I started my evaluation of chelation by making the decision to only evaluate the apparent top-of-the-line products marketed directly to the automotive market as a concentrate. My reasoning was simple: Why pay good money to ship a solution of 80% water when I could mix it myself for less? I stand by this position and maintain that this is the only practical approach to incorporating chelation rust removal effectively and affordably on a larger scale for the hobby automotive or motorcycle restorer.
In my previous installment, I purposely left out the name of the original product I evaluated until I had a chance to evaluate a second competitive product and report the results. After careful consideration, I have decided to reveal BOTH products with the caveat that I do not exclusively endorse either one. They have very similar performance characteristics but at the same time, they have their idiosyncrasies as well. I will try to identify these further as I go. For reference, in each test, I purchased 2 one-gallon jugs of concentrate for evaluation.
The first product I tested is marketed by a company called Ultra One Corporation in Hackettstown, NJ and goes by the name of Ultra One Safest Rust Remover. Safest Rust Remover is available in one-gallon concentrate (and premix) in gallons jugs and 55-gallon drums. Please reference my original chelation test here for more information on the Ultra One Safest Rust Remover concentrate:
The second product I tested, and featured in this installment, is marketed by a company called Rust Depot in Horseheads, NY and goes by the name of Esprit Performance Rust Remover. Esprit Performance Rust Remover is available as a concentrate only in quantities from 16 ounce bottles to 55-gallon drums.
The Esprit Performance product is also mixed at 4:1 (4 parts distilled water to 1 part concentrate) just like the Ultra One, but it has the distinction of being clear and colorless in the jug, where the Ultra One was pee-yellow. Esprit also touts their product as having an added “metal cleaner” in the mix to help remove light oils, grease and dirt. This, in my opinion, is not much of an attraction since I believe you should start with a cleaned surface.
Application of the Esprit product is the same as the Ultra One with either constant spray/cascade or complete immersion. Since the spray application was the method of choice for me, I used the same equipment I used in my first test to apply the Esprit solution, but I did drop a few pieces into the solution just so I could see how effective the immersion technique would be. I targeted the inner rear quarter panel of my Boss for this test since the rust in this area was about equivalent to the roof rust I removed with the Ultra One, so I felt I had as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as I could get.
One change I attempted to make was to heat the chelant with a 1500W engine heater plumbed in a constant bypass loop right off the circulation pump. This would allow me to regulate peak flow at the sprayer by simply diverting any excess flow through the heater circuit and back into the tank, similar to a modern returnless fuel system. This makes for a much easier job for the pump (no dead-heading) and still allows for simple plumbing to the heater. The result: FAIL! Didn’t work worth snot and proved to be a total waste of time for several reasons. Most influential was the slow thermal transfer of the heater to the fluid and the rapid heat loss of the fluid to the air as a function of spraying (atomizing) and wetting a rather large, cool surface with a thin layer of fluid. In short, I need to look at an immersion-type heater to make this work. Another trip to Tractor Supply…….
Because the scale of the project was considerably smaller than the roof treatment, I was able to use a small cement mixing pan as my containment pan and a fan head garden sprayer for delivery. Having learned my lesson about fluid loss based on my earlier trials, I elevated the pan on a quartet of plastic 5-gallon buckets to minimize splash and keep everything closer to the work area.
Satisfied that everything was secure and ready to work, I set the process in motion and adjusted the spray head to provide the maximum coverage possible without spraying expensive chelant all over creation. After a few short hours, the results were quite impressive. Rust was definitely being removed but I started to notice a few new characteristics I had not seen with the Ultra One product. First, all of the plastic, rubber and vinyl parts and some of the painted parts that come into contact with the Esprit chelant develop a glossy, slightly sticky surface.
Also, over time, the edges of the wetted areas develop a copper-like residue just outside of the grey/black film that develops as part of the process. I am pretty sure this is a byproduct of the metallic ions leeched off of the brass/bronze valve & hose fittings I use in the plumbing scheme. No big deal as it scrubs off rather easily with scotch brite pads, but interesting nonetheless.
I am happy to say the Esprit Performance Rust Remover works well. I admit that it worked a fair bit slower than my June test of the Ultra One product, but this is mostly attributed to the fact that the chelant is forced to operate at about 70°F at this time of year in my shop given that my heating approach failed to function as intended. A clear lesson I have learned is that rust removal time (a.k.a. chelant effectiveness) is drastically improved with increases in temperature, with my defacto target temperature being about 120°F. Even though both product suppliers indicate the chelant can be heated to a higher working temp, I think the benefits vs. risks of going any higher than 120°F are such that it makes no practical sense to aspire to a higher temperature target.
So, with the test results from both the Safest Rust Remover and Esprit Performance Rust Remover in hand, what’s the verdict? Actually, the answer is a bit complicated.
1. First and foremost, BOTH products work as advertised. I remain absolutely convinced that the ONLY way to purchase chelant for any project that will require a volume exceeding ½ gallon is in concentrated form. As such, this tends to steer a consumer to one of these two suppliers based on my experience and research.
2. Unfortunately, the specter of cost forges the point of my biggest complaint between the two suppliers. The absolute straight skinny on cost is that Ultra One commands a comparative “King’s Ransom” for their gallon of concentrate at $100 US/gallon! Rust Depot, on the other hand, commands “only” $62.50 US/gallon for what is functionally the same product. Add the usual shipping premium that most any carrier applies and you are not talking about insignificant differences in cost. Ouch!
3. Performance of both products is quite good. Equivalent for the most part, in fact. The chelation process doesn’t give a crap at how nasty the rust is that it is being asked to remove. As long as you keep delivering viable (e.g., non-saturated) chelant to the rusted surface, this stuff keeps eating it until there is absolutely no rust left. All this without damaging the parent metal. Think of chelation as “targeted rust removal”. A “smart bomb” for rust, if you will. In my experience, the speed of rust removal is directly proportional to temperature and I need to come up with a much better method of heating the chelant. As development in this area continues, I will document it here.
4. Both products react rather aggressively to leaded body filler and galvanized metals (particularly zinc I think). This makes perfect sense as I think about what chelants are designed to do from a medical perspective. They capture metallic ions in the blood and allow them to be excreted from the body. Our old Mustangs use genuine lead body filler at the top of the A and C pillars where the roof seams are located. As such, the chelant eats rather heavily into this material as it goes about removing surrounding rust. Generally, this isn’t a big deal, but beware the effect this may have on the used chelant solution and how you treat and dispose of it. Neither supplier had ever heard of or experienced this phenomenon so I was on my own.
5. Customer service is one of those things that mean different things to different people. I absolute abhor crappy customer service and I am of the opinion that the advent of the “internet-based” business has allowed the degradation in customer service to accelerate at an unnatural rate. Fortunately, both suppliers proved somewhat available for questions and both suppliers were very familiar with the hands-on application of their product. But without being too pointed, I spent less and got more. I’ll leave it at that.
6. Clean-up after treatment is one place where I found the two products diverged significantly. As I mentioned before, the Esprit Performance remover left all non-metallic parts with a slightly sticky, glossy residue and areas where chelant was allowed to run and dry required a bit of scrubbing to get clean. I did not experience either of these conditions with the Ultra One product and I expect this may be due to base formulation differences, like the addition of the detergents in the Esprit formulation. For me, I would just as soon see Esprit do away with the detergents and lower the cost even more…..at which point their product would be a double-tough act to follow.
In summary, I am sold on the process. However, I am convinced there is plenty of room to improve the application of chelation to the automotive restoration process. Fortunately, I have several ideas I plan to test and report on this blog in the hope that my fellow restoration hobbyists can benefit. Also, I have found one more chelation product that may just prove to be the silver bullet for most adventurous enthusiasts that want to try the chelation process for rust removal but either can’t or don’t want to invest in the equipment to spray and recover liquid chelant. Also, I have a request (by a group of individuals, NOT a manufacturer) to review one of the most popular premixed, commercially available chelation solutions as well. So there’s plenty more to come.
|Here is my attempt at heating the chelant. I used an inverted 1500W engine heater setup in bypass right out of the pump. Looked nice and clean and worked for CRAP! I'll have to come up with something else.....|
|Chelant is in the catch basin and the system is ready to go. Note how clear the fluid is in the beginning.|
|With the flow regulated by the amount of fluid I allow to bypass through the heater, I set the spray head to cover the rusted area as completely as possible.|
The next series of photos are intended to show the progression of the rust removal process over time. The total spray time from start to finish is approximately 10 hours.