Tool maintenance and rust removal

Rust — the enemy of tools all around the world. The substance can destroy the effectiveness of tools and cause them to break entirely. Losing tools to rust can be costly and potentially dangerous if a rusty tool breaks while in use. Instead of discarding rusty tools, you can save money by learning how to remove rust properly and prevent it from forming in the first place. In addition to preventing rust, proper cleaning and storage can keep your tools working longer and reduce the costs of replacing them.

Ongoing Tool Maintenance Checklist: Cleaning Your Tools and Keeping Them in Working Order

As you work to keep your hand tools and power tools in good condition, you can follow a few best practices to clean and store your tools properly: 

Clean your tools

Hand Tool Cleaning and Maintenance

Your hand tools are a necessity for most yardwork and home projects. You don't want them to rust or grow dull. Below you can find a hand tool maintenance checklist to help make sure you take the required steps to keep your tools operating at a high level:

  • Wipe them down: One of the simplest ways you can clean off your tools and keep them in good condition is simply wiping them off. Take an old towel or rag to wipe off the debris, grease or dust left over on the tools before storing them. Leaving grease and other materials on the tools can end up harming them, so it's crucial to take this step.
  • Check for damage: After wiping down your hand tools, examine them for any signs of damage. Keep an eye out for cracks, splinters or breaks that could harm people during use or cause the tool to lose its effectiveness. In addition to looking for damage, search for corrosion or rust. If you find any damage, set the tool aside until you can repair or replace it. 
  • Use a powered grinder for striking tools: Over time, your striking tools' metal heads will start to spread out and form a ridge at the edge of the metal. Eventually, this ridge will continue to spread and grow thinner, causing it to break. This breakage can lead to the metal head separating from the rest of the tool, potentially harming those in the area. To prevent breakage, regularly use your grinder to grind off any edges that form.
  • Lubricate tools: Once all your cleaning is finished and you've checked for any damage, it's a good practice to lubricate the tools that have adjustable parts with an all-purpose oil, like WD-40. You can also lightly spray down other metal tools with the oil, but make sure no oils get on the handles. Use a rag to get rid of extra oil before you store the tool. This lubricant can help prevent rust and corrosion.
Storing hand tools

Storing Hand Tools

Besides cleaning your tools properly, you also need to store them right. Improper storage procedures can end up causing corrosion and other damage to the tools. Ideally, you should store your tools in an area with a consistent temperature and minimal moisture exposure. 

In particular, lawn and garden tools are susceptible to rusting since people tend to leave them on the ground. To prevent their exposure to moisture, it's a good idea to hang them up on the wall, so they aren't touching the floor. Moisture can cause rust, so it's important to ensure tools don't get exposed to it for long periods.

A good storage area should have a system to keep all your tools in the right place, so you don't lose them or place them in harmful areas. A good storage system will include shelving units, storage containers and toolboxes. After using any of the tools, ensure you put the tools back in their appropriate places.

A work table is another excellent addition to a storage room. On this table, you can inspect tools and conduct any cleaning or maintenance tasks. To keep the table protected and make cleanup easier, you can cover it with plastic sheeting. 

Power tool maintenance

Power Tool Maintenance

Since power tools are made with complex mechanical and electrical parts, they're even more important to keep clean and well-maintained. Common items like electric sanders, nailers, saws and drills all need to be cared for to keep them in working condition. Ensure your power tools run for a long time by following these maintenance best practices:

  • Clean after every job: When dust and debris build up on a power tool, they can cause the tool to no longer function. If you don't know how to clean tools, the process should be simple to learn. Most of the time, all you need to do is wipe them down with a rag or old towel after finishing a job.
  • Deep clean regularly: While you don't need to deep clean your power tools after every job, you should get in the habit of doing so periodically. To conduct a deeper clean, use a damp cloth to get more grime and dust off the exterior. To get into harder-to-reach areas that are often neglected, like exhausts or intakes, use oiled cotton swabs. If you can't reach dust deep in your vents, use a can of compressed air to blow it out.
  • Inspect for damage: Make a point to look over your power tools for damage regularly. Make sure to check your power cords as well, since they could cause a fire or shock the operator if they're damaged. Damaged power tools should only be used after they've been fixed.
  • Lubricate key parts: Locate the moving parts of your power tool, and lubricate them to make sure they don't start to stick. Along with keeping the tool working as intended, the lubricant can also prevent rust. It's a good idea to check your owner's manual to see if the tool requires a specific type of lubricant.
  • Maintain batteries: You need batteries to keep your power tools running. Always use your battery at least once every two weeks. Keep them working at their best by fully charging them before using them enough to fully discharge their power every two weeks. You can also clean off the batteries with alcohol and cotton swabs.

Storing Power Tools

As you store your power tools, your goal should be to keep them free from moisture, dust and negative environmental concerns. It's often best to keep them in their original packaging or cases. If you don't have a case, you can also place them in tool chests or specialty storage drawers. The storage room should be kept in a controlled climate that stays at moderate temperatures.

Ensure the batteries for your power tools are stored in a place that's dry and clean, and keep them away from very hot temperatures. Along with properly storing your batteries, you can store your tools' instruction manuals in a cabinet or a toolbox drawer to access them quickly.

How to prevent tool rust

How to Prevent Tool Rust

Keeping rust off tools is one of the most helpful things you can do to keep your tools in good condition. Rust forms when iron or steel is left exposed to both water and oxygen for a certain amount of time. Avoid rust with these five tips:

  • Keep storage clean and dry: Make sure any place you store your tools is dry and clean. Ensure there's no dust in your toolbox or storage area, as dust can attract moisture. Additionally, wipe off any tools before storage.
  • Use a rust inhibitor: Lubricants like WD-40 can act as a rust inhibitor. After drying off the tool, spray it with an acceptable lubricant.
  • Invest in a dehumidifier: A dehumidifier can help you better control your storage area's climate and reduce the humidity. Investing in one can help you keep your metal tools in top shape for years to come. 
  • Keep moisture out of the toolbox: Toolboxes can be a hotbed for excess moisture to build up. To prevent this moisture, you can place silica gel packs in the toolbox.
  • Seal or paint exposed metal parts: Newer tools are often made with a protective layer of chrome or powder-coated paint, but older tools usually aren't. Without sealant or paint on your tools, the metal portion is much more susceptible to the negative effects of the elements. Add paint or rubber sealants to your older tools to help protect them from rust.

How to Remove Rust From Tools

If rust has built up on your tools, there's no need to throw them out immediately. You can save money by restoring older tools rather than putting them in the trash at the first sign of rust. The only time you'll definitely want to discard a rusted tool is if it's so corroded that holes have formed in the metal or iron. 

There are a few different methods for proper power tool maintenance and rust removal. Keep in mind that you should always unplug any power tools and remove their batteries before submerging them in liquid. Learn more about how to remove rust from power tools and hand tools below:

Sand or scrape away rust

1. Sand or Scrape Away Rust 

Some rust can be removed from tools by scrubbing it away with an appropriate abrasive material. When rust has gone unchecked, scrubbing might not be enough. However, for light-to-moderate rust issues, trying to scrub the rust away is an excellent first step.

To remove the rust properly, you'll need the appropriate materials. For the initial cleaning, make sure to have dish detergent. For scrubbing, you can choose from steel wool, scouring pads or sandpaper. For tougher jobs, try an electric drill, wire wheel brushes compatible with the drill and some kerosene.

Removing rust from tools through sanding or scraping is a quick two- or three-step process:

  1. Remove any grease or dirt with dish soap: Before you start to clean the rust off, it's best to clean the rusted tools. Cleaning them ensures there's no grease or dirt on them when you begin to scrub. After cleaning, rinse them with water and dry them completely.
  2. Scrub the rust: Take your abrasive material and start to scrub the rusty surface. Begin the scrubbing process with the coarsest abrasive you have, as the coarseness will assist with removing pockmarks and built-up rust. Once you've gotten most of the rust off the surface, switch over to a finer abrasive so you can smooth out any grooves left by the initial coarse abrasive. 
  3. Bring in a drill-powered wire wheel: If you're having trouble removing rust using the two steps above, you can often get it off by using a drill-powered wire wheel. To coat your rusty tool with a cutting lubricant, use some kerosene and wait for a few minutes after application. After coating, use a wire wheel attached to a drill to buff the surface and get rid of the rust. At the end of buffing, use fine-grain sandpaper to get rid of any residue.
Remove rust with vinegar and salt

2. Vinegar and Salt

If you have tools with large areas of rust, you may want to use vinegar and salt to help remove it. The mixture of salt and vinegar will help soften up rust spots, making it easier for you to scrub the rust off of the surface.

To do this job properly, you should gather a towel for cleaning and a towel for drying. Next, you should have a bin large enough for the tool to fit inside and enough white vinegar to fill the bin. Finally, you need steel wool or a metal brush.

Below are the steps for rust removal using the vinegar and salt method:

  • Clean tools: Ensure your tools are clean before you attempt to remove the rust. Extra dirt, grease or grime can harm rust removal. After cleaning, dry off the tools.
  • Prepare the bin: Place your rusted tool in a bin big enough to fit the tool inside. Next, cover the tool in vinegar until it's fully submerged. For every liter of vinegar used, pour 1/4 cup of salt evenly over the vinegar's surface.
  • Wait: It's going to take some time for the mixture to start breaking down the rust. Usually, the rust is ready to be scrubbed off somewhere between one to three days after placing the tool in the vinegar. Check the rust on the tool every so often to see if it's softened.
  • Scrub the surface: After the rust softens, scrub the surface using steel wool or a metal brush. If the rust has softened enough, it should be easy to scrub it off. 
  • Rinse off and wash tools: After the rust has been removed from the tool, you should wash it off and rinse it to remove anything kicked up from the scrubbing process. Finally, dry off the tool, so it doesn't rust again.
Remove rust with baking soda

3. Baking Soda

For smaller areas of rust, you can use baking soda to soften it up. For this process, all you need is towels for cleaning and drying, baking soda, water and a brush for scrubbing. To remove rust with baking soda, follow these steps:

  • Clean tools: Clean the rusted tool and degrease it before you try to remove the rust. After cleaning it off with a towel, you should also dry the tool.
  • Mix a paste: Stir baking soda and water in a small dish until they reach the consistency of a paste.
  • Apply the paste: Take the paste and spread it onto the rusted area. Leave the paste on the rusted surface for two hours.
  • Scrub the paste: Once the paste has sat for a couple of hours, scrub it with your brush. Continue scrubbing until the rust comes off.
  • Rinse off tools: After the rust has been removed, rinse the paste off the tool and dry it.
Remove rust with oxalic acid

4. Oxalic Acid

If the above methods don't work, you can try oxalic acid. As a commercial rust remover, oxalic acid is designed to dissolve tough-to-remove rust. For this process, you need towels to clean and dry the tools, rubber gloves, goggles, water and oxalic acid.

Follow these steps to complete the rust removal process:

  • Clean off rusted tools: Before you try to remove the rust, ensure the tool surface is entirely clean and degreased. Dry it off after cleaning.
  • Put on safety equipment: Before you handle the acid, put on rubber gloves and goggles to protect you.
  • Prepare container: Get a container large enough that your tools will fit inside it. Pour enough water to submerge the tool fully. For every gallon of water you put in, add three tablespoons of the oxalic acid. Mix the water slowly, so the acid doesn't splash out and land on any exposed skin or other items around you. 
  • Let tools soak: Put the rusted tools into the container. Generally, you need to wait 20 minutes for the rust to come off the tool. You should also check to see what the product instructions say. 
  • Rinse away rust and acid: After you've let the tool soak, you can simply rinse the rust off of it. Ensure you also rinse off all the acid. Finally, dry the tool off.
Update your workshop with new tools

Update Your Workshop With Hand Tools and Power Tools From Construction Fasteners and Tools

Now that you know how to better maintain and prevent rust on tools, it's time for you to update your workshop with the latest power and hand tools available. To give you an idea of what you can expect when buying from us, consider some of the benefits of shopping at Construction Fasteners and Tools:

  • Vast inventory: Whether you're a DIYer or a contractor, it's likely one tool won't be enough to complete a project. We recognize this need for variety, and we're a one-stop-shop for tools. You can find everything here, from cordless drills and chainsaws to hammers and axes
  • Customer care: The staff at Construction Fasteners and Tools is dedicated to providing high-quality service to our customers. No matter how large or small your order is, you'll feel equally valued by our representatives. We care that you get the right tool at the right price, and we will be happy to help you search. 
  • 30-day return period: Decide you don't need a tool? Return it within 30 days and get your money back.
  • More than tools: Besides tools, you can find safety equipment on our site, along with accessories that can help you customize your tools. You can also find a huge selection of fasteners that can be bought in bulk or smaller quantities.

With all the offerings at Construction Fasteners and Tools, you can find the exact tool for your needs. Browse our selection of power tools and hand tools today. And if you have any questions, please contact us.