What is an iron fallout remover?
An iron fallout remover is a chemical which is sprayed / added to an area affected by iron fallout – typically the wheels of a vehicle affected by brake dust – which reacts with and loosens said fallout to clear the affected area of the iron-based contaminants.
The key active product is sodium thiglycolate (thioglycolic acid), which reacts with the iron to leave the affected surface clear of contaminants following the wash.
Thioglycolic acid was first discovered by a scientist investigating why the protease enzyme could not break down hair, nails and skin, and was identified as a product which could actually do this.
In relation to metals, the acid was developed for its colour-changing function, in order to establish whether a batch of metal (usually aluminium or steel) was “bad,” or, in other words, contaminated with iron.
Once its iron removal properties were discovered, it became more widely used as a cleaning product.
Clay bars are the only other tool used to safely remove iron fallout from vehicle surfaces, but are far more time consuming and much less effective than a chemical cleaning process.
What does an iron fallout remover actually do?
Now for the sciency bit. For those of you who don’t have much time or interest in the in-depth science of how a fallout remover works, here’s the short version:
The thioglycolic acid reacts with iron in its current state, turning it into another state which is easier to remove.
Now for the more involved version:
Iron (II) is oxidised by the thioglycolic acid into Iron (III) and thereby is molecularly bonded to the acid ready to be rinsed off.
Iron II is missing two electrons, meaning that it is positively charged. An exothermic reaction takes place producing heat and causing the thioglycolic acid to lose some of its hydrogen atoms which are replaced by an iron atom, making the iron part of the acid compound which is then much easier to remove through rinsing.
What to look for in an Iron Fallout Remover
There are many different Iron Fallout Removers on the market, and it can be difficult to know which one to choose. The best way is to try each one, but what is the professional valeter and detailer looking for from a fallout remover?
Time to react
The quicker the product reacts, the more active product is likely to be in the ingredients. This saves time, and increases the effectiveness of the clean by ensuring that the fallout remover solution has as much active product included in its recipe as possible.
The thicker the solution, the longer the contact time, therefore meaning that the reaction is taking place on the desired area for longer. There is a balance, as if the product is too viscous only a fraction of the liquid will achieve surface contact, so a balance between the two provides the best results.
Why you should be careful using an iron fallout remover:
For your own protection:
As mentioned earlier, the active ingredient in an iron fallout remover was discovered first to be able to dissolve hair, nails and other body parts. Therefore, great care must be taken to protect one’s bodily parts from contact with the cleaning product.
It is also worth noting that the active product also smells quite pungent. It is highly recommended to use the product in a well-ventilated environment.
For the protection of the vehicle:
An iron fallout remover is not suitable for use on all surfaces, as it can react with iron molecules which are actually supposed to be there, such as on the brakes themselves.
Most areas of modern vehicles should be safe to clean with an iron fallout remover, but consider carefully which areas of older vehicles are safe to clean.
The chemical should not be allowed to dry out, nor should it be left for a prolonged period of time on any surface of the vehicle.