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Electrolysis - Unexpected Damage

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Posted February 17, 2014 - 11:57 PM

I have used electrolysis to get the rust and paint off many parts and thought I knew what I was doing. Turns out I was wrong. A temporary setup (large cooler box lined with a bin liner with a 16" x 18" plate of 1/8" steel as the anode along one side and a power source of 18v from a laptop power unit, drawing 4.5 amps), seemed to be doing a good job of cleaning pieces overnight, so this morning I added another piece (lift handle) on top of the front axle that was in there already. When I checked this afternoon, I found the lift handle had the same sort of accumulation building up on it as the anode normally gets and it had started to corrode, with pits forming where the paint had been lost. Not the result I was hoping for.

The handle was definitely not touching the anode, nor was it short circuiting through trash on the bottom. The only thing I can think of is that even though the lift handle was lying on top of the front axle, it was so well painted that it was not electrically connected to it. As a result there was a potential difference between the axle ( which was well connected to the negative wire) and the lift handle, which was picking up current from the solution and was relatively positive, so that the lift handle began to act as an anode. Instead of being cleaned it was corroding.

The damage is only cosmetic and some heavy use of primer will hide it, but in future I will make sure that all the parts in the electrolysis tank are well connected electrically so that no potential difference can exist between them if there is more than one piece cooking at a time.
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Posted February 18, 2014 - 12:16 AM

Sorry to hear you ran into problems and thanks for sharing your findings. Hopefully, it will save someone else trouble down the road.

#3 farmer john OFFLINE  

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Posted February 18, 2014 - 03:30 AM

how about some pics of you set up please

#4 sacsr ONLINE  


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Posted February 18, 2014 - 05:47 AM

Like Farmer john would like to see the set up. I never have seen this while I had my tank set up. Positive on - negative off
Others are better qualified to answer the question - but sounds to me like your piece became the anode.....good that the damage was only cosmetic! Hope we can help get it figured out.

#5 JDBrian OFFLINE  


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Posted February 18, 2014 - 06:16 AM

When dealing with more than 1 piece at a time I always wire them up seperately.  I have never had any problems doing multiple pieces this way in a 45gallon plastic drum.

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#6 robert_p43 OFFLINE  

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Posted February 18, 2014 - 10:06 AM

I am glad you posted this. You said, "nor was it short circuiting through trash on the bottom."  This could explain a problem that I had.  I had been using a steel bar as my anode and cleaned up parts to my plow.   The stuff did accumulate on the bottom of my bin.  A couple of weeks later, I set something in there that I wanted to clean up and my setup just wouldn't work.  I figured I would need to add more washing soda but everything I read said it should still be good so I just gave up on the tank for now and wire brushed the piece. My Anode touches the bottom and so did the part.  I guess the trash could have made it so they were connected.

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Posted February 18, 2014 - 09:41 PM

Here is the setup:


Coolbox lined with a black dustbin bag, sodium bicarbonate solution and 16" x 18" x 1/8" steel plate (old furnace baffle that had burned through) as the anode with the axle wired up and cleaning nicely. The lifting handle lay on top of the axle.



Power source from an old laptop (Compaq) giving 18.5 volts DC and 4.5 ampsP1020528.JPG


Lifting handle with first coat of primer (pitting is just visible in a line down the centre)



I have just checked the front axle again and it looks fine - no pitting and all the rust as gone from the immersed part, so the setup is working well for the individual piece.