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Steel swords have the propensity to acquire rust. For that reason, swords require maintenance to prevent rust and, if neglected, they will need the application of appropriate rust removal techniques. Options include chemical cleaning kits, household acid cleaning, and abrasive cleaning. Each option, if done improperly, can cause additional damage to the sword blade.
Chemical Cleaning Kits
Mild chemical cleaning solutions, such as Nevr-Dull or compounds included in a commercial sword cleaning kit, remove light surface rust and dirt. Sword cleaning kits are available online and at specialty cutlery shops while metal cleaning solutions are easily found at auto parts and hardware stores. Rub the rust away with a small amount of the solution using a paper towel. Rust that does not respond to a cleaning solution may require a stronger chemical.
Household Acid Removal
Acids can also be used to remove rust, but move slowly and with care. Try lemon juice first, using a paper towel to apply the juice to the effected surface. Leave the acid on the surface of the sword, checking periodically. This may take several days to completely remove stubborn rust. If this is not successful, a stronger acid may be necessary, such as vinegar or phosphoric acid, which can be found at a local pool supply store. Again, leave the acid on the affected area, checking periodically, and remove with water and a clean paper towel once the rust has disappeared. Avoid stronger chemicals that may leave microscopic etching within minutes if unattended.
Abrasive Cleaning Techniques
Applying oil to the sword using a steel brush or steel wool is a common technique for removing light surface rust. Apply a small amount of oil to the rusted surface and rub, using steel wool, until the light rust is removed. Rubbing rusty steel with a piece of aluminum or copper foil and water can remove rust without scratching the harder steel used in the sword blade.
Rust is caused by the exposure of steel to oxygen and moisture, therefore preventing rust requires addressing those elements. Store your sword in a low moisture environment, away from humidity, and in a sealed case or display case if possible. You can also protect the surface of the blade from oxidation by covering the surface with a preventative coating, such as gun oil or car wax. Evenly apply your choice of sealant to the blade and remove the excess. A thin, invisible layer is sufficient to prevent rusting. Inspect your sword every few months to check for rust and use fine steel wool and oil to periodically clean the sword.
Strong chemicals have the ability to ruin a sword. Make sure to test any new chemical or cleaning solution on a small area of the sword before applying to the entire sword. Consult a professional if rust continues to exist, as they may need to assist in the rust removal process.
After Rust Removal
After removing rust, remove any remaining solutions by using paint thinner or mineral spirits. Wipe the sword down and let it dry before performing any additional maintenance that the sword may require.
Based in Annapolis, Md., Kate Hickman has been involved with sports management since graduating from Vanderbilt University in 2006. Author of a holistic recruiting manual for high school athletes, a monthly e-publication through her business, Balance Lacrosse, and a monthly contributor to Lacrosse Magazine, Hickman has a thorough understanding of all things sports.