DeOxIt – What is it? What ISN’T it?

Started messing around with “vintage” audio again.  Drug a couple stereos out of the attic and picked up a new stereo or two (or three).   I’ve been heavily involved in vintage audio since around 2001 or so on and off and one thing that any old stereo guy will tell you is that DeOxIt spray is a miracle solution for audio.  Spray it on and rust falls off, light bulbs glow brighter and the gravitational force of the moon gets stronger if you accidentally spray some on the moon.


Absolute utter and total bullshit.  Kinda.

And let me qualify that statement.  Right around 1995 or so I got a got a job in Fleet Training in the Naval Aviation Depot as a Corrosion Control Instructor and the Aircraft Painting School.  Previously in the Navy I spent a couple of years in the Corrosion Control shop of VA-34.

I parlayed that into a job with a place called NAESU where I was a Tech Rep assisgned to the Materials Science Program.  During both tenures I either had access to a lab or the greatest minds in the DOD Materials Science Program.  Corrosion Control costs the government billions annually in the DOD and particularly the Navy.  Airplanes landing on carriers and such. High stresses in highly salt environments.  Some of the smartest scientists I ever met were in the DOD Materials Science program.

So I know a thing or two about Corrosion, Corrosion prevention …….. make that a thing or three.  I was the up and coming wonder boy in the program as well and once co-authored a paper on Trivalent Chromium aluminum surface treatments with one of the scientists on aircraft aluminum.

So I’ll say it again.  I know a fucking thing or three about Corrosion preventative compounds.

This blog is NOT a hit piece on DeOxIt.  Hell, I have a can of DeOxIt.  And I use it.  But I know what it will do and what it will not do.

Let’s talk about the name of it.  DeOxIt.  What does that name imply?  That it will De-oxidize things or remove rust from things.  It absolutely will NOT do that.  All you need to do is look at the Material Safety Data Sheet to see what is in it.  Go to the CAIG (manufacturers) web site and download an MSDS for the product you use.

Here’s one for the 5% spray.

Main ingredient = Petroleum Naptha.  That’s lighter fluid folks.  60 to 100%.  Ok it isn’t a 100% because it contains Methyl NonaFlouroButyl Ether.   Yeah, yeah, that’s the propellant in the can. The stuff that makes the lighter fluid spray out.  Then you have 1 to 5% of your trade secret.

Okay, so I don’t know what it is but I know what is in some of the greatest corrosion preventative compounds that there are.  In the Navy the Corrosion Preventative Compound we use is also lighter fluid, and propellant with a barium corrosion inhibitor.

So I can’t say for sure DeOxIt has a barium inhibitor in it but I bet it is an inhibitor of some kind. As far as converting oxides on metal you need an acid for that.  It can’t be an acid in DeOxit because then it couldn’t be listed as a “Trade Secret” because by law “Trade Secret” stuff can’t be hazardous. Stuff like phenolic acid and chromic acid is hazardous.

I also know that to test products we put them in a salt fog booth then take aircraft aluminum’s and scratch X’s into them, then treat the metal then place it in the booth.  I can unequivocally state that DeOxIt is NOT AS GOOD as Mil-Spec Corrosion Preventative Compound (Mil-PRF-81309) because I’ve tested it in salt fog booths myself.  It just isn’t as good.

But Naptha is a good cleaner and a bit of a lubricant and of course depending on what the mystery 5% is maybe a really good lubricant.

There is no doubt a blast of DeOxIt in a an old non-sealed potentiometer full of dust and grime is a great thing to do.  Spray, work, it back and forth and it will clean and lube your switch or potentiometer.

What it will not do.   IT WILL NOT REMOVE RUST. IT WILL NOT REMOVE OXIDATION, and let me qualify that by saying tightly bonded oxidation.  Loose oxidation products……..okay, I’ll buy that. But let me explain by that I mean loosely bonded oxide films that you cannot see or see that they are removed.  The NAPTHA CLEANS IT.  There is no chemical conversion that I am aware of.

If DeOxit makes your bulb in your flashlight seemingly brighter, just try the same experiment with lighter fluid and bear in mind you have added an electrolyte solution to an electrical circuit which can make it conduct better.

DeOxIt is indeed the old vintage stereo guys friend.  Please stop saying it is a miracle product though.

DeOxIt = $14 a can

Lighter Fluid $14 a gallon.

I’m serious as a heart attack.

Again, this was not a hit piece.  I like DeOxIt.  I use it because I can’t buy Mil-C-81309.  But it isn’t what most people thinks that it is.

So to kind of summarize, DeOxIt is a contact cleaner / corrosion preventative compound that will clean, protect, and INHIBIT oxide growth with regular repeated applications.  It is NOT a de-oxidizer.   The only way it would remove oxide layers is if you applied mechanical means like an abrasive cloth or similar in conjunction with its use.

10 thoughts on “DeOxIt – What is it? What ISN’T it?

  1. Bob Smith

    John, in your article about Deoxit here:
    You claimed: It can’t be an acid in DeOxit because then it couldn’t be listed as a “Trade Secret” because by law “Trade Secret” stuff can’t be hazardous.

    Just a quick google check turned up the following from an OSHA expert:
    The HCS allows a manufacturer or importer to indicate on the SDS that the specific chemical identity and/or the exact percentage of composition of a hazardous ingredient is being withheld as a trade secret.

    Maybe you made a mistake?

    Thanks for the article.

    1. George Maselli

      I sprayed DeOxit in the headphone port of my Ipod to try clean up the contact. I think it did the job, but I
      can see the extra DeOxit in the screen of the Ipod–it looks psychedelic. Will the excess DeOxit ever dissipate and go away over time? Thanks!!!

  2. Mark

    Thanks for the short write up.
    Naptha and most other petroleum spirits are all great at helping removal of contamination from metal surfaces.
    I have used neat lighter fluid for cleaning carbon build up from rifle bores and also for cleaning switch contacts.
    If the contacts are easily accessible then a wipe with acetone followed by lighter fluid works like magic.

  3. Andrew

    That Mil-PRF-81309 product you mention is sold under the name “Boeshield T-9”. It comes in a spray can and is the best rust inhibitor i’ve ever seen. It leaves a thin kinda waxy film and is identical to what my buddy uses on KC135 Strato-Tankers for the USAF. I use it just about everything including very expensive firearms.

  4. Eric

    I was under the impression that lighter fluid no longer contains petroleum naphtha, at least here in the UK. My can of zippo definitely doesn’t.

  5. Tony

    I have been using Caig “Deoxit” since before it was called “Deoxit”. Back in the 1980s it used to be called “Cramolin”. In all that time I’ve never seen a claim that it is a spray-on rust remover! I know rust is a synonym for oxidation but that’s not how the general public uses the term.

    My 30 year experience with Deoxit has shown me it is highly effective in improving or eliminating intermittent, noisy connections in electronic systems. Other contact cleaners help too (even WD-40 in a pinch) but none as well or as long lasting as Deoxit in my experience. I consider Deoxit D5 a vital part of my tools/supplies for maintaining electronic equipment of all kinds.

    Deoxit is for improving the reliability of electronic contacts. I do not expect to just spray it on and magically resolve a problem. I apply it to the contacting points, then rub them together (using the wiping action of the contacts to clear away the oxidation). Or if a connector you can exercise it in and out, or scrub with a shop towel. Your expectation of just spraying it on to remove oxidation is unrealistic. The key is the combination of Deoxit and physical exercise of the contact points. Then the very thin layer of Deoxit remaining will slow the return of the oxidation.

  6. PCL

    Sounds as if it’s not much different from the TV tuner cleaner they used to sell at Radio Shack with that goofy-looking TV repairman on the can. If I remember correctly, they had a standard version and one for “Color TV”, as if the contacts on color TV tuners fouled differently. And it was a lot cheaper than $14 per can, though with inflation, it’s hard to compare them.

  7. jon

    De-oxit’s magic ingredient is oleic acid with a touch of some red dye. I read that years ago on a Saudi SDS for the product. They apparently don’t allow for secret ingredients there. Someone posted the SDS on a forum thread about de-oxit, and this is how we know…

    I’m trying to understand the chemistry behind it, and trying to figure out what they put in the gold and the fader lube, just out of curiosity.

  8. Jerry Cupples

    Back 30 years or so ago, I worked for a startup computer company, producing a “parallel processing” machine. The processor boards were huge, and had hundreds of contacts in four row pin & socket connectors to the motherboard. These were expensive high-rel connectors, with gold plating on all the mating contacts. In the field, there were intermittent issues where field engineers removed all the boards, re-seated them (they had jackscrews, it took perhaps 30-50 pounds to seat each one), then rebooted. This usually was successful, at least temporarily. A consultant we had (he had been the personal assistant to Art Collins of Collins Radio) recommended we spray “Cramolin” on the motherboard pins. We sent cans of Cramolin to all the field engineers. After applying it, the processor boards would seat without using jackscrews, with a fraction of the force previously needed. This was my first experience with “connector lubrication”, which is related, but suffice to say, I think Cramolin/DeOxit is a good product. It may not be very effective in some chemistry, but it does facilitate and preserve separable electronic contacts.


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