Unintentional pot of rust


The scrap bin at my local thrift store, holder of all manner of used metals, is stocked better on some days than others.  Trooped home with these recently and although caked up with goo, dirt, and who knows what else, they were a good find.  Stuck the whole lot in an acidic brew intended to eat away the whatevers, set the pot on the chest freezer in the pantry ... and then completely forgot about it.

Whoops.  Hadn't meant to create rust, but this could be advantageous.
Except that a very discernible sheen of mystery oil something-or-other is floating on the surface which doesn't look too promising.  Since all these bolts & washers were dunked with the purpose of a good scrub [covered in unknown industrial grease & grime], I'm tossing this liquid mess for now.  Dunno what it is and that makes me a tad nervous.  Luckily, this process is repeatable.  Here's the recipe for next time should anyone find the portions helpful:

two parts water
to one part vinegar.
add iron.
wait two weeks ...
[use a dye pot, or pail, etc. NOT a cooking pot from the kitchen]

... iron mordant.

Mordant = from the Latin verb 'mordre' which literally means 'to bite';
mordant helps the dye 'bite' into fiber.

A quick search on the internet has revealed that one can use iron liquor as a mordant by straining the solution into a stainless steel pot (that is, if one does not have an iron pot at hand to begin with) and after adding water, then add your pre-wetted fibers.  A short simmer of ten minutes or so, followed by a natural cool down in the solution and a thorough rinse at the end.  The fiber is "fixed" and both light-fastness and wash-fastness is improved when using most natural dyes.  Colors may well be altered - iron, also know as the great "sadden-er" produces quite beautiful results, turning some reds into deep Egyptian purples and some browns into shades of gray and brown-blacks.

HERE  is a quite interesting tale on the same subject.

And after all that, 
there's still the rusty bits to play with ...


  1. You have just inspired me to retrieve my stainless steel turkey fryer pot from the 'give away' pile. Drat.

    1. ooooh, narrow & deep - that's a perfect size for some LONG bolts. Sorry I messed with your plans ;>/

  2. Forgotten science experiments - who knows what one might brew!

    1. Not sure what happened, V, I rarely forget about "work in progress" but I'm guessing it's because the metal was new ... sort of like forgetting that I even bought it. No harm done, at least, and I've learned something which is very valuable.

  3. Just been given an old rusty iron pot. Inspired by your experiment, I'm going to heat some water in it and let it sit after for a few days. Have no bolts to chuck in but this should release some mordant. As far as that "oil slick" on the water, I would have tossed it as well...

    1. GREAT, Marti, let me know how it goes, but it should be perfect. You'll be able to pour off that liquid for a nice batch of mordant, I figure. How about some rusty nails to toss in? Even something like an old screwdriver from the thrift store might work ... would speed up/add to the process.

    2. Thanks Christi. I've raided hubby's tool box and found a good sized rusty file so it is in the brew.

  4. Hmm...need to drag out the cast iron pot I've been using for dyeing.