Restoring Your Bike: The Vinegar Bath

Do you have chrome parts that are rusted on your BMX or other bike? Maybe the frame itself is chrome and could use some help? Even old tools can become completely restored with the vinegar bath method. Rusty cranks, headsets, pedals, bearings, seat posts and clamps, etcetera can benefit from a vinegar bath. Let’s see how.

Step One: Get your hands on a plastic tub and some white vinegar. If you are only going to restore small items such as nuts, bolts, washers, or hand tools, you’ll only need a small tub. A gallon of white vinegar can be found at the store for around $4.00. Of course, the bigger the item, the bigger the tub you’ll need. Those under-the-bed organizer boxes work well for frames and forks.

Step Two: Fill the tub with vinegar and submerge the rusty item. Really, the only trick here is to make sure the item is completely submerged. Let the item sit for about two hours, and check on it. Most sources will say to leave the item in at least twelve hours, but I have found that I rarely need that much time.

Step Three: Take the item out of the vinegar bath. At this point, some of the rust will appear to have stayed. Take a toothbrush, or one of those small shop brushes with plastic or brass bristles, and gently rub along the surface of the item. If the rust doesn’t just fall off, soak it for another couple of hours.

Step Four: Protect the item. Now that the acid in the vinegar has eaten the rust away, you’ll want to coat the item in a light sheen of oil to prevent further rusting. I use 3-in-1 oil, gun oil, or even WD40 in a pinch. Some folks actually wax items such as expensive bike frames to ensure they do not flash rust.

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