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Electrolysis for rust removal

I was much interested in this thread, and after reading up on it at I was convinced to give it a try.

So when I got home last night I dug out a *BIG* bucket (about 7 gallon :) and the battery charger and some caustic soda (Sodium Hydroxide).

I made up the solution as suggested: 1 tablespoon of soda per gallon of water. I then found the anode (old brake drum :) which I hung from one of the bucket's handles with a little above water to connect the battery charger +ve.

To test I decided to try and remove the (minor) surface rust off my 12G295 head - which also had some rust down one of the valve throats - so this was lowered into the solution.

I then connected up the battery charger -ve to this and switched on. My charger meter showed about 5A flowing! and bubbles soon appeared on the surface.

I left it about 20 minutes (it was only minor surface rust) and checked - the result was great! Because the head couldn't be fully submerged I had to turn it over several times to get top/bottom and front/back done.

The head was then removed and I washed it down with the garden hose, before getting the water off/out with an old towel. Finally I sprayed the head liberally with WD40 (including inside ports, oilways and water galleries) to keep further rusting at bay. This weekend I'll check that it's properly dry and then I'll lightly oil it for storage.

Have a go - it is really simple and seems to work very well.

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Electrolytic cleaning solution

Recipe for electrolytic cleaner!

Ingredient grams/litre ounces/US gallon
Sodium Carbonate (washing soda) 75 10
Sodium Hydroxide (lye) 12.5 1.7
Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) 25 3.3
Sodium Silicate (water-glass) 12.5 1.7

Store in a polyethylene bottle. Alkaline solutions attack glass. Wear rubber gloves when working with this stuff. It's not all that bad but I wouldn't want to bathe in it.

This is a very gentle metal cleaner. I have used it to clean very thin copper, silver and gold plate without damage. I have also used it to clean various metals, including steels, preparatory to plating. You can make a plating/cleaning power supply with a small variac, a twelve volt transformer and a bridge rectifier.


Article by Ted Edwards ( from

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