Whether you have small hand tools for jobs around the house or dozens of power tools for heavy-duty construction, you’re probably storing them in your garage to keep them safe. However, even keeping them in your garage doesn’t always keep them free from rust.
The most important thing to remember is that you can prevent rust by choosing the correct tools, storage options, and cleaning methods.
Your metal tools can rust, even if they’re stored in your garage. Moisture and oxygen lead to metal oxidizing and corroding. Even though it’s inevitable that your tools will develop rust, you can take steps to prevent it by lowering the humidity, circulating the air in your garage and adding a protective coating to your metal tools.
Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information about protecting your tools from rust:
- Different types of tools that will and won’t rust
- Tips to prevent your tools from corroding
- How to clean rust from your tools in the garage
What Types of Tools Will Rust in a Garage?
Most metal tools will develop rust. That’s just a fact of life.
Not only is rusty metal dangerous, but it also corrodes your tools. Once that corrosion starts, it starts to eat away at your tools, weakening them.
Even brand new tools can start to dull and break down in a matter of months.
Before you know how to prevent rust on your tools, you need to understand what corrosion looks like on different types of metals.
- Iron: Any tool comprised at least partly of iron can show rust within 3 to 5 days when it becomes damaged. Small nicks or porous surfaces can invite oxygen and moisture, two of the primary causes of rust.
- Steel: Iron is a major component of steel, so it makes sense that steel is also susceptible to rusting. Fortunately, most stainless steel tools are treated to be resistant to rust. Even still, you should take precautions to help prevent it.
- Copper: Copper doesn’t rust, however it does oxidize, which is a form of corrosion. Copper wiring for electrical jobs is common precisely because it’s so difficult to break down. Unfortunately, it’s less durable as steel, so your hand tools probably aren’t made of copper. Still, you can find some specialty tools made from copper, so it’s important to take care of them too.
- Aluminum: Aluminum won’t rust, but it can develop an oxidized corrosive layer. Most aluminum tools are made to resist oxidizing for quite some time, assuming you store the tools properly and don’t mistreat them.
Although rust is technically only found on iron and steel tools, it’s important to know that any tool that’s exposed to moisture will have some sort of corrosion.
No matter what your tools are made of, it’s important to care for them to prevent rust – even if you store them in the garage.
How to Stop Your Tools From Rusting (Even in Your Garage)
The best way to get rid of rust is to prevent it. If you keep rust from forming on your tools, it doesn’t matter if you store them in your garage or the closet.
Here are a few simple suggestions to prevent rust. These should help increase the life of your tools.
- Use an anti-corrosive spray cleaner: Everyone’s favorite, WD-40 was actually designed to help remove rust. Although the basic, red-cap WD-40 will work just fine, the WD40 Specialist Corrosion Inhibitor Spray is designed specifically to prevent corrosion. Just spray a thin coat on your tools and let it dry. It’ll help prevent corrosion for several months.
- Prevent damage: We like to think of our tools as indestructible, but they’re not as tough as you might think. Small dents and chips from throwing them into your toolbox will eventually invite rust. A little toolbox organization will go a long way in helping keep them safe from damage.
- Dehumidify your garage: One of the best ways to stop your tools from rusting is to remove the moisture from your garage. If you live in a humid environment, like I do, then a dehumidifier is a must-have. You can check out which one I use in my garage here.
- Circulate the air in your garage. Another way to cut down on moisture in the air is to move that air around. If you can place a couple of fans around the room, you’ll be able to keep your tools dry. The combination of a dehumidifier and a garage fan will usually be more than enough to prevent rust for a long time.
- Keep your tools in an enclosed container. To most people, this means a toolbox, but anything that keeps them away from the open air will help. Neglecting to store your tools properly in the garage is asking for rust and corrode to take hold.
Cleaning Rust Off of Tools
If your tools are already showing signs of rust in your garage, the best thing to do is to catch it early. If you can remove the rust before it starts to crack the metal, you can still restore your tools.
Check out this easy 4-step process to remove rust from the tools in your garage:
- Make a dense, compact ball out of aluminum foil. It has to be compact enough to the point that it doesn’t become misshapen when you’re scrubbing it against your tools.
- Mix a few drops of dish soap in a bowl with warm water. It can’t be cold because it won’t loosen the rust that’s built up on the metal.
- Dip the aluminum foil ball in the soapy water and scrub it against the rust. Use circular motions to prevent linear scratches. It’ll loosen the rust enough that it’ll come right off.
- Repeat step three until you’ve achieved the desired results, then dry your tools off with towels before you store them in the garage. Any bit of moisture left on the tools can be a bad sign for rust to come back again.
Another option is to use a soaking solution like WD40 Specialist Rust Remover Soak. It lets you soak your tools and let it do the work to break down the rust. The liquid strips away rust, leaving behind fresh, clean tools.
Although rust technically only affects iron and steel, we use the term loosely to cover any kind of metal oxidation and corrosion.
No matter what you call it, that corrosion is terrible for your tools, and can even affect them in the protection of your garage.
The best thing you can do is prevent it. To do that, you need to control the environment in your garage. Here in Florida, I use a combination of a dehumidifier and my Air King garage fan to try to reduce any moisture that’s in my garage.
If you do happen to find rust on your tools, remove it quickly to prevent permanent damage.
Humidity can be extremely damaging to your entire garage, not just your metal tools. For more information on how big a threat it is, check out my article where I look at some of the damage it can cause, and what you can do about it.