How to Remove Rust Using Electrolysis

Two parts of a rusty pair of pruners: one before electrolysis, one after
Two parts of rusty pruners: before electrolysis (top) and after (bottom)

Electrolysis is a simple and effective way to remove rust and restore metal without damaging the surface as sanding or scraping would. Electrolysis works best on iron and steel. Do not attempt electrolysis on stainless steel, since it can release toxic chromium gas.

How Electrolysis Works

Electrolysis occurs when a low-voltage, direct (DC) electrical current is passed through two pieces of metal suspended in a chemical (electrolyte) solution. The current causes a transfer of ions between the two pieces of metal which breaks down rust on the metal connected to the negative electrode (cathode) while corroding the metal connected to the positive electrode (anode).

Since electrolysis doesn’t affect the underlying metal, it’s perfect for cleaning tools, restoring antiques, and loosening rusted bolts.

Read on to find out how to remove rust with electrolysis.

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