Emphasis added by me.After reading a thread on this site about cleaning glued up clamps using electrolysis I recalled a conversation with a fellow at FS Tools here in Canada about cleaning saw blades. He told me they use electrolysis to clean the blades sent in by customers, at that time I had little knowledge of just how easy it was to set up such a system and for very minimal cost. I used sodium carbonate purchased from the local pool supply shop, it is actually called 'Soda Ash' and is one and the same product.
One thing to note is that this process will clean everything from the blade including paint.
Any chemists out there? What's the main difference between putting a piece of steel in an acid bath versus putting it in a "base" bath (sodium carbonate) and applying an electric current?[FS Tools] did say they now use ultrasonic sound waves together with an acid bath to clean the blades
Wayne, the "Soda Ash" is not a "New" label put on by the Pool Supply Stores, but is the real name for a product that has been available for at least 50 years that I'm aware of. Out here in "Oil Patch" country, ALL the laundromats Used to have at least a couple of washing machines dedicated to "Greasers" (greasy/extra dirty work clothes), and they ALL had the vending machines that sold small boxes of detergent, softner, and "SODA ASH" (which, although hard on the cloth would really cut through the oil,grease and grime and let the detergent work). "Most" laundromats around here though have gotten rid of their Greaser machines now and have gone to different products that are not as damaging to the cloth, (but I don't find them as effective either), but a few still have their greaser machines and have the soda ash available in bulk and will sell it a Cup at a time on request, (naturally for more money). I hadn't needed any Soda Ash in a long time so when I recently wanted to buy some to do some electrolysis cleaning, I was very surprised to discover that NOT ONE grocery store in this whole town of 100,000 plus, now carried ANY Soda Ash, OR the Arm & Hammer detergent with the soda base in it, but they were all selling a variety of brands of the new milder stuff (which was much higher priced). I had to go to 9 different laundromats before I found one that had some soda ash in bulk to sell me, (and I had to go back home and get my own Jar to put it in).I left each blades in the solution for 30 minutes but I suspect this could be refined depending on how dirty the blades are. I'd check the blades every 10 minutes but first turn off the charger and put on some gloves. I couldn't find 'sodium carbonate' anywhere, the pool cleaning shops label it 'soda ash', probably so they can charge more for it so there may be a cheeper source.
QUESTION: As I understand it, sodium carbonate is a "base". If you use a Citric Acid solution as the electrolyte, would you need to reverse the polarity of the wires from the power source? (Still wondering about the chemistry, I guess. )For the actual electolysis, better than baking or washing soda is a mild solution of Citric Acid.
Baking powder has less sodium bicarbonate than baking soda, and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is still less effective (based on what I've read) than true sodium carbonate. Probably explains the "disappointing" part of your experience....It caught my eye because my experience with electrolysis has been awfully messy and disappointing. I used ordinary Baking Powder...
Phosphoric acid does, indeed, work kinda OK for removing rust. I have used it on gun parts with less than exciting results. But, phosphoric acid is also used as a blueing agent for gun parts. Not the best blueing one can get but it does the job on most steels. It might work for what we are talking about here but be prepared for your tools to become a different color. Personally, I wouldn't use it and have given up it's use for gun parts.When the above steps have been completed, there is one final procedure to stabilize the metal and prevent future corrosion. Wipe it down with a solution of Phosphoric Acid, sold at hardware stores under the name of Ospho. Your steel will be clean, acid and salt free.
These measures are used to prep corroded metals for painting. Squeeky clean results.
For the actual electolysis, better than baking or washing soda is a mild solution of Citric Acid. Sold also at hardware stores.