How To Remove Rust on Woodworking Tools

You might have heard the old saying “rust never sleeps” which is sadly true when it comes to woodworking tools! In pretty much every garage across the United States you will find lonely and abandoned tools. Perhaps you’ve forgotten they’re even there anymore but once you come across them, your natural instinct is to toss them away rather than removing rust. Don’t do it!

You can absolutely restore your rusty hammer or chisel and it doesn’t take a huge amount of effort to do it either. In this article, I will show you how to shake off the rust and bring your old tools back to their former glory.

Removing Rust with Citric Acid

There is a wide range of techniques to help you get rid of rust but first of all, let me provide you with a shopping list of sorts. These items will help you remove rust with citric acid.

  • Citric Acid
  • Wire Brushes
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Paper Towels or a Regular Towel
  • Plastic Container
  • Degreaser & Spray Bottle
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Lubricant (Oil or Spray)

Add just enough warm water to the plastic container to cover the tools and add up to ½ cup of the citric acid while stirring the water. You should see bubbles in the solution after a couple of minutes but if you don’t, add another ¼ cup of acid. Place the rusty tools in the solution and leave them there for about an hour.

Use the wire brush to start removing rust; it should come off relatively easily. If it doesn’t, leave the tools in the water for another hour or however long it takes before the rust scrapes off. Once the rust is gone, dry the tools with the paper towel or regular towel. Quickly lubricate them before the rust comes back.

Vinegar – Quick, Easy & Inexpensive!

The type of vinegar I recommend isn’t the kind people like to put on their fries! Once again, I’ll give a small list of things to buy:

  • White vinegar
  • Salt
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Baking soda
  • Steel wool or another kind of abrasive
  • A mat to protect the work space
  • A large plastic container

First of all you should give the rusty tools a hose down with water to get rid of deposited dirt and debris on their surfaces. Then you submerge them in a gallon of white vinegar. The next step is to add around one cup of salt; while the vinegar itself is relatively acidic, the added salt really ups the ante and adds to the solution’s rust removing power.

While it is up to you to decide, I would allow the solution to settle for at least a day before attempting to remove the rust. Take the tools out of the vinegar/salt bath (use gloves!) and begin scrubbing them with the steel wool pad. Once you’re satisfied with the level of rust removed, place the tools back in the container and add a gallon of water.

Add a cup of baking soda and mix the solution. The purpose of this step is to neutralize the acidity and it also does a great job of bringing out any vinegar trapped behind the rust; it should foam which heightens its rust removal potential. Leave the tools in the solution for around 10-15 minutes, take them out and start scrubbing again. Finally, rub the tools with a rag covered in denatured alcohol and add a coat of oil to prevent the rust returning.


While preventing rust is the best option, this advice comes a little late to save your old chisels from this fat. Most techniques for removing rust on your woodworking tools involve the use of an acidic solution. All you need is a little patience and you’ll be astonished by the amount of rust that can be removed. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on brand new tools, spend just a few bucks and purchase the above ingredients to breathe new life into your old hammers and chisels!


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