Salt and vinegar for rust removal

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Sandy one writes:

Nonsense. Why on earth not? You do not have to know WHY to know it DOES.

That most woodworkers are not chemists. Do you dispute that? If so, on what grounds?

I am not criticizing your reasons for not recommending it. I'm not even saying back off. I am saying that the topic has gone on too deeply and too long to be considered a woodworking topic. It is now OT.

Not interested in playing any more of your silly games.

You really do have reading comprehension problems, don't you?

Marvelous. Or so you think. What sensibilities, by the way? No. Forget it. I forgot to drop this thing in with subject filters last time through. It has now developed it's own silliness, over and above the original unnecessary complexity.
Enjoy your continued messing about.
Charlie Self "Bore, n.: A person who talks when you wish him to listen." Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary
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On 17 May 2004 16:00:39 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@aol.comnotforme (Charlie Self) posted:

I thought you'd thrown your rocks and then run away.
Are you saying that aircraft pilots don't understand ALL the mechanisms of flight? I'll bet you don't fly.

So you didn't make this statement of the bleedin' obvious in support of your whine that this discussion shouldn't be here?
Are you trying to be deliberately obtuse?
Otherwise, why did you make such a silly, obvious and apparently irrelevant claim here? No wonder you snipped it.

Bullshit. If you have come to a point where you can't follow it anymore, just stop reading, and don't butt in with objections that it is irrelevant here. Derusting tools is an interest of many here I've read over the past seven years. Not everyone is as resistant to learning as you appear to be.

You butted in with your OT whinge, remember? I thought you'd already left. Do you really depend on filters that much?

My incomprehension is what, exactly? (I thought you wouldn't be able to put your finger on it.) Are you are now denying you jumped in here whinging that this thread you could not follow was irrelevant, and then you claimed you had pulled the plug? What's not to comprehend?

The sensibilities that prompted you to comment on the similarity of your name and my description of your behaviour. I considered it fleetingly and found it eminently ignorable. Your sensibilities prompted you to comment. No problem, but perhaps you might try to ignore it too?

Unnecessary for you. Again, you show your own selfishness. Do you not have the ability to ignore what you have no interest in? Is that why you need the crutch of filters?

Like we were before you decided to inject your spoiler? We will, thankyou.
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Disagree. One can observe a cause and effect repeatedly and draw valid conclusions without understanding the mechanism. Folks knew that dropping a stone on their foot would hurt long before Newton and an understanding of the nervous system (and do we yet fully understand the mechanism of gravity, or just have more sophisticated observations about it?) Charlie's point is valid; all we NEED to know is whether it works. I'm with you in fascination with understanding why it works, but that understanding is a want more than a need.

Reread the sentence you quoted.

Tell them what? That most woodworkers are not chemists? You tell them. I hate the "you idiot" stares I sometimes get when stating the obvious.

Why? What are the bad effects predicted by your understanding of chemistry, and do they prove out in practice?

Yes. I agree that it is not OT.

I suggest that he is stating his interest.
--
Alex
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posted:

Disagree. If you don't understand the mechanism, or the rationale, you are very likely to cock it up when things don't go exactly as expected. Especially with complex procedures. That's why they teach theory in all trade courses.

And does it? Charlie will likely never be quite sure. Someone has to figure out how it works to be able to do it competently. Not much is likely to go wrong with your strange hobby of dropping rocks on your foot, I would have thought. Now chemical procedures...

Again I disagree. So many things can go wrong with things chemical. So many things waiting to bite you on the ass. DAMHIKT.

Yes, and what point is it trying to make? Charlie is not a chemist, so woodworkers don't need to know any chemistry? Well if that's how he feels, why is he whining about our discussion about derusting tools?

See above.

Yep. Salt will enter the fine pits and interstices of the corroded surface and perpetuate future corrosion. Very difficult to clean thoroughly. There was a guy once who ignored chemistry and shot-blasted his aluminium boat with copper shot. It lasted but a few weeks. Chemistry is VERY important!

So Charlie is being selfish in complaining about the discussion we are having?

Why? In a thread that he is complaining about being irrelevant? Sounds like "dog in the manger" to me.
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LOL! Do you really think that the inorganic chemistry involved in the derusting process is more complex than the operation of the gravitational force and the organic chemistry and electrical processes involved in the sensing, transmittal, and interpretation of the pain signal?
Understanding theory does help immensely, when deviating from experience, but empirical evidence can be adequate for some instances, such as derusting some particular steel. Where I see theoretical knowledge of the mechanism helping is knowing how it might work on a different alloy, how different solutions might work if the known one is not available, predicting long-term effects if evidence is not available, etc.

I'd like to know.

No, I can quite competently grill a steak without understanding the physical and chemical changes taking place in the steak when it is heated. And a steak is, I would suggest, a far more complex object than a piece of rusted steel, and the processes involved are also more complex.

I'm sure you think they are more complex than the elemental forces of physics or biological systems. We might just have to agree to disagree on that! <g>

Yep. Sometimes I overcook a steak, and wonder if a more thorough knowledge of the chemical changes going on in it might have kept me from getting a medium-well steak when I wanted it medium.

No. That he is not a chemist, and that most woodworkers are not chemists, and are probably more interested in whether it works than how it works. Do you disagree? Do you really think that most woodworkers ARE chemists?

That's good for part 1 of my question. And I believe I saw in another post that you were going to do an experiment to find out part 2? I'll be interested in hearing your results.

Absolutely! And this is an excellent example where theory is important to predicting the result of an untried process.
--
Alex
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Sandy wrote...

Analogies aside, de-rusting a rusty article is not really a very complex process, nor are there "many" decisions to make, at least not in my understanding of "complex" and "many." Hyperbole, perhaps?

You must have misread, then. Alexy nailed it:
"That he is not a chemist, and that most woodworkers are not chemists, and are probably more interested in whether it works than how it works."
Additionally, Charlie's suggestion was that the discussion had drifted far enough afield to warrant an "OT" in the subject line, not that it shouldn't be discussed. Your "reading" goes a good bit beyond hyperbole; it teeters precipitously toward mischaracterization.
Jim
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posted:

Nope, comparative. Cf dropping a rock on your foot :)
For the derusting, you must decide what vinegar to use, how long to soak, how much salt, what is that black sludge in the bottom, what sort of steel is it, how much to rinse afterwards, what to apply afterwards, and do you dry it, and how? And those are just a few decisions/questions that occur off the top of my head.
I have at the moment on my kitchen sink two tumblers with half an inch of vinegar in each and excess salt in one of them. I have placed several very rusty nails in both tumblers. They have been there for five hours so far. Nothing much is happening, except for a very pale yellowish tinge to the solution. The non-salted one seems a little darker yellow than the salted one, but this could be an optical illusion from the white salt sitting on the bottom. I will leave them there until the nails seem to be clean where treated, and then rinse in tap water, and place out in the weather again for however long. See what the subsequent corrosion is on the cleaned areas. I do hope I get some cleaned areas to compare :)
My conclusion so far is that using vinegar to clean off rust is a waste of bloody time :)
To derust some historic old very rusted horseshoes years ago, I consulted the conservation technicians at the local museum. The technical discussion was fascinating, and I learned a lot from it. But you had to have a basis in chemistry.

In the context of whining that our discussion was OT for this forum. Otherwise, what was the aim of his message?

Nope, strictly speaking, OT subjects should not be discussed on newsgroups. Of course they are, but as at least two of us thought our discussion was on topic, I suggest Charlie was out of line. Look at the subject header.

So why did he say that he was not a chemist and most woodworkers were not chemists? Just idle chit chat? Sorry, I thought he was trying to make a point in his context of complaining about our discussion. The point I received was that because he didn't understand the discussion, it was irrelevant on this forum. Otherwise, you are saying that Charlie makes silly comments, out of context, and is therefore perhaps a bit loopy? I thought he was just a busybody wanting to have a moan about something. Could he not just have ignored what did not interest HIM?
What really was the point of Charlie's interjection? It contributed nothing except to complain about what *his* message was even more guilty of. If he was not interested, he should have just ignored it.
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Sandy wrote...

Ok, perhaps more complex than dropping a rock on your foot, but that doesn't say a whole lot, does it? (G)

It certainly is if you watch it. (G)

That wasn't the context. He started by disagreeing with your assertion that "What we need explaining is why the presence of sodium chloride in the vinegar is advantageous." He noted that "we" non-chemist woodworkers do not need that explained at all. We need only know whether it works, not why.
Indeed, even a correct, lucid, and perfectly presented explanation would be of limited utility to the majority, although it might well be interesting to many of us. An inconclusive, jargon-filled technical debate would have to have considerably less utility, wouldn't you agree?
Only afterward did he observe that the thread had wandered into OT territory, and even then he did not suggest aborting the thread, but rather that the subject line should have been altered.
Don't get me wrong -- personally, I am quite interested in the discussion, and have been following the thread closely, but obviously I do have a penchant for useless academic debate :-). I interjected because I felt your take on Charlie's post was wrong, and that the points he was really trying to make were valid, to wit: 1) most readers of this NG neither need nor want to understand this stuff, and 2) the thread has drifted off topic for this NG. I still want to hear it.
Jim
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There. Does that settle it? :)
dwhite

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Dan White wrote...

LOL! I figured everyone else had already bailed on the thread! (G)
Jim
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Hell no! I've got my own two samples of rusted iron soaking in Palmolive right now. Where's Madge? Actually I am doing my own salt/no salt test and will report here when it is done.
dwhite
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posted:

So I shouldn't have bothered to show the results of my experiment? No-one else is interested?
It really staggers me that folks are happy to continue with a useless, but potentially harmful derusting technique just because the rationale gets a little hard. OK, I'll keep my mouth shut in future :)
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On Tue, 18 May 2004 16:07:14 GMT, "Dan White"
Settle what?
That salt and vinegar are useless for derusting rusty tools? Pretty much, I would contend, so far.
That Charlie was being a whinging busybody by complaining about our discussion? Yep, see my reponse to Jim.

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woodworkers
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On Wed, 19 May 2004 05:22:12 GMT, "Dan White"

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First of all let me say that my interest in this thread, started by Sandy, was caused by my own questioning of why salt helped clean copper pots with vinegar. Months ago I poured vinegar on a copper pot and it did nothing. Then I sprinkled salt on, and the oxides just wiped away. I figure whatever mechanism was working there is probably not that different from what happens with iron. So on with my not-so-scientifically-controlled test:
I didn't have any rusted nails, but I did find two old 1.25 lb free weights. These are 4" in diameter with a 1" hole for the barbell to go through. The annular region between this hole and the outer edge of the weight was recessed and could hold maybe a tablespoon worth of liquid, possibly more. The annular region was embossed with the manufacturer's name and the weight. Each weight was rusted moderately and had about the same amount of rust. This means that there is more rust than you could casually remove, but not so much that the weight had deep pits.
I poured vinegar into both, and then added an excess of salt to one of them. Within hours, both were effervescing slightly. (They had bubbles collecting on the surface). Note that this was done in contact with air, and with plenty of surface area. After 48 hours I poured the liquid out of each into test tube like containers. What I observe is that the vinegar/salt sample was a light yellowish/orange color, and contained a fair amount of black flecks and little chunks, in addition to some very small black particles. On the other hand, the vinegar/no salt solution was a deep red color, very different from the vinegar/salt sample. It had no flecks or chunks of black material, but did have a fair amount of very fine, small black particles. In both cases, black material built up on the edges of the liquid, and also on some of the submerged surfaces.
I cleaned the weights by hand and observed that the rust was gone from both, but the vinegar/salt weight looked SLIGHTLY cleaner. I then used a brass brush to clean them up further. After drying them out, it appears that the vinegar/salt weight is a little brighter looking. The vinegar only weight looks darker, as if there is dark material caught up in the fine pits and crevices of the weight.
Overall I'd say that there is a definite difference between the two as one liquid was light yellow or orange, and the other was deep red. The vinegar/salt weight also looked a little cleaner, but it is a very slight difference. It could be that these old weights just looked a little different from the start.
What caused the red color in one and not the other? Is the iron chloride complex colorless, while FeCl3 is red?
Sorry for being long-winded. Hope this spurs some ideas.
dwhite PS. I might add clean water to each next to see if there is any difference in corrosion rate as postulated by Sandy.

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Check your inorganic chemistry books under electronegativity. Sodium's about as good as it gets, iron and copper not in the same league. Of course it helps to have a good acid electrolyte in your cell.
Now try cleaning your silver with baking soda in an aluminum pan....

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Although iron and copper straddle hydrogen, which is an important watershed. Very few sodium tools available :)

That would be acetic acid? H+ is surely what you need to dissolve insoluble carbonates/hydroxides/oxides? (Along with an anion that does not have insoluble salts with the iron)

BBbbbbut the topic was rust :)

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On Wed, 19 May 2004 20:27:09 GMT, "Dan White"
Nope, I merely interjected my question about the need for salt into an already existing thread. But I see what you mean.

Wiped away with a cloth? The salt may have been acting as a scourer? Copper is the other side of hydrogen in the electrochemical reactivity table, so perhaps there is some difference here with iron?

Except for what I said above.

Now this is perhaps the most important step and you have not elaborated. How did you clean these things? The salt crystals can act as a scourer, so if you wiped them with a rag....

Could be that more of the orange rust had dissolved leaving the black magnetite (Fe3O4), and the salt and vinegar dissolved less of this orange rust leaving it appearing lighter. Both my examples seem minutely more orange (lighter colour) than the non treated parts of the nails.

I would guess that they are the same colour, containing the same coloured ion Fe+++, but I'm not sure. I'm not even sure that this iron chloride complex exists, as my question as to what happens to all that excess Na+ was never answered.
My vinegar-only is definitely effervescing slightly more than the salt and vinegar as seen this morning by swirling the bubbles away and looking again in ten minutes for new bubbles to form. Previously, effervescence appeared roughly similar and quite slight.

My reading suggests that the salt-treated article will rust more, even if left dry. This is the problem, as the salt in the minute pits will attract atmospheric moisture and act as electrolyte in minute electrochemical cells. This will happen more in some alloys than others.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
My experiment was with very rusted nails.
The vinegar only solution is brown(orange) and the salt and vinegar is pale yellow. Effervescence is still going ever more strongly (though still quite weak) at 46 hours. There seems to be more black specks floating in the salted version. This may have been due to an original difference in the nails. Both have a few rust particles on the bottom of the tumblers. The nails are imperceptibly different from when I put them in the solutions -- slightly more yellow where the solutions have acted, but still very heavily rusted.
I found that salt perhaps inhibits the process slightly, (except, perhaps, as a scourer when the article is wiped with a rag?) I worry about that salt in the rust pits, and so personally would bever use salt on anything of mine that I valued.
My conclusion is that this procedure is useless for heavily rusted articles. And salt makes an insignificant difference.
A wire brush and/or electrolysis might be a better way to go.
Thanks for an interesting exchange, Dan.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Dan:

Sandy:
Sandy:
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with
The salt could be a scouring agent, but I don't think this is the main benefit of salt. If you pour the salt on, you see small regions around each grain where the rust is dissolving, even before you touch the pot with a sponge.

happens
Yes, for sure that could be it. I was hoping not to relearn every electronegativity etc etc. :)

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I honestly don't think salt scouring had much to do with it. After I dumped out the acid I ran them under water and literally rubbed them with my fingers. It was really more of just brushing the black bits off the metal. I think all the salt had dissolved in the acid after 48 hours, anyway. Now, I next cleaned the weights with a brass brush, so that's where some scouring comes in. Even so, the vinegar/salt weight was cleaner, but I wouldn't say so conclusively. It really could just have been a difference in the two weights from the start. If there were any scouring other than the brass brush, it would probably be more from the bits of Fe2O3 or whatever it is that turns black.

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It is interesting, though, to note that in my experiment the vinegar/salt solution was pale orange, while the vinegar only was deep red. I'm interested to see how it ends up in your test. There is *definitely* something different going on in each case, and it would be interesting to know what that is. I wonder if the vinegar only is dissolving more Fe metal, and is somehow inhibited by the salt. Maybe this needs to be done in the absence of air, as the other poster suggested. Maybe the results would be different.

Ditto. You make a good point about salt corrosion. Good to know.
dwhite
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