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Experiment with oven cleaner and dirty files


#1

Hello fellow Orchidians :slight_smile:

Awhile back I posted some on how to remove rust off of
metal.

It involved oven cleaner and a little ingenuity

I was lucky enough to be given a few files, from a neighbor, whose
mother used to be a jeweler. Of course I didn’t know what kind of
metal(s) she had used the files on, so I either had to clean them, or
not use them.

So…

I did a little experiment, and it worked!!

What I did:

I took the files, put them in a stainless steel bowl, covered it
with foil, and slowly sprayed the oven cleaner while turning the bowl
around. The bowl was covered with foil, and I would lift the foil and
spray, rotate, lift, spray, etc.

After the files were covered with foam I paused and took a picture.

Then, with my gloves, I rotated the files around, made sure they
were coated all over and let them sit, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Then I ran warm water all over the files, cleaning them a bit with
liquid soap.

Next I tried to make sure all the oven cleaner was cleaned off. At
this point I decided to spray them again with the oven cleaner.

This time I grabbed another bowl, a glass bowl, and I put the needle
files in there, and the other files back in the stainless steel bowl.

I then re-sprayed the files a second time and more gunk came off.
Not as much, but I’m glad I sprayed the second time.

I then cleaned them off, really well, with liquid soap, a LOT of
water and a green scrubby.

Next, I dried them off as quickly as possibly. I didn’t want them
rusting on me!

Next, I took each file, and totally saturated it from tip to tang in
a light oil - I did this to all of them - not just as I got to it -
so they were oiled as quickly as possibly.

I then scrubbed each file, adding more oil, as various unknown
matter was scrubbed off.

I scrubbed until nothing came off on my scrubby.

I’ve attached some pictures, and I apologize for the quality. I took
them with my BlackBerry, while actually cleaning the files with the
oven cleaner, scrubbing, oiling, etc.

A note on safety:

I was wearing a respirator, a leather apron, safety glasses and
rubber gloves that went all the way to my elbows.

I did this in my utility room, with the window wide open.

I would recommend doing this outside.

I would certainly say this was a success for me!

I have to say this was a very dangerous experiment. We use dangerous
chemicals and other tools on a daily basis. PLEASE be very careful
if you try this.

Sandra B


#2

If you happen to have a decent ultrasonic cleaner, cleaning old
files is a lot simpler. Even more so if you’ve got steam cleaner. The
ultrasonic will simply do the cleaning work for you. Oven cleaner not
needed. Just any decent cleaning agent suited for use in an
ultrasonic. Metal stuck between teeth, and light rust, with both come
off. (any remaining stubborn bits might need to be mechanically
removed with a file card, a pin, or stroking the file teeth with a
bit of brass or other soft metal) A steam cleaner makes it even
faster, as you can steam most of it off before or during the
ultrasonic’s work. When they appear clean, steam them thoroughly.
This removes all the cleaning agent, and also heats up the file to a
fairly nice toasty temperature. That warmth means when you take the
file out of the steam jet and wipe it mostly dry, the remaining
moisture quickly evaporates, leaving a clean dry file. If you wish,
a little light coating of WD-40 will then displace any remaining
moisture that might be in pits or pores in the metal (this is
specifically what WD-40 was developed for. The WD stands for “water
displacer” or something similar. Though it’s often used as a
lubricant, that’s not actually it’s original role, or it’s most
effective one. The WD-40 mostly evaporates, so the file ends up
almost dry with just a thin moisture barrier layer to prevent
rusting. This is nicer to then use as a file than one gunked up with
actual oil.

Peter


#3
Just [use] any decent cleaning agent suited for use in an
ultrasonic. Metal stuck between teeth, and light rust, will both
come off. 

Thanks, Peter! I have a bunch of tools that became a bit rusty when
I was away and couldn’t empty the dehumidifier. The oven cleaner
route sounds extreme. There’s a way to remove rust with electricity,
but I’d have to look it up.

Two additional questions-- what kind of cleaner is NOT suitable to
use in an ultrasonic? And, should the steel tools be prevented from
touching the tank itself?

Noel


#4
The WD-40 mostly evaporates, so the file ends up almost dry with
just a thin moisture barrier layer to prevent rusting. This is
nicer to then use as a file than one gunked up with actual oil. 

Absolutely. I was thinking the same thing when the advice was
offered to coat freshly cleaned files with oil. The oil will surely
attract the swarf, which will just sit in the recesses and clog up
the files in quick measure, meaning they have to be cleaned again
virtually immediately. It doesn’t seem to be the most efficient
method of protecting the files after cleaning.

Helen
UK


#5

Hi,

Here is a link to an album I created with some pictures.

Sandra B


#6
Two additional questions-- what kind of cleaner is NOT suitable to
use in an ultrasonic? 

Generally you’d want to avoid anything corrosive, to avoid damage to
the cleaner. And highly foaming agents might make a mess. Some
cleaners are more effective than others, at various tasks, so some
experimentation may be needed. Note that my post referred more to
general cleaning of gunked up files, than to dealing with actual
significant rust. The ultrasonic will help take off any loose rust
flakes, but may not be as effective at removing all of it. Still,
oven cleaner is essentially lye or similar highly caustic alkaline
agents. These are great for baked on grease or carbonized food in the
oven, but not ideal for removing rust, though they may help a bit, as
the thread suggests. Better would be oxalic acid (you buy it as a dry
powder, and mix with water. It doesn’t much attack steel itself, but
does readily dissolve iron oxide). If you use this in an ultrasonic,
put the acid (or any other possibly corrosive agent) in a glass
beaker, and run that in the ultrasonic with just plain water in the
tank surrounding the beaker. Don’t leave the steel in the oxalic
longer than needed to get the desired results.

And, should the steel tools be prevented from touching the tank
itself? 

Probably. Ultrasonic cleaners generate more energy than some people
realize. A hard metallic object in contact with the tank itself could
cause abrasion of the tank.

Note that one effect of rusting is that after the rust is removed,
the remaining steel surface is a bit porous. That porosity can retain
moisture, or even acidic or other cleaning agents, so steel cleaned
of it’s rust will be prone to quickly rusting again. That’s where the
WD-40 comes in. You’re not so much needing to coat the outside
visible surfaces of the tool, as you’re needing to displace moisture
from the pores in the metal, and protect those from additional
corrosion. So after applying the WD-40 to the tool to essentially
dry out the metal you can almost wipe it off again, and the metal
remains protected, at least to the degree that it’s no longer much
easier to rust again than it was at first…

Peter


#7

Well this is extremely well timed! I was just thinking last night
that I really needed to tackle the light rusting on my tools, but
wasn’t sure where to start. I don’t have an ultrasonic, but I might
give the oven cleaner method a try!

Thanks for sharing!
Tara J. Brannigan


#8
Two additional questions-- what kind of cleaner is NOT suitable to
use in an ultrasonic? And, should the steel tools be prevented
from touching the tank itself? 

HeHe, somewhere in the back of my brain I recall warnings about
ammonia based stuff, hasn’t slowed me down nor eaten any machines.
Really caustic or acidic solutions are to be avoided. Nothing
flammable although a film canister full of acetone or alcohol has
been seen floating in my US :slight_smile:

NOTHING touches the tank, I have seen little feet on manufactures
supplied baskets chew holes in the tank bottom.

jeffD
Demand Designs
Analog/Digital Modelling & Goldsmithing
http://www.gmavt.net/~jdemand


#9

I always use a soft thick brass brush to clean my files after every
use, then coat them with a layer of chalk. Sometimes, if I had lots
and lots of filing and the teeth are too clogged to clean out
completely with the brass brush, I’ll use a scrap piece of brass to
rub out any big clogged bits. I keep my files in a rather damp
basement, laying flat in a drawer and so far, as long as I maintain
them, no rusting. I think moisture of any kind, even DW40, will
eventually cause the files to rust again. Better to keep them dry
and clean. Also, I save any of those little bags of crystals that
absorb humidity and toss them in the file drawer too. The tip of
coating the files with chalk was passed on to me by Lee Haga, a
wonderful artist and jeweler who teaches at Mt. Hood Community
College in the Portland, Oregon area. I think she got this tip from
another metalsmith, but have forgotten who that was.