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Rust Removal via Electrolysis
by Roy Seifert

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Disclaimer:  This article is for entertainment only and is not to be used in lieu of a qualified gunsmith.  Please defer all firearms work to a qualified gunsmith.  Any loads mentioned in this article are my loads for my guns and have been carefully worked up using established guidelines and special tools.  The author assumes no responsibility or liability for use of these loads, or use or misuse of this article.  Please note that I am not a professional gunsmith, just a shooting enthusiast and hobbyist, as well as a tinkerer.  This article explains work that I performed to my guns without the assistance of a qualified gunsmith.  Some procedures described in this article require special tools and cannot/should not be performed without them.

Warning:  Disassembling and tinkering with your firearm may void the warranty.  I claim no responsibility for use or misuse of this article.  Again, this article is for entertainment purposes only!

Tools and firearms are the trademark/service mark or registered trademark of their respective manufacturers.

If you read my articles regularly you know that I am a big fan of the Internet.  There is so much useful information that people are willing to share.  While “surfing the ‘Net” one day I found a way to remove rust from firearms using electrolysis that will not harm the bluing.  The main advantage of this method is it gets all the rust in hard to reach places.  The materials I used were:

  • A plastic container that will hold the part and electrolysis solution.
  • Water
  • Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (not baking soda).  Washing soda can be found in your local grocery store with the laundry detergents.  If I cannot find washing soda, I can pour some baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) into a pan and heat it over low-medium heat.  Water and carbon-dioxide will cook-off leaving washing soda (sodium carbonate).
  • Battery charger or other high amperage power supply.


  • I always wear eye protection and rubber gloves when working with this solution as it is very alkaline and can cause irritation. 
  • I NEVER use stainless steel for the electrode as this will produce harmful by-product.
  • The electrolysis process breaks down water into its component parts, Hydrogen and Oxygen, which can be explosive.  I work outside or in a very well ventilated area. 
  • I make sure the battery charger/power supply is unplugged before attaching or touching the leads.

My shooting buddy, James, gave me a couple of magazines that had been somewhat neglected and had surface rust both inside and out.  He wanted me to bead-blast or physically remove the rust using some other method.  That little .22 magazine is so small I probably wouldn’t be able to remove any rust from the inside, so I decided to remove the rust using this electrolysis method.

In the container I mixed 1 tablespoon of washing soda for each gallon of water to make up the electrolysis solution.  I make sure the washing soda is thoroughly dissolved.  I placed a steel rod (NOT STAINLESS STEEL) inside the container.  This steel rod will become the anode to which I connected the positive lead.

Note:  For larger parts I place the steel rod through the part to be cleaned and use o-rings to prevent the part from touching the rod.  

I suspended the parts in the solution with cable or wire so that it made a good electrical contact with the part; this will become the cathode to which I connected the negative lead.  I connect the negative lead (black) to the parts being cleaned (either to the part itself, or to the suspending cable or wire), and connected the positive (red) lead to the rod(s), then plugged in the charger.  I immediately began to see bubbles; this was Hydrogen and Oxygen as the water broke down.  I allow the part to "cook" for 3-4 hours.  The time was dependent on the size of the part, amount of rust, and the current of the power supply.  I left these magazines in for three hours and repositioned them after the first 90 minutes.  This was to ensure that I was getting the electrolysis process on both sides.  

After I removed the parts, I immediately cleaned and dried them off, then coated them with a good quality gun oil or rust preventative oil.  As you can see from the photos, there was no rust left on the magazine bodies; inside or out.  However, because rusting is a corrosive process that eats away at the metal, there will always be marks or pits left by the rust as you can see at the top of the 1911 magazine.

Caution:  Removing rust with this method can cause a phenomenon called hydrogen embrittlement where parts over about 40RC in hardness will absorb hydrogen, and in the process become very brittle, sometimes catastrophically so.  To remedy this, after removing the rust I bake the parts in my kitchen oven at 375-degrees F for about 4 hours.  This does not harm the heat-treating.

I also used this process on a 1911 frame that had a lot of surface rust all throughout the inside.  I set the frame upside down on wooden blocks in the electrolysis solution and placed a rod with o-rings through the magazine well.  I connected a 1.5 amp trickle charger and left it for about 4 hours.  When finished, the frame was completely free of rust, and the bluing was intact.


   © Copyright 2010 Roy Seifert.