If you have a rusty item, you might want to try this out. Citric acid is a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits and plants. It has been used as a cleaning agent for metal surfaces since the early 1900s, as it is highly corrosive and an effective chemical against rust stains.

How Can Citric Acid Be Used to Remove Rust?

Citric acid is a strong oxidizer and can easily remove rust by stripping it off easily and effectively than most other methods. Another reason why citric acid works so well is its penetration. Citric acid goes deep into metal surfaces where other cleaners cannot reach and provides a clear, rust-free surface.

Steps to Remove Rust

1. Soak the rusty object in a tub of water and citric acid for about six hours. Pour the mixture over the rusty item and let it soak for several hours.

2. Using a wire brush, scrub the rust off with the citric acid mixture. Wear gloves as citric acid can cause burns to your skin.

3. After this, rinse away all residue using clear water and let it dry completely under sunlight or in an oven set at low heat (about 150 degrees Fahrenheit).

4. Apply a coat of wax to prevent the item from rusting again.

5. Voila! Now, you can place your rusty object in a cupboard or drawer and never worry about it again.

Tips for Using Citric Acid as a Rust Remover

1. Always use a brush made of wire mesh to scrub off the rust. A wire brush should have a diameter of 0.01 inches and a length of about 18 inches. You can also use regular scrubbers as long as they are made of metal or plastic since they will not corrode as much as the regular brush.

2. Avoid using citric acid on any painted surfaces.

3. Citric acid is corrosive to clothing, so avoid wearing clothes that are citric-acid prone. 

4. Citric acid has a dangerous tendency to dissolve or remove other substances, so use it with extreme care.

5. If the citric acid mixture turns pink, you should immediately rinse it off. If left on longer, the citric acid can rust your item instead of dissolving it.

How Does Rust Build on a Thermos?

Rust develops over time as an electrochemical reaction between the metal and the oxygen it is exposed to. As the chemical reaction continues, the metal’s surface oxidizes and turns an orange or red color. The surface of a metal object will even change shape and form, causing various depressions and holes within the object.

For thermoses, rust typically occurs when the antifreeze inside them leaks. The liquid then starts to react with the metal, and once it drips out, the rust is left behind. Typically, when a liquid is placed in an object made of metal, rust will not form because the liquid and metal each have a different specific gravity: the only condition is the excess availability of oxygen. The metal itself will create rust, which will contain iron oxide particles.

How to Avoid Rust?

1. If you notice rust forming on your thermos, place the container outdoors under direct sunlight.

2. You can also use a mild detergent or dish soap to clean any areas of rust formation.

3. Another option is to place the thermos in the oven at low temperatures (150 degrees Fahrenheit) for about 30 minutes. This will remove any accumulated rust that has formed.

4. You can also use a paste of non-iodized salt and baking soda. Just rub it over the areas of rust accumulation until it forms a thick paste, which will rid it of its iron oxide particles.

5. Other popular liquid cleaners are baking soda, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide and citric acid. 

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Citric acid can be used to remove rust stains, but it will most likely cause damage to the metal object if left on the surface for too long. If you notice rust forming on your thermos, rinse it off with water immediately. If you use citric acid on things that are painted, wear gloves to avoid getting acid burns on your skin. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does it work to clean rust off stainless steel?

A. Yes, citric acid can be used to clean any type of steel surface for the antimicrobial properties it has against bacteria and mold spores.

Q. What else can I do to acid-proof my stainless steel?

A. It is recommended to buy a stainless steel cleaner that has citric acid as one of its ingredients. Also, if you want to ensure that it is rust-proof, avoid using hot water on the sink or shower. Instead, use lukewarm water that will not expose the metal to rust.

Q. Is citric acid safe for painted surfaces?

A. Citric acid will remove paint when used for an extended period of time. However, it can be used to remove rust off painted surfaces if started early enough in the process. It will not damage the surface underneath as long as direct contact is avoided.