Not only are tools helpful when it comes to fixing household odds-and-ends or building something completely new, but they can also become beloved collectors' items. In both cases, it's in your best interest to keep them as clean as possible so they work well for years to come.
Older and more well-loved hand tools that are not regularly cleaned can become blunt and develop small cracks, which can eventually cause them to shatter from a hard impact.
When cleaning old tools, you'll likely come into contact with stubborn rust spots. Over time, iron and steel exposed to oxygen and moisture become oxidized. The visual evidence of this chemical reaction is the orange and brownish speckling that covers your tools. Rusty tools are often ineffective and hard to work with.
There are a variety of rust removal methods:
- White vinegar and salt: Soak rusty tools in a mixture of ¼ cup of salt per liter of white vinegar. Soaking can take anywhere from one to three days. Once the rust has softened, use a metal brush or steel wool to scrub it off. Then clean using the directions below.
- Oxalic acid: Oxalic acid is a commercial rust remover that will dissolve rust quickly. You need to wear rubber gloves and eye protection when using it and apply it only after you've cleaned your tools using the directions below. Add one gallon of water and three tablespoons of the acid to a bucket. Let the rusty tools soak for 20 minutes, then dry them thoroughly.
Either before or after you've removed rust from your tools (depending on which method you opt for), use readily biodegradable*, non-corrosive, professional-grade Simple Green Pro HD Heavy-Duty Cleaner to clean and degrease. It quickly eliminates tough grease and grime, removes oily stains, and is safe on metal surfaces. The concentrated formula can be diluted to suit your cleaning needs, whether you're soaking saw blades or wiping down your work area.
After your tools are cleaned and completely dry, wipe them down with household oil, such as mineral oil or WD-40, to prevent further rusting. Keep in mind that oils will attract dust, so you'll still need to keep up with tool maintenance.
Directions for Cleaning Tools:
Do not allow the product to dry on the surface of your tools. Do not clean over asphalt.
- Prepare your Simple Green solution. Depending on how many tools you are cleaning at once, add 1 cup of Simple Green Pro HD Heavy-Duty Cleaner for every 3 cups of water in an empty bucket.
- Soak your tools. Lay tools as flat as can be in your solution and leave them to soak for about 10 minutes. Wooden handle tools should only have their metal heads soaked.
- Clean. After 10 minutes, scrub any gunky areas with a wire brush or steel wool.
- Rinse. Rinse the tools with clean water.
- Dry. Pat each tool dry with paper towels. It's essential to thoroughly dry each tool, as leftover water can lead to rusting. You may even want to use a blow dryer or compressed air to ensure smaller, hard-to-reach spots are completely dry.
TIP: For directions on how to clean power tools, click here.