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1st attempt at electrolysis, have couple questions...

Paul Cataldo

Stainless
Joined
Dec 9, 2004
Location
Atlanta, GA
I plan on using the instructions here, which user mfisher posted in the vise squad pic thread some time back. Here's the instructions mfisher posted:

"There are lots of complete sites covering the electrolysis, but the basics are:

Non-conductive container - 5 gal bucket, plastic storage bin, etc.

Fill with clean water - doesn't need to be distilled, DI or RO, just plain tap water

Add about 1/2 cup of washing soda (I use Arm and Hammer, located in the clothing detergent section of most any larger grocery store) (baking soda will work, but not as well, and will only work on rust, not paint or grease) per 5 gallons

Hang the part (or block it up) to be cleaned in the solution, don't let it touch bottom since a layer of sediment/slime will gather on the bottom that can short out the system (sort of, if you are using clean solution this shouldn't be an issue, but after a while it will be).

Add a sacrificial piece or several around the containers sides, this is the other conductor. This needs to be steel/iron, and will get eaten away. Rebar or scrap steel, whatever.

There needs to be line-of-sight between each spot on the part to be cleaned and scrap steel pieces. This isn't exactly true, but it sure helps a lot. You can also move the scrap steel from place to place, and rotate the part being cleaned.
Connect the part to be cleaned to the negative of the battery charger. Connect the scrap steel to the postive, cable between pieces if you are using several.

DO NOT USE ANY STAINLESS STEEL. The chromium will be liberated,d you get a hazardous waste. Do not use copper or galvanized, it will be eaten away.

You do not need a lot of current (alledgedly, I haven't done the tests myself), 2A works just as fast as 20A.

Turn on the power and be patient. I think I had the vise body in for about 12 hours. Leaving it in longer shouldn't hurt anything. It doesn't effect clean steel/iron.

The bubbles forming will be hydrogen and oxygen. This, when concentrated, can explode. Use adequate ventillation to prevent explosive gas buildup."



-and here are my questions:


1. What exactly is this "washing soda"? Perhaps I'm just too young to know, but can regular old Tide or Gain brand clothing detergent be used, or what?? If not, could someone please explain in detail what must be used???

2. Can you be shocked/electrocuted in any way, during the process? I mean, can you stick your hand into the electrolysis bath while the process is occurring??? I've never seen this mentioned, and would like to know.

3. My charger has the option to switch to either 6v or 12v . Which setting should be used?

4. The instructions say not to use any galvanized for the scrap steel conductors. Would it also be a mistake to use galvanized bailing wire to suspend the object to be cleaned, down into the solution?

Thanks for the help guys. Really appreciate it.
 

sfriedberg

Diamond
Joined
Oct 14, 2010
Location
Oregon, USA
Washing soda is sodium carbonate. (Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which is different).

You cannot substitute a typical modern detergent for washing soda. However, you can (usually) buy washing soda where laundry detergent is sold. Look for a box that says "washing soda", and then read the fine print to make sure it doesn't have a bunch of other stuff in it besides sodium carbonate.

If you cannot get sodium carbonate or washing soda, you may be able to follow some internet-available instructions for turning baking soda into washing soda. Lots of luck.
 

Frank Ford

Hot Rolled
Joined
Dec 20, 2003
Location
Palo Alto, CA USA
I just use baking soda - sodium bicarbonate. Works fine for me being totally casual with mixture - water plus a bunch of Arm & Hammer. Low DC voltage = no shock hazard - either 6 or 12 would work, with 12 being faster, of course. Basically the process is so simple and foolproof that about all you could screw up is getting polarity reversed - you do want the part to be cleaned connected to negative.

Here's my simple little write-up: HomeShopTech
 

Fulmen

Cast Iron
Joined
Oct 31, 2010
Location
Norway
Sodium hydroxide would probably work as well, but it is far more caustic so no skin contact and use goggles to protect your eyes.
 

mf205i

Cast Iron
Joined
Mar 18, 2006
Location
Calif.
Washing soda is Soda Ash-Sodium Carbonate. It is available at home centers, pool supply, and some markets. It is sold to control PH in swimming pools. Use 1 tablespoon of Sodium Carbonate per gallon of water. If you use a low current, less than 1 amp on most parts, for a week, you will find your iron parts, rust, paint, oil, grease and crud free. The low amperage and extended time greatly reduces the black crud and turns this process into a great degreaser and paint remover. You can reduce the amperage of a battery charger by using light bulbs. I use a small headlight in series. This process is line of sight, so better results can be had if you use sheet metal plates, or a steel can, with all sides equal distant from your parts.
When I started this I was using up to two battery chargers, 30 volts, 8 amps and it looked like a Lobster pot boiling. It was great fun and fast, but I gave up on the process because the black crud on the parts was almost as hard to remove as the rust. A year or so later I started refining the process and I now use it all the time. Use the low amps, a lot slower but worth the wait. No need to pre clean the parts just wipe off the big stuff and have at it, you will be amazed. STEEL AND IRON ONLY! Remember that the part-cathode is connected to negative and the anode is positive.
Have fun, Mike
 

Mark Rand

Diamond
Joined
Jul 9, 2007
Location
UK Rugby Warwickshire
As to the shocking/electrocuting bit, if you put both hands in, separated by a bit of distance, you will feel a tingle, even at 6 volts, this is mainly because of the very good electrical contact between you and the solution. I prefer to only use one hand if the circuit is active.
 

waynes

Cast Iron
Joined
Mar 5, 2011
Location
Trenton, On
I have an old brass weigh scale with a very rusted iron counterweight that I've been thinking about trying electrolysis on. Is this process safe for the brass?

Wayne
 

Frederick Harvie

Stainless
Joined
Jan 7, 2004
Location
Halifax Nova Scotia
1. What exactly is this "washing soda"? Perhaps I'm just too young to know, but can regular old Tide or Gain brand clothing detergent be used, or what?? If not, could someone please explain in detail what must be used???
Washing soda is usualy marketed as a additive and is diffrent then your ordinary detergent but it should be available in the laundry section of most supermarkets. Arm and hammer is a common brand as is 20 mule team. Attached is a picture of the arm and hammer washing soda that I get at the local grocery store. I had never noticed it befor I went to look for it.
 

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magneticanomaly

Titanium
Joined
Mar 22, 2007
Location
On Elk Mountain, West Virginia, USA
Washing soda is sodium carbonate Na2CO3, baking soda sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3.

I believe that the electrolysis process will slowly break either chemical down by liberating the CO2 and hydrogen at the anode. Any sodium plated out at the cathode will immediately react with the water to form NaOH, or lye.

So I suppose the solution will become more caustic as time goes on. Which will make it a better paint and grease (and skin) remover
 

sicero

Stainless
Joined
Feb 13, 2005
Location
Medway, Ohio
I use a plastic barrel and torch the ends out of a steel barrel,
also torch full lenth of the barrel skin so it can be reduced in diameter
and slid down into the plastic barrel for the anode. You now have more
line of sight than you can hope to get by hanging a bunch of stuff for anodes.
I have used a metal barrel for the container and the anode.
It will start leaking in a couple days.
I also use a steel tank 6' high by 4' diameter for bigger items. I have used it of and on for
years and it has not sprung a leak yet.
A pool supply will have tubs of soda ash. It will clean grease, paint and filler.
I just hose it off with the power washer. You will want to use primer or something
to stop the rust from coming back. Kenny
 

GeoD

Aluminum
Joined
Oct 13, 2012
Location
USA Mass
Using graphite for the + electrode eliminates crud buildup on the + and keeps the reaction running quickly. The crud on the + gets to be a pain to clean off after a while. The part being restored is always negative. The lower the current the longer it takes but some of the rust gets converted back to iron on to the part, museums use milliamps and months to restore a lump that looks like a giant clam to a horseshoe with the nails still in it..



Arm & Hammer Washing Soda Detergent Booster - Walmart.com

HTH pH Plus: Outdoor Play : Walmart.com

graphite in Manufacturing & Metalworking | eBay
 

Paul Cataldo

Stainless
Joined
Dec 9, 2004
Location
Atlanta, GA
Ok guys, thanks for the great help thus far. I believe I only have one more question before I get started. The instructions above state the following:

"Connect the scrap steel to the postive, cable between pieces if you are using several."

-My question may be a dumb one, but just to be sure, does this mean I have to have every single piece of scrap steel/rebar etc, tied/wired together????

If so, then may I use some galvanized fence wire that I've got lying around, or would that be a big no-no?



IOW's, what should be used to "cable" all my scrap pieces of steel together??? Perhaps regular uncoated bailing wire, which isn't galvanized?
Thanks for all the help here guys.
 

Bill D

Diamond
Joined
Apr 1, 2004
Location
Modesto, CA USA
I use lye because I am also removing paint and grease. I use a old salt brine tank from a water softener. You can insulate with plastic sponges if needed. Old cooking pots and lids work well. they can be leaky as long as they are inside a plastic tub. Stainless steel is not to be used because the reaction makes toxic chemicals on the stainless and in the liquid. The solution will not grow fungus So I never throw it out just leave it outside to evaporate. I have used a stainless braided covered rubber hose as a plate inside tubes.
Bill D.
 

Alchymist

Cast Iron
Joined
Jun 5, 2008
Location
Mifflin, PA
I started out using PH increaser in the water, then found out plain tap water works just as well. (Well water, lots of calcium in it). Try a batch with plain water and see.....
 

Lakeside53

Stainless
Joined
Sep 28, 2007
Location
Woodinville, WA
Don't use todays Arm and Hammer. It has all sorts of other crap (detergents, fragrance, etc) that cause foam. To appear "green", it's labeled "contains activated baking soda" -marketing BS for "washing soda" or calcium carbonate. The foam exploded on one of my tanks when the wire sparked (yep.. turn off the power before making any adjustments). I was lucky enough to get away with badly stained clothes and deafness that came back over a few days.

You can get pure calcium carbonate at any pool or hot tub store - "ph adjuster".
 

Frederick Harvie

Stainless
Joined
Jan 7, 2004
Location
Halifax Nova Scotia
-My question may be a dumb one, but just to be sure, does this mean I have to have every single piece of scrap steel/rebar etc, tied/wired together????

If so, then may I use some galvanized fence wire that I've got lying around, or would that be a big no-no?



IOW's, what should be used to "cable" all my scrap pieces of steel together??? Perhaps regular uncoated bailing wire, which isn't galvanized?
Thanks for all the help here guys.
yes all the scrap steel pieces need to be wired together, I would use regular 14 gage household copper wire stripped bare to insure good electrical conduction between the scrap pieces. The process works to a certain extent on a line of sight so the more the part you are cleaning is surrounded the better
 

Paul Cataldo

Stainless
Joined
Dec 9, 2004
Location
Atlanta, GA
Ok thanks Frederick. Sounds like I need to wire some rebar together with 14awg romex, with the rebar and romex sticking up out of the solution, due to the fact that the electrolytic process eats thru copper so fast... I believe I've got this process down now, and will begin tomorrow, thanks to you all. Thanks guys.
 

Cuchullain

Aluminum
Joined
May 17, 2007
Location
Rhode Island
The one thing that has stopped me from trying this is the charger. I am told that new chargers automatically shut off as they are not charging a battery. How can one tell if a charger will work with this process. I have a 2 year old charger/starter which I use with my lawn tractors especially in winter. Would not want to ruin the charger but would like to try electrolysis. How can I tell, without breaking it, if this charger will work? If it won't work, where can I get one that will? What should I look for?
 








 
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