How to use Citric Acid

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SteveRetherford
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How to use Citric Acid

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Post by SteveRetherford »

This might be more apropriatly called how I use Citric acid , the trials and errors
Anyway Kool-Aid is for Kids ,
at first i used kool-aid to clean my Lamps and Lanterns and wondered just what was in it that would help clean years of rust and corrosion off in minutes or hours for really rusty stuff , well , its Citric acid . so being tired of grape or cherry colored and scented hands i went ahead and ordered some citric acid off the web as straight citric acid is much much faster than Kool aid , be sure to check out different vender's as the prices vary wildly from one to another . this is where i got mine > Bulkfoods.com Citric Acid 5 pounds Fast Online ordering with $5 Shipping on $7 it only took a few days to arrive , anxious to give it a try but not having any directions my first attempts were experimental until i found what i think is a pretty good procedure here as follows .
1, first tear apart your lantern completely separating the nickel plated parts , the brass , and the steel parts into separate piles .
2.fill a 5 gallon bucket with about 2 gallons ( or enough water to completely cover the amount of parts you intend to clean ) of as hot a water as you can get from the tap and then add about 2 to 3 heaping tablespoons of the citric acid and stir , don't worry about it getting on your hands it wont hurt you unless you have an open cut (to speed things up even further you can boil your water and acid in a porcelain lined pot as it "the acid " will slowly eat away any metal pot ) the more citric you add the faster it will work , and the hotter it is the faster it is .
3. i put all the nickel plated parts in the solution first , i will even submerge a nickel plated fount especially if it looks rusty inside all before doing the BB shake as the soaking will really help soften up the rust and corrosion inside . give it 3, 4 or 5 minutes and remove the parts that didn't look very bad to start with and give em a scrub down with 0000 size steel wool . if anything did not readily clean up throw it back in the solution keeping in mind how long each piece is soaking ( you can not go run any errands at this point ) the citric dissolves corrosion and rust and if left too long will eventually dissolve some of the nickel plating so the key is TIMING when it comes to nickel plated parts . then rinse well , some folks even make up a neutralizer rinse of baking soda and water to completely rid the piece of any residual acid
4, once all the nickel parts are clean i throw in all the brass components , brass does not seem to be dissolved or attacked like the nickel plating so timing is not quite as important here . burner tubes can take the longest to get all the black off of them , so again clean with 0000 steel wool till all the parts look satisfactory to you and give em a rinse in fresh water when done .
5. now its time for the steel parts like the burner cage , shade holder , etc . steel parts that are very rusty will take the longest time .but these burner frames were zinc , tin or chrome plated at the factory so you still don't want them in solution any longer than necessary or you may lose some of that plating . i don't like rust but sometimes i find a happy medium and may leave a bit of rust to keep some plating . at any rate they look a whole lot better than before . steel parts need to be rinsed and blown dry with compressed air right away or the rust will begin to form again in no time . the steel wool i use is factory coated in oil to keep it from rusting so for the last parts wooling i use a new dry piece that will leave just a trace of oil on the cleaned parts for rust protection .
more Notes.
A. each metal piece that is cleaned will leave trace amounts of metal in the citric solution , if you do the steel parts first it will leave a dark stain on the brass and nickel that takes more work to wool off so i use the 3 ,4 , 5 nickel brass steel in that order . for really crusty lanterns i sometimes make a new citric batch just for the steel parts . the solution starts out clear like water but turns PISS yellow with use so if it looks too dark yellow its best to make a new batch . and i make a new batch for each lantern , i don't try to save or re use it . i just dump the old solution out in the back yard and it does not seem to hurt anything or kill the weeds like i had hoped .
B. for a painted fount that has rust inside . i put a fuel cap on and fill from the top with a funnel till full trying not to get citric on the decals . a little on the paint does not seem to hurt but i try to avoid getting it on the paint for very long . i will throw painted fuel caps in solution to help clean the brass on the inside but i pay special attention to anything painted and leave em no longer than necessary .
C. ball nuts are easier to steel wool if you put them back on the ventilator stud to hold them wile wooling .
D. wile you are waiting for parts in solution i use the same steel wool to clean my porcelain'd ventilators , it is the best cleaner/polish i have found for these . and leaves no scratches i can see , in fact this is also how i clean my glass globes too .
E. on quick lite fiber valve wheels on the shaft , again i don't know what citric may do to this material so i only soak as long as necessary to get the shaft clean and sometimes i will put some oil on the wheel when I'm all done and it will look real dark black again if it looked aged or gray . and i don't trust the graphite packing's after a soaking so i always replace them .
F. on some brass stoves , blow torches and heaters when i am all done i use TUNG OIL ( its like varnish ) on a rag to wipe them down and it will keep that brass from turning dark and corroding again with age . on some pieces you will need to use Jasco or some other paint stripper to remove the sealer originally placed on them so the solution can reach the metals surface .
G. i also clean up Mica globe frames in solution , use clean solution for this as mica is multi layered and you don't want yellowed solution between layers . because of the fragile nature of mica you need to be very careful with the steel wooling . when it looks satisfactory to you rinse and then immediately dry as best you can and place in a hot oven till dry or that rust will return right before your eyes . or for cleaning the mica its self i use dish washer machine soap in a bucket , soak for just a few minutes and i use my fingers to gently rub the mica and all that black stuff comes right off , then in to the oven to dry .
H . wax and polish any parts before re assembly as you don't want any excess wax or cleaner getting left in the nooks and crannies . most all wax and polishing compounds will have ammonia and other compounds in them that will attack certain metals and plating's if left on , so after a polish i really give em a rub down with a clean rag or towel to remove this .
I. if you follow these steps with your old Nickel plated 242 , Quick Lite etc you will fall in love with them as you see the real potential beauty they held when like new . especially if you take those before and after shots .
J. this method of cleaning has many applications . its great to clean the BLOOM out of old brass radiators and removing rust from auto parts or just about anything . there is procedure for cleaning radiators that involves first cleaning out the radiator with detergent to remove all oils so the citric can do its thing , run the motor with the citric solution and then flush flush flush .
i also use this citric for cleaning old Penn fishing reels . the uses go on and on . the more you use it the more uses you will find for it .
K . if you still have questions you can just contact me directly at
L. Patty saw me in the kitchen playing with citric acid and so she did her own similar kitchen GIRLS experiment . she asked me for a couple of rusty nails . HUH ? what for i said . well she placed those nails in a tall glass and then squeezed a bunch of lemons over it and let it sit over night , and to our amazement those nails were like new in the morning . so kool aid , lemons or citric acid it all works pretty good .
M. if a burner tube or something does not want to come apart easily don't fret yet , toss it in the citric as is , after a good soaking it will soften any corrosion , rust or debri between the two pieces and many times after soaking they will come apart much easier .
N. the Lantern King and i were experimenting soaking different lantern parts for longer than necessary lengths of time in the citric acid just TO SEE what harm might happen . and he calls me up saying not to soak your porcelain ventilators in citric as he pulled one out that had been in soaking a day or two and he says it took the gloss right off that ventilator . so don't soak your hats .
O. i have been experimenting with aluminum in citric too . you ever see what looks like white oqide or powdery corosion on aluminum pieces like some 200A frame rests , i have a radiant heater with a big piece of aluminum that was pretty coroded in areas so i threw a few of these parts in citric just for a test . at first i didnt think it was doing anything but after a wile all those areas of corosion just scraped off with a fingernail now or rubbed of easily with some steel wool . all the wile it didnt hurt the original finish on the uncoroded areas like some oven cleaners will . it was left a little pited were the corosion was but all the corosion was gone . they may be better ways to clean up aluminum , this was a test . i would do it again now .
[DrSteve2]    Steve , Keeper of the Light !!!
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