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Thread: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

  1. #1
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    White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    I'm building a Series IIA Land Rover chassis, the first one I built I used paint/rust stripper and flap discs to remove the mill scale on the sheet metal. Man that stuff is tough and it took flippin for ever!

    I don't want to use acid, partly because concerned about not getting it neutralized completely and having issues later and potential embrittlement. I don't anything about metal embrittalment, other it can happen. Plus if I don't really want to deal with muriatic acid if I don't need too. :-)

    I have read that soaking it in white vinegar overnight will remove or at least remove a lot of the mill scale and would be easier to finish removing the leftover mill scale.

    From what I understand it will need to be neutralized also, but a good rinse with fresh water and then with baking soda/water.

    If soaking it in muriatic acid is the fastest and simplest method and properly neutralizing it isn't really difficult, but just needs to be done properly, I'll use the muriatic acid. I've used it before as a contractor. So not completely unfamiliar with it.

    I'm building components, cross members and outriggers and the pieces are 1/8" hot rolled steel, 8" x 26" and 6"x 14" so not real large pieces to deal with.

    Suggestions on which method to go with?

    I have a build page about building the 69" Series IIA 100" Land Rover at, facebook.com/69Series2A/

    Cheers, Allen

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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Sandblast it. I'm all about mechanical mill scale removal on 14 ga and thicker.100 years ago.....or mavbe a few less I had a buddy who was the guy that blasted " Born on xxzz- died yyxx. in granite head stone. I don't know what abrasive he used for that but man I kept him busy on the side with motorcycle frames and hot rolled pieces I made frame connectors and lift kits and stuff out of. It was a great prep abrasive for parkerizing old military weaponry too. That's actually how I met the dude was getting some old Springfield abraded with this coarse material and he was also a guitarist so we jammed and he did my blasting after hours " graveyard shift", in his case, LITERALLY . He was running a 200 psi machine with about a 1 or 1 1/4 hose siphoning this gray looking crap for media. He did it over a grate and got down in the pit and shoveled-seined it and returned it to a big hopper. I suspect it was 1/2 ton or so of material. Young, dumb and stoned. Wish I knew what that stuff was.
    Last edited by Bonzoo; 07-26-2018 at 07:30 AM.

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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    I use white vinegar on recycled horseshoes and it works fine. It may work put soaking for a few days is sometimes best. Vinegar isn't too expensive so I say try it. I buy it from Sam's or Costco. They are the same price per ounce but have different sizes. One has gallon jugs and other 1 1/2 gallons. Your stores maybe different. That's why I listed by ounce.

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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    I use phosphoric acid to remove rust. Cheap, and works well. Not sure what it would do for mill scale, but either way, I would still use my flapper wheel and grinder for the weld areas.
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bonzoo View Post
    Young, dumb and stoned. Wish I knew what that stuff was.

    Lol... That made me laugh..
    T man.


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  6. #6
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Ph up from the pool store will do it too.

    It 's not acidic, it's basic



    Neutralize with baking soda and water

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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    I've used vinegar and muriatic. Vinegar takes a long time and doesn't get some of the stubborn stuff off at all sometimes. Muratici is fast, cheap, but dangerous (fumes and skin contact), and it will rust your shop tools if you don't keep the area ventilated, so this is inconvenient. I just do mine in the yard. I just rinse with water, then a baking soda bath (scrubbed with a brush too).

    Soak for 20 minutes is the longest I've had to wait with fresh muriatic, sometimes longer if it's really cold outside, or I'm using well-used muriatic (4th or 5th batch ).

    Yes, white vinegar has its place, but you need extra time, and might not get it all off.
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    I've used muriatic acid. It's very dangerous. The smell alone seems to burn your insides. Plus I never had a safe place to dump it and with little ones you never know what they can get into.
    Vinegar works well. Like Chad said it won't get all the stubborn stuff off and for me it always seemed to be hit or miss. I felt sometimes it worked very well and sometimes not as well. I almost feel like the longer it's in the vinegar the less it does. a few hours to 24hours is all you really need. Then a orbital or da will clean it up really well. Its also very safe and very cheap
    It will look like sh*t water after a few uses so keep that in mind
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Not I big rush to get it off, so if soaking in white vinegar takes over night, not an issue. Not too concerned about it having to remove all the mill scale just from soaking. If most of it is removed & maybe makes what’s let a little softer & easier to remove with rust/paint pad in angle grinder and flap discs would be a big help.

    The best way I found to get it off was rust/paint stripper discs in the angle grinder, then a light going over with 60 grit flap disc. Using flap disc first just clogged up and died much faster than using the rust/paint stripper discs.

    I’ll post up some pics of how it goes and what I find out trying the vinegar, rust/paint stripper disc and finishing with a flap disc. Will be sure to rinse with clear water and neutralize wit baking soda water & finish with clean water.

    Cheers, Allen

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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Vinegar is acetic acid. Muriatic acid is hydrochloric acid. Vinegar is a weak acid and muriatic acid is a strong acid. They both do the same thing to mill scale. Vinegar takes 24 hours and muriatic acid takes 15 minutes. Another form of acetic acid is glacial acetic acid that is so concentrated it turns to gel at room temperature. It works faster than vinegar, but is expensive. Muriatic acid should be used outdoors because the fumes have killed people when there was not enough ventilation when used indoors. The fumes can rust other metal in your shop. It is easy to neutralize. Mix equal volumes of baking soda and you will end up with very salty (17%) water with no more acid. I use PVP tubing with a cap for submerging long pieces of angle iron. I rinse with water and neutralize with baking soda and then rinse again with water.


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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Quote Originally Posted by JGPenfield View Post
    Vinegar is acetic acid. Muriatic acid is hydrochloric acid. Vinegar is a weak acid and muriatic acid is a strong acid. They both do the same thing to mill scale. Vinegar takes 24 hours and muriatic acid takes 15 minutes. Another form of acetic acid is glacial acetic acid that is so concentrated it turns to gel at room temperature. It works faster than vinegar, but is expensive. Muriatic acid should be used outdoors because the fumes have killed people when there was not enough ventilation when used indoors. The fumes can rust other metal in your shop. It is easy to neutralize. Mix equal volumes of baking soda and you will end up with very salty (17%) water with no more acid. I use PVP tubing with a cap for submerging long pieces of angle iron. I rinse with water and neutralize with baking soda and then rinse again with water.


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    Note that if you decide to dilute any acid, always add the acid to the water, not the other way around. Adding water to acid can cause splashing, or even boil the water in the instant it's added (causing splashing). What would you rather have splashed: full-strength acid with a little bit of water, or neutral water with a little bit of acid?
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    If you are building from sheet or plate. Rather than having to mess with removing the mill scale you could get some Hot Rolled P&O (Pickled & Oiled) It doesn't cost much more than regular Hot rolled. I use it alot.

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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Does any one know if using heat will speed the white vinegar up?
    Just say, Know.

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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Acids usually react a lot quicker when heat is applied however I haven't personally done this with mill scale... so not sure how it will react.

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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    How about getting stronger vinegar from a chemical supply, maybe go to a 10 or 15%, also someone mentioned PH up for swimming pools, IIRC it's just BORAX, otherwise known as a detergent booster. I came across a site that listed different equivalent chemicals for swimming pools, I have used them and they work, but we don't use them too much because we have a salt pool, the only time we use traditional chemicals is for an occasional shock or if the chlorinator cell dies.
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    I've had my piece of 5/16" plate (to big for any container that I have) draped in vinegar soaked rags (re-applying when they start to dry out), and sitting on top of a hot plate set on 10, since I made my first post in this thread. It seems to be working ok, but I don't know if its been worth it.

    I'm probably still going to have to take a flap disc to it, which I was trying to avoid. I was shooting for the slightly rough surface that a good pickle can leave, and not the gouged up surface that a 40 grit flap disc will leave.

    I tried using a new out of the box 40 grit flap disc, placed flat on the plate to give it as flat and smooth of a finish as possible but it just wouldn't eat through the scale on anything but a glacial time scale. Ain't nobody got no time (or lack of tendonitis) for that!
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    I used to have availability to a muriatic acid replacement, I think it was called "SAFER ACID", but not totally sure, it was excellent for removing rust, even heavy rust. You might try googling it.
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    Quote Originally Posted by CAVEMANN View Post
    I used to have availability to a muriatic acid replacement, I think it was called "SAFER ACID", but not totally sure, it was excellent for removing rust, even heavy rust. You might try googling it.
    Yep that works.
    But keep it mind it will flash rust almost immediately




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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    I soak overnight to whenever I get around to it...usually not in a big rush. Some scale dissolves easily and some is tougher to get off. I can fill my "tank" with 2 gals. for 8 bucks. After one use I toss it in the driveway to kill weeds. I know there is a landscape (35%) version of vinegar for around $35-$40.....

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  20. #20
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    Re: White vinegar for removing mill scale?

    lI used Acid Magic .The Same stuff that Pool Maint. companies use .Bought off of Amazon .Mix 4To1 I did a 2X4 sheet of Hot Roll both sides with a 16 OZ.spray bottle took about 15 Min.Spray it on Wait for 10 Min. Scrub the mill off and Neutralize with soap and Water and hit it with a Hose I used car wash.I did it out side and no fumes.Almost as shiny as Chrome.Maybe not that good. But clean enough to Tig.I have not used a Disc. in over 6 Months.Check it out on the Tube.I figure if it is safe for pools it should be OK for what we are doing.I know A lot of people are a little leary about it .But grinding that mill for an hour can't be good for you .Who only knows what kind of Adhesive is holding them Disc together besides the grit and Mill particles.
    Last edited by tonylumps; 06-29-2019 at 01:22 PM.

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