a new blade. My circular saw, like most, has a blade wrench tucked away in the shoe. When I went to remove the wrench, it offered quite a bit of resistance, more than was expected. I soon discovered my blade wrench had suffered a respectable case of oxidation, nothing that would ruin it, just enough to cause it to really stick in it's little holster. Well, I had been holding on to a chisel I had been using on the same project that had also rusted a bit, again, not unusable, just rusty. Time to clean.  I could use the old wire brush and a lot of elbow grease, but did I tell you I was in the middle of another project? Let's do a soak.

Soak in what?  I don't have any rust cutter, so the next best thing? Vinegar. Just look around the garage for a suitably sized plastic container, plop a tool in and fill with vinegar. Nothing special, just simple, cheap, distilled white vinegar, I keep some in my shop for just such an occasion (and a few others, later on that).

After an overnight soak, simply remove the tool and wipe down with paper towel. You may want to use gloves simply because the black gunk that wipes off and whether or not you like having your hands smell like pickles.  The cool things about the vinegar soak (apart from the science involved) is that it not only dissolves the rust but also both darkens the metal considerably and gives a protective patina to avoid rusting in the future (or so I'm told).

The metal is still pitted where the rust was, but the rust is most definitely gone. Notice how dark even the sharpened end of the chisel has become? Pretty cool, almost a gun blue effect. I wanted some further protection for both of my tools and took two approaches for each. For the chisel I took the age old standard of giving it an oil rub. For the blade wrench I went with some stellar Krylon paint.

The chisel looks almost the same after finishing but I know it will resist humid summer air with the oil thinly coating it.  The blade wrench is a new blue and displays well tucked back into the shoe of my newly re-bladed light saber sharp circular saw.

Now for a bigger container to soak some of those bigger tools....


  1. i dont kno when u posted this, but thanx, i'm tryin it rite now on some driver bits,pliers& an awl using an old cassette tape tray on the basement floor, if this works, its going to save some valuable heirlooms in the future!

    1. Just make sure to watch the time you have them in there, especially if they are valuable to you. The vinegar reacts strongly with rust but also reacts with the metal at a slower rate. I recently forgot a small pair of pliers for a week and almost dissolved the connecting nut. Usually under 24 hrs does fine.