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Hey all,

Know this has probably been beaten to death.  I have some old track in really decent shape.  For some of my dusty dirty stuff with grime I was going to dunk them in a bucket of rubbing alcohol and let it sit to clean them up.  Good idea or bad idea?

Second for some pieces with rust, I bought rust remover that doesn't harm metal.  I was going to soak some track in it for a few hours to remove rust.  Yay or nay? Thank You in advance! 

Original Post

Quick question: Can Rustoleum's rust remover work too? I originally bought it to remove rust on my car, but I ended up not bothering with it, so the container is just sitting in my shed. I have some Postwar O gauge track that's not terrible, but I would still like to clean it up, and get any rust/grime off of it. I have heard of the other methods too, like white vinegar and of course using metal brushes, but I wanted to know if Rustoleum would work too.

I go for realism and just leave most of the rust.  I remove rust on the top of the rails with fine sand paper to improve operation.  A piece of new track would stick out with my 1950s toy train layout built with used track and switches.  After all real railroad tracks are rusty except for the top where the train wheel run for active tracks.


Last edited by Choo Choo Charlie

The automotive rust products usually form a zinc alloy cap out of the, maybe dark purple.  It should conduct, but I don't know how well.

You should remove as much as you can before using that.

Vinigar should work, it's an acid. Evaporust is citric strong OJ, literally. Good stuff in general. Reusable until pitch black too.

Electrolisis is Borax in water and a car battery charger. great too.

Water is ok as long as you dry things fast and fully.  I wash my locos motors sometimes 😋

You should really lightly oil the track after it is clean and ready. Stripping all oils, rust will return rather fast if you miss any (the electric way cleans best)

Use a light gun oil like Sheath, or Wahl hair clipper oil on a rag, maybe directly into some corners and tight spots. They are more a protectant than a lube, they barely cause wheel slip when dripping wet. A dry cloth for a final pass and maybe a few hours for gravity to clear what you missed and your about ready. Any little slip will fade out in about 10 passes.

I used Evaporust to clean Lionel O-gauge tubular track - with a great result. 20-20 hindsight -- remove the track pins before soaking the track sections; so the product can remove rust and crud that tends to creep into the rail ends.  Afterwards, insert a pipe cleaner soaked in Isopropyl  Alcohol in the rail ends to remove hidden grime and assure a good electrical connection when the track pins are re-inserted. As others have mentioned, Evaporust will also remove the black paint from Lionel crossties. 

Tip to hobbyists who like the look of shiny black crossties -- buy new track instead of cleaning old track with Evaporust.

Mike Mottler     LCCA 12304


Short term only in my opinion. WD40 is my oil cleaner quite often, but if you leave it as is, it will rust if not reapplied. It removes oils well. (I think it has some water in it, and may absorb it too. Absorbing doesn't necessarily mean elimination, and WD does evaporate. I think it may leave absorbed water behind.

 I really only clean with it, or use it on automotive ignitions, etc.. since my 20s after many new, now rusty bike chains, frozen brake cables, etc. were WD didn't last.

@carnerd3000 posted:

@Adriatic - I read your post, was that a response to me?

Yes. And expansion on other things here.

You didn't ask about after the rust is removed; but I hate doing a job twice

I've used pretty much every method here, just not necessarily on track. But metal is metal to certain extent.

If you ever need to ask a question etc. and I don't answer you, try an email (in my profile) I'm far from the "last word" but always willing to try and help folks. My net access is spotty. But I should be ok for a while again.

Just plain oil will remove rust. Soak, agitate scale, repeat.   To maintain and really get it shiny; once cleaned the bad spots may "bloom" again. Clean with oil now. Wet it, wait a day, brush it clean say....twice a month (ten min. ?) After say 6 months, you can fall back to once a month, then twice a year, then when needed.

 You wouldn't believe how things look after a few years of ten minute cleanings. "This was rusty junk?"

The mentality was taught to me by Gramps, who replaced cleaning his WW2 Army Garrand with Lionel trains.   Maintenance never stops.

To expand on Mike Ms new track comment, new track does let trains run at their maximum potential.  I was sceptical about that until I tried cleaned track and new together at once. New is better though I can't figure out why for sure. I can only guess it's not 100% clean inside the tube.

I mày try electrolysis to see if that improves things someday. But mostly Ive just picked up Menards track because it's so low cost with instant results. A loop at my door in 3 days for under $50 has me being lazy. (it is O, not 0-27. Taller and fatter tubes, slightly lower quality than Lionel, about a Marx equal.)


I wouldn't push hard on lettering's inks or paint. That part should really be addressed on a car by car (& brand,age) basis. Too many variables.  Water alone can remove some train paint.

Forgot the issue was a lock on until I was done lol.... read on if you like... Im gonna try it on one for you. (I don't care about the ink) And will tell you later.

Note sheeted paint that covers large areas is often more stable than lettering etc.  Edges can be a weak point too. Some cleaners, oils etc can creep under the edge and lift, even though the paint remains solid. 

I'm not aware of vinegar discoloring plastic, that's all I got other than Grandma cleaned about everything with it. (try it with newspaper as a wipe cloth on a window and you might give up on Windex.)

There is no magic "clean-all", everything has an exception. So test, consider, decide.

Lionel used to suggest Naptha (zippo fluid) for plastic (with notes about paint, just like us)  Gramps used it on all his Lionels (about 50ft of shelves worth of display, + junkers)


IMG_20200629_214803I checked 4 layouts before I saw one I could reach....on the shelf layout. Ladder, ceiling fan whapped me, nope Marx, ok got it...over there.. duck. Oh man is it dusty...

White vinegar, paper towel, 150 very hard scrubs across the Lionel name only.

Looks good, just got whiter. No fade. I didn't have black paper towels so lifted paint could be seen, darn. But I can't detect any loss compared to CTC which is cleaner without trying.

A long soak may differ though. Your lock on ink might too.  

If you detect lift, stop and let it air dry overnight. Hopefully it will reset (likely)



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Last edited by Adriatic

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