I must, I must, I must decrease my rust
July 11, 2005 4:37 AM   Subscribe

How do I keep everything in my house from rusting?!?

The hubby and I, both raised in landlocked places, have recently moved to a block and a half away from the ocean. Fabulous. But shortly after moving in, we noticed everything starting to rust. It's a very fine rust- rust flakes, if you will. It has shown up on almost everything metal- the legs of our sofa, my eyeliner sharpener, the friend's drill we borrowed (oops!). So,

1. What can we do to prevent rust in the future?

2. Is there a way to nicely get rid of the rust without scouring everything to death?
posted by wallaby to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Sounds like a dehumidifier might do the trick, unless you want to coat all metal objects with a thin coat of oil of some sort, which seems impractical to me.
posted by cincidog at 5:01 AM on July 11, 2005

i rub oil (the usual 3in1) on my steel work tools (just use an oily cloth). i guess you're in a worse position than me because so much stuff in the usa is made of metal - here furniture is normally wooden, for example.
posted by andrew cooke at 6:13 AM on July 11, 2005

1: AFAIK, nothing. You're screwed. It's all part of the charm of the beachside lifestyle, and is one of the reasons why I personally live about half an hour's drive from the coast.

2: You might be able to slow it down some with oil; if you soak a scouring pad in oil and rub gently, you'll shift the rust without scratching anything up too bad (try an oil-soaked cloth before reaching for the scourer if it's only light rust and it's on something whose fine finish you care about). You could try a mix of linseed oil and kerosene for this (by the time the kero has evaporated, the linseed oil left behind will have started to oxidize and form a hard film that will help to seal the surface). Fish oil is pretty good too, and will add to your seaside ambience :)

There are "rust converter" products available based on phosphoric acid. These work by converting iron oxide (rust) to iron phosphate, which forms an impermeable film and slows down further rusting; the trouble with these are that iron phosphate is blue-black, and may be more unsightly than the rust. On the other hand, it won't flake off all over everything.
posted by flabdablet at 6:26 AM on July 11, 2005

What flabdablet said. The only real way to stop rust is remove all of the oxygen.

Oops. That's not helpful.

There's a real reason marine fixtures are made of brass, not iron. If you get all, and I mean *all*, of the rust off, then varnish, you can slow the rust down -- but if you leave any rust under the varnish, it'll just keep rusting.

Really, truly, if you like the beach, get rid of the iron you can, and oil the iron you must keep (tools, for example. Hard to find a brass cordless screwgun or screwdriver, at least, ones that work.)

Trying to keep the salt off, well, you might as well argue with the tide.
posted by eriko at 7:02 AM on July 11, 2005

Store tools next to the dryer where the extra warmth may drive off some moisture. Those little dehumidifying packets that come with shoes and other things might be useful in the toolbox, if you had a lot of them. Air conditioning, while generally a tool of satan, is useful for dehumidifying. I live near the ocean; last year I got back from a trip to find that the fog had created a lovely climate for mold on several rugs in the house. Ick.
posted by theora55 at 7:27 AM on July 11, 2005

Oh dear, not so encouraging so far, especially since we're three months into a three year lease. Does it have to be a strong oil? Is there some kind of not-so-toxic oil I could use to not kill my friends' babies?

andrew cooke- I'm not in the US. Unfortunately Brazil loves modern decor, which seems to involve a lot of metal. I couldn't find a non-stainless stovetop! (It's rusting too, BTW)
posted by wallaby at 7:29 AM on July 11, 2005

oops - sorry!
posted by andrew cooke at 7:37 AM on July 11, 2005

TopCote and Boeshield are two spray on products I use to protect expensive pieces of cast iron from rusting. They are basically a light wax in a spray can. Perfect for tools though they need to be reapplied after each use. For things like sofa legs I'd clean the rust and then spray on a coat of clear varethane. Citronella oil is also thought highly of in some places as a coating for tools though I've never tried it.

Also try to avoid storing anything that can rust against anything that holds moisture.
posted by Mitheral at 7:57 AM on July 11, 2005

Raw linseed oil (might be called flaxseed oil where you are) is edible; boiled linseed isn't. You're unlikely to do a baby any harm with a mix of about one part raw linseed to five parts mineral oil ("baby oil" is pretty much always mineral oil, is about the right weight for this job, and smells nice). Using linseed by itself will probably make the protective film too thick and it would stay tacky for a long time before drying out.

Those little dehumidifying packets contain silica gel, which you can buy in bulk (try your local pharmacist). I've seen it in granules about 2mm across that include a moisture-sensitive colour indicator; when the granules all turn blue, they're full of absorbed water, and you can bake them on low heat until they turn clear again. A cloth bag of those in your toolbox will certainly help, especially if the box seals reasonably well.

Incidentally, and totally off topic, you can also use silica gel granules for dehydrating fruit etc. without heating it - slice whatever you want to dry, put it in a sealed plastic lunchbox with a large cloth bag of silica gel granules, and stick it in the fridge (may need several changes of granules to work depending what you're drying).
posted by flabdablet at 7:58 AM on July 11, 2005

flabdablet writes "boiled linseed isn't"

Actual boiled linseed oil is food safe and can be safely eaten. The problem is unless you live in Amish country or something you have a hard time getting actual boiled linseed oil. Instead you get plain old linseed oil with a bunch of toxic stuff called driers in it to make it pollermize. I wouldn't use linseed oil to protect metal furniture though. It'll be basically impossible to get a finish that isn't streaky and yellowish. If your looking for something more natural than varethane use shellac. Supper blonde shellac is practically clear, coats can be leveled with a rag soaked in your solvent (alcohol of some variety) and it is used to coat food to keep it shiny and to stop it sticking together. It won't wear as good as the varathane and it isn't as good of a moisture barrier.

Be warned that any desicants have to be recharged on a regular basis, I wouldn't use them for anything in your case except for storage of items in a vapour proof container. Also Silca Gel can cause rusting if placed directly against a metal object as it holds moisture.
posted by Mitheral at 8:38 AM on July 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

In chemistry I learned that attaching zinc to an iron object will allow the iron to scavange the zinc for electrons -- or is it the other way around? But zinc foil is flammable in the presence of moisture ... Aha: Cathodic Protection is the term I'm after.

Anyway, there may be some way to connect a piece of zinc to your iron-based objects to protect them. There are probably paints or resin coatings you could use.
posted by Araucaria at 11:51 AM on July 11, 2005

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