Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Rust on files

Can someone tell me how I should deal with rust on a good quality
file? Oil? I wasn’t sure if oil on a file was appropriate. It’s just
a bit of rust so far.


Hello Orchidians,

This query reminded me of a half-remembered technique for sharpening
files. I heard of it about 45 years ago. I have never tried it and
now I don’t really remember how it goes. I recall that it involved
using candle wax stroked along the length of the file to act as a
resist - but I can’t recall whether the wax is drawn against the
faces of teeth or against their backs. That is, from tip to tang or
from tang to tip. I also vaguely recall that chalk was drawn along
the file in the opposite direction from the wax. I’m pretty sure the
idea was to protect the back of the teeth with the wax and to etch
away the unprotected face just a bit. I’m pretty sure the idea was to
etch away just a bit of the face of the teeth. An acid was used, but
I don’t recall which acid nor in what concentration.

Anyone know about this bit of folklore?

As for rust on files - I suppose maybe a fine brass bristle brush on
the rust followed by light coat of oil on file - which might
contaminate your work if transferred from file to workpiece. I also
know phosphoric acid removes rust but I don’t know what effects it
might have on the file and its sharpness.

Marty in Victoria where your replies will be filed

1 Like

Oxalic acid will remove the rust. I used to be able to buy it from a
pharmacy. Not any more. The fastest and easiest way is to get some
barkeeper’s friend and dissolve some in warm water. Soak the file in
the solution. Rinse and steam then oil it.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer


I’m not going to say which soda-beverage is going to work on
cleaning rust on files!!! But all I’m going to say it is one of the
top soda-drinks on the market. It begins with a letter “C”…:>) give
it a try! Once removed, keep it absolutely dry. Gerry!


I would say use a file card or wire brush then clean with detergent
or throw in ultrasonic. Dry off then lightly oil, 3in 1 or similar.

1 Like

Anyone know about this bit of folklore?

Al Balmer

1 Like

Hello friends,

I’ve had GREAT success with Evapo-Rust

It’s non-toxic and earth-friendly. If you soak a rusty piece of
metal with paint on it, it won’t even harm the paint, that’s how mild
it is. After the rust has dissolved the solution stops working. When
the piece comes out of the solution I rinse it under warm water, dry
it, then warm the metal with a heat gun until after the beads of
moisture have evaporated from the surface. After the piece cools I
coat it with Staples clear carnauba wax, let it sit for a few minutes
until it hardens, then buff the tool with a paper or cotton towel.

1 Like

What’s in barkeeper’s friend?

Janet in Jerusalem

1 Like

grobet company sells oxalic acid it works great to remove rust -then
neutralize it with baking soda solution and dry well, you can keep a
light coating of stick-type bur lube on it if you are in a highly
humid area or your studio isn’t climate controlled (air
conditioned/heated). Auto parts stores sell dry radiator flush
crystals 9 not a liquid) which is oxalic acid- just mix with water to
activate and don’t dispose of it into water systems without
neutralizing it ! You only need, say, a tenth of the container
(usually comes in a cylinder and about 20 ozs.) to clean a slight bit
of rust off of a single file - we used to use it to soak quartz
crystals to remove the iron oxides and clarify them- half a canister
in a 5 gallon bucket a little more than half full of water (you had
to allow for room for the crystals!) did the trick in about 4 hours)-
a file though will not need more than a quarter to half cup of
solution. It is superior to a vibrating tumbler since it won’t dull
the cut of the file(s)…rer

1 Like

From their website: BKF soft cleaner contains water, mineral
abrasive, citric acid, oxalic acid, surfactants, and citrus
fragrance, The powder contains mineral abrasive, oxalic acid,
surfactant, and a water softening agent.

Merry Mary

1 Like
What's in barkeeper's friend? 

Mostly, Oxalic Acid (as does Zud)

1 Like
Anyone know about this bit of folklore? 

Yep, I do, the link didnt work but go to utube and find it there.

Ive used as ive said before old car battery acid to remove rust,
etch iron and all other non ferrous metals and alloys inc silver. A
well as pickling after brazing/silver soldering.

Dont do it in the kitchen sink. Neutralise in wash up solution after
rinsing in hot water. Ive done some pretty big pieces this way, 50
lbs or so, especially old pre 1866 bessemer wrought iron tools.

1 Like

Phosphoric acid too

Steve Wandt

1 Like

Keep, in mind, folks, that Evapo-Rust is SAFE to use. Don’t think
twice about it, head down to your nearest auto supply store and pick
some up. Don’t bother with ANY acids!

Removes even heavy rust completely
Non-toxic, non-corrosive, safe on skin
No fumes or bad odors, non-flammable, no VOC’s
Biodegradable, water soluble
Requires no special equipment
Will not harm unrusted steel, safe on other metals
Will not affect plastic, PVC, Viton and most paints

Seriously, just buy it!

Jeff Herman

1 Like

Washing soda in water, hook batter charger - to object and + to bowl
about 4 amps will strip rust of most things. check on youtube.

A quick dip in nitric acid and water will sharpen teeth but don’t
leave too long, baking soda to neutralize acid.

Google it first for safety advice


depends what you want to achieve.

Removing rust without damage to the file is, I presume, the aim of
the game.

Super Iron Out is sodium metabisulphite, citric acid and sodium
bicarbonate. I am guessing but I suspect it works by some
combination of the chelating action of the Citric Acid, the reduction
action of sulphite and the bicarb acting as a buffer to manage the
pH. It should be effective at removing the rust without attacking the

oxalic acid (toxic) also works, as does tartaric and citric, but of
these citric is cheaper and non-toxic.

phosphoric acid attacks both the rust and the steel, creating a
stable phosphate/oxide coating that passivates the steel from further

if you don’t care about the rust, and want to prevent further rust,
any oil or anti rust treatment should work OK.

I’d find a file I didn’t want and experiment first…



For those of us who do not live in countries that sell Evapo-Rust,
do you have any idea what it’s active ingredients are?

Janet in Jerusalem

1 Like

I have cleaned up rust on old files with a soft brass brush. If more
aggressive means are necessary, I have used the 3m discs. After they
are clean, Ioil the handles only, and dry thoroughly. Then, Rub
chalk over the teeth before storing. Always clean and re-chalk after

Hobbs Wells

1 Like
Seriously, just buy it! 

that looks like a really interesting product - seriously wondering
what is in it - non-toxic proprietary detergent and chelating agent!

do you happen to know if they have suppliers in Australia?

Dr Paul van den Bergen

1 Like

I totally agree that Evapo-Rust is a must own product.

It works by chelation and is therefore safe. I gave it a tough test
when I found an unidentified lump of rusty something in the surf by
my house. It had an intriguing shape so I soaked it in the
Evapo-Rust for a day as it was truly encrusted.

It came out clean and almost shiny. It was a broken huge twist drill
from a boat (maybe…).