Thursday, July 19, 2012

How to restore your bicycle- Part 2 Rust Removal, before and after.

How to restore your old bicycle part 2
Rust bath results

I wanted to give an update on the parts restoration process before getting the bicycle frame back from powder coating. In my last article one of my readers brought up a good point. Unless you are trying to remove rust from chromed plated bicycle parts, I would not recommend using oxalic acid on any aluminum or nickel plated parts. The best solution for these kind of parts is to use a  mineral solvent like Simple Green and to continuously scrub the parts in the solution using a steel wool sponge or wire brush. Newer bicycles from at least the last two decades will very seldom have any chrome plated parts on them.

As far as removing rust from chrome plated parts, I have yet to find a more effective solution than oxalic acid. In my last article I posted the before pictures of the parts before being treated in the oxalic acid bath. Here's an update on how these parts look now.

After 48 hours, the water will have a yellowish tint to it, the acid is doing it's job

Parts after the first phase of the oxalic acid bath.

I Jerry-rigged this "ghetto bath" out of a recycling bin that leaked so I had to wrap plastic around it. Will make it better next time

After the first oxalic bath, I made another larger bath out of a recycling bin. I know, I know, Greenpeace would hang me by my toes if they saw this. In my defense it no longer leaks. Being that I am also pro-environment I always take extra precaution when handling chemicals like this, reader rest assured. 

I let the parts from the first bath sit in the second bath for about 10 hours and added more rusty parts into the soup. Here is how the initial parts turned out after being placed in this bath,

The ugly duckling becoming a swan- Before and after oxalic acid bath.

Before and after oxalic acid bath.
Even after a 3 day bath, sometimes the rust may leave small pits where it ate through the chrome finish. Oxalic acid can really bring back chrome polished metal, but it does not work miracles. Here is an example of small pitting that may occur when a metal has been long exposed to rusting. From a distance pitting may not be noticeable. I had to make this picture below with my macro-lens setting.

Pitting may occur when metal has been exposed to rust for a long time.
My next article will feature how this bike starts to come together. Stay tuned as I give more tips on parts installation techniques and final touches on this bike.


  1. Did you have to scrub off the residue from the bath, or did the second bath dissolve that? The parts look pretty clean- I just removed mine from a 48hr bath and it looks like a lot of polishing will need to happen.

  2. It was a very good post indeed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it in my lunch time. Will surely come and visit this blog more often. Thanks for sharing.
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