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Rust Removal

Many presses will be found rusted from long neglect. In remediation, it’s careful to note that it’s possible the original paint and primer on old presses may contain lead. It may be worthwhile to test it with a lead paint test kit or send samples for testing and take precautions accordingly.

Lead Contamination Precautions

The most basic protection would include purchasing nitrile gloves and a respirator that conforms to the NIOSH standard to protect against lead. To prevent the spread of liberated lead around the home, it is important to isolate and immediately wash the clothing worn to do this work.

If the press is inside a home or shop, consider creating a containment area or hiring a professional. Doing the work wet and using a coarse wire brush may help prevent creating a lot of fine lead dust. Take special care to prevent children under six and pregnant women from being exposed as they are particularly vulnerable. There are many more precautions that can be taken, but the basics are easily implemented steps in a common sense approach for an individual.

Rust Removal Techniques

WD40 + elbow grease

If the press is cast iron, generous quantities of WD40 and a wire brush will remove moderate quantities of rust with adequate elbow grease. If scratched metal is a concern, consider using steel wool instead of a wire brush. A coating of WD40 will also prevent further oxidization of the iron during the process of rust removal. Clean rags will be needed to absorb the dirty WD40 as it removes those top layers of rust. These soaked rags can self-combust and should be stored appropriately in a container such as a metal can with a tight fitting lid and disposed of by a contractor or through the city’s special hazardous waste collection day.


Nitrile gloves provide superior solvent protection compared to latex gloves. Latex gloves are designed more for microbial protection.

An acetic acid bath of approximately one part lemon juice and three parts white distilled vinegar has been used with some success by printers to remove rust from small parts that can be immersed in the bath for six hours or longer. If there’s any concern about damage to the metal, consider testing this method on a scrap piece of equivalent metal or on a part that can be easily replaced.

Naval Jelly, a phosphoric acid based rust remover, should be used with care. The user should wear nitrile gloves and take other health precautions as needed. Read the labeling thoroughly. This product tends to produce a dull finish after the metal is cleaned, but it’s more powerful and faster than other methods described here. Again, test first if there are any concerns about the viability of this solution.


In the case of a rusted flat bed of a press, consider hiring a professional to mill the surface.



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