Q: We reenact Civil War battles and need to clean the bayonets, rifles and assorted other metal parts. We came across Alconox as a source for safely cleaning these important pieces. The residues are largely rust and pine tar. What would you recommend?
A: Cleaning steel used in reenactments as you describe certainly helps in establishing the proper setting for the show. Cleaning tool steel (also called mild steel) requires a little bit of effort to ensure flash rusting does not occur during rinsing. To avoid this cooler temperatures for washing and rinsing are advised. After which drying should be quickly done via forced air, wiping or alcohol dipping.
An ambient 2% Citranox® Liquid Acid Cleaner and Detergent solution will be effective at removing the oxidation and rust residues, as well as residual pine tar. For persistent residues, a warm wash may needed (recall: heat expedites cleaning and serves to soften solidified oily residues). For this process, following the warm wash, an ambient-cool wash, and an ambient-cool rinse can then ensure no rusting is seen.
For truly persistent oily, organic residues like pine tar, using a 2% Liquinox® Critical Cleaning Liquid Detergent might be needed. We would suggest trying at ambient temperature first. If warm is needed, follow with a cool wash and rinse as above.
The idea is to determine first if cleaning steel in these applications is achievable without the need for warm temperatures which could accelerate corrosion. Ambient to cool temperatures for washing and rinsing, and quickly drying will keep the parts and props ready for battle!
Review further details on Cleaning Carbon Tool Steel.
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