I lived in the deserts of Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico, and later moved to Colorado. While Texas did have more humidity than I was used to (certainly more than the other three), rust was never an issue. You could leave a tool outside on the ground for a year, and when you brought it back in, you’d just brush off the dirt and keep using it. Not so in Washington. Our state flower here is mold. Rust eats everything, including your precious tools. I have tools I’ve owned since I was ten years old that started rusting away when I moved here. Some of them even older. As someone who values tools more than almost anything, it’s painful. So I was reading one of my favorite blogs and ran across an entry about removing rust using molasses. Yeah, that stuff you eat. Now I’m not one to take life advice from a humor website, but it did get me wondering if there was something to it. So I googled it, and sure enough, it seems to work. The recipe varies, so I settled on one part molasses to five parts water. Dunk the tools in it and leave it for two weeks.
Here’s the result.
Now here’s the more interesting bit. The molasses seems to remove every single bit of rust protection from the steel, so you immediately need to oil or paint the surface to prevent new rust. If you look at the photo below, you’ll see rust on the tips. This photo was taken less than one minute after I walked outside with my new pristine cutters. One minute in the ultra-saturated humidity. If someone had told me steel would rust this fast, I’d have called them a liar, but I actually watched it happen with my own eyes. I rubbed the rust off with my fingers, then rubbed all the steel surfaces with an oily rag. That did the trick, no new rust. So the lesson here is to treat your tools quickly as soon as you’ve cleaned them up, lest you end up right back where you started.
With the success of the cutters, I grabbed a handful of other rust bits to try for the second batch. Drill bits, files, chuck keys, and some random tools.
Dunk them in the stinky gunk for two weeks…
And viola, most of them like new again. In fact, all of them like new except the one spade bit all the way on the right. That’s the only thing that didn’t come out completely like new. Amazing.
Now I just need to find a cheap source of molasses to de-rust some bigger items. Meanwhile, I used the last of the jar Julia bought me to do one more batch of tools. They’ve got about a week to go.