What to use to keep tools rust free in storage

I will be needing to put my studio items in storage for several
months and then shipped out of the country and I’m wanting to know
other’s experience with what works best to keep rust off. I’ve tried
searching the archives and am not finding anything difinitive. I 've
read different things about different products - WD-40, 3-1 machine
oil, cosmolene, zerust drawerliners, camelia oil, etc. Can you share
any experience you’ve had for something that will keep tools from
rusting and yet be somewhat easy to remove after they have arrived
at my new destination?

Thank you! Ruta

Hi Ruta,

Can you share any experience you've had for something that will
keep tools from rusting and yet be somewhat easy to remove after
they have arrived at my new destination? 

My studio is damp, and I like to coat my tools with paste wax. It
doesn’t need to be removed when you want to use the tool, and doesn’t
attract and hold dust and grit the way oil does. Look for a paste wax
that does not have any “cleaners” in it. If it contains carnauba wax,
that is terrific, since carnauba is a very hard wax. I have some old
Simoniz car wax that I use. I think that you might also be able to
find butchers wax or bowling alley wax.

I would suggest that additionally, you place things in enclosed
containers with a moisture absorbing product (just googled the
“phrase moisture absorbing product” and found a lot of choices.)

Cynthia Eid

Boeshield T-90, works great!

Jennifer P

Think of a machinist tool box, all wood. Any moisture is going to
the wood before your tools. Plastic or metal tool box will draw
moisture with condensation in temperature and humidity changes.

I use two large metal tool chests as my base for the vacuum system
and burn out oven. Each drawer is loaded with tools. The bottom of
each drawer has a thick piece of cardboard box that was coated with
motor oil. Not soaked, just wetted. It absorbs and does not leave a
greasy film or transfer to tools. This is all in an unheated garage
with constant foot traffic all day between my wife and I and two
dogs! No rust or pits!

Now, things in the basement with a gas fired hot water heater and
furnace, do rust. I left a bracelet mandrel on a shelf down there and
was horrified to find it rusted in short time.

WD40 turns to varnish so if sprayed on a moving part and not moved
for a long time, it will be difficult to break the film. From what I
have read on auto engine forums, fishing, firearm and knife forums,
no matter how finely polished a piece of metal is, it will still have
microscopic pores/pits to attract dirt and moisture. Allegedly there
is a positive and minus attraction. Synthetic motor oil is supposed
to be drawn into those pores. I don’t know. I know I use it on
valuable firearms and knives and all my autos. Gas and diesel. I am
going to experiment with a powder form in my tumbler as the firearm
community that reloads uses it on brass in a centrifugal magnetic
disc tumbler. Unbelievable results. We’re talking.5 or 1/2 of a
micron, Tungsten Disulfide. There is also a nano-particle form that
is.1 or 1/10th of a micron. My next tumble batch will have the 1/2
micron version and I want to try the 1/10th micron version in a
final polish paste. No learning without experimenting!


AT THE WORK BENCH (not in storage)

I find my everyday tools are getting rusty…:-(…No, I don’t
have any open containers of any acids… I’m in a dry area, but very
cold, and use space heaters (condensation on the windows). I do use
Sparex, which is heated sometimes with a candle, but kept covered
(not airtight). I didn’t want to use oil, as I don’t want grease
transferred to my gold/silver. What’s the best way to keep
often-used tools, particularly files, from rusting? Thanks.

Janet in Jerusalem

What a wonderful suggestion Cynthia. Do you think the wax could be
used on a set of disk cutters as well?

Mary Partlan
White Branch Designs

I think your best bet Ruta, might be firearm storage bags. They were
developed for the US military as a replacement for cosmoline and
resemble zip-lock storage bags. There are several different brands,
most offer two sizes, 12 inch by 12 inch (designed for handguns) and
12 inches by 48 or 52 inches (designed for rifles).

They can be found at most gun shops, sporting goods stores like
Dick’s or Cabela’s or on-line from Cheaper-Than-Dirt or Brownell’s
and cost about $5 each for the small ones and around $8 for the rifle
sized bags. A 12 X 12 bag will hold a set of daps and a dapping block
with room to spare, the larger ones work great for hammers,
flex-shafts and other tools that won’t quite fit in the small ones.

Use of these bags, along with a light coat of oil or wax (thanks for
that Cynthia!) will keep your steel tools rust free for years,
especially if you toss a little pouch of desiccant in each bag, and
store the bags in military surplus steel 50 cal ammo cans (about $15
each) available at most Army surplus stores, Brownell’s and
Cheaper-Than-Dirt definitely have them.

Stay away from WD-40 for tool storage, it dries out and turns to gum
after a while, as does 3-IN-1 oil, just not as fast. A much better
choice for oiling tools is “Break Free CLP”, an oil blended with PTFE
(Teflon) specifically designed for keeping sporting goods like
fishing reels and firearms lubricated and rust free. An old cloth
diaper (or other lint free cloth) dampened with Break Free and wiped
over the tools will keep them nice and rust free for quite a long
time. You’ll be able to find Break Free wherever you find the storage
bags or sporting goods.

I hope your tools don’t end up in storage for too long!

Dave Phelps

What a wonderful suggestion Cynthia. Do you think the wax could be
used on a set of disk cutters as well? 

I’m glad you like my idea! I don’t see why wax would be a problem on
disc cutters.

Cynthia Eid

Bull Frog makes a number of rust prevention products that can help.
I’ve had success with the Rust Preventer Strips for my tools in
drawers and other full and partially closed storage areas. There is
no one-shot rust prevention solution for every situation, though.


J Collier Metalsmith

Janet quit using the sparex. It causes rust everywhere. Judy Hoch

Thanks to all who responded to my question on preventing rust on my
tools while in storage. Since they will be in storage for close to a
year, I think I will try David’s suggesgtion - Break-free CLP as
well as looking into using the gun bags. Many thanks to all who took
the time to make their post and to Hanuman and Ganoksin for having
this area to post. Ruta


Keep in mind that the moisture barrier bags are available in all
sizes. We used to stack multiple boxes on a skid inside one VCI bag
for shipping to South Carolina in the summertime (huge humidity/rust
problems). They were very effective.


Thanks Jamie - I’ll check into the large bags -assuming I’ll be able
to find a seller with a google search. Ruta