For those who want a less hands-on method of rust removal, there is an alternative, using molasses. This method is popular in the restoration of iron automotive and machine parts because of its effectiveness, its labour un-intensiveness, and its ability to convert rust deep inside castings with cavities where other cleaning methods would be difficult.
The formula for a molasses soak is a 10% solution of molasses and water, i.e. 1 part molasses to 9 parts water. The molasses used for an animal feed supplement in liquid form is the type you want, so check a local farm supply store for it. Molasses takes from 2 to 4 weeks for a piece with average surface rust. As with lye for crud removal, submerge the piece completely. During this time, fermentation will naturally occur, so be aware that moving a piece in the soak may cause a sudden release of trapped pockets of gasses causing splashing. You can avoid this by submerging pieces in an upright position.
Like lye on crud, molasses works better and faster at a warmer temperature. Since the process relies on a biological reaction, you don’t want it hotter than about 105°. This biological process also results in the formation of mold and a scum on the surface of the solution, as well as a distinct odour. You therefore want to do a molasses soak outside, in a covered-but-not-airtight container.
Check the container regularly to gauge the progress, and to make sure it hasn’t sprung a leak. Should the solution leak out and leave the piece to dry out with a coating of the solution on it may result in damage.
Once complete, the rust should be gone, but a coating of molasses scum may remain. Use a scrubber pad and hot water to remove it before any necessary final touch-ups and proceeding with your initial seasoning regimen. A 9:1 ratio (9 parts water to 1 part molasses). The Molasses you want to use is available from stock-feed retailers as it’s generally used to feed cattle.
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