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Well, it doesn’t matter if the work is done by tannic acid or whatever other chemical compound. The fact is that it works – but it is not an absolute miracle.
I just tested it. I am now servicing a french chime clock and one part had the arbor and pinion reasonably rusty. So I made some tea and soaked this part in it after it was degreased and cleaned the best possible.
When I picked the part out of the tea its arbor was absolutely black like coal. 😯
I rubbed it with a paper towel and the black coating went off almost completely. The steel under it was still dark, with some blue tone. I could not rub the pinion leaves with the towel so I went to the motor and polishing brush. After some work the arbor and pinion got clear and clean – not absolutely free of stains but undoubtedly much better than the initial condition, before the tea bath.
Concluding, the tea didn’t remove all the rust, but made a lot easier to remove it. Maybe soaking for longer time? Maybe using the tea in the ultrasonic cleaner??? Future tests…
(Sorry I didn’t take pictures to ilustrate, maybe next time….)