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Derusting Step Headers Via Electrolysis

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Just started the bath, about 12 gallons of solution. Used 12 table spoons of baking soda to 12 gallons of water. 6amp battery charger at 6 amp 100 volt current. the Anode seems to be bubbling the rusted header itself is bubbling slightly.... any ideas? negative charge is making contact...

my anode is a large piece of rebar... would opt for stainless but did not have it readily available

pictures will be up in a few hours once i have let it sit for a while

thanks again Fifty!

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Ok, so my girlfriend took her camera.... but I will post pictures TONIGHT! maybe.

So before I get into what happened I'll recap the materials I used, the process and the cost of de-rusting my headers via Electrolysis.

Materials Used:

- Arm and Hammer Baking soda. $1.55

(I used a total of 12 table spoons for my solution)

-12 Gallons of water.

(Keep in mind you can use less but the headers I was attempting to clean were rather large and so needed a deep bath to cover the most surface area.)

- A table spoon mesure $1.00

- kitchen Rubber gloves

- Plastic garbage container. For Vat

- Rebar bar $4.00

- 6 amp automotive battery charger (Borrowed from neighbor, thanks Al!)

- Dish nylon bristle brush $3.00

- Rag

- Step Headers $75 (from Fiftytakedowns... bawoss)

Total cost: $9.55 (and $75.00 headers)


The purpous of using this method initially, as opposed to say sanding, brushing, or even using an acid solution was, to reduce the destruction or erosion of the variable being cleaned. So Electrolysis was the most logical conclusion. Basically what this proses does is it evaporates the oxidized steel or iron removing it, leaving the original material and all other coating, or finish unhindered. So it's a pretty painless and easy proses. I am still new to it, but managed to clean half of my header spotless, down to the original steel casting.

The concept here is to create and electrical current through a solution, or vat enabling for the charge of the battery charger to react with the electrodes in the anode (the piece of rebar) and thus allow for electrolysis to occur. This in turn strips all impurities from the steel; it only works with either steel and iron from my understanding, although i could be wrong.

The anode is essentially the sacrificial metal. It's sole purpose is to serve as a conductor inside the vat and will erode over time. The positive charge, or red cable in most cases, is attached to the anode. The anode can vary in material some other examples of acceptable anodes are, steel, iron, stainless steel and any variant in between. Copper and other alloys are STRONGLY! discouraged. The larger the anode the better/ faster the process will occur.

Note: The positive charge can not touch the vat (solution) if it is submerged the metal at the end of the battery charger will erode.

The subject being de-rusted is attached to the negative charge. This clamp can be submerged. Keep in mind that there must be a good connection between the rusted variable and the negative conductor. If there is a weak connection the proses will not take affect. A method i found useful was cleaning the subject thoroughly, sanding a small era to the bare metal and attaching the negative charge to it.

Note: Once in the Vat the Anode can not! at any time make contact with the subject being de-rusted or negative charge. This will cause you charge source to short.

Assuming you have already made a proper vat, this proses should take a few hours depending on the current being used, the higher the current/ the closer the anode is the faster in will be to de-rust.

note: The rusted part should bubble as well as the rusted part. that should serve as an indicator of a working solution.

The Vat should be as fallows, for every gallon of water you must add one table spoon of baking soda ( or it's equivalent). So if you are say using a 5 gallon solution you need 5 TBS of baking soda. Adding an excess of baking soda will not make the solution more potent/ speed up the process, if anything this is strongly discouraged.

Once you have let the vat sit for a while and there has been plenty of bubbles forming on your rusted part take it out of the vast and scrub with a soft bristle. There is no need to rub the treated part with a cors metal brush the rust should be mostly gone and the persisting rust should come off rather easily. You will notice that the treated surface will appear black or dark, this is the original casting of the material and so there is no need for alarm.

repeat process if need be for a cleaner subject.

Once you have dried the part and an epoxy, rust inhibitor or wax solution to prevent further rusting. The bare metal will rust very easily.

so any ways that's my two cents ill have pictures and a few more comments later tonight... hopefully.

note: the vat can be reused as many times as you seem fit. Once the water is covered in rust parts, however, you might want to start a fresh Vat.

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Hi Richard,

Everything sounds good except for the Baking Soda. You want to use Washing Soda:

Baking soda is, sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3

Washing soda is, sodium carbonate, Na2CO3

Baking soda will work but not nearly as well as washing soda as it is a stronger base by a factor of 2.

Good luck!

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Yeah I found that using Baking soda worked well, but i needed a higher charge to get the solution going. When I used washing soda the cooking time was less, and the voltage needed was also cut to about a third.

I thought i mentioned this, but it must have slipped me my mind. Thanks for the look out though

- Richard A

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I did my rusting fuel tank and had good results. Lots of references on the internet.

Note 1: do not use stainless steel since it contains chromium and nickel, which are environmentally hazardous materials. Otherwise, the iron oxide goop from the electrolysis can be sent down the drain (see local laws).

Note 2: Anode needs to be "line of sight" with rust.

I've thought about doing this on my rusty headers. Will use a steel cable with plastic or rubber disks to keep cable from touching inside of headers.

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I have had great! results with rebar. It is the exact length as the headers and can be easily placed accordingly. Oh and its way cheap. I read a bit on the stainless hazardous nature and I must say being a vegan, tree hugger i opted out of that idea. Good call thanks for posting guys ill have pictures up once my headers are dry.

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Hey thanks for the kind words!

I used VHT very high temp. primer. The primer must be cured at different temp intervals as suggested on the instructions. I found that a combination of blow drying, air drying, direct sun baking and heat convection work best. for each coat. This helps the primer cure evenly and maximizes adhesion with the final coat. Curing the primer is the most important, in my humble opinion.

The final coat should also be cured accordingly. I was a painters assistant for a while when I was in high school so some of that is presented here. Although my skills are still very amateur.

let me know how it works out for you. and feel free to correct anything you see wrong with my process always room to improve.

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