Electrolysis question

Wed Jul 12, 2006 11:27 am

First of all sorry if this gets long winded but I want to cover all the bases. My son's and I have been experimenting with a tank and using information off this forum as a guide. Started out on a small scale with a 2 gallon plastic tote and a 1 x 12 inch stainless steel pipe for a anode. Added some baking soda (about a 1/2 cup) and tried a small part off a four wheeler we are redoing and left in overnight. Not much happened so we put the rest of the box of baking soda in and immediately the water bubbled like crazy and a couple of hours later the part was done. Took the air gun to it and the paint and rust blew right off and got it dried immediately with no flash rust. We had some bigger parts to do so sliced a 55 plastic barrel in half (horizonially) and I got a piece of 1/16 thick stainless steel and had it bent with a bottom and two sides. Filled the tank close to the top with water and got a 4 pound box of TSP. Started with about half the box of TSP and it worked fairly good but not the results we expected. Added the rest of the TSP and worked better but not like the baking soda did. A couple of questions are does baking soda work better than TSP? It seems the baking soda mixed with the water and stayed mixed but the TSP separated and layed in the bottom and had to be mixed all the time. Does the TSP separated like that? Does the TSP and baking soda over time loose it's strength and the tank needs to be drained and add fresh again? One last question is a concern about using stainless steel. Some research on other web sites claim stainless steel in a electrolysis tank produces a by product that is known to cause cancer. Does anyone have any knowledge on this? Once again thanks for all your help.

Wed Jul 12, 2006 12:05 pm


Most use washing soda in their electrolysis tanks. Here is a link to a thread that discusses the stainless steel anode issue.


Thu Jul 13, 2006 4:55 am

I have always used regular old baking soda, and have been very pleased with the results. You have to be a little careful how much you use so as not to overload your charger, I try not to go over 6-8 amps. If you get too much just add more water and let it overflow untill it's diluted down a little. I have switched to stainless from re-bars....you don't have to clean the rust off them so often. I also keep everything outside just in case of fumes, etc. Sure beats other stripping methods I've tried! Roger B.

Thu Jul 13, 2006 6:32 am

Dennis I made a bigger tank yesterday myself and i took the TSP and desoved it first or you can buy liquid TSP .

Thu Jul 13, 2006 7:45 am

Thanks guys! Does the TSP or baking soda ever loose it's strength to the point of not working and needs to be drained and start fresh again?

Thu Jul 13, 2006 7:48 am

Dennis, it doesn't really lose strength but the solution does become contaminated over time. I've seen some pretty nasty looking tanks working quite well.

Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:24 am

One last question is a concern about using stainless steel. Some research on other web sites claim stainless steel in a electrolysis tank produces a by product that is known to cause cancer. Does anyone have any knowledge on this?

I had my cancer long before I started using stainless in the tank and continue to do so. It works very well but don't drink the electrolyte.

If we could make a list of all the things that are NOT suspected of causing cancer, it would be a very short one. Chicken Little would have all of us simply sitting on our duffs! :(

Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:50 am


Didn't see this thread until this morning.

Baking Soda hmmmm... never used that. It is chemically different from Washing Soda, and TSP.

Thanks guys! Does the TSP or baking soda ever loose it's strength to the point of not working and needs to be drained and start fresh again?

To echo BD.. as far as I know, TSP will not lose it's effectiveness. There is a point of saturation where adding more TSP will do actually nothing, but as far as the TSP separating, I have not seen this.

If the bottom of your tank becomes too full of sediment, then by draining out the sediment itself, and then topping up and adding a tad more TSP should be sufficient. That is one of the side benefits of adding the ball valve and drain system to my tank that I discoverd. I do not have to drain the whole tank, just the sediment, and that is the first thing to occur when the valve is opened. I end up losing about 3 or 4 gallons of the solution, 95% or so of the sediment and then I just top up the solution..

Also, be aware of substitute TSP solutions.. these contain NO Phosphate, so I am not sure how that could possibly aid in electrolysis. I think it is the reaction of the Phosphate and electrical charge in conjunction with the sodium (salt) that produces the effect... I don't use it. Another point to be aware, is that if you use pre-mixed TSP then you are going to end up paying a lot more than you would for the powerdered or concentrated TSP. Some of these preparations are household ready.. as a 4-1 or 8-1 mix.. this dilutes it a lot, requiring 4 to 8 times as much of the pre-mixed stuff in a large tank and I would still be leery of the efficacy of the solution.

There comes a point when it starts being rocket science and is no longer useful. Sticking to the basics is a pretty safe bet. As far as they type electrode to use.. your choice.. use what is handy, cheap, and readily available to you. In the case of Stainless.. for me it is not cost effective.. as SS is very, very expensive and something I will not sacrifice. I do not have tons of SS plated items around, so I pretty much stick with re-bar as I have access to all I want for pretty much Zero dollars... My BIL builds re-bar cages for form work in signs.. lots of extras... :wink: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:58 am

I have used TSP in fairly low concentrations with OK results. I haven't tried much higher concentrations to see what happened, but small concentration changes I have tried didn't seem to change anything.

There is a product called "TSP substitute", typically "TSP substitute". It is an "environmentally friendly" cleaner (no phosphates). I would guess it doesn't work very well and your experience makes me wonder if that is what you tried.

Thu Jul 13, 2006 10:06 am

George, Like I said just covering all the bases especially with my son's working on these projects. We take safety very serious on all our projects. I agree 100% George that at times it seems like the clean country air we breath now a days can cause cancer. Using stainless steel is nothing compared to what we pop in the microwave for quick meal instead of a home cooked meal. Looking at the ingredients on those packages for God sakes will give you cancer and then we eat it. We use rubber gloves handling the parts and cleaning the stainless steel, which by the way cleans up really quick. going to try reversing the polarity next time. Like you pointed out where does one draw the line? We use dust mask when we grind with the disk or bench grinder but I'm sure that some dust gets into our bodies. Enough said thanks for your input.

Thu Jul 13, 2006 8:23 pm

I probably need to try TSP or Washing Soda some time to compare with the Baking Soda......but so far all I can say is it gets the paint off and I assume it's pretty enviromentally friendly. I have a couple of 55 gal plastic drums, one verticle and the other horiz. Each probably holds 45 + gallons of water. 2 boxes of soda, (1 # box's), is about all it takes to get 3-4 amps flowing, little more for more amps, faster cleaning. Doesn't degrade over time.....water just gets gunked up but still works. It's great not to have to use rubber gloves, masks, resperators, etc. as with regular strippers....plus it's plenty cheap ! Roger B.

Thu Jul 13, 2006 10:33 pm

Washing soda is dirt cheap if you can find it. More than 3# is $2.36 at the Stop and Shop by my house, strange because it is a very small store. Possibly the rich guys servants like it or something??

It is also a good cleaner and degreaser. Look for the yellow box on a high or low shelf in the laundry section.

George is probably right... it could even be worse running the rebar through the wire wheel occasionally in the back yard than to use stainless.... but I did give up the stainless I had (it does work great) after reading about it.

Fri Jul 14, 2006 10:03 am

Wow, what a response with information that is priceless. So much has been learned that I should of posted my questions before I started our tank. Looks like I got the cart in front of the horse. I will try the washing soda next or make sure I got the right TSP. Anything else I missed or some other information that anyone forgot. Thanks a million to everyone.

Fri Jul 14, 2006 12:46 pm


If I remember my high school chemistry from 1950 correctly the primary cleaning is done by ion exhange according to the current carried. Pretty much the opposite from electro plating. The main thing for anything added is to make the solution electrically conductive... and most any base, acid, or salt will do that, since they all ionize. The secondary thing is the cleaning power of the agent. That's why TSP and washing soda work well.

With the different actions in mind, maybe they could be accomplished separately by two different additives? In varying proportions? IE: salt and detergent? Lye and soap? There's room for imaginitive experimentation. :D

Fri Jul 14, 2006 12:54 pm

I use 1 pound of Soda wash for 35 gal barrel- and it works great, actutually the only problem I have with the soda wash is my wife keeps taking it for the laundry, she says its works better than the oxi-stuff on clothes..