How to Remove Rust from Nuts and Bolts [Proven Methods]

Rusting on nuts and bolts can make it difficult or impossible to remove. Rust is a red/yellow iron oxide that forms as a coating on the surface of metals like iron and steel, corroding them in the process.

Rust occurs when iron reacts chemically with oxygen and water in a process known as oxidization. This can lead to serious mechanical failure if not corrected immediately.

If you don’t take action to remove rust from nuts and bolts fast, the rust will spread to other parts of the machine, corroding the entire metal in the process.

Also Read: How to Use a Nut Splitter.

Removing Rust from Nuts and Bolts

When it comes to removing rust from bolts and nuts, here is the main method you can use to go about it;

Things you’ll need;

  • Wire brush/sandpaper
  • Plastic bowl or bag for soaking the nuts
  • Phosphoric acid/ hydrochloric acid

Step 1: Cleaning off Rust from the Surface of the Nuts

The first thing you need to do is reduce the amount of rust on the nut. Using a wire brush or sandpaper, scrape off the rust on the surface of the nuts.

Be careful to avoid damaging the threads between the nuts.

Step 2: Preparing the Acid Solution

Take the plastic bowl and pour the acid solution inside. Use phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, or any rust removal you know.

Be careful when preparing the solution to avoid any contact with your eyes or skin.

Step 3: Soaking the Nuts

Once you have completed the previous 2 steps, you can proceed to soak the nuts in the bowl of phosphoric acid.

 The phosphoric acid will convert the rust into an iron oxide which is a black coating.

Soak the nuts in the acid solution and leave till the next day. Dry the nuts, then use sandpaper or something else to scrape off the iron oxide.

You can hydrochloric acid for the solution but be careful as hydrochloric acid is very powerful, working even after the solution has been rinsed off and the nut has been dried.

Finally, when handling acidic solutions, make sure to use a hand glove and be careful to avoid contact with your skin

Alternative Methods to Remove Rust From Bolts and Nuts

Using Vinegar

Vinegar is a good option for removing rust from nuts and bolts because it contains acid and is non-toxic.

With vinegar, it is better to use apple cider because it is stronger than white vinegar.

To remove rust, all you have to do is to soak the rusted bolts in a solution and allow them to sit for 24 hrs or longer since it is not as strong as industrial acids.

Once you’re done soaking the nuts in the vinegar solution, remove it and use a soft scrubber like scrunched up tin foil to scrape any rust residue

Using Lime or lemon solution

Lemon and lime also contain citric acid and that makes them good options for removing rust from nuts and bolts.

Plus they are non-toxic and will do very little damage to your health or skin.

When working with lime/lemon solution, soak the affected nuts and bolts for a day or more. Then scrape away at any rust residues using sandpaper or any other scrubber.

Using baking soda

Baking soda is another simple and effective method you can use to remove rust from screws. Just take a small bowl, add baking soda, then add water, and mix to form a paste.

The paste should have a thick consistency that is thicker than water. Make sure to use more baking soda than water so you can achieve the right consistency.

Take the rusted pieces and apply the paste onto their surface. Use a soft abrasive like a toothbrush and scrub away at the rusted spots. Then clean off and check for residues.

Please note that using baking soda to remove rust from bolts will require more than one application. So be patient and you’ll see results.

Using potato and soap mix

Potatoes contain oxalic acid which can be used to get rid of rust spots.

To get the best results from using potatoes, cut the potato in half and apply a baking soda paste onto the inside surface of the potato.

Use the coated side of the potato and thoroughly wipe away the rusted surface.

Then wipe off the residues with a soft abrasive. Repeat as needed. You can also use lemon juice if you don’t have any baking soda.

Remove Rusted Lug Nuts With Nut Splitter

Here is a simple step by step process to removing rusted lug nuts with nut splitter;

Step 1: Choose the Correct Nut Splitter Size

Before using a nut splitter, make sure its size fits perfectly with the nut you’re trying to remove. This will make it easier for you to cut the nut.

Step 2: Unbolt the Chisel

Turn the screw head anticlockwise and push the chisel back into the nut splitter at the same time. Continue turning the screw head until the nut fits between the chisel and the anvil.

If the screw feels too stiff, then use an appropriate spanner or socket.

Step 3: Put the Chisel in the Right Position

The next step is to position the chisel properly by placing the nut splitter’s frame over the nut and adjusting both the chisel and the anvil so that they are on the same line as the flat side of the nut.

Make sure the chisel is facing the center of the nut’s flat side directly.

Step 4: Tighten the Chisel

To split the nut, turn the screw head clockwise to pinch the nut right between the chisel and the anvil.

Continue turning the screw head until the chisel starts cutting into the nut. Stop when the nut splits. Use a spanner to generate enough force to turn the nutrition

Step 5: Unbolt the Chisel

Turn the screw head anticlockwise again and push the chisel back into the nut splitter until the nut is free.

Step 6: Repeat on the Other Side

Repeat the process on the opposite side of the nut.


When rust hits, nuts and bolts become corroded, and their threads wear out. And makes it almost impossible to remove the nut.

If this happens, using a lug nut splitter to cut the nut is the fastest way of rusted screw removal.

The easiest method involves cleaning rusty bolts and nuts with acidic solutions. This will in turn dissolve rust on bolts and nuts.

You can use either strong acids, phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, etc. Or weaker but still effective acids like vinegar and lemon to get the rust off bolts and nuts.

Be careful when removing rust using acids because they cause injuries if they touch your skin. While it can be a little tricky, this guide makes it simple and straightforward to restore rusty nuts and bolts.