Saturday, May 3, 2014

Metal and Gun Protectants, revisited: The plain steel vs sweat test. Preventing Corrosion and Rust on Guns and Tools.

I have an old antique rifle and lots of metal tools, and so the topic of metal protectants interests me.

If you have a firearm, gun or plain steel tool you are probably concerned about corrosion and rust on it. Some people use a special gun oil, a wax or even just a simple spray oil or motor oil. There are lots of tests of metal protectant solutions for guns available on the internet. But they didn't compare the protectants I was interested in. EEZOX has done well in many tests, but many weapon collectors swear by Renaissance Wax. And I've wanted to compare those two. Additionally, I tested some other stuff I had in the garage.
I did a test earlier and learned something interesting. The wax protectants cause any kind of liquid to bead up. This may be to their disadvantage as the bead keeps the liquid concentrated in a spot on the metal until it dries. Alternatively, liquid on metal protected by EEZOX and by some other protectants tended to “sheet off”, and thus didn't seem to be as exposed to the liquid.
For my new test I had several things I wanted to do differently:
  • Equalize the effects of beading, if I can. I tried to do this by using a single drop of liquid on a level flat piece of metal so it couldn't sheet off.
  • In the earlier test I used washers that were zinc plated, this time I used a piece of plain steel.
  • I wanted to apply two coats of protectant this time to ensure good coverage.
  • Also in the last test, I sprayed on a solution of salt water to speed corrosion. But this time I wanted to use something more realistic. It was a bit gross but easy, I just collected a bit of my sweat in a vial when I was at the gym.
  • This test I wanted to leave the test plate inside my garage, instead of outside in the San Diego sun.


I bought a piece of plain steel at my local hardware store, and sanded it down with a rotary 3M pad to expose fresh metal. I then uses a punch to mark off six equal sections. Finally I spray cleaned the piece with contact cleaner.
I carefully applied the product to each section, using fresh gloves and applicators for each product.  I waited 24 hours and then I applied a second coat of each product. Then I let everything dry and age for more than 48 hours before adding drops of the sweat to the panels. The panel was kept level in my San Diego garage, which varied from approximately 60 to 70 degrees.

Products tested in each section

  1. control (bare metal: no protectant applied)
  2. EEZOX
  3. Break Free Collector
  4. WD-40
  5. Renaissance Wax
  6. Turtle Wax Ice

 The Intitial Drop and After 40 Minutes

On April 27, 2014 I placed one drop of my sweat on each section of the test plate with an eye dropper.

In the below pictures, the shot on the left is immediately after placing the drop. The picture on the right is after 40 minutes. 

Frankly, I was surprised at the differences on only 40 minutes.

Control (bare metal)
You can see that after only 40 minutes the drop is turning brown from rust!

Interestingly, the EEZOX wouldn't support a "bead" and immediately the drop of sweat started to spread out. After 40 minutes (right) the drop had well spread out but had not turned brown.

Break Free Collector
The Break Free collector didn't spread out as much as the EEZOX.

The WD-40 also looked OK.

Renaissance Wax
The drop of sweat on the Renaissance wax was looking brown after only 40 minutes!

Turtle Wax Ice
And the Turtle Wax Ice drop was also turning brown.

After 4 Hours

 After 4 hours the drops had completely dried. This is how they looked. I didn't touch them or try to clean the rust... that comes later in this test.

Control (bare metal)

The bare metal piece has a solid rust spot.

The EEZOX has some sign where the sweat had evaporated, but it wasn't clear how much that would polish out.

Break Free Collector
Very similar to the EEZOX, but in a smaller area as the drop hadn't spread out as much.

The WD-40 looked to have a bit of rust.

Renaissance Wax
The Renaissance Wax looked almost as rusted as the control!

Turtle Wax Ice
The Turtle Wax was just as bad as the Renaissance Wax.

After 48 Hours

After seeing the results after 4 hours, I decided I wanted to add another method to the test. Just after I tool the pictures from 4 hours, I added another drop of sweat to each panel to the right of the original drop. And I touched a clean finger to the drop and pressed it onto the plate (I used a new clean finger for each test panel). I was trying to make a sweaty "fingerprint". However, this didn't work very well. Much of the sweat was carried away by my finger, and what was left behind was very inconsistent. On the wax panels, the remnant sweat just splattered around my finger and beaded up after I removed my finger. On the other panels the drop was spread around a bit, but still didn't leave a finger print. Regardless, I then left the plate for 48 hours to dry and here were the results. Remember I still had made no attempt to clean the panels.

Control (bare metal)

 On the bare metal even the "fingerprint" to the right of the dot corroded quickly.

The "fingerprint" on the EEZOX looked like a lighter version of the drop.

Break Free Collector
The "fingerprint" on the Break Free Collector was pretty light and small. Remember the fingerprints left an inconsistent amount of sweat on the panel.

The WD-40 "fingerprint" cam out similarly the the other non-waxes, but was a little dirtier at the edges.

Renaissance Wax
The "fingerprint" on the Renaissance wax beaded right back up after I removed my finger and corroded very similarly to the original drop.

Turtle Wax Ice
The "fingerprint" on the Turtle Wax Ice also beaded back up after removing my finder. Again, remember my finger left an inconsistent amount of sweat behind.

Final Results: After 48 Hours and Wiped

For the final step in the test, I took a clean microfiber cloth and attempted to polish off the marks on the test panels. I rubbed pretty vigorously with pressure. (I rubbed hard enough to be confident the remaining corrosion would need something stronger to remove the corrosion, like a rust remover or a fine brass or steel wool pad.) This was the big test!

Control (bare metal)

As one would expect, the bare metal came out the worst in this test.

After wiping, you can just make out the edges of the splotches on the EEZOX test panel. To my eye, the EEZOX protected the metal very well.

Break Free Collector
The Break Free Collector also did a very good job protecting the metal. Again, the edges of the splotches are just visible.

The WD-40 did allow some easily visible rust/corrosion to form in the drop and at the edges of the fingerprint splotch.

Renaissance Wax
The Renaissance Wax did a poor job or protecting the metal. The drop left a solid patch of corrosion and the "fingerprint" did as well.

Turtle Wax Ice
Turtle Wax Ice also did a poor job of protecting the metal, but seemed slightly better than the Renaissance Wax.


 Here is how I would order the performance of the protectants in this test, from best to worse:
1a: EEZOX (tie)
1b: Break Free Collector (tie)

2: WD-40

3: Turtle Wax Ice

4: Renaissance Wax

5: Control (bare metal)

I was pleased with how the brand name protectants, EEZOX and Break Free Collector worked.  And I was really disappointed with the performance of the Renaissance Wax. I wouldn't really use Turtle Wax or WD-40 has metal protectants as neither is really designed for that.

I should note that EEZOX and Break Free Collector do seem to be much different substances:
EEZOX is a "three part, all synthetic combination of cleaners, dry lubricant and rust preventive that is much heavier than water." EEZOX dries to a non-oily finish. It has a funny smell and the MSDS says it contains trichloroethylene, synthetic esters and is oxygenated.

Break Free Collector is a "100% synthetic oil formulation with multiple high performance anti-rust and corrosion inhibitors".  Break Free Collector is an oil and does leave an oily finish. The MSDS says it contains polyalphaolefin oil and Isodecyl perlargonate.


A couple comments on the test itself.  

I think this test using a drop on the metal (left flat so it could not run off) was better than my last spray test. However, the different protectants cause the liquid drops to bead up differently, or not all all, and that may be having a significant effect on the test. On the other hand, after just 40 minutes the drops on the waxed panels were turning brown with rust, while the still liquid EEZOX and Break Free Collector drops did not turn brown.

Also a full drop of sweat is probably a significant amount of corrosive fluid on the metal. In the real world one might take better care not to leave an important tool or weapon with drops of sweat on it.

If I do another test, I think I would do a long term test without any liquid or drops on the panels and I would leave the panels in a normal environment to see how they survive.

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