Electrolysis Removing Rust

On the previous pages, we’ve seen the excellent results of removing corrosion using electricity. Also, we’ve discussed the materials needed and how to set up the electrolysis tank. Now we’re going to see photos of electrolysis in action.

Power On!

If you have a choice, apply 6 VDC of power. A higher voltage is okay, although I suspect the more vigorous reactions may be break off marginally loose material that might otherwise be retained.

Bubbles form as rust and corrosion convert and detach

Bubbles form as rust and corrosion convert and detach.

Within 15 seconds, you should see bubbles on both the anode and the cathode (piece being cleaned). If no bubbles appear, power off and check your connections. It may be necessary to rub off a little bit of rust in order for the negative power clip to make electrical contact with the piece being cleaned.

What I noticed (look at the above photograph), is that the bubbles only appear to be coming from the bolt, not the handle or face of the piece. Ah ha! The corrosion is preventing electricity from passing through the bolt to the other parts of the drawer pull.

With power off, you can add additional connections from the negative terminal of the power source to various locations on the pieces to be cleaned. Make sure to use only a single power source. You can drop in additional pieces to clean; just make sure they are all similar material.

All segments undergoing electrolysis after attaching multiple clips

All segments undergoing electrolysis after attaching multiple clips.

In the above photograph, notice that bubbles are now rising throughout the drawer pull. The rusty handle is generating the most activity, because it is nearest the anode and therefore is the least-resistant electrical path.

Hold on a second. Something is making noise in the basement.

Woodchuck in the window well

Woodchuck in the window well.

There’s a woodchuck trapped in my window well. At first I thought it was a beaver, but the face is long and the tail is furry. I rescued it and sent it on its way.

Let’s check the progress of the rust removal.

Becoming murkier with tufts of corrosion changing surfaces

Becoming murkier with tufts of corrosion changing surfaces.

Wow! Look at that. Gunk is lifting off.

Electrical Current

When removing rust through electrolysis, the amount of electrical current is going to increase based on any of these factors:

For example, moving the rusted piece closer to the anode causes current to increase.

During this test, the current on my benchtop power supply initially read 700 milliamps. After 30 minutes, it decreased to 350 milliamps. Did a change in current indicate that the piece was clean? Or, does it indicate that there’s a problem? Let’s find out...