Removing rust from antique gardening tools not only improves their appearance, but also protects them from further corrosion and deterioration. Chemical rust removers can be harsh on antique gardening tools, leaving them stripped of their natural patina. Natural methods of removing rust are just as effective, yet more gentle on antiques and safer to use around pets and children.

White Vinegar

Ordinary household vinegar is a very safe, mildly-acidic solution for removing rust from antique gardening tools. Simply place the tool in a plastic container, and then fill the container with straight vinegar until the tool is completely submerged. Let the tool soak in the vinegar for 24 hours to allow the acid to permeate and loosen the rust. The tool might appear dark, but that dark residue will come off once you scrub it with a non-metal brush under running water. Once you've removed that residue, the tool will appear much newer and aesthetically appealing. Remember to thoroughly dry the tool to prevent corrosion from setting in again.

Salt & Lime

Salt and lime are more than just margarita ingredients - they remove rust! Just lay the antique gardening tool on some old newspapers, then sprinkle regular table salt over the rusted areas. Salt acts as a mild abrasive, while lime has acidic properties. Squeeze the lime liberally over the salt-covered rust, and then allow the salty solution set for about three hours. Finally, scrub this salty mixture off the gardening tool using the remaining lime rind or a non-metal scrubbing pad. Rinse the tool under running water and then dry the tool thoroughly with a towel.

Molasses

You can use molasses for more than just making cookies. Surprisingly, molasses works great at removing stubborn rust from metal. Mix one part molasses to 12 parts water (tap water works fine) in a plastic bucket. Fully submerge the rusty antique gardening tool in the molasses mixture, and then check it every day. You'll probably notice most the rust has dissolved after just 24 hours, but if it some rust remains, simply keep the tool in the solution until you are satisfied with the rust removal. It might take up to a week before all the rust dissolves from tool. Once you are satisfied with the amount of rust dissolved from the tool, remove it from the molasses solution and scrub any residue off the tool under running water using a non-metal brush or sponge. Of course, thoroughly dry the tool when finished to prevent further rusting.

Cola

Although bad for your health, cola is a good choice for removing rust from metal. Brown colas, such as Coke and Pepsi, are especially effective rust removers. They contain phosphoric acid, which is known to dissolve iron oxide from rusted metal objects. Just fill a plastic container with enough cola to fully submerge the rusted gardening tool into. Once the rusted portion of the tool is fully covered in the cola, let the tool soak for 24 hours. Check the tool after a day and attempt to wipe off the rust using a non-metal scrubbing pad or brush. If the rust comes off easily, then continue scrubbing the tool until all rust is fully removed. Otherwise, continue soaking the tool in the cola until the rust is loose enough to scrub completely off. Once the rust is gone, rinse the tool with water and then immediately dry the metal portion thoroughly with a rag.