Newer types of magnets, especially of the neodymium variety, are so powerful that it’s hard to separate them from the metals they’re attracted to. If you work or play with magnets, you should definitely know how to remove a strong magnet from a metal surface.
A strong magnet can be removed from metal by sliding it off the metal instead of trying to pull it out. Demagnetizing a magnet is another way to remove it from metal, but that’s hard to achieve at home. However, a magnet can be weakened enough to easily remove it from metal.
Read on for a more detailed guide on how to remove strong magnets from metal, including how to weaken the magnetic force of a magnet and what safety precautions to take when handling magnets.
1. Slide or Push the Magnet off the Metal
You can remove a strong magnet from metal by laterally sliding or pushing it to the edge of the metal. Once a sizeable portion of the magnet is over the edge, lift it and keep it far away from the metal.
Why is it easier to slide or push a strong magnet over a metal surface than to lift it? Well, it’s the same as with any heavy object—you only have to work against friction rather than the weight of the object.
On the other hand, in order to lift or pull the magnet out, you must overcome both gravity and the magnetic force that attracts it to the metal.
2. Slide or Push the Magnet Down the Edge of a Table
What if the metal piece is the same size as the magnet or smaller? You can’t slide or push the magnet off the metal’s edge then, but you can still apply the same principle of the previous method. Here’s how you can go about it:
- Go to a wooden or plastic table with straight 90° edges.
- Hold the magnet-metal combo at the table’s edge, with the metal on the table and the magnet off the edge.
- Push the magnet slowly downwards (use a wooden or plastic spatula if needed).
- When most of the magnet is separated from the metal, grip it and pull it away.
3. Use a Wedge Made of Non-Magnetic Material
A plastic or wooden wedge may also do the trick. All you need is a wedge and a hammer, and all it takes is a few simple steps:
- Place the wedge at a point where the magnet meets metal.
- Use a hammer to get the wedge between the magnet and the metal.
- Carefully hammer the wedge further in to widen the gap between magnet and metal.
- Grip the magnet and pull it away.
You must do this gently to prevent the magnet from breaking or getting chipped.
4. Weaken the Magnet Through Demagnetization
If you have no use for the magnet, you can remove it from the metal by demagnetization, which is a process that will cause the magnet to lose its magnetic properties. It’s hard to demagnetize a magnet completely, but you can weaken it enough to remove it.
There are different ways to weaken the magnetic force of a magnet. But to understand how demagnetization works, you must know how magnetism works.
How Magnetism Works
The electrons in a magnet’s atoms spin in the same direction and are all aligned with the earth’s north and south poles. In a sense, each electron is a magnet with a north and south pole.
The alignment of the electrons in a magnet produces a magnetic field, which attracts magnetic materials, including metals like iron and steel. If that alignment is disrupted, the magnet will lose its magnetic properties.
Demagnetization does just that. You can demagnetize a magnet by subjecting it to extreme heat or physical shock.
See also: Do Magnets Stick to Aluminum or Stainless Steel?
Removing a Strong Magnet From Metal With Heat
All magnets lose their magnetic properties above a certain temperature, called the Curie point. The Curie point typically ranges from 350°F (177°C) to 1,400°F (760°C), depending on the material the magnet is made of.
Such high temperatures may be difficult to achieve inside your home, but even exposure to temperatures much lower than the Curie point can weaken a magnet’s magnetic field.
To weaken a magnet, place it over a burner for about 20 minutes. If the metal is small, you can even drop the metal-magnet piece into a pot of boiling water.
Use a pair of pliers to remove the magnet. If it’s still stuck fast to the metal, apply heat for some more time and try again.
Removing a Strong Magnet From Metal With Physical Shock
Continuous physical shock can also disrupt the electron alignment in a magnet. You can do this by repeatedly hammering the magnet with a wooden or rubber mallet.
Again you may not be able to demagnetize the magnet, but you can weaken it enough to separate it from the metal.
Safety Tips for Removing Strong Magnets From Metal
Magnets pose several safety hazards. When handling magnets, it’s important to wear gloves and safety goggles.
Your fingers can get pinched while pulling or pushing magnets to remove them from metal. While using force to separate a strong magnet from metal, it can snap back to the metal and hurt your hands if they are in the way.
Some magnets are highly brittle and can easily chip or break, and the tiny pieces can cause skin or eye injuries.
There are many ways to remove a strong magnet from metal, but sliding it off the metal is perhaps the most convenient. No tools are needed, and it’s mostly hassle-free.
If that doesn’t work for your specific situation, you can consider one of the other options.