How to Clean Rusty Metal Parts

pile of rusted metal If you’re one of those hardy types that enjoys scrounging through piles of rusty metal, looking for useful pieces to recycle, then you’re gonna love this.

John Todd likes to make things out of old rusty machine parts – you know, the industrial stuff that’s built to last.

Years of experience

He’s learned a lot about cleaning rust and paint from these old parts and he’s shared his experience on how to "Remove Anything from Metal" over at

John Todd:

"Over the years, my salvage habit has turned me into something of an expert in amateur metal restoration. I am by no means a metalsmith, but I have collected a library of easy techniques that can enable any moderately equipped hobbyist to turn neglected lumps of metal into shiny, working components."

John details 3 ways you can clean up metal in your home shop:

  1. Mechanical
  2. Chemical
  3. Electrochemical

Most of us are familiar with the basics of the first two which usually involve a wire brush and steel wool, even sandblasting or else paint strippers and acids. John offers his advice on using these and other mechanical and chemical treatments.

Electrolytic conversion tank

This is what will get you excited. John’s article also tells you how to build an "electrolytic conversion tank" which uses a battery charger, a sodium carbonate solution and sacrificial anodes to remove the rustiest of rust. The article includes a great series of photos along with step-by-step instructions.

Remove Anything from Metal

Breathe new life in old cars

Old car enthusiasts will definitely be interested in the electrolytic conversion tank. There are always a bunch of parts that need a bit of spiffing up before they can be reassembled or painted.

Images: S. Müller/;

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