Off The Hook: Using Oxalic Acid to Remove Rust From El Camino Bed Hooks

Sweet_Johnny

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Hello everyone, this is my first post and I'm very glad to be a member of this forum. Thank you all for the mountain of knowledge that can be found here. Now that the intro is handled, let's get down to business.

I recently purchased a set of 4 rusty chrome cargo hooks and a pair of very rusty Corvette hood latches that are the same part, albeit not chrome.
Screenshot_20230919-094841~2.png Screenshot_20230919-095011~2.png
After doing some research across the web I decided that I'd try to clean them up using oxalic acid, or at the very least a household cleaner that contains it. The acid can be purchased just about anywhere but curiosity led me to see what could be accomplished with items anyone could walk into a store and buy. The item I chose is Barkeeper's Friend, and as the name implies it does a wonderful job cleaning up a bar or kitchen- but wait, there's more! It can be used to clean a great number of things due to its contents: it's basically oxalic acid and "an anionic surfactant" (whatever that is). It's important to note that while my new Friend comes in powder and liquid form I opted for the former. This way I have control over how potent the solution is. This also provides you the opportunity to make a nice face mask and peel away those wrinkles! Just kidding, please don't. But you can make a paste that allows you to scrub the demons from the items you're cleaning. Beware, this paste will leave very fine scuff marks just like steel wool, Comet, or for those who still have cleaning products their grandmother gave them: Cameo Copper Cleaner.
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I did not use Cameo at all on these hooks and don't know how well it would work for rust removal. Maybe I'll try it some time. I used it to clean a copper dish in my kitchen once, only to polish away the copper plating in the process. It was clean though.

I'll admit that I first tried scrubbing all of these cargo hooks with Meguiar's Hot Rims and a green Scotch-Brite pad to see what that would accomplish, and it accomplished very little. The rust seemed more defiant now that it was a brighter shade of orange. Time to drown the little bastards.

After thoroughly rinsing the Hot Rims wheel cleaner from the parts I continued on my quest to eradicate the rust. Don't go around mixing cleaners unless you want problems! Always be cautious when playing Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, as mixing the wrong chemicals can make chlorine gas, mustard gas, a big bada boom- the list goes on.

I put the 4 chrome-ish hooks in an empty plastic container that once housed deli sliced turkey, and the 2 rusty 'Vette latches in another, smaller food container... I might have been performing this experiment in the kitchen. *I don't recommend doing this with full strength acids of any kind, but with a fan on to promote good air circulation I used the store-bought cleaner with no ill effects to me or the kitchen, even after dumping it down the sink. In fact, the sink has never looked better. So if the wife catches you marinating your dirty part in the kitchen just tell her it's good for the sink. Don't worry, the Barkeeper's Friend is safe for your plumbing as well as your septic tank if you have one. The chrome hooks received roughly 4 Tb of B.F., and the others got to soak in the Hot Rims and nothing else.

These are the cargo hooks after soaking in some acid for a bit. I think they'll look better if I soak them for another couple of hours. It's hard to say how long they actually soaked, as I kept taking them out and scrubbing. Further research indicates I could have just left them in the solution(s) and let it do all the work. When I decided to pack it up for the day I scrubbed and neutralized the parts with a healthy rinse of water and baking soda. I then doused them in rubbing alcohol and wiped away any remaining soda. I believe I invested about 2-3 hours in that learning experience.
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Don't let the picture fool you- the rear hooks aren't rusty anymore, they're a dull grey. I'm going to soak all of them in a mixture of B.F. and water for another 2 hours soon and see what that yields. But that will likely be next week when my other cargo hooks make an appearance.
 
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78Delta88

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Interesting read and glad things turned out good for you. You took on a project most shy away from. A few years back I took on a project for mine remediation the only oxilic we could get was from from China and didn't work to well very poor quality. OA is used to drop gold out of solution but it is touchy stuff to make it work right. You can make it from table sugar and nitric acid so that's what I did. Had no idea it was in Bar Keepers friend.

One of the things I used for polish is the old formula Brasso and some baking soda in the palm of your hand. The baking soda makes a good light abrasive with the Brasso as the polish. The two working together will fill and remove light scratches. I actually used that combo on a walnut gun stock and it really brought out the shine far and above the factory polish and lasted for years.

I just picked up a new power supply and have some nickel, platinum and irridium. No chrome at the moment. Yet once I play around with the electro- plate power supply I should be able to plate those for you if needed. Also there are several suppliers that have the solutions available to electro-plate nickel or chrome if you want to try yourself.
 
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Sweet_Johnny

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Had no idea it was in Bar Keepers friend.
And I had no idea you could make your own OA that easily. Science is fun.

One of the things I used for polish is the old formula Brasso and some baking soda in the palm of your hand. The baking soda makes a good light abrasive with the Brasso as the polish. The two working together will fill and remove light scratches. I actually used that combo on a walnut gun stock and it really brought out the shine far and above the factory polish and lasted for years.
That's great information, thanks for the tip! I'll be sure to also share it with my father who restores and customizes furniture.

As far as the final finish goes, I just might be interested in having you handle that for me. I honestly haven't planned that part yet, and assumed that the big guys in town wouldn't be interested or it would be too expensive. I figured I'd eventually get around to it but would have to protect them temporarily, and have something in mind that will definitely interest anyone who's ever tried painting over chrome. I've also considered stripping the chrome and spraying them with something like silver nitrate, Super Chrome, or Liquid Mirror followed by a clear but haven't explored that idea. About how much time and money would be involved if I sent them to you?

I just checked the shipping status of my remaining 4 cargo hooks and they should be here by Friday. Perhaps I'll toss these 6 back in the sauce before then, as I need something "light duty" to occupy my time for now.
 

78Delta88

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Sure just send a PM. Cost don't worry about that, shipping shouldn't be too much if you can just cover shipping is fine.

The AA machine ( Atomic Absorption ) uses The standards from CPI. They are not actually designed for plating, but small pieces you can with out too much trouble.

One of the things I played around with a few years ago was palladium and irridium. I put palladium on the bottom of lifters and irridium on exhaust valves, mad science stuff.

A friend of mine had a set of headers he wasn't using so we used a mix of tungsten and titanium in nitric and plated them. Odd weird coloration, but never rusted. Headers were about the limit for size, smaller stuff is easier, when you go larger the energy needed increases exponentially.
 
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Sweet_Johnny

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That's very, very interesting stuff!

And with an offer like that, I believe I'll be in touch when that time comes, thank you. I love this forum.
 
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Sweet_Johnny

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Alright, alright, alright, get ready for another episode of "Off The Hook: A Rust Removal Story".

My other cargo hooks arrived, so I grabbed my supplies and headed for the kitchen. I placed all 6 of the already cleaned hooks back into the same solution as last time, after agitating it of course. Yes I kept it with a lid on it, and no the Barkeeper's Friend didn't eat through the plastic. I noted the time, and will remove them in 2 hours- I won't even look at them until then. They looked exactly the same as the last picture- they didn't rust, tarnish, or turn colors over the last 11 days on my kitchen table.

I grabbed another clean container and lid for my newly acquired hooks and filled it with hot water from the tap (3 cups). I live outside the city so my water comes from a well, and the pH is usually around 8. That's a little on the "basic" side and will weaken acid just a tad. I added 4 heaping tablespoons of B.F. and stirred it up before adding the 4 "new" hooks. I will inspect these in 2 hours, take a progress pic, and put them back without scrubbing anything. Here they are in front of that mixture.
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Sweet_Johnny

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Here are the original 6 hooks after today's additional 2 hour soak. I'm going to leave them in longer because I think it will get better, and there's no harm being done if it doesn't.

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Sweet_Johnny

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And here are the 4 chrome cargo hooks that I just received. I have not cleaned them in any way other than soaking for 2 hours in a solution of 3 cups of tap water and 4 Tbsp of Barkeeper's Friend.

IMG_20230930_202104130.jpg IMG_20230930_202114586.jpg

They're going back into the solution for another 2 hours. Stay tuned for an update.
 

Sweet_Johnny

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Nice looking pasta bowls ... perfect for fettuccini al chromo.
You should see the fancy ones. I don't mean to brag, but you can still read Cool Whip on a couple of them.
 
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