Nuts and Bolt Cleaning by Keith Collins

rock-tumblerMany of us reuse our old nuts and bolts when rebuilding our cars, but many or most of them are either extremely dirty or rusty.  Stan showed me a nifty way to clean his nuts.  NOW I’m listening — tell me more.  Stan purchased a rock tumbler from Harbor Freight (Fig. 1) for about $50 or you could use a 25% coupon and save or… wait for a sale.  I used my coupon and presto, I was in business.


vinegarNext, buy some cheap (economy, nothing’s cheap anymore) white vinegar (Fig. 2) at a store of your choice.  Vinegar is acetic acid or known as a very mild acid, good for cleaning and also good for salads etc.  Now, how many products can you use to clean your rusty nuts and put on your salad also; but not after cleaning your parts?!  Put a handful of parts in the tumbler.  Do not fill too full, they need to tumble, then add the vinegar and let the tumbler do its magic.  Check periodically to see how the cleaning process is coming, from a few hours to a day, depending how bad your parts were before you started.  (Fig. 3)nutsandbolts


When cleaned to your satisfaction, rinse with water and immediately put the parts in some ammonia and agitate for a few minutes to neutralize any of the acid that may be left. (Fig. 4)



lemon-ammoniaNext step is use a towel and dry them, then spread them out in the sun to finish drying.  Now your nuts are nice and clean, (Fig. 5) but if exposed to any moisture will rust again.  To prevent this, I take a little black paint in a container and reduce it down with the appropriate reducer until it is watery.


nutsandbolts-2Then I add the bolts to the solution, agitate to coat the parts, then put the parts on a screen to drain separating the parts so they do not stick to each other and moving them around to keep the paint from collecting on the bottom.  After letting dry overnight, I chase all the threads.  You now have like new original bolts.


nutsandbolts-3Muriatic Acid can be used in place of the vinegar.  BUT- do not use the tumbler as your tumbler will be eaten up in no time.  Use muriatic acid that is 31.45% Hydrochloric Acid (Fig. 7) as it is stronger and works faster.  Place some acid, enough to submerge the parts in a plastic container, and gently agitate every fifteen minutes until clean, maybe up to an hour.  The acid can be reused more than once.  Don’t pour used acid back into container with unused acid due to contamination.


muriatic-acidThis method is very fast, but comes with precautions.  Use outside only as the vapors will rust any unpainted metal in range and it is also not good on painted surfaces.  If you get some acid on your skin, wash immediately or it will burn you.

After the acid treatment, proceed with the washing and ammonia treatment as stated above.

Wine time, see you next time.