Although most fishing hooks have a surface coating covering the actual hook to slow down the rate of rusting, it is inevitable that your fishing hook will rust – especially if you fish in a saltwater environment and don’t rinse your hooks off after using them. Buying new hooks is a rather expensive process, so you might be wondering, is there any way to get all that rust off your hooks?
You can remove rust from fishing hooks by sandpapering them, using a rotary device, or soaking the fishing hooks in solutions like baking soda and water, lime juice and salt, vinegar, citric acid, and potatoes. Alternatively, you can use a rust converter to strengthen your hooks further.
If you want to learn some foolproof methods to getting rid of the pesky rust that accumulates on your hooks and having seemingly brand new hooks again, keep reading.
What Is Rust?
Technically, rust refers to hydrated iron(III) oxide; it is formed when iron reacts with oxygen and water in a process called oxidation. Most fishing hooks are made of alloys and not pure iron, but they contain a certain proportion of iron. This allows iron oxide deposits to spread beyond the point of contact with iron, even onto the non-rusting metals.
Most of the time, rust can be removed by converting it into another soluble product. This usually takes place via a chemical reaction between iron oxide and an acid. In other rarer cases, you can remove it by reacting it with a base. If the layer of rust is light enough, you can also just use brute force to get rid of it.
Now that you know what rust is and how it occurs let’s talk about how to remove it. In the rest of this article, you will learn various methods to remove rust and obtain newly usable hooks, most of which only require commonly available household goods.
Lemon/Lime and Salt
For this method, you will need a lemon or lime and common table salt. Here is what you need to do:
- Soak all your rusty fishing hooks in a solution of lemon/lime juice and salt for four hours. Do not add any water to your solution; this dilutes the concentration of chemicals, and they will take longer to react with your hooks. If you have many rusty fishing hooks, you might also require more than one lemon or lime.
- Scrub away any lingering rust on the fishing hooks with a metal wire scrubber.
The citric acid in the acidic fruits reacts with the rust to create a soluble salt that can be scrubbed away. If using this method once doesn’t do the trick, feel free to repeat this method multiple times.
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate or NaHCO3, is a basic substance. However, it can still react with rust to produce soluble iron, sodium carbonate, and water. Here are the steps to take to remove rust:
- Add a small amount of water to the baking soda to produce a thick paste. Do not add too much because it becomes less effective when watery.
- Spread this paste on all the affected areas of the metal hooks.
- Wait for a few hours.
- Scrub the paste off with a metal wire scrubber.
This method can be repeated until satisfactory results are achieved or until rust stops coming off with the paste using this method. That means that it is time to switch to a more aggressive method or give up on that particular fishing hook entirely.
Coca-cola contains a variety of acids within which makes it ideal for removing rust. There’s no specific requirement for the type of Coke you need to use – it doesn’t have to be fizzy or diet, just plain old Coke.
Here’s how to do it:
- Fold some aluminum foil into a few layers.
- Pour some Coke onto the rusted spot and try to work it off with the makeshift aluminum foil tool. Alternatively, you can use a metal wire scrubber if you have that.
- Once most of the rust has flaked off, you can clean the region with soap and water to remove the unwanted rust flakes.
If this is unsuccessful, you can try submerging the fishing hooks in Coke for a few hours and then try to scrub the rust flakes off. This should give the acid enough time to work on the rust. The Coca-Cola method should remove superficial and slightly deeper rusting because it is a highly acidic drink, with a pH of 2.52.
If you don’t have any Coke, you could try it with other acidic soft drinks, like Pepsi, Fanta, or Dr Pepper, but there’s no guarantee that these drinks will work as well as Coke, if at all.
Potatoes and Soap
This method is very unusual and potentially disgusting, so proceed with caution. You probably don’t know this, but potatoes contain a high concentration of oxalic acid. As acids react with iron oxide to create a soluble salt, you can use potatoes or potentially any food item with a high enough concentration of oxalic acid to remove rust from your fishing hooks.
Other possible sources that you could use include:
- Sweet potatoes
For a full list of food items high in oxalate, you can consult this list.
Here’s what you should do to enforce this method:
- Cut a potato in half.
- Place the cut portion in a container of dish soap. This is to remove any grease and dirt that prevents the oxalic acid from reaching the rust.
- Let it stew for a few minutes.
- Place the cut portion on the rusted surface and leave it for a few hours.
- Scrub it off with a metal wire scrubber.
Alternatively, you could try:
- Scrubbing off the grime individually with dish soap.
- Blending the potato or another high oxalate substance to create a mixture.
- Soaking the fish hooks in that mixture.
The second method could potentially be more helpful if the rust on your fishing hook is not concentrated in one place but dispersed over the hook.
As oxalic acid is a weak acid, this method is best suited for light to medium rusting.
Citric acid is a very strong acid. It has the potential to strip away paint or even any metals on top if your fishing hook has undergone galvanization. As a result, this method is best used with very severe rusting.
- Create a hot water bath.
- Add three tablespoons of citric acid. As this is a slightly less commonplace item to find, you can use this Alpha Chemicals 1 Pound Citric Acid.
- Soak your damaged fishing hooks in this bath overnight.
- Scrub any rust off using a metal scrubber.
WD-40 is a spray that loosens the chemical bonds between rust and the surface metal that it has bonded to. You can get it at a hardware store or buy this WD-40 Multi-Use Product from Amazon.
Simply follow the steps below to remove superficial rust from your fishing hooks:
- Spray your hooks with WD-40.
- Wait for approximately 15 minutes.
- Gently scrub the rust and WD-40 solution off.
- If there is still some rust left, repeat steps 1-3 until a satisfactory result is achieved.
Unlike sandpaper or other more aggressive methods, WD-40 is especially chemically formulated so that it won’t affect the paint on your hooks. You won’t have to deal with flaking paint or having to get your entire hook repainted.
Vinegar contains weak ethanoic acid that undergoes a chemical reaction with rust to get rid of it. You can use any type of vinegar that you want because all of them are acidic, even though some might be more or less acidic than others. I would recommend using white vinegar, but again, any work.
- Pour the vinegar into a big bowl.
- Submerge all of your rusty fishing hooks completely in the bowl of vinegar for a few hours.
- Scrub off the rust with a metal scrubber.
Rotary Grinding Tool
If you have a very heavily rusted fishing hook and still need to use it, try using a rotary grinding tool. Most people don’t have one, so you can try getting this Dremel Rotary Grinding Tool if you need it. However, simply having the tool is not appropriate in most cases – you need to have the specific cutter or brush that goes with it to remove the rust properly.
Here are some of the tools that you can use:
- ZFE Double Layer Abrasive Wheel, or a similar substitute.
- Swpeet Polishing Wheels Kit, or a similar substitute.
Here are the steps that you should be taking:
- Attach the tool to your rotary device.
- Put protective gear like goggles on. Using the rotary tool means metal dust and other potentially sharp particles could get in your eyes.
- At approximately 7,000 RPM, move the rotary tool gently over the rusted part of your hooks. Ensure that you touch only the rusted parts because the rotary device is powerful enough to damage and cut through the undamaged metal. If 7,000 RPM feels too intense for you, you can use a slower speed.
- Clean off the rust flakes with a duster.
- Wash the hooks, ensuring all the rust has gotten out.
- Pat them dry with a towel.
If you’ve never used a rotary device before or use it infrequently, try getting familiar with it, seeing how different RPM affects the device’s speed and intensity. When using a rotary, you need to keep it constantly moving while simultaneously maintaining a delicate touch.
The slightest slip could result in your not owning a fishing hook or finger anymore. Rotaries are highly powerful mechanical devices, so handle it with care.
Using sandpaper is appropriate only if the layer of rust on your hook is very light – it won’t work if you have a highly degenerated hook.
For this method, you will need some coarse-grit sandpaper, which you can either find at the local hardware shop or purchase online, like this LANHU 60 Grit Sandpaper. To remove the rust from a fishing hook:
- Sand the affected surface with sandpaper.
- When the rust flakes off, clean it with a cloth.
For a more refined-looking hook, you can try sanding it with coarse sandpaper first and then with fine sandpaper to ensure that all the metal surfaces are level and even.
This might be a novel concept that you’ve never heard of before, but instead of destroying the rust on your fishing hook, you can actually make it work in your favor. A rust converter is a substance that takes iron oxide and converts it into a bluish-black ferric tannate.
This is a substance that extends the longevity of the hook by delaying corrosion, but it is not a complete vapor barrier. It will still allow water and oxygen access to rust to a smaller degree. However, for the rust converter to work, it needs to have access to the iron metal. This means that if your fishing hooks have been painted over or galvanized, the rust will likely not have completely destroyed this exterior layer, and it will still be present.
For the rust converter to work, you need to apply a paint stripper, like this Sunnyside Corporation Paint & Varnish Remover. Once you’re sure that all of the paint has been removed, you can start the steps to apply the rust converter.
For this method, you need:
- A liquid or spray rust converter – you can use this VHT Spray-on Rust Converter.
- A paintbrush – to ensure even application of the rust converter.
- Paint suited for metal, such as this Rust-Oleum Oil Rubbed Bronze Metallic Paint.
- Wire brush
Now that you’re all set to begin, here’s what you do:
- Use a wire brush to scrape off any flaking rust or paint.
- Apply the rust converter.
- Spread it around with a paintbrush to ensure that it is applied evenly.
- Leave it for 24 hours. A black layer should have formed.
- If you want to apply an additional coat of paint, you can do so over it.
This is my favorite method of getting rust “off” fishing hooks because it manages to do what none of the other methods can – preserve the integrity of the hook. Removing rust involves removing part of the original metal that the hook contained, resulting in it becoming smaller and weaker. However, this method allows you to use the rust to strengthen your hook effectively.
Should You Use Your Fishing Hooks Immediately After Removing the Rust?
Even if you have successfully removed the rust from your hooks using any one of the above methods, it doesn’t mean that your hook is as good as new. The corrosion of material from your hook likely means that it is not as sharp as before. If you try to use it, it is probable that you won’t be able to use your hook to get any fish or that many of your catches will be unsuccessful.
To get over this obstacle, you need to use a hook sharpening stone. If you don’t already possess one, you can order this SE Sharpening Stone for Fishing Hooks from Amazon.
If your fishing hooks are unpainted, you can simultaneously prevent rust from forming and make your fishing hooks look snazzy by painting them. The layer of paint acts as an additional protective surface that slows down the rate of rust formation.
You might have heard of naval jelly as a product that is invaluable in removing rust from objects. It should not be used with fishing hooks because the metal of the hooks is too thin for it and it will not be able to sustain the chemical reagents within the jelly. Your fishing hook will either dissolve or snap into two the minute you attempt to bend it.
The methods above are not guaranteed to save every fishing hook. If you have left your hooks to rust for a few years and try to save them now, the hooks’ extreme corrosion means that when you try to get rid of the rust, a large proportion of the material comprising the original hook is also lost. This means that the fundamental structure of the hook is compromised and trying to save it could mean the hook breaking apart in your hands.
Even if you manage to save your fishing hooks, if you keep using them as carelessly as you were previously, they will likely rust again and eventually break apart. Instead, ensure that you rinse and dry your fishing hooks with pure water every time you use them. Once done, you should also spray them with oil before storage – this prevents the formation of rust.
For storage, if you’re serious about fishing, you can keep all your hooks by type in a huge plastic tack box with compartments. Otherwise, you can just store them on a safety pin so that they don’t get lost.