Stop Rust on Your Tools: Storage, Prevention, and Treatment

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  • 1-10 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 0-300
What You'll Need
Anti-slip mesh liner
Silica packets
Motor oil, WD-40 or PB B'laster
Aluminum foil
Lemon or lime juice
Table salt
Baking soda
Old toothbrush
Scotch-Brite pad

That shiny new tool still in its package just waiting to be used will probably soon look like the rest of its friends in your tool box. But your tools could stay looking new all the time with just a little care. They will also work better and get you through your tasks quicker and with less swearing if you do a bit of regular maintenance.

1. Storage: Keep Tools in a Dry Place

Tools should be kept in a dry place, such as a drawer in a toolbox -- not on the top of the workbench, and certainly not on the floor of the garage.

One thing you can do to improve the dryness in your tool box is by putting a layer of anti-slip mesh liner in the bottom of the drawer. The mesh keeps the tools from touching the metal of the drawer bottom where moisture can accumulate. The moisture will stay under the mat.

For extra added protection, put little packets of silica in each drawer. If you can’t find silica, Bull Frog makes a vapor corrosion inhibitor in strips that can be used in the drawers. The cool thing about these is that they emit a gas that deposits a protective layer on your tools.

If you can get your hands on one, a wooden tool box is actually the best home for your tools because the wood absorbs any moisture which would normally deposit on your tools.

2. Prevention: Treat Your Tools With Oil

Now that your toolbox is set up correctly, it's time to treat your new tool to an oil sponge bath. One of the best and cheapest ways to keep your tools looking new is to wipe them down with motor oil. I just use the oil from my last car oil change, or you can use oil right from the bottle. First, take an old rag and dip it into the oil. Then, wipe the tools down to create a thin layer all over. Finally, take a clean rag and wipe off the excess.

If that seems like too much work, you can also use WD-40 or PB B'laster and spray on a thin coating. Wipe off any excess. These sprays work well, but real oil is the best.

Whether you realize it or not, metal is porous and rust is just a chemical reaction that happens when water gets into the pores of the metal. By keeping tools dry and coated with a thin layer of oil, you will prevent any moisture from getting into the pores of your tools.

3. Treatment: Removing Rust

Now that your new tool is protected, how about making your whole toolbox look like new? Depending on how many tools you have, it could be time consuming, but the results are definitely worth it.

Removing active rust can be done in a couple of ways. You can use chemical rust removers found at auto or home improvement stores. But if you're like me, you'll prefer something a little more earth-friendly. Besides, if you use chemicals, then you still have the task of disposing of them properly. If you use natural ingredients, disposal is easy.

Three Natural Ways to Remove Rust

Any way you look at it, each tool needs to have a bath. What you use in that bath depends on what you prefer.

Vinegar - This household product has many uses and removing rust is one of them. Soak your tools in vinegar for several hours up to one day. Then rub the tool with aluminum foil. (Do not ever use sandpaper on your tools. The sandpaper will only create more pits in the metal and possibly scratch the heck out of them.)

Lemon or Lime Juice - If you don’t like the smell of vinegar, you can use the juice of either of these two citrus fruits. Their natural acid will eat away at the rust. Add some table salt to the juice and you have a natural abrasive that will remove the rust with just a little elbow grease.

Baking Soda - The third natural way to remove rust takes a little more time. Make a paste out of baking soda and water. Take an old toothbrush and brush the mixture on the tool until the rust comes off.

In any of the above baths, you can use a Scotch-Brite pad to assist in the stubborn rusty areas. After each tool is clean, be sure to apply a thin layer of oil or treat with one of the sprays mentioned earlier.

There you have it -- now you won’t be able to tell which tools are new and which are old…because they all look new!