How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank – Easier Than You Think

How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank – Easier Than You Think

Many car owners who are doing restoration on their vehicles often hit a glitch when they reach the gas tank and find that it is full of rust. This leaves them wondering how to clean rusted gas tank.

This is why it is important to learn how to clean off the rust from your vehicle’s gas tank. The great thing is that this isn’t all that difficult. And not only will you learn to remove the rust from your car’s gas tank, but you will also get to learn how to prevent it from reoccurring soon.

One way that you can slow down and even eliminate and prevent rust is to pour in additives. However, keep in mind that such additives will not remove the rust if it has already formed. Their purpose is for prevention only.

Below we take a look at the methods that you can use to remove the rust from your fuel tank. After cleaning your tank, you can then use the additives or a filling.

Electrolysis Rust Removal

Electrolysis Rust Removal

One of the simplest and most efficient methods on how to clean rusted gas tank is through the use of electrolysis. And the great part is that anyone can do it with just a few essential pieces of equipment.

Firstly you will need to set up an electrolysis rust removal system. To do this will require a hollow container, rebar, a battery charger, a clothespin, copper wire as well as washing soda.

This technique is something that seems and works so simply that you would be tempted to think that it’s a scam. Buts not!

The container will need to be deep enough that it can hold just enough water to cover the rusty fuel tank. In the case of the fuel tank, the container may need to be large.

Setting Up The Connection

Firstly you will need to connect the container to the tank with the electrodes. Start by taking the rebar and then spacing these evenly all around the container at the sides.

You will need to drill holes that are ½ inch apart where you will insert the rebars.

Take a 5-inch wire loop and place this through the holes as well as around the rebar and then out again. If you have an anti-oxidant compound, then you can lube this around the ends of the rebar and then twist the wires tightly while cutting any extra off.

Now that you have ensured that everything is in its rightful place it’s now time to cut the copper wire into 4 sections. You will need to skim off the end for you to connect the rebar wire.

Use a wire nut to connect each of the rebars to a section of the copper wire. Ensure that you avoid connecting both the front and the last rebar.

Add 5 tablespoons or more of washing soda and then fill the tank with water. While you might be tempted to add more washing said since the fuel tank is quite a large piece of metal. Note that this will not make any major difference.

How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank, Step 1 – Time To Set Up Hanging Clips

Now get a non-conductive material and cover the top of the container. You will also need to connect a copper wire with an alligator clip and attach this to the water end.

Ensure that the clip just enters the water. Also, ensure that you get his right as the polarity is an important factor. Moreover, ensure that the charger of the battery is turned off.

Now connect the battery positive terminal (+ve) to the rebar and the negative (–ve) terminal to the alligator clip.

How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank, Step 2 – Time For The Rusty Fuel Tank

Are you wondering how to clean rusted gas tank? Start with cleaning a section of the fuel tank. It is this section where you will be attaching the clip. You will also need to select a point where the fuel tank will securely hang.

Now connect the alligator clip. Remember this one will be connected to the battery’s negative terminals. Make sure that the fuel tank is completely immersed in water. Don’t mind if the clip gets inside the water as that is completely fine.

To ensure that there is a good connection try wiggling the clip. Make sure that the fuel tank surface doesn’t come into contact with the positive terminal connection or the rebar.

Note that The parts that lack a direct line of sight to the rebar don’t get the rust cleaned so in this case, you might need to rotate the fuel tank or even use multiple rebars.

Gas Tank Cleaner

Gas Tank Cleaner

Let’s point out some negative impacts of having rust in our gas tanks and why you should learn how to clean rusted gas tank.

First off, the value of your car significantly goes down when the fuel tank is filled with rust. This will significantly lower your chances of a successful trade-in.

But not only that, it poses some significant safety risks when you drive around in a gas tank that is full of rust.

One thing that rust in the gas tank does is cause an inconsistent fuel flow. This will affect your vehicle’s idling as well as driving and acceleration.

When there is rust in the fuel tank, the filters will plug up which can create a potentially dangerous situation.

If the rust manages to get through the filters and into the combustion chamber, the car’s performance will significantly drop and less fuel will be mixed with the air for combustion.

Note that the type of fuel that you put in your gas tank will determine the chances of rust forming. Gasoline that has a high ethanol content for instance will increase the chances of your fuel tank rusting.

Other Reasons Why You Need A Clean Gas Tank

One more reason to learn how to clean rusted gas tank is for when you want to install a new fuel pump. This is because the dirt and debris will quickly clog the fuel pump and cause it to be damaged.

Consider that it takes less time to clean the gas tank that to get a new fuel pump and reinstall it. Not to mention that it is costly.

This is why it is in your best interests to make it a habit of cleaning the fuel tank.

Even if you bought a powerful fuel pump, the thing is that they need to start life in a clean fuel tank. This also means that you will need to regularly inspect the fuel tank to see how clean it is and determine when you need to clean it.

This will ensure that there is little dirt and debris that could damage the fuel pump and thus helping to save you plenty of cash in the long run. The number one reason behind damaged fuel pumps is dirty fuel tanks.

This is where a gas tank cleaner will also come in handy. The best ones can clean as well as rinse a fuel tank with a capacity of 40 pounds or more.

White Vinegar For Rust Removal

Whenever there is a mix of oxygen, moisture, and materials such as iron, rust will form. It starts with a small patch but then quickly spread. This is also why you should treat the small patch of rust before it gets bigger.

Sure there are many rust removal products on the market but why not save yourself the cash and just use everyday home items? Vinegar is one of these and does well to break the rust especially when it’s small and hasn’t spread.

Let’s take a look at how to clean rusted gas tank with vinegar.

Keep in mind firstly that different types of metals will react differently when you clean them. Check the car’s manual to find out the type of metal on the gas tank.

Also, a few precautions are helpful at this point. Ensure that the rust removal products are stored far away from children and pets. Some products aren’t as harmful since they are made for commercial use but it’s always a good idea to keep everyone safe.

How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank – Removing Rust With Vinegar

Tools that you will need include:

  • Spray bottle
  • Sponge
  • Knife
  • Small container
  • Large container
  • Fiber cloth
  • Brushy with soft bristles
  • Measuring spoons

The materials

  • Borax
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • White potato
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice

Start by spraying white vinegar on the gas tank.  You may need to have sufficient amounts of vinegar.

Let this sit for a while say 30 minutes. If the gas tank has rusted excessively you may find that you need to use more vinegar and let it sit for longer such as two hours.

After this duration, take a brush with soft bristle and scrub away at the rust.

Now it’s time to rinse away the rust. Use water to for this role and then use a cloth to wipe away the water to dry the gas tank.  If you notice that there is still some rust that remains, repeat the process or check the next method below.

Vinegar And Salt Rust Removal

The issue with rust is that when it starts forming inside your car’s fuel tank it will quickly spread. We saw above that you can easily remove rust from the fuel tank using vinegar. But sometimes the rust could be a bit stubborn.

In this case, you can employ another home component that is easily available and doesn’t involve the use of chemicals.

This will involve the use of salt and vinegar.

What you will need to do first is to use vinegar and salt on the rusted gas tank. Start by removing any dirt or debris in the fuel tank.

Now take the spray gun and fill it with vinegar. Vinegar itself is known to be a strong acid. However, by adding some salt, you increase the acidity of the vinegar. This will allow the solution to eat away at the rust even more.

By now you must be wondering what portion of salt and vinegar should you be mixing. Well as a rule of thumb and considering that you will end up using plenty of vinegar, for the very gallon of vinegar you need, use a cup of salt.

Having sprayed the mixture sufficiently on the rusty gas tank, you want to leave it for up to 12 hours to ensure enough time for the mixture to work.  You may even leave it for longer such as even 3 days for more effectiveness.

How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank, Step 1 – Now It’s Time To Scrub

You will need to get the rust off the fuel tank now that you have left the tank sitting for a decent amount of time enough for it to work.

Take a brush with soft bristles and start scrubbing away. If you notice that the brush is too soft, then you may find a brush with tougher bristles more effective.

How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank, Step 2 – Using Baking Soda

It is now time to ensure that you have neutralized the acid in the fuel tank. Take a spray gun and fill it with water. Then add a few tablespoonfuls of baking soda and mix.

This will help neutralize the acid in the vinegar and even reach the spaces under rust that vinegar could have reached. This will also cease the rust to come off even more.

How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank, Step 3 – Polishing The Rust

Take steel wool and scrub off the gas tank. You should start to see the gas tank begin to shine. Now wipe off the gas tank with a towel that has been dipped in alcohol. This is another effective method on how to clean rusted gas tank.

The alcohol will help ensure that any moisture that has been left evaporates and is wicked away.

Best Rust Remover For Cars

There are different types of commercial rust removers that you can buy in the market. These come in various forms such as:

1. Sprays

Many rust removers are available in aerosol or sprays. This makes them super simple to use.

That said, such products are for removing surface rust and are not ideal for deep and heavy rust.  You may also want to consider spray rust removers if the rust is in tough-to-reach areas.

Often the user doesn’t need to scrape away at the rust when using such products.

2. Soakable Products

These rust removers are soakable. These are ideal for those rusts that are tough to remove and have accumulated for a long time. The soakable rust removers are designed to eat away at the heavy rust while as the name suggests soaking into the rust.

Using soakable products that come with reusable liquid allows you to get more for the money you spend.

3. Powders

Other than soakable rust removers you also have the option of powders. These are also best when dealing with minor rust.

This is also a good product if you are dealing with metal components that have high levels of iron.

4. Chemical-Based Rust Removers

These are products that are designed to deal with heavy rust that has accumulated over time. If they are acid based, for instance, they will work fast and are very effective at eating away at the rust.

Keep in mind however that such acid-based chemical rust removers will emit toxic fumes when they come into contact with the rust and should therefore be used while wearing protective gear. You should also ensure that the area is well-ventilated.

Note that such products are highly powerful. They could also start eating metal if they are used the wrong way.

5. Rust Removers That Are Ecofriendly

If you are not one for chemicals that could damage the environment, you may also want to consider products that have chelated ingredients in them.

These are free of acids and are not toxic to both man and the environment. Sure they may not be as fast-acting as the chemical-based products but they will still do a great job when given some time to work.

6. Rust Converter

Another product that many people will use when dealing with high levels of rust is a rust converter. This one will combine with rust and form a black coating. It works similarly to a primer.

Note that these products will only work on certain types of metals such as steel and iron. They will not work with copper, aluminum, or galvanized steel.

Though rust converters are not the type of product you want to use for the inside of your gas tank. That said, you can use them on the outside of the gas tank.

The main brands include:


This product is manufactured in Portland by the Rodda Paint company. It is a versatile product that can be used for wheelbarrows, shovels, truck beds, undercarriages, and even cars.


This product first came out in 1997 and is a biodegradable nontoxic formula that is also noncorrosive. The company is located in Springdale, Arizona.


The company behind WD-40 is based in San Diego. This product has been around for decades which is a testament to its quality and effectiveness.

Now that you understand the various options available to you as far as rust removers go, let’s take a look at the underlying factors that you need to consider when getting a rust remover.

Factors To Consider When Buying Rust Remover

How To Clean Rusted Gas Tank

1. The Purpose

First off, you must define why you need the rust remover and what role it will play. In our case, it is for use when learning how to clean rusted gas tank. This will also give you a clue as to which type of product to get and how you are going to use it.

For instance, you may decide to get a non-chemical, non-acid product that is environmentally friendly or you should choose a product for soaking.

2. Application Process

You also want to consider the method of application. Many people would rather use a product that is simple to apply such as spray-based rust removers.

However, before you decide on a product, you may also want to consider the surface on which you are working to be the level of rust.

3. Protective Features

Some products will also feature protective barriers which will prevent rust from reoccurring in the future. This is a factor you may want to consider if you want to get the best bang for your buck.

Some products come with anti-moisture seals. This will help keep rust from occurring again.

Other factors that you may want to also consider are:

4. Size And Quality

It is crucial to consider the level of work involved and match this with the quantity of rust remover. This will help you get the most bang for your buck.

5. Suitability

You also want to check how suitable a rust remover is to the type of work you are doing. For instance, some products are not suitable for bare metal surfaces. Others are made for use on metal surfaces.

6. Versatility

Sure versatility isn’t the most important feature that you need to consider when getting a rust remover for your fuel tank. But it’s well worth considering. This is because you may have more than one item that you need to clean rust from and any extra rust remover can help you save time and money.

Frequently Asked Questions

How To Get Rid Of Rust

One way to remove rust is to take baking soda and mix it with water. You should be able to make a paste. Spread the paste on the affected area and allow it to sit for several hours. Finally, take steel wool and scrub away the rust, and use water to rinse it off.

Does Vinegar Remove Rust

Yes, vinegar will remove rust. This is because it is an acid and helps to break down the rust. Add vinegar to a spray bottle and spray at the affected area. Let it sit for up to 12 hours and then use a soft bristles brush to scrub away at the rust use baking soda to neutralize the vinegar and rinse with water.

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