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Old 12-17-2009, 03:15 PM   #1
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Another of my "hot buttons".

If rust stain remover is safe for fabrics it is usually hydrofluoric acid (also used for etching glass) or occasionally oxalic acid (also used for bleaching wood). They are dangerous because they will not burn your skin, but will migrate through the skin into the tissues and attack the nerves in the body. It is very difficult to treat if this happens, and you will know by the incredible pain, but often with no redness or irritation showing on the skin.

I strongly suggest using rubber gloves with any acid. I am very afraid of hydrofluoric acid (household "Rust Stain Remover", often in a brown bottle in the cleaning section of the store), and somewhat so with oxalic acid. I like oxalic acid for its general stain removing qualities, though, and keep a container of the crystals on the boat. But, because these do not burn when they touch your skin, it's easy to believe that it is safe enough to use without rubber gloves. It isn't.

I first read of the danger of hydrofluoric acid in DISCOVER Magazine. Here's a link to the article: An Invisible Fire

Hydrochloric acid (also called Muriatic acid), and phosphoric acid, also remove rust and rust stains. They can burn the skin, are highly reactive and have a greater propensity for splashing up and into one's eyes.

The bottom line, of course, is to be cautious with any acid, and don't allow yourself to be lulled into not taking appropriate precautions.


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Old 12-17-2009, 05:05 PM   #2
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ouch! Thanks for the info. I use hydrofluoric acid based materials to prep metal before painting and oxalic acid to bleach wood after stripping and before re-varnishing if there are water stains. While I use gloves, I didn't know about this info that your skin won't warn you with pain! My oh my.

Thanks again for the information.

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Old 12-17-2009, 06:32 PM   #3
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Good to know... my normal rust stain remover is oxalic acid, I usually use a respirator when using it but have never bothered with gloves... I'll start using them too.

My not normal use stain remover, On and Off, (I just label it "ACID") is Hydrocloric acid, phosphoric acid, and oxalic combined... the bottle actually reads "May cause sudden death" ... I hardly ever use it but when I do I wear longsleeves, a respirator, goggles (not just safety glasses) and gloves... I used it on the deck once and it melted the nonskid on contact... scary stuff.
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Old 02-02-2012, 10:52 PM   #4
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As a biochemist I am often amazed that toxic and nasty means are utilized to achieve what can be done with little risk and cheaply using common and easily obtained materials.

Sodium or potassium Metabisulfite works, citric acid works, other fruit acids work......

Just go out to the store and buy a container of Rust Out or CLR in a pinch.

Metabisulfite also works on removing red wine stains, mercury etc.

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Old 02-03-2012, 08:11 PM   #5
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Will try potassium metabisulfite next time. Thank you for the tip.

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Old 12-01-2012, 10:24 PM   #6
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Phosphoric acid, normally sold as Ospho is by far the safest and best rust cleaner. All commercial ships, including those huge white cruise ships use it for removing the unsightly rust streaks. They use rollers on long handles, perhaps you have seen them, thinking they were painting.
I've always used it bare handed, though it can sting a bit f you have an open sore. The commercial concentration is 5%, if I remember right, be it in a quart bottle or a 55 gallon drum.
Brush it on, wait a while, and wipe it off w/ a rag (Ospho has a green coloring agent that will remain) and polish if you wish. For very difficult rust stains, just keep applying and in time the rust streaks will go away. Won't hurt fiberglass or paint, but plays hell with bare teak, by the way. Great in the engine room, parts that get hot or not, and a first step cleaner for repainting rusty metal, like engines. Do not use on zinc coated metal. Safe for rust stains on most fabrics, too.
As an aside, you drink it every time you have a Coke!

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