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A Bubbly Solution to Rust

Okay, so you’ve left a bunch of perfectly good, chrome-plated box-end wrenches at the bottom of an onboard toolbox, some salt water has gotten in somehow, and now your darn tools are crusted over with rust. One by one, you pull ’em out, studiously examine the brown, even blackish discolorations and ask yourself, Should I just dispose of these babies? They’re still usable, yeah, but they look horrible. Most guys would be embarrassed to own up to ’em in private, let alone in public.

Disposal? Embarrassment? As luck would have it, there’s a third alternative, and a very positive one at that. Coca Cola—yup, the beverage that first bubbled up in a pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1886 and is now familiar to just about everybody in the world—will remove rust from almost any chrome-plated tool, as long as you give the sweet, fizzy brown liquid enough time to work.

Container short-statured? End-for-end your wrenches and keep on soaking.

Container short-statured? End-for-end your wrenches and keep on soaking.

Here’s what you do. Get yourself a stout, appropriately sized plastic container and immerse all of your rusted wrenches (or other rusted chrome-plated tools you have on hand) in a bath of Diet Coke. Go with the diet product here because sugar has no restorative effect and tends to add extra stickiness to a project that can sometimes get a bit messy. Make sure the Coke covers all areas of rust or at least half (you can end-for-end later on) and then place the container in a location where it will be out of the way and where moderate temperatures prevail.

Now twiddle your thumbs. Most likely, the restoration of your wrenches to their original appearance will take a few days at least, and perhaps several. When convenient, pull a wrench or two from the bath and do a quick scan. If all the rust is gone, fine—spray the tool with WD40, wipe it off with a rag and stow it, dry. If rust remains, pop the wrench back into the bath and keep twiddling. There’s no question that Coke works on rusted chrome like gangbusters but other carbonated Cola products with phosphoric acid will do the trick as well, although with not quite as much panache. And incidentally, if you have any Coke left over, use it to wash down a few potato chips. Nice little combo, Coke and chips.