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White vinegar for rust removal

Old 07-24-21, 02:01 PM
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White vinegar for rust removal

This may sound stupid, but I have never used white vinegar as a rust removal soak. I have used it with aluminum foil to remove rust from chromed steel rims and other bits; but I have not tried it as a soak until today.

I am using a 5% vinegar solution from the grocery store (Food Lion). My initial target is the lower race of the headset while also getting at some surface rust around the painted head tube lugs. I know that other BF members have used vinegar for this purpose.

Any tips? Any cautions? Does it work on painted surfaces? Should I avoid aluminum parts?
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Old 07-24-21, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by dweenk View Post
This may sound stupid, but I have never used white vinegar as a rust removal soak. I have used it with aluminum foil to remove rust from chromed steel rims and other bits; but I have not tried it as a soak until today.

I am using a 5% vinegar solution from the grocery store (Food Lion). My initial target is the lower race of the headset while also getting at some surface rust around the painted head tube lugs. I know that other BF members have used vinegar for this purpose.

Any tips? Any cautions? Does it work on painted surfaces? Should I avoid aluminum parts?
Vinegar won't work anywhere near as well as oxalic acid, which you can get as deck cleaner or wood bleach in hardware stores, about $20 an almost-gallon jug. It's safe - don't drink the stuff - and won't harm the unrusted steel, or paint(usually).

And no, don't have any aluminium attached and in the bath - for either solution.
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Old 07-24-21, 05:50 PM
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Originally Posted by onyerleft View Post
White vinegar is fine, but for my Italian bikes, I've always used a 50:50 mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
And when you're done a good rubdown with Balsamico Tradizionale but only on red bikes.
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Old 07-24-21, 06:15 PM
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Try a product called Metal Rescue. I’m not sure what is in it but works very well without pulling off paint. There is a bath version and the gel I linked to. I haven’t used the gel but I use the bath to remove rust from old bicycle license plates.

It definitely works better than vinegar.
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Old 07-24-21, 06:22 PM
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I've done some rust removal from heavily rusted tools with house hold vinegar. . I did extended multi day soaks and ended up with a clean grey surface but finely pitted/ etched by the vinegar. The etched surface was more prone to rusting than where the metal had been polish smooth on the cutting edges. So the only real advise I'd give is to follow up with a polishing. And a little Ruffino Classico after all your hard work.
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Old 07-24-21, 06:51 PM
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Evaporust works amazingly well
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Old 07-25-21, 03:59 AM
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OK, here's the list of common methods and their characteristics:

Vinegar (ph ~3) - not much effect of either rust or steel, pretty much harmless to humans
Citric acid (ph ~2.5) - will remove rust slowly, wont do much to steel, similarly harmless
Oxalic acid (ph ~1.3) - will remove rust, slowly but faster than citric acid, won't do much to steel. Wash it off if it splashes on you and don't drink it.
Evapo rust (ph ~6) - will remove rust, slowly but faster than citric acid, won't do much to steel. Supposedly harmless but they don't say what's in it.
Phosphoric acid (ph ~1.5) - removes rust, faster than evaporust, won't do much to steel. Wash it off if it splashes on you and don't drink it.
Tannic acid (ph ~6) - will remove rust fast, leaves steel black on the surface which will brush off. Wash it off if it splashes on you and don't drink it.
Hydrochloric acid (ph ~1) will remove rust FAST, will remove steel FAST, will remove skin FAST. Don't even think of using this stuff.
Electrolysis - removes rust completely, leaves steel alone, safe except for low-voltage electricity and possibly whatever you use for an electrolyte; washing sode is ph ~11 and thus caustic, but you don't use much even of that in a huge volume of water.

The method I use depends more on the size of the part and the amount of rust. Small bits - nuts,screws,etcetera - go in a plastic tub with enough phosphoric axid or oxalic acid to cover them, and taken out when done (a few hours). Large things rusty all over usually electrolysis, especially if very large - did a Vespa frame a while ago and that much oxalic acid would have cost more than the moped did. Bike frames only oxalic acid because they have brazed joints and I'd have to find out what electrolysis will do to one before even trying it.
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Old 07-25-21, 08:20 AM
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Originally Posted by oneclick View Post
OK, here's the list of common methods and their characteristics:

Vinegar (ph ~3) - not much effect of either rust or steel, pretty much harmless to humans
Citric acid (ph ~2.5) - will remove rust slowly, wont do much to steel, similarly harmless
Oxalic acid (ph ~1.3) - will remove rust, slowly but faster than citric acid, won't do much to steel. Wash it off if it splashes on you and don't drink it.
Evapo rust (ph ~6) - will remove rust, slowly but faster than citric acid, won't do much to steel. Supposedly harmless but they don't say what's in it.
Phosphoric acid (ph ~1.5) - removes rust, faster than evaporust, won't do much to steel. Wash it off if it splashes on you and don't drink it.
Tannic acid (ph ~6) - will remove rust fast, leaves steel black on the surface which will brush off. Wash it off if it splashes on you and don't drink it.
Hydrochloric acid (ph ~1) will remove rust FAST, will remove steel FAST, will remove skin FAST. Don't even think of using this stuff.
Electrolysis - removes rust completely, leaves steel alone, safe except for low-voltage electricity and possibly whatever you use for an electrolyte; washing sode is ph ~11 and thus caustic, but you don't use much even of that in a huge volume of water.

The method I use depends more on the size of the part and the amount of rust. Small bits - nuts,screws,etcetera - go in a plastic tub with enough phosphoric axid or oxalic acid to cover them, and taken out when done (a few hours). Large things rusty all over usually electrolysis, especially if very large - did a Vespa frame a while ago and that much oxalic acid would have cost more than the moped did. Bike frames only oxalic acid because they have brazed joints and I'd have to find out what electrolysis will do to one before even trying it.
^^^ are all good pieces of advice. Iíve never used phosphoric acid since it seems really aggressive but Iím sheepish about these things. Electrolytic removal leaves a black oxide on the de-rusted part - FYI.

FWIW - many times the rust on chrome can be removed with brass wool or a small brass brush.

For me - vinegar has never done the work regarding rust but, as noted, it makes an excellent salad dressing.
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Old 07-25-21, 12:31 PM
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After soaking the head tube for 24 hours, I am not impressed. It did help a bit with rust, but it also dulled the blue paint. Most of the paint dullness (is that a word?) came off with a rinse. There was no damage to the aluminum headbadge that had not already been done by east coast Atlantic air.

I'll still use it with aluminum foil for steel rims, but I have one and one half gallons left.

I hear that it kills weeds.
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Old 07-25-21, 12:41 PM
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Its good for washing uncured epoxy off of tools and your hands with out driving the chemicals into your blood stream like acetone....
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Old 07-25-21, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by bark_eater View Post
Its good for washing uncured epoxy off of tools and your hands with out driving the chemicals into your blood stream like acetone....
I did not know that...good info.
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Old 07-25-21, 03:25 PM
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OK.
I have tried it as a soak and it is underwhelming. To vinegar's credit - it is cheap - but it does'nt accomplish much. I'll still use it with aluminum foil to rub off rust from chrome, but I fear that 1.5 gallons will be more than I can use before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
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Old 07-25-21, 04:34 PM
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Interesting that most people haven't had good luck with white vinegar, I've had great success with it on small chrome pieces. Soak them for a few hours and wipe the rust off with a paper towel. For larger pieces like fenders or wheels I use 0000 steel wool with WD-40 and then clean it with a good degreaser and then polish them. I can already hear the "NO don't use steel wool, you'll scratch the chrome" choir but I have seen no evidence of scratching from the 0000 steel wool and anything old enough to require rust removal has plenty of fine scratches to begin with. I've used it on paint with heavy surface rust as well.

Here's a '55 Columbia I did the 0000 steel wool/WD-40m treatment on, left side as found, right side after a few minutes of rubbing, it would have gone faster had I removed the barn dirt and pigeon droppings first but it was about 20 Deg. F when I did it.

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Old 07-25-21, 04:54 PM
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What do you recommend for removing early-stage rust from a chromed steel frame? Citric acid?
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Old 07-25-21, 05:30 PM
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Evapo-Rust has been the best product Iíve found for rust removal. Submerge the rust for at least a couple hours for best results. Repeat as needed or increase submerge time.

RJ the bike guy on YouTube has a great video on his results.

Rustoleum Rust Remover Spray also works pretty well for quick rust spots youíre not able to submerge.

With Evapo-Rust, if youíre not able to submerge the rust, you can also soak a paper towel in the solution and wrap the surface rust then cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying.

Good luck!
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Old 07-25-21, 06:56 PM
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Evaporust is great stuff. It won't hurt adjacent paint and it safe, but it's expensive and has a limited life span.

For general derusting I'm a fan pf phosphoric acid. If properly diluted it won't hurt paint but I wouldn't leave it dwell on painted surfaces too long. Home Depot in the US sell a product know as Kleenstrip Etch and prep (or something to this effect.) It can be recycled again and reused too since it doesn't loose effectiveness like Evaporust does.
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Old 07-25-21, 07:21 PM
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Evaporust has worked well for me. For more heavily rusted spots, remove after a few hours and lightly scrub (nylon brush, sponge, or similar) and then put back in a few more hours. I found on one pitted area it left a black coating that still had rust underneath when scrubbed off. For that I used several Naval Jelly (phosphoric acid) applications until the rust was no longer noticeable. Havenít seen any impact to bronze or silver brazing. Didnít have any paint impact on red Imron (82 Trek) or white (72 Fuji). Chrome came out looking great. Others have mentioned but if youíre partially submerged chrome it may rust MORE right above the vapor/liquid interface for Evaporust. Simichrome and a cloth took the very light surface rust off chrome for me (what came from the soak at the interface).
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Old 07-25-21, 07:40 PM
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sorry to tag onto this thread but i got to ask.

would wd40 work on the shifter rust? i bought a wd40 bike degreaser. should i use a metal brush to brush it too?


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Old 07-25-21, 07:50 PM
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Sometimes it's just best to use the intended product for the intended use. Evaporust attacks rust only, is re-usable, and is available at Harbor Freight in 2 sizes.
Cutting corners is great, but often costs you more in the long run in time, energy, frustration, and probably money. Spend the $8 and be done with it

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Old 07-26-21, 01:55 AM
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Originally Posted by ganner View Post
sorry to tag onto this thread but i got to ask.

would wd40 work on the shifter rust? i bought a wd40 bike degreaser. should i use a metal brush to brush it too?
WD40 no, brush yes.
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Old 07-26-21, 06:18 AM
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Oxalic acid (OA) has worked great for me. 2% by volume mix and wait up to 24 hours. Very inexpensive. I have used a wall paper tray to dunk forks. Frames are dunked in a frame lined with plastic sheet and a pile of whatever between the tubes to minimize the volume of OA.

WD-40 is a rust preventative, not a rust remover. Note that everyone uses it with an abrasive of some form. There is enough lubricant to assist in the scrubbing process to remove the rust.

I tried OOOO wool on chrome and regret it. Perhaps with the lubricant, it is less damaging.
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Old 07-27-21, 12:47 PM
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I agree with Murray Missile, both on the useful rust-dissolving action of vinegar and on the harmless effect of steel wool.


Vinegar takes several hours to overnight to dissolve rust, with perhaps some periodic light scrubbing to dissolve heavier rust faster.


Steel wool gets a bad rap only because it picks up dirt, sand and chrome flakes, which will then act as abrasives that cause scratches.

Steel wool, if it's coarse enough combined with too much pressure applied can indent the very thin chrome surface because of the softer (copper and nickel) layers underneath.
But, using finer grades of steel wool, with moderate pressure on clean surfaces, it's harmless on chromed steel and even on anodized aluminum.
Beware though of flaking chrome bits or any dirt or sand caught on a steel wool scrubbing surface, as these can produce scratches.
Using steel wool with plenty of water, and turning the pad frequently, will improve the effectiveness and safety because the surface won't tend to load up with detritus.

Buying Oxalic Acid powder and mixing just a teaspoon per quart of water produces great results in 2-4 hours and is by far the cheapest way to go.
I bought mine from an online taxidermy supply outfit and it was very cheap in bulk.

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Old 07-27-21, 10:39 PM
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Evapo-rust before and after pics. After pics is from leaving these parts submerged overnight. Rinse and wipe the next day, I wont use anything else



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Old 07-28-21, 02:11 PM
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What can you do prevent the build-up of new rust after you have removed the old one?
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Old 07-29-21, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Nuovo Record View Post
What can you do prevent the build-up of new rust after you have removed the old one?
Move to Arizona? 😇

If you keep stuff clean and in a garage or inside that helps a lot. An occasional wipe down with WD40 also helps.
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