Shine and show

David Meyers of Kaysville, Utah, asks:

"I’m refurbishing my Ericson 30 this winter and am about to remove a light layer of rust that has accumulated on the boat’s stainless-steel rigging. What do you recommend for this sort of rust removal? Most of the rigging is in good shape, but it has lost its shine. I’ve heard of using an electrolytic process, but I don’t want to damage the rigging."

Win Fowler replies:

I would stay away from the electrolytic process, which works by electrically ablating the corrosion on the surface. The process involves soaking the rigging in an acid or alkaline solution, which could weaken the swaged terminals. I am not a metallurgist, but, as I understand it, a cold swage forges the terminal to the wire so it basically becomes a single piece of metal. However, there are often small voids inside the terminal, and any treatment that removes surface corrosion could potentially expand these voids and reduce the strength of the terminal.

Wiping the wire surface with white vinegar will remove most of the rust stains, although the shine might not be as bright as you might like. If you want to go further, a friend who does a lot of maintenance recommends Y-10, a gelatinous fiberglass-stain remover. If you do use Y-10, make sure the ambient temperature is at least 70F. Wet the wire with water and then rub on the cleaner by hand; be sure the surfaces are wet. Wait a few minutes, then wipe off and rinse the surface thoroughly with water. Finally, make sure the wire is dry before reinstalling it.

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