Rust be gone

Turn rusty tube and pipe into a product that is shiny and new and ready to use

Piles of rusty scrap metal
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Metal pipes get rusty. Especially when bought in bulk and stored in areas that aren’t climate controlled. In a short period of time, moisture and oxygen reacts with the iron or other metal material the pipe is made from, and soon the pipe will begin to rust. If the pipe is ignored, it can become useless and will need to be disposed.

Other ways are available to revitalize that pipe, of course. The rust can be ground off, but that process can be labor and time intensive and may damage the stock.

More aggressive steps can be taken such as pickling the pipe, which literally means bathing the pipe in an acid bath, which will, indeed, remove the rust, but might remove paint and anything else in which it comes in contact. There’s also the problem of what to do with the hazardous acidic material that can endanger workers with its odor or create environmental problems that might gain the attention of the nearest regulatory agency.

A third option is to outsource the job. One Chicago-area company is familiar with that route. It sent bundles of tubes to a second company for pickling and oiling and three days later they would get their product back in good shape. Beyond the cost to dip and then ship the material to and from the facility, was the inconvenience that for three days, the inventory wasn’t available.

The pipe component supplier, however, found another alternative. One that is quick, cheap and environmentally friendly. It does, typically, require dipping, but unlike the caustic pickling option, the rust remover is not acid and is generally safe to use and dispose.

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Save rusty pipe from the scrap heap with environmentally friendly Rust Release.

By the pound

The product is Rust Release from Fluid Environmental Services Inc. President Paul Mattar says that the company can clean rusty tubes with its nonhazardous Rust Release and do so for as little as $0.029 per pound in-house. And, Mattar’s largest customers can save as much as 40 percent compared to pickling.

Another company has been using Rust Release for about 10 years and in that time has cleaned more than 2,000 tons. For them, it has cost roughly $98 per ton to clean. To date, they have cleaned:

  • 52 bundles or 6,072 tubes total
  • For 6,072 tubes at 50 lbs. each = 303,600 lbs.
  • Total cost for Rust Release = $13,770.00, which includes disposal and shipping costs
  • Per pound, the company spends $0.045

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After sitting in a tank of Rust Release for a short period of time, old pipes come out shiny and new.

“Every customer has different amounts of rust,” Mattar says, “and therefore the cost per pound is a bit different for everyone. We also let customers use the 26-ft. tank at no charge. I’m confident that customers would be happy with the cleaning results in terms of savings per pound.”

Another customer, a large manufacturer of steel pipe, sent a thank you letter to Mattar, which he shared with FAB Shop Magazine Direct. According to the letter, the company was seeking alternatives to improve the surface quality of its scrap pipe inventory. “We were losing $5,000 to $15,000 per month on scrap metal because we didn’t have an economical answer at that time,” the customer wrote. Based on testing, the company decided to invest in the Rust Release product and realized significant results.

“We were able to salvage all of our tubing inventory,” the customer said. “We were then able to store the tubing in bulk quantities, [which] eliminated the concerns of rust or pitting. When we tracked our piece-counts and total tubing footage, [we] saved roughly $92,000 in inventory.”

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A worker with Fluid Environmental Services custom building a dipping tank to help remove rust. 

How it works

Rust Release is a non-acidic, synergistic blend of chelating agents, wetting agents and surfactants designed to remove rust from the surface of metals. It works primarily through the process of chelation, which is where a metal ion is sequestered by another molecule.

“In simple terms,” Mattar says, “Rust Release works by grabbing the rust particles from the surface of the metal and pulling them into the solution. When the metal part is removed from the solution, the rust stays behind. We always suggest removing the rusted items when the rust is gone. Rust Release has a pH of 5.5 to 6 and is extremely safe.”

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A container of environmentally safe, non-acid rust remover that can be emptied into a tank for dipping.

According to Mattar, the company usually recommends using the product for light surface rust. “It just depends how deep the surface is,” he says. “It might take a few times of dipping it or maybe leave it for a longer time to see if it will remove the rust all the way. It just really depends on the severity of the rust.”

While Mattar says it is safe, he does recommend that customers check with disposal companies or their local regulatory agency to ensure that it’s acceptable to dispose the remaining material through the drain.

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Dipping tank

One of the perks of using the product is that Fluid Environmental Services can custom-build dipping tanks for customers. According to Mattar, every customer is unique with their tank size requirements. 

“We can build a 7-gauge dipping tank that is mounted and finished in black lacquer,” he says. “We start constructing the tank immediately on receipt of the purchase order.”

Typically, the tank is completed in two to three weeks. There are no plumbing or electrical requirements for it, and it will be ready to use the same day it’s delivered.

Not all products are dippable, however, says Mattar. For those cases, Fluid Environmental Services developed the Rust Release SuperGel product.

To use, loose rust and dirt should be scraped off, and then, the SuperGel can be liberally brushed onto the rusted area and left on until the rust becomes loose. Customers wipe the solution clean and repeat the process if any rust remains, leaving the gel on longer for heavily rusted areas. The SuperGel can stay on the material from 20 min. to 4 hours, depending on the thickness of the rust. Customers can determine if the rust is coming off by rubbing the surface of the metal.

Fluid Environmental Services Inc.

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