Wind chimes add a nice visual and aural touch to a porch or patio. However, because they're usually kept outside, exposure to the elements can eventually rust the chimes, dulling their sheen and their sound. Rust isn't easy to get off but it isn't permanent. You can keep wind chimes intact by applying different rust removal techniques.
How Rust Is Formed
It's useful to understand how rust is formed before trying to remove it from wind chimes. Rust is the chemical reaction of the metal (iron, steel) to oxygen in the air. For example, iron chimes react with oxygen to produce iron oxide. Moisture in the air can also expedite rusting.
WD-40 is an anti-corrosive spray that has a number of applications. The "WD" stands for "water displacement," and it can be effective in treating rust. Spray a small amount of WD-40 on the rusted areas and let sit for five to 10 minutes. The WD-40 will loosen the rust. Then wipe off the rust and residue with a soft rag. This is also effective in cleaning other substances that may have built up on the chimes over time. WD-40 is effective in getting rid of rust because its chemical composition loosens the metal-rust bonds, and its anti-corrosive properties bond to the metal underneath, helping to keep it rust-free.
Other products specifically designed for rust removal are commercially available. If you want to avoid using harsh chemicals, buy a nontoxic, water-based product. It may also be advisable to avoid using acids, which may be effective in removing rust but may also corrode the metal (or burn your skin in the case of an accident). You can also use home remedies to get rid of rust. Make a solution of white vinegar mixed with ordinary table salt. Coat the rusted wind chimes in this solution and let sit. When the solution has worn away the rust, wipe clean with a rag. Then clean with a damp cloth (to remove any salt deposits) and dry. Alternatively, you can apply lemon juice to the rust, although this may not be strong enough to be effective.
After you've treated the chimes for rust, apply preventive measures to extend the life of the chimes and keep rust from coming back. Bring the chimes indoors during long periods of non-use (during winter months or extended vacations). Coat the chimes with a thin layer of rustproof alloy. And treat the chimes regularly with small doses of the removal substance you used to stop rust buildup in its tracks.
Steel wool can also be useful in removing rust. Steel wool is composed of tightly wound, fine steel strands. It has a number of household uses (such as scrubbing pots and pans). To use it to remove wind chime rust, apply a bit of light oil onto the steel wool. Rub it against the rusted part of the chimes until the rust comes off. You can also use a wire brush in lieu of steel wool.
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