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If they move through their stroke smoothly and still have decent damping, I'd clean them up and use them. I bought a gallon of Metal Rescue and a small plastic container that my rusty shocks would fit in. I left them in the Metal Rescue for a couple days and they came out pretty nice...

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^ Is that for real ??

That's incredible. What did you do - just immerse the whole lot in the solution ?
Yes, that's real. I left them submerged for a couple days. The only drawback was that the black paint on the bodies came off, too, but that was pretty easy to repaint. A lot of the crud on the shocks in the first picture is 20 years worth of dirt, but they had a fair amount of rust on them, too. Here's a pic with the dirt washed off, but before the Metal Rescue soak.

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I had similar issue with the shocks on my 1975 CB 200t. I used Muriatic Acid. You can get a gallon from the hardware store for about $10.
Just fill a 5 gal plastic bucket half way with water. Then pour in about a pint or 2 of Muriatic Acid.
Drop in your rusty shock and within a few minutes you will see them start to bubble. (micro bubbles)
Check them every 15 min to half hour. You will be amazed.
It works perfect especially for nuts and bolts and chrome stuff. Rusty bolts come out looking new.
 

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I used a brass metal wire drill attachment and went over them for an hr or two. Got em looking nice.
 

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Good stuff.

I would have thought fluid with this properties would have also eaten through the little rubber seals where the rod goes into the body with the damping oil - no ?
Metal Rescue is very mild - dissolves rust, but doesn't harm anything else (unless there's rust under your paint). You can leave parts in it as long as you like, it washes off with water, it's reusable a few times before it gets too dirty, doesn't harm your hands, and you can dispose of it down the drain or in the yard. It's good for removing rust from the inside of gas tanks when you're trying to save the paint, too.
 
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