How to Keep Your Tools Free of Rust (2023)

How to Keep Your Tools Free of Rust

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We’ve all done it. At some point or another, a tool gets left out overnight after a long day’s work or forgotten in the yard when multitasking. Screwdrivers, plyers, scissors and shovels can all suffer the same fate by falling victim to rust. While many metal tools are afflicted by rust at some point over the years, a little care and attention can bring these implements back into good working order without too much hassle. Read on below for some tips on how to restore rusty tools and metal objects to an adequate or even excellent condition.

(Video) How I keep my tools rust free!

On Rust

Rust forms when oxygen and water or moisture reacts with exposed iron and its alloys. Iron oxide (or iron hydrate) gathers on the surface of the metal and overtime can cause serious deterioration and degradation to the material. Rust commonly appears as ruddy red in color but (depending on the alloy or other metals present) can also be yellow, brown, orange, and even green. The word “rust” however refers to the oxidation of iron, while other reactions of oxygen and water on metals can have different terms such as “tarnish” for silver.

Problems with Rust

A few words on rust from Jonathan Waldman in Rust: The Longest War:

(Video) How I Keep My Tools Clean & Rust and Corrosion Free!

"Rust has knocked down bridges, killing dozens, it's killed at least a handful of people at nuclear power plants, nearly cause reactor meltdowns, and challenged those storing nuclear waste. It has shut down the largest oil pipelines, rendered military jets and ships unfit for service, and torn apart the fuselage of a commercial plane mid flight."

Rust has the power to cause serious harm if left uncontrolled in the wrong areas. The cases mentioned by Waldman may not apply to the tools in your shed, but the rust will come for them nevertheless. Tools afflicted by rust can often be salvaged and restored, but if left untreated they can become brittle, broken, and even dangerous. The lifespan of metal materials and devices is greatly affected by the creeping presence of rust and rusty tools also have a sloppy and unprofessional appearance.

(Video) How to Prevent Rust and Maintenance Hand Tools

Preventative Care

The best case scenario with rust is to avoid letting it set hold on your tools entirely. offers three primary ways to avoid rust:

  • Keep your stuff dry
  • Use high quality paints when applicable and touch up dings
  • Oil tools regularly

Keep your tools dry by paying attention to how they are stored, taking care to put them away, and be mindful of the environments where you are using them. If a tool, object, or material needs paint to keep rust away, use the right paint for the job and watch out for dings and scratches where rust can set in. Oiling your tools is a great way to keep rust away, and WD-40® Multi Use Product offers superior performance solutions for just such occasions. This classic formula was originally designed to ensure rockets didn’t rust while waiting to launch, and it works wonders keeping tools in your shop or shed from rusting as well.

(Video) Keeping your tools rust free.

Restoring Rusty Tools

Once rust has reared its ugly head, don’t give up. You can restore your tools to working condition several different ways. Using WD-40 Brand Products, apply the multi-use formula with a rag or wire brush (when needed) and some elbow grease to abrade away the oxidized material. Steel wool can also be helpful in some circumstances. For tools and items that can be submerged, WD-40 Specialist® Rust Remover Soak quickly dissolves rust and restores tools, equipment, and surfaces to bare metal without excess rubbing and brushing. This non-acidic formula safely removes rust by reacting with the material to draw the oxidized particles away without using harsh chemicals.

Pro Tip:

For metal surface areas that may be susceptible to rust, try WD-40 Specialist Gel Lube. It protects against rust and surface corrosion up to 6X longer than the competition* on horizontal, vertical, and inverted surfaces with a thick, no-drip formula.

(Video) Prevent Rust from Developing on Your Stored Tools

(Video) 7 Ways to Prevent Rust on Your Tools


How do you clean and preserve rusty tools? ›

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.

What is the best lubricant to keep tools from rusting? ›

Best Rust Prevention for Hand Tools

That's where boiled linseed oil can help. It forms a hard protective film when it dries, the perfect way to prevent rust and damage on hand tools. I coat the blades and wooden handles of all my outdoor hand tools with it at least once a season.

Does WD-40 prevent rust on tools? ›

WD-40 Multi-Use Product protects metal from rust and corrosion, penetrates stuck parts, displaces moisture and lubricates almost anything.

What kills rust on tools? ›

To tackle items with significant corrosion, submerge your rusty tools or knives in a bowl of white vinegar and let them sit overnight or as long as 24 hours. Once they have had a good soak, remove them from the vinegar and scrub the rust off with steel wool, a scouring pad, or a wire brush.

How long does vinegar rusty tools last? ›

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.

Can you save rusted tools? ›

Soak your tool in a vinegar bath.

Place your tool in a jar or other container, then pour in just enough vinegar to submerge all the rusted parts. Soak the tool for 12 to 24 hours, depending on level of rust and type of vinegar used. (Sometimes, even just an hour or two will do for small amounts of rust.)

How do you make anti rust solution? ›

How to Remove Rust With a Lemon Juice Paste
  1. Make a Paste. Mix two parts old fashioned borax or baking soda and one part lemon juice in a small bowl to form a paste. ...
  2. Apply the Paste. Use a sponge to thickly apply the paste to the rust, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. ...
  3. Scrub the Rusty Area. ...
  4. Rinse and Dry.
Aug 8, 2022

How do you permanently stop rust? ›

The most common way to stop rust on metals is by fragmenting or brushing the metal surface using sandpaper. Another rust removal method is to apply phosphoric acid which converts the red iron oxide into black ferric phosphate on direct application to rusted iron.

Will covering rust stop it? ›

By coating your metal with paint, you'll prevent moisture and oxygen from reacting with the iron. And, as a result, you prevent rust.

What are the 4 ways to prevent rusting? ›

Rusting can be prevented by:
  • Galvanizing - iron metal is coated with zinc.
  • Enameling - the iron surface is baked with a mixture of silicates at a high temperature.
  • Coating with red lead oxide paint or tar on the iron surface.
  • Oils and grease coating on iron surface cuts off moist air and prevents rusting.

What is best to spray on metal to prevent rust? ›

6.5 oz. WD-40 Specialist® Corrosion Inhibitor is an anti-rust spray ideal for preventative maintenance and use in extreme environments such as high humidity. It provides non-drying protection that stays where you spray it.

What stops rust on metal? ›

Rust-Resistant Coatings
  • Sodium hydroxide and potassium nitrate: These two chemicals, when combined, form a coating that's effective in preventing rust. ...
  • Paint: Paint is a common and easy way to protect metal from rust. ...
  • Oil: You can also protect metal with a coat of oil.
Apr 1, 2022

What oil prevents rust on metal? ›

Linseed oil paint to protect against corrosion of metal

You can prevent rust easily by coating the metal object with an oily shield using a cloth that has been treated or trunk with linseed oil. Boiled linseed oil dries faster than cold-pressed linseed oil, and forms a much harder surface.

What stops rust from spreading? ›

Stop Rust from Forming

Keep the metal coated with paint, oil, or rust preventative coatings that will keep air, moisture, and corrosives from reaching it. Keep surfaces clean. Wash off dirt, debris, road salt, and other contaminants.

Does rustoleum stop rust? ›

Rust-Oleum® Stops Rust® spray paint and brush-on paint deliver tough protection that defends outdoor objects against the elements. Use it on garden benches, patio tables, chairs and more to update color and help prevent rust and corrosion.

How long to leave WD-40 on rust? ›

To remove light rust, leave parts in the solution for 1-3 hours. To remove heavy rust, leave parts in the rust removal solution overnight.

Can Coke remove rust? ›

What Makes Coca-Cola Such an Effective Cleaner? Coca-Cola is carbonated, which allows it to dissolve with metal oxides and break up rust on a variety of metals and alloys. Phosphoric acid also gives it rust-busting power, while citric acid makes it an effective stain remover.

What breaks down rust? ›

Strong acids will dissolve rust, but they will also dissolve paint, finishes, and sometimes even the metal itself. Hydrochloric acid (which is also called muriatic acid in its diluted form), as well as phosphoric acid and sulfuric acid may be used in rust removal formulas using strong acids.

How do you remove rust without scrubbing? ›

Salt and Lemon Juice/Vinegar

Acidic solutions such as lemon juice and vinegar, along with a little bit of salt applied to the rusted areas, are another DIY method of rust removal from your tools. Leave for a few hours then remove.

Does hydrogen peroxide remove rust from tools? ›

A common method of dealing with rusted screws and bolts implies removing them from their sockets and leaving them to soak in a hydrogen peroxide solution overnight. Hydrogen peroxide is known to dissolve accumulated rust from metal surfaces and can even break up the entire tarnish in some cases.

Does vinegar damage metal? ›

The plastic and glass surfaces on most small kitchen appliances, such as blenders, coffee makers, and toasters, are safe to clean with vinegar, but you want to avoid any rubber parts or metal that vinegar can corrode. This includes stainless steel.

Does vinegar remove rust? ›

For more stubborn rust, try using white vinegar. The acetic acid in this common household product is acidic enough to dissolve rust. You can soak smaller things like earrings, wipe it onto a surface with an old cloth, or just pour it directly over rust spots or bolts and screws that have rusted together.

Does baking soda remove rust? ›

If you're wondering how baking soda removes rust; the answer is really simple; just dissolve it in water and scrape off the rust. It's one of the readily available rust removers around and it won't disappoint.

Does oil remove rust from tools? ›

Tool owners should have on hand a multi-purpose oil designed to clean, lubricate, and protect. To remove light rust from tools simply apply oil to a rag and wipe the metal thoroughly. If the articulating parts are rusted, working oil into rusted joints multiple times is usually effective.

Why does vinegar stop rust? ›

Applying vinegar to rust dissolves the oxide and leaves behind a water-soluble salt that you can remove easily. It is called neutralisation, and this reaction happens between rust and acetic acid, which is why cleaning vinegar helps remove iron oxides from household surfaces and objects.

What gets rid of rust naturally? ›

Vinegar is one of the best natural cleaners around. It will attack rust. To remove rust from small items like knives and hand tools, soak them in a bowl of vinegar. You'll need to let them sit overnight.

What stops rust from getting worse? ›

Dry the object after every use to keep it free of moisture and water. Keeping the object dry is the best way to prevent rust.

Will metal continue to rust if kept dry? ›

But a well-maintained metal part (one kept clean, dry, and/or with additional protection) will not automatically rust simply because of a couple red brown rust flakes. Simply put, in order for rust to occur, there needs to be prolonged exposure to both oxygen and water (or excessive air moisture).

Will rust keep spreading under paint? ›

Another big problem with rust is that even if the entire surface is well protected with paint, if rust starts to develop on the back of the metal where it cannot be seen, or in a hidden corner, or even where the paint gets scratched, this rust will continue to spread under the surrounding paint - eventually causing the ...

How do you treat steel so it doesn't rust? ›


Galvanizing is a method of rust prevention. This is accomplished through hot-dip galvanizing or electroplating. The iron or steel object is coated in a thin layer of zinc. This stops oxygen and water from reaching the metal underneath but the zinc also acts as a sacrificial metal.

Which is the best method to prevent rusting *? ›

Oiling, greasing or painting: By applying oil, grease, or paint, the surface gets a waterproof coating and the moisture and oxygen cannot come into direct contact with the iron article. Hence, rusting is prevented.

What can I spray on bolts to keep them from rusting? ›

Zinc flake coatings – such as Delta Protekt® or Delta-Tone® – are currently the most popular protection for steel bolts and washers. Such coatings are applied like paint and then baked to create a barrier; if more layers are added, the coating also acts as a friction-proof coating.

Does WD-40 prevent rust from getting worse? ›

Then use WD-40 to help prevent rust even further. This lubricant does not just prevent rust but protects your car in all weather conditions and keeps the parts dry. It penetrates the areas on a deep level and prevents them from oxidizing further.

Can Vaseline stop metal from rusting? ›

Prevent Rusting

Along with corrosion, petroleum jelly is also good at keeping rust off your tools and other metal goods. Lightly coat your tools after you clean them with a bit of Vaseline and you'll be set to go.

What is the best oil for tools? ›

Keep Your Tools Running Smoothly With the Best Lubricant Oil
  • 1 Lucas Oil Air Tool Lubricant Oil.
  • 2 WD-40 Multi-Use Lubricant Oil.
  • 3 3-IN-ONE Multi-Purpose Lubricant Oil.
  • 4 Trick Shot Penetrating Lubricant Oil.
May 12, 2021

What oil should you use on tools? ›

For power tools, you'll use either a mineral oil or synthetic oil base. Mineral oil lubricants are often used as industrial lubricants. They are less expensive than synthetic oils, less toxic, and easier to dispose of. Most machine oils have a mineral oil base.

Does Olive Oil Stop metal rusting? ›

Rust Prevention

Tools, lawnmowers, window catches, nuts and bolts, to list a few. Look around and you will be surprised how many thing you have in your home that are prone to rust. A thin coating of olive oil goes a long way to preventing rust.

How do you preserve something rusty? ›

He recommended a product called Penetrol normally used as a paint additive to improve flow and adhesion that also seals and stops rust. It can be used alone as a base coat on bare metal and will fix the rust while preserving the appearance.

How do you preserve old rusted metal? ›

Everbrite™ will seal moisture out of rusted metal to help prevent further corrosion and will prevent rust stains. On most metals, two coats of Everbrite™ Clear Protective Coating are recommended. On raw steel or rusted metal, 3 to 4 coats are recommended because the metal is very porous.

How do you protect metal after removing rust? ›

After rust has been removed the metal needs to be sealed to prevent it from rusting in the future. A primer is applied and then is usually top coated with a paint or coating. Of note, some paints include a primer in their formulation.

Will vinegar damage tools? ›

The mild acid safely dissolves rust without damaging your tools (so long as you don't forget about them in the vinegar bath). I like cleaning vinegar because it works harder and faster (especially on very heavy, stubborn rust), but white vinegar does a good job too.

What to put on rust to stop it from spreading? ›

Permatex Rust Treatment destroys old rust and prevents new rust in one step. Just brush or spray on and within minutes rust is replaced by a durable black polymer coating, which can be painted and serves as an excellent protective primer.

How do you stop rust forever? ›

The most common way to stop rust on metals is by fragmenting or brushing the metal surface using sandpaper. Another rust removal method is to apply phosphoric acid which converts the red iron oxide into black ferric phosphate on direct application to rusted iron.

Does sealing rust stop it? ›

By sealing out moisture, using a rust converter extends the life of metal and prevents future corrosion from occurring. Your new surface will be rust proof.


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