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Iron Out Chemistry and Performance

Posted by Norman King  
Norman King April 24, 2016 05:24AM
I have been following the discussions of Iron Out and Super Iron Out. I recently acquired two specimens of quartz having considerable iron staining, so I decided to try the Iron Out treatment. I bought a spray-cap container of Iron Out from a hardware store (photo below). The label states: “Contains Fluorosilicic Acid and Oxalic Acid.” No other constituents are mentioned, and no strength information is supplied. The label states it can be used in the bathroom and kitchen for most anything, and even for color-fast fabrics. First I sprayed the Iron Out on orange-stained amethyst crystals, then wiped it off, as per the directions, but did not see any obvious effect. Then I brushed it on and scrubbed with the brush, again seeing no obvious effect. I found a bucket and made a solution using the remaining solution mixed with water, and immersed the specimen in the bucket over night. Again, I saw no obvious improvement. That is when I went to another hardware store, looking for something better, and found the powdered form of Iron Out (also shown in photo) with different composition. The container of the powdered Iron Out states: “Contains Sodium Hydrosulfite and Sodium Metabisulfite.” No strength or percentage information is provided here, either. It is said to be good as a water softener, and can be used in the dishwasher and laundry, as well as for toilet bowl and water tank, but is not recommended for older, chipped porcelain or cast iron.

The second hardware store had the spray bottles, but those are labeled “Super Iron Out.” The Super Iron out also reports: “Contains Fluorosilicic Acid and Oxalic Acid,” without any strength information, but it is apparently the same thing as plain “Iron Out” from the previous store. REMEMBER, HOWEVER, THAT THE POWDERED IRON OUT IS SOMETHING ALTOGETHER DIFFERENT THAN LIQUID IRON OUT!

I tried the powdered Iron Out on a specimen of quartz grading to smoky quartz with elbaite crystals. The powder is mixed with water, and effervesces strongly for abut a minute when powder is added to water. I brushed it on, and thought I could see some effect, but it wasn’t great. Then I immersed the specimen in a bucket filled with a solution of the powder in water. After several minutes I saw more, but slight, improvement. Then I made another batch of the solution in the bucket and submerged the specimen for over night. The next morning I found it to be almost iron-free! Most remaining iron stains were in cracks in the quartz, which I concluded were too tight for the solution to penetrate, and I was satisfied with the result. Then I soaked the amethyst specimen mentioned before in a new mixture of powder and water for a nearly a whole day, after which it showed considerable improvement. However, some annoying orange stain remained in a crackled zone below the crystal terminations (the latter were clean to begin with). I then applied the powder directly to the surface of still-stained portions of the mineral and sprinkled on a little water, thinking the activity that produces the effervescence when the powder is added to water might initially provide more strength to the process. I kept adding water sprinkles and brushing it, cleaning off the mixture and adding new material between treatments. Currently some orange still remains–all in the crackled zone, and I think it is also essentially out of reach of the solutions. I am fairly satisfied with the improvement already, but may try some long-term soaking to see what happens. The two photo pairs below are before-and-after photos of the two specimens. This is my experience so far with Iron Out.

Ranger Dave April 24, 2016 06:14AM
Interesting. I've not had much luck with the liquid Iron Out (same formula as the "Super" Iron Out, just different label). I'll give the powered version a try.
Doug Daniels April 24, 2016 06:17AM
Well...I'd say the powdered type is the one most referenced on the site, and the most useful. The liquid ones, I'd steer away from....fluorosilicic acid??? Maybe means there's a little hydrofluoric acid in there, which screams - STAY AWAY. Might be ok for cleaning a stain on your bathtub (and I'd think twice there), but if you keep applying it to a specimen, and you aren't wearing any protective gear.......
David Von Bargen April 24, 2016 10:19AM
MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) are your friend here
Ronald J. Pellar April 24, 2016 08:55PM
The second link no longer works! Wonder why?
Harjo Neutkens April 25, 2016 07:50AM
If "Iron Out" doesn't do the trick good enough you can use a "Waller solution" to get rid of iron hydroxide.
You won't like the smell, but the results are usually very good, it's easy to make and use and not very toxic, although you have to take care not to inhale the sodium dithionite dust for it can cause respiratory problems.
And, always wear proper gloves and safety glasses, even with stuff that might be just moderately hazardous
Make sure you soak the specimen in water before putting it in the solution long enough for all the cracks to fill with water, otherwise you'll be left with an ugly yellowish residue that will hardly be removable from tiny cracks.
Heating the solution (max. 60 degrees) will substantially speed up the cleaning process. But make sure you gradually and slowly heat up the specimen before putting it in a heated solution for some crystals might crack internally due to the thermal shock. Some quartzes for instance can already crack and even fall apart when you put them in the sun after getting them out of the cold wet pocket mud...
My experience is that the solution is good for about 12 hours, although some literature gives a shorter time.
It is very important to thoroughly rinse the specimen afterwards and let it soak in water for about the same time as it has been in the Waller solution and replace the water with clean water every now and then.

For 1 liter:
Sodium Citrate - 71 grams
Sodium Bicarbonate - 8.5 grams (baking soda)
Sodium Dithionite - 20 grams
David Von Bargen April 25, 2016 11:36AM
The second link no longer works! Wonder why?
It doesn't like the -
If you copy the entire link and put it into the url window of your browser you can get there.

Info tab
For more product information, see our SDS
Norman King April 25, 2016 01:07PM
The packaging for Iron Out products provides very little information on hazards. I used them outside, and wore eye protection and rubber gloves. My experience is that splattering will occur when you least expect it, no matter how careful you are, so be especially careful with eyes. Have a source of running water handy.
Ronald J. Pellar April 25, 2016 08:25PM
Thanks David,

It seems that the pdf of the SDS can only be reached from the link to the product page. Is there a way to escape the - In the names to get to it directly?

According to the SDS it is quite different than the Iron Out solid! I should not have the same name! :-(

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/25/2016 08:31PM by Ronald J. Pellar.
Harold Moritz April 25, 2016 09:25PM
Use only the Super Iron Out made from powder. SIO is buffered, so it doesnt attack calcite, at least in the short term - over hours of a few days, as far as I've seen. Do not mix using acidic distilled water, use neutral tap water. Spent solution is safe for disposal in septic systems, unlike reactive HCl or poisonous oxalic acid.

Yes, Norman, you have to soak the pieces for days typically to remove the stubborn iron hydroxides. A little spray and wipe aint gunna cut it. Sometimes you have to refresh the solution days into the soak. Then soak in water when done for days as well, changing out the rinse every so often. You wont get the stains outta deep cracks.

Works great on most primary silicates and oxides and fluorapatite, many primary sulfides. Seems fine for fluorite and calcite and other primary carbonates, but test first and monitor progress just in case. Test first on secondary minerals, I know it does bad things to secondary phosphates. Zeolites are another matter, check Rudy Tschernik's book "Zeolites of the World" for cleaning tips. If unsure, test on a sacrificial piece first.
David Von Bargen April 26, 2016 12:09AM
It actually doesn't like the ). You can copy the entire url and paste it into url line in your browser.
Michel Ambroise April 26, 2016 11:07AM

Any one know if we can find this products in europe or France?

What' s the exact name to be used in english?

David Von Bargen April 26, 2016 12:26PM
Amazon UK may sell this product (not sure though if it is in stock and whether they can ship to other countries in the EU).
Thomas Lühr April 26, 2016 03:33PM
Hello Michel, hello all

In Germany are two products (and variants of them) available, as a decolourant powder for clothes, based on sodium dithionite (Natriumdithionit). The product names are "HEITMANN POWER ENTFÄRBER INTENSIV" and "Dr. Beckmann Intensiv Entfärber". Also sold by amazon.de.

I've only tested both basic products, not the derivatives of them (for white / colored / hot / cold etc.). Both are working "out of the box" slightly, the "Beckmann" label a bit better than "Heitmann". The reason for the low activity is the lack of (enough) chelating agent - like sodium citrate in the "Waller solution".
Furthermore, both products have sodium carbonate as a component, what causes an high pH value and will attack some (secondary) minerals even more.
This both disadvantages can be eliminated by addition of a solution of citric acid. It will react with a part of the sodium carbonate to sodium citrate and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide will instantly adsorbed by an other part of sodium carbonate, and will give sodium bicarbonate - and a lower pH value.

That may sound difficult, but actually it is really very easy to do:
For 1 liter water solve one table spoon of the powder. Then add slowly usual trade lemon juice (made from concentrate), while stirring the solution. If the solution effervesces strongly then stop the further addition (all sodium carbonate has been converted to sodium citrate and sodium bicarbonate).
If you are able to get citric acid powder, use better (cheaper) a solution of it instead of the lemon juice.

This solution (with the specimens in it, slowly heated till about 60°C) works very well against rust stainings and is also able to loosen up tenacious clay crusts (easy to remove in ultrasonic bath).
It is also good to prevent the yellow staining after soaking/ etching in muriatic acid. And i had even success with stopping the rotting process of pyrite, it even got back the original gloss and is stable since two years now.

Note: Be carefull with secondaty minerals. So it does not make harm to (glossy) mimetite and pyromorphite, but anglesite tarnishes black (sulphate will be reduced to sulphide ?). Cerussite remains white but loses the gloss.

Much success and happy cleaning
JW Johnson May 26, 2016 07:46AM
For years I have used the powdered version called Super Iron Out with great success.... on advice from a good geologist friend, I warmed up the crystals and minerals gradually to immerse them in a small tub of hot water, set the tub of hot water with crystals in it in the hot mid day sun of late spring and summer days, and sprinkled the powder into the tub of water...the powder reacts with the water and fizzles, bubbles, and smokes some...leave the crystals and minerals in the tub for at least a few hours...maybe even half a day and you will see the difference. I also use it to restore the colors to my chalcopyrite pieces when they oxidize and fade out...normally that will only take an hour or two to restore at most. I always use mine outside, the tub elevated so no pets can get into it, and on a day when there is a little bit of wind for ventilation of the fumes...when I remove the crystals and minerals from the tub, I use heavy rubber gloves like linemen use, that go all the way up to my elbows...safety first...and immerse them in a tub of water after hitting them with the garden hose for a few minutes. Made by the same company, it`s now called Iron Out.

I tried the spray on Super Iron Out...wasn`t impressed, wasn`t too super in my book.
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