power tool

This is How To Remove Rust From Power Tools

Key Takeaways

1. The first thing when looking at how to remove rust from power tools is to prioritize safety by wearing appropriate protective gear such as safety goggles.
2. Regular maintenance and rust removal are essential for optimal tool performance, longevity, and safety.
3. Assess the extent of rust on the tool by examining it thoroughly, potentially disassembling it to get a better view.
4. Devise a plan of attack based on the tool and extent of rust, taking necessary precautions and documenting the disassembly process.
5. Choose the appropriate cleaning method based on the tool’s complexity, material, and extent of rust. Start with milder methods and progress to more aggressive ones if needed.
6. Gentle scrubbing with sandpaper or a wire brush is effective for light rust, while severe rust may require power tools like a grinder.
7. Disassemble parts when necessary for easier cleaning, considering methods like soaking in white vinegar or using WD-40 and steel wool.
8. Carefully clean and maintain individual parts, documenting the process with photographs for reassembly later.
9. Remember to work slowly and cautiously to prevent damage and loss of parts during the cleaning and reassembly process.

Cleaning up rusty hand tools is pretty straightforward if you have the necessary supplies on hand. Trying to figure out how to remove rust from power tools is another matter altogether. Power tools involve cords, motors, and plenty of moving parts – all of which have to be accounted for.

Despite the potential pitfalls, you can remove rust from power tools without causing any harm to yourself or the tools. The secret to success is using your head. Rather than rushing into things based on a hunch or your best guess, take the time to think through what you are doing. Avail yourself of online research before you start working on any tool.

Safety Precautions When Dealing with Rusty Tools

When addressing the age-old issue of rust on your power tools, safety should be your paramount concern. Think of it as a pre-requisite – something as crucial as finding the right size of the wrench or as fundamental as knowing where the power switch is on your drill.

Protective Gear

First and foremost, ensure you’re kitted out in the appropriate protective gear. Safety goggles are not just a fashion statement in your workshop; they protect your eyes from stray rust particles and the substances you’re using to combat the rust. Rust, aside from being unsightly, can also be quite sharp and could cause serious injuries. Gloves, preferably heavy-duty, can shield your hands from unexpected nicks and cuts, not to mention they’ll keep the cleaning chemicals off your skin.

A trusty dust mask or respirator will keep those tiny rust particles and chemical fumes at bay. Some of the cleaning solutions you may use to dissolve rust can emit strong fumes which you should avoid breathing in. The outfit may not land you on the cover of a style magazine, but it’s better than a trip to the emergency room.

Well-Ventilated Workspace

Next on your checklist should be your work environment. Make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated area, especially if you’re using potent chemicals. Your garage with the door wide open, or an outdoor space, would be an ideal location. The fresh air flow will help to quickly disperse any potentially harmful fumes, keeping your workspace safe.

Finally, remember to keep your workspace clean and organized. After all, a clutter-free work area means fewer hazards. Now that we’ve discussed safety precautions, you’re well equipped to tackle that pesky rust on your power tools. Remember, with the right safety measures, you can not only restore your tools but also enjoy the process.

Identifying Common Power Tools Prone to Rust

In the realm of power tools, not all tools are created equal. Especially when it comes to rust, some are more prone than others due to varying factors such as material composition, design, and exposure conditions.

Material Composition

Power tools are typically constructed using a variety of materials, the most common of which is steel. This includes carbon steel, stainless steel, and alloy steel. Carbon steel tools, such as table saws, drill bits, and wrenches, are particularly susceptible to rust due to their high iron content. Stainless steel and alloy steel tools, on the other hand, have additional elements like chromium and nickel which enhance their resistance to rust.


The design of a power tool can also influence its likelihood to rust. Tools with many nooks and crannies, like angle grinders and bench grinders, are more susceptible as they provide more surface area for moisture to collect. Additionally, tools with metal parts that are in close contact, such as the pin and bushing in a chain saw, can trap moisture and promote rust formation.

Exposure Conditions

Finally, exposure conditions play a vital role in rust formation. Power tools used in damp or humid environments, like in basements or near the ocean, are more prone to rust. Tools like tile saws, pressure washers, or any tool frequently exposed to water, are particularly vulnerable.

Recognizing the factors that make certain power tools more likely to rust can help you take preventative measures to protect them. Ultimately, rust doesn’t discriminate – any metal tool can be a victim if conditions are right. However, some tools are more at risk, and being aware of these can aid in maintaining your power tool collection’s longevity.

Understanding the Impact of Rust on Power Tool Performance

When it comes to power tool performance, rust is a silent enemy. It might start small, merely an annoyance that doesn’t seem to warrant immediate attention. However, rust is not just a cosmetic concern; it has the potential to undermine the overall functionality of your tools.

Efficiency Degradation

One of the primary ways rust impacts power tool performance is by causing a decrease in efficiency. Over time, rust can build up on the moving parts of power tools. This creates additional friction that wasn’t intended in the tool’s design. As a result, the tool has to work harder to perform the same tasks, leading to reduced efficiency and a drain on battery life for cordless tools. The end product is a tool that doesn’t work as powerfully or efficiently as it once did.

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Shortened Lifespan

Rust doesn’t stop where it starts; it tends to spread if left unchecked. This means that what starts as a small, surface-level problem can evolve into a major issue, compromising the tool’s structure. Eventually, the rust will eat away at the metal, weakening it, and leading to premature wear and tear. The lifespan of your once dependable power tool is drastically reduced, and it may fail when you need it the most.

Safety Concerns

The most crucial impact, however, is on safety. Power tools are designed with precision, and each part plays a critical role in their safe operation. When rust compromises the integrity of these parts, it can lead to unexpected malfunctions. For instance, a rusted saw blade could snap during use, or a corroded drill bit could break, creating potential hazards. Remember, a tool in disrepair is a safety risk in the making.

Performance Expectations

In summary, to ensure that your power tools operate at peak performance, rust should never be overlooked. Regular maintenance and rust removal are as crucial to your tool’s functionality as they are to its longevity and your safety. When in doubt, take the time to address rust issues – your tools (and your projects) will thank you for it.

Most of the rest of this post will cover how to remove rust from power tools in a general sense. Though it might mention certain types of tools by name, the information you glean here can be put to use with virtually any power tool.

How to Remove Rust from Power Tools – Step-by-Step

If you’re ready, let’s get to it. Below is a step-by-step process for cleaning up rusty tools.

1: Determine the Extent of the Rust

You’re going to want to come up with a plan for removing as much rust as you possibly can without compromising your own safety. In order to do so, you have to determine the extent of the rust. This means thoroughly examining the tool in question. You may have to take it apart, at least to some degree.

Maybe you are looking at a table saw. All the rust you are dealing with appears on the top of the steel table. It is a pretty easy situation to assess. On the other hand, maybe you notice that the blade is rusty as well. That being the case, there may be additional rust you can’t see located inside the motor housing.

This is where you have to determine whether or not it is worth taking the entire thing apart. If so, it is a good idea to go online and see if you can find disassembly instructions for your particular make and model. Someone may have already done the work for you – and cataloged what they did with pictures!

2: Devise a Plan of Attack

Once you know the extent of the rust, you can step back and devise a plan of attack. Again, let us use the table saw as an example. You have decided not to take the saw apart. You are just going to clean the tabletop and the blade.

Your plan of attack will probably include at least detaching the blade and motor housing from the bottom of the table. That way you can get to the blade more easily. You’ll also be able to clean the top of the table without having to worry about accidentally cutting yourself.

Your plan of attack will differ depending on the tool you’re talking about. For instance, cleaning the rust off a vintage steel-cased power drill is not going to be as easy as cleaning up the table saw. You are going to have to be extra careful with the drill unless you are willing to take it apart in order to separate the case.

The thing to remember here is to take it slowly. If your cleaning plans involve taking a tool apart, go as slow as you need to in order to prevent damaging the tool or losing individual parts. Take photographs at each step of the disassembly as well. They may prove invaluable when it’s time to put the tool back together.

3: Choose Your Cleaning Method

Selecting the correct cleaning method is pivotal in removing rust from power tools. The strategy you opt for largely depends on the extent of the rust, the complexity of the tool, and the materials from which it’s made. Some tools are more delicate and might require milder cleaning methods. Here’s a more detailed look at each technique:

WD-40 and Steel Wool

For metal components exhibiting mild to moderate rust, a combination of WD-40 and steel wool such as Liberon Steel Wool can prove highly effective. WD-40 is a popular rust remover due to its penetrating properties, and it’s widely available. Consider using a spray bottle for a more targeted application.

To illustrate this method, let’s use the example of a rusty table saw. Apply WD-40 liberally to the rusty tabletop and let it soak in for at least 10 minutes. If the rust is more severe, extending this waiting period to 30 minutes will allow for better penetration.

After the soaking period, take a piece of the steel wool and scrub the surface in a circular motion. The abrasiveness of the steel wool coupled with the WD-40 should help in dislodging the rust. Always use gloves to protect your hands during this process.

Post scrubbing, use an absorbent rag or microfiber cleaning cloth to wipe away the rust residue. Repeat the process until all visible rust is removed.

However, caution is advised when working on power tools with numerous crevices or electrical components. You wouldn’t want the WD-40 to inadvertently seep into motor housings or electronic parts.

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Non-Abrasive Home Remedies

For tools where disassembly isn’t possible or you’d prefer to avoid using harsh chemicals, several household items can be used to remove rust. These include:

  • Baking Soda Paste: Combine baking soda with a little water to form a thick paste. Apply this paste to the rusted areas and leave it to set for a few hours before scrubbing it off with a toothbrush.
  • Salt and Lime: The acidity in lime juice can help dissolve rust, while salt acts as a gentle abrasive. Sprinkle some salt on the rust, squeeze lime juice over it, and let it sit for 2-3 hours. Then, use the lime rind to scrub off the rust.
  • White Vinegar: Submerge the rusty tool or part in white vinegar and let it soak overnight. The acetic acid in the vinegar will react with the rust and help dissolve it. Once the soaking period is over, scrub off the loosened rust with a toothbrush or rag.
  • Potato and Liquid Soap: Cut a potato in half, apply a bit of dish soap on the cut side, and rub it over the rusty surface. The oxalic acid in potatoes can break down rust, and the soap helps to lift it away.
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Each of these methods can be a less aggressive and more eco-friendly alternative to chemical rust removers. However, they might require more time and repeated applications to remove rust completely.

Regardless of the method you choose, it’s crucial to test a small, less visible area first to make sure it won’t damage the tool’s material.

Chemical vs. Non-Chemical Rust Removal Methods

Chemical Rust Removal Methods

When talking about chemical rust removal methods, know that these primarily involve the use of store-bought solutions specifically designed to tackle rust. The most popular options include naval jelly, rust converter, and even everyday items like vinegar and baking soda. These methods often provide quicker results and are particularly effective for heavy rust. However, they come with a caveat: the need for careful handling. Always use gloves and goggles to protect your skin and eyes from potential harm. Additionally, make sure you’re working in a well-ventilated space, as some chemical rust removers can emit strong fumes.

The application process typically involves coating the rusty surface with the solution, leaving it for a specified time (which varies from product to product), and then scrubbing off the loosened rust. Do note that some chemical rust removers may leave a residue or slightly darken the metal, which might require further cleaning or polishing.

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Non-Chemical Rust Removal Methods

On the other hand, non-chemical rust removal methods involve more physical means of removing rust. The most common methods include sanding, scraping, and wire brushing. These methods are generally safer, as they don’t involve hazardous chemicals. However, they require more effort and time, especially for severe rust.

Using sandpaper or a wire brush, you gently scrub the rusted surface until the rust flakes away. Always start with the least aggressive method to avoid unnecessary damage to the metal underneath. These methods work best for light rust and smaller items. For stubborn or extensive rust, you may need to resort to power tools like a grinder or a drill with a wire wheel attachment.

Each of these methods, chemical and non-chemical, have their own pros and cons. The best one for you would depend on the extent of rust, the specific tool you’re cleaning, and your personal preference in terms of safety and effort required.

4: Get to Work

The obvious next step is to actually get to work. Make sure the cleaning method you choose accounts for the type of tool you are cleaning. Take care to avoid getting cleaning solutions too close to electric motors. Also avoid anything that could possibly damage electrical cords.

A good rule of thumb here is to treat your power tool as though it were extremely fragile. Think about how slow you want to go, and then go even slower. You need to go especially slowly if you decide to disassemble the tool you are working on.

Let’s say you are working on a bench grinder with a rusty case, shank, and guards. In all likelihood, some disassembly will be necessary to properly clean it. Go slow, take pictures, and pay attention.

The guards you can probably soak in white vinegar once you get them off. They are also good candidates for the WD-40 and steel wool method. You can either clean the shank in place or remove it from the grinder as well. Removal obviously makes cleaning easier. As for the case, you’ll probably be able to remove the upper part for cleaning. The lower part will have to be cleaned in place.

5: Lubricate, Polish, and Protect

After you’ve meticulously cleaned your power tool, there’s still work to be done. You’ll be left with multiple parts and components of the tool. It’s tempting to quickly put it all back together, but it’s worth slowing down to properly complete the final steps: lubrication, polishing, and protection.


Before you reassemble the tool, consider if it requires any lubrication. This is particularly pertinent for tools with moving parts, as friction can cause wear over time. Your power tool’s owner’s manual should contain details about lubrication needs. If you can’t find the manual, a quick internet search with the make and model of your tool should provide useful information.

For many power tools, lubrication might not be necessary, so don’t worry if you can’t find specific information. But if your tool does need lubrication, this is the best time to do it. Products such as 3-In-One Multi-Purpose Oil or WD-40 Specialist White Lithium Grease are commonly used for power tool lubrication. They can be found in most home improvement stores and are easy to apply, usually coming in a spray can or bottle with a spout for precision.

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Following lubrication, the next step is to protect your tool from future rust. Specialized tool polish products, available in DIY stores and specialty tool outlets, can provide a protective barrier against moisture and oxygen, the main culprits for rust formation.


While some might suggest using WD-40 as a rust preventative, it’s important to note that this is not the primary function of the product. WD-40 is primarily a water displacement product and its rust prevention capability doesn’t have a long lifespan. A dedicated tool polish or rust inhibitor is a better choice for long-term protection.

Product suggestions include Boeshield T-9 Rust & Corrosion Protection/Inhibitor and Rust Prevention Magic (RPM). Both of these products are widely recognized for their rust prevention qualities.

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A typical tool polish or rust inhibitor is applied similarly to car wax. First, apply the product to the metal surfaces of your tool, and then allow it to sit and set up. The time this takes can vary, so it’s best to follow the instructions on the packaging. Once it’s fully set up, buff the tool until it’s clean and shiny. Now, the metal surfaces will have a protective coating that should last for some time. The duration of protection varies between products, so you should also refer to the packaging for guidance on when to reapply the polish or rust inhibitor.

With the tool lubricated and protected, you can now reassemble it, confident in the knowledge that you have not only removed existing rust but also taken steps to prevent its return. And as you turn it back on for the first time post-cleaning, it might just feel like a brand new tool.

Troubleshooting: What to Do if Rust Doesn’t Come Off

Assess the Severity and Reapply your Approach

In some instances, the rust might be stubborn and won’t come off easily. Don’t worry; it happens. You should first assess the severity of the rust. Is it surface-level, or has it penetrated deeper into the metal? This is critical because deep-set rust may require more aggressive treatment methods.

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Try Different Cleaning Solutions

A multitude of cleaning solutions can help with rust removal. If the initial cleaning method didn’t work, you might want to try a different solution. For example, if you initially tried the WD-40 and steel wool method, you might want to try a white vinegar soak or a salt and lime paste. Each solution has its own unique properties that may be more effective depending on the type and severity of rust.

Using Power Tools for Rust Removal

If manual methods aren’t effective, it might be time to introduce some power into your process. Tools like a wire brush drill attachment or an angle grinder with a sanding disc can be used for heavy rust removal. Make sure you’re taking safety precautions, including eye protection and a dust mask, before using power tools.

Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, the rust is just too stubborn or located in places too difficult to reach, putting the functionality of your power tool at risk. If this is the case, it might be time to seek professional help. Professionals have specialized equipment and skills to tackle these types of jobs.

Remember, it’s crucial not to be too aggressive in your rust removal, as this can lead to unnecessary damage to the tool. Always prioritize the tool’s functionality and safety over aesthetics. After all, your power tools are there to help you accomplish tasks, not just to look pretty on the shelf!

Proper Storage and Maintenance to Prevent Future Rust

Storing your power tools correctly is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of their long-term care. The right storage not only helps keep your tools organized and ready for use, but it also significantly reduces the risk of future rust formation.

Moisture Control

Rust, as you might know, is an iron oxide that forms in the presence of moisture. Thus, the cardinal rule for power tool storage is to keep your tools as dry as possible. Moisture can easily sneak in from a variety of sources – condensation, leaky roofs, or even damp basements. Therefore, it’s beneficial to store your tools in a dry, well-ventilated area. For extra protection, consider using silica gel packs or a dehumidifier in your storage area to further reduce moisture levels.

Regular Cleaning and Coating Application

Cleaning your tools after every use might seem like a chore, but it’s an effective habit to prevent rust. Even small amounts of dirt or debris can trap moisture, contributing to rust over time. Use a dry, clean cloth to wipe off any dust or residue from your tools before storing them.

Furthermore, regularly applying protective coatings to your tools can significantly extend their life. There are various anti-rust sprays and oils available on the market that provide a protective layer, preventing moisture contact with the metal parts of your tools.

Proper Tool Housing

Storing your power tools in their original cases or dedicated toolboxes can also help prevent rust. These containers are designed to protect the tools from external elements, including moisture. However, if the original casing is not available, consider investing in a high-quality, moisture-resistant toolbox.

How to Remove Rust from Power Tools – Conclusion

Remember, prevention is better than cure. By adopting these simple storage and maintenance practices, you can effectively prevent rust formation and extend the life of your power tools

With all of that done, you are ready to put everything back together. You have successfully figured out how to remove rust from power tools. Hopefully, the tool you just cleaned will look as good as it did the day you pulled it out of the box. It is a job well done and one deserving of a cold drink in your favorite chair!


Q: What are the common causes of rust on power tools?
A: The primary cause of rust on power tools is exposure to moisture, which can come from various sources such as humidity in the air, water spills, or even sweaty hands. If your tools are stored in a humid environment, left out in the rain, or not dried off after use, they’re likely to rust over time.
Q: Can rust damage the functionality of my power tools?
A: Yes, rust can indeed damage your power tools. Rust can seize up moving parts, corrode connections, and reduce the overall efficiency and lifespan of the tool.
Q: Are there power tools that are more prone to rust than others?
A: Power tools with more metal components, particularly those that are iron or steel, are more prone to rusting. Tools like table saws, bench grinders, or drills, which have large exposed metal surfaces, can be particularly susceptible.
Q: Can all rust be removed from power tools?
A: Depending on the extent of the rust and the type of tool, most rust can be removed. However, if the rust has caused deep pitting or has corroded the tool significantly, it may not be possible to completely restore the tool to its original state.
Q: Do I need special equipment to remove rust from power tools?
A: Special equipment is not usually necessary. Common items like steel wool, a wire brush, white vinegar, or commercial rust removers can often do the job. For lubricating and protecting the tool post-cleaning, you might want to invest in a specific tool lubricant or rust inhibitor.
Q: Is removing rust from power tools a dangerous task?
A: While not typically dangerous, precautions should be taken. Always disconnect power tools before cleaning to avoid any electrical hazards. Also, when dealing with rust and harsh cleaning substances, wear protective gloves and eye wear to avoid skin and eye irritation.
Q: What if the rust is inside the motor housing?
A: If the rust is inside the motor housing, it can be very tricky to remove and might require professional help. Unless you are comfortable and competent with disassembling and reassembling the tool, it is recommended to take it to a professional.
Q: Can I prevent my power tools from rusting in the first place?
A: Yes, regular maintenance and proper storage can help prevent rust. Store your tools in a dry, low-humidity environment. Using a rust inhibitor or a tool polish can also create a protective barrier against rust.
Q: How often should I clean and maintain my power tools to prevent rust?
A: Regular cleaning after use and a more thorough cleaning every few months can keep your power tools in top condition and prevent rust formation. The frequency might vary depending on the tool’s usage and the environment in which it’s stored.
Q: Is WD-40 good for rust prevention?
A: While WD-40 does have some rust-inhibiting properties, its effect isn’t long-lasting. It’s more effective to use a dedicated rust inhibitor or tool polish for ongoing protection against rust.
Q: Are there homemade solutions I can use to remove rust?
A: Yes, homemade solutions like white vinegar, baking soda paste, or a mixture of salt and lime can be used to remove rust. However, commercial rust removers are typically more efficient and require less elbow grease.
Q: How do I know if a rusted power tool is beyond saving?
A: If the rust has caused deep pitting, compromised the structural integrity of the tool, or infiltrated complex internal components like the motor, it may be beyond saving. In this case, it might be safer and more cost-effective to replace the tool.
Q: How can I safely dispose of a power tool that’s too rusted to save?
A: Most power tools contain materials that can be recycled. Check with your local waste disposal facility or recycling center to see if they accept power tools. Some tool manufacturers and retailers also offer take-back or recycling programs.
Q: Can I use the same rust removal methods for battery-powered tools as for corded ones?
A: Yes, the rust removal methods are typically the same for battery-powered and corded tools. However, always remove the battery before cleaning a battery-powered tool to avoid any risk of electrical shock.
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