I’ve been cleaning old tools ever since I was a kid. I fell in love with the way they looked and wanted to make them look better by cleaning all the rust off of them. After all, when they were in use in someone’s shop, the blade was sharp, the parts moved freely and the tool didn’t have a speck of rust on them. It was only after they were left for dead did rust start appearing on the metal making them appear unusable. I knew early on that with a little love, these tools could come back to life.
In the beginning, cleaning the rust off the plane was attacking it with 220 grit sandpaper. With lots of elbow grease I got the job done. Then after a few years, I moved onto using a flap wheel on my drill press. Rust removal was faster but left a cloud of rusted dust in the air. Something I had a hunch was not too healthy to breathe. I tried electrolysis for a while but thought it was too cumbersome and time-consuming hooking each part to a positively charged metal rod and battery charger.
Then while reading internet woodworking forums, I ran across a member talking about Evapo-Rust. I was intrigued and had to give it a try. I bought a gallon of it, poured it into a container, dropped the parts in, and let them set overnight. The results were amazing! Nothing I had ever tried worked so well with so little effort. There was only one problem; the price. I bought a five gallon bucket form a company called Nebraska Hotrod for $65.00. It would last about five servings worth of tool cleaning, pouring about a gallons worth of it in a container at a time.
Then this spring I read about citric acid. I’ve heard it mentioned before but I was so in love with Evapo-Rust that I thought nothing would work better. But the economy was tight, my wallet was thin and I was open to the idea of using it. Plus I was curious to see how it would compare to my beloved Evapo-Rust. I looked in my local grocery store for it but came up empty. I was told that it could be found at health food stores but eBay was easier and I found it available there. I bought 15 lbs of it for about $42.00 and received it within a week.
I poured one cup of citric acid in about a gallons worth of water and dropped my parts in just like it was Evapo-Rust. I use a 30″ window planter box as my container as it’s long enough for #8 jointers. I waited overnight for the results and was pleasantly surprised! My parts turned out just as well as if they had been sitting in Evapo-Rust.
The true benefit of citric acid is the price. A cup of citric acid weighs about one pound and a five gallon bucket of Evapo-Rust would last me five servings worth of tool cleaning. So when you do the math, A gallon of Evapo-Rust cost me about $13.00 ($65.00/5 gallons) while a pound of citric acid cost me a meer $2.80 ($42.00/15 lbs). Now that’s a price that I can live with.