Aluminum Oxide in MSR fuel bottle

10:10 p.m. on May 3, 2013 (EDT)
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Hello, 

I just dug out my four MSR fuel bottles from storage, only to find that my mother had stored them full of water (she even left a note with them to say it was water, not fuel). It's been 9 years now, and the inside surface of the bottles is rough with aluminum oxide. I'm pretty sure I can clean it off—I wouldn't want it to get in the fuel line. Providing I do get them all clean again, should I nevertheless be concerned about using the bottles? The seal seems to be good, though I don't think I'll know for sure until I test it with fuel.

Thanks for any advice!

Catherine

10:54 p.m. on May 3, 2013 (EDT)
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Catherine,

I do not believe you will have any problem with the oxide coating on the inside of your fuel bottles. I have bottles I have used for decades and never had a problem with fuel lines getting clogged from the oxidized interior of the bottle. We did use to use a funnel with a copper screen in it, though that was to keep dirt, branches, and leaves out of our Sveas and Primuses. Since these days, we attach pumps which have filters on the pickup line inside the bottle, you already have the filtering. If the filter clogs (which it eventually will, since there is often dirt that gets into the fuel bottles), you can replace the filter, or in the worst case, the whole pump. Note the filter on the end of each pump pickup line (Primus top, MSR bottom). The exact shape and color of the filter will vary with each stove (brand, model, year of manufacture. There really isn't any need to clean the oxide off the inside of the fuel bottle. In fact, since it is chemically bonded to the aluminum, you may very well do more harm than good by trying to scour or chemically remove the oxide (anodizing is a form of oxidizing, after all).


StovePumpFilter1.jpg

Stoves, like the Svea 123 and the Optimus "suitcase" stoves have cotton wicks in the fuel tank, which serve as filters.

2:47 p.m. on May 5, 2013 (EDT)
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don't try to clean the oxide out. just be sure they are nice and dry before you put fuel in them, and check the "o" ring seal for cracking.

3:56 p.m. on May 5, 2013 (EDT)
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Thank you both for your thoughtful replies! I will not throw these bottles away, but put them back to use... now to see how my stove has fared after all these years...

All the best, 

C

9:21 a.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill - just to play devils advocate - what would be the harm in using a coca-cola or ammonia soak to remove the worst of the pitting and oxidation?

10:29 a.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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I do not trust equipment that has been compromised.  I would get a new fuel bottle and use the others for something else.

9:39 p.m. on May 6, 2013 (EDT)
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Seth said:

Bill - just to play devils advocate - what would be the harm in using a coca-cola or ammonia soak to remove the worst of the pitting and oxidation?

 As I said, you are likely to do more harm than good in attempts to remove the pitting and oxidation. IF you are a chemist or metallurgist with a graduate degree and 5 or 10 years actual experience with restoration, hence know how aluminum reacts with acids and bases and mixtures of these, then you might do some experimentation (hint: Coke has carbonic acid and some other acidic ingredients, so if you mix some NH4OH in there, what's going to happen? - just in case anyone gets the idea to try this - DON'T!!! People have gotten seriously injured doing so.).

Thing is, if you just rinse the bottle thoroughly, you will clear any loose flakes of oxide. You really won't gain anything by scouring the inner walls except thinner, hence weaker, walls, which might not take kindly to the pressure imparted by pumping the bottle with fuel in it.

1:55 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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Hmm— I might try rinsing just one quickly with coca-cola to see if it seems pitted after or just clears up the aluminum oxide. I have rinsed them with water but it looks to me like there are enough flecks to clog a cotton wick should they come loose once the container is in use. I have four bottles in this state and am fine with sacrificing one or two in the name of science if it gives me confidence about keeping the remaining ones. 

ppine—I appreciate your concern and if I have the slightest doubt about actually running a stove off of these bottles, I will get a new one and just use these for storage.

Thanks everyone for your advice!

6:58 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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cmotuz said:

..if I have the slightest doubt about actually running a stove off of these bottles, I will get a new one and just use these for storage...

Two comments on this:

  1. If you have doubts, don’t even use the bottles for storage, as they can foul the content and create the same problems as is if to operate the stove.
  2. Given the cost of these tanks and the value of our time on the trail, why not just replace the bottles.  Is it worth chancing a stove malfunction and ruining your trip, all for the cost of a fuel bottle?

Ed

9:42 p.m. on May 7, 2013 (EDT)
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on second thought - replace the bottles. the oxidation may have compromised the pressure rating. better safe than blowed up!

November 21, 2014
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