Magnets have several uses in household appliances and everyday objects. Over time, it is possible for an object to lose some of its magnetic force, making it work less efficiently. Fortunately, for the average consumer, there is a way to fix this–and you might already have the tools to do it. We'll explore the ins and outs of remagnetizing a variety of objects, including refrigerator doors, clasps, and more. We'll also cover some practical tips and things to avoid.
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Can You Remagnetize a Magnet?
Generally speaking, you can remagnetize most household goods containing magnets. Smaller items containing magnets are known to lose their charge over time. Larger magnets used in more industrial applications, however, may require the use of specialized equipment.
It's important to note that some magnets can be exceptionally strong, and put the user at risk of serious injury or even death. You should always exercise caution when using magnets, especially around metal.
Remagnetizing a magnet – What You'll Need
It might sound counterintuitive, but the first and only thing you'll need to remagnetize an object is…a magnet! It can't just be any old magnet, however. You should use a neodymium magnet. Neodymium magnets are composed of an alloy of boron, iron, and neodymium. They're considered a “permanent” magnet, meaning they retain their magnetic properties over time.
A neodymium magnet will remain strong even with repeated use or wear and tear, so it's worth picking up even if to replace your other magnet. Neodymium magnets contain the permanent charge needed to remagnetize other objects. They're also readily available, and you might already have one without realizing it. Make sure the magnet you have has clearly defined poles, either by color or by letter (N and S).
How do I Remagnetize My Magnet?
During the magnetization process, you'll essentially be connecting your worn-out magnet with the permanent neodymium one. That doesn't mean you can just drag the neodymium magnet across your object and call it a day, however. You see, many objects (like a flat fridge magnet, per se) don't have a clearly defined north or south pole. Instead, the north and south charges are evenly distributed across the sheet, much like a striped pattern.
If a flat magnet only had one charge across it, this would make it significantly weaker or not magnetic at all. Therefore, during the magnetization process, we must ensure that an object receives both north and south pole charges from the donor magnet.
The Step by Step Process
Before getting started, be sure to prepare a clean workspace with your weakened magnet and neodymium magnet. Try to find a neodymium magnet in a horseshoe shape or a bar with defined poles.
1. Ensure the magnet is clean and free of damage.
The most common metals used in magnets are cobalt, iron, and nickel. This means that they're prone to rust. Begin by ensuring your object is clean of any residue, rust, or grime. Even if it doesn't seem like much, a little bit of rust can prevent a magnet from sticking properly to the surface.
This is also a good time to check your object for any damage. In some cases, dropping a magnet can cause its bonds to be unaligned, making it lose its magnetic property. If you're wondering why your magnet suddenly isn't working, this could be the reason, especially if you dropped your phone!
2. Determine the magnetic poles of your object.
When in doubt, use a compass! Holding a compass near your object is the easiest way to figure out which pole is which. It's also a good idea to label it for future reference. If you have a clasp, like those found on a purse or wallet, you may find that either side is magnetized to a pole. It's important to know which pole it's magnetized to because simply guessing can result in the opposite effect–demagnetization.
3. Touch the object to the opposite pole on the neodymium magnet.
If one side of the clasp is north, then touch the south end of the neodymium magnet to it. You might need to do this several times to help it fully regain its charge. Do the opposite for the other side, then test the seal of the newly charged magnets.
Don't attempt this step unless you're absolutely sure of the polarization of your object. Trying to charge it with the wrong pole of the neodymium magnet will cause your object to lose magnetism, not gain it.
4. For flat objects, determine the pattern of magnetism and use the neodymium magnet to “retrace” it.
Most flat or sheet style magnets, like those found on fridges, are charged in an alternating pattern. This makes it significantly easier for the object to grab onto a metal object. You can pass a compass over your object to get a feel for its polarization. For simple, weaker magnets, however, you can simply pass one pole of the neodymium magnet down the length of the object, then alternate.
If you want to be precise, you can build a sort of array of alternating charged magnets and swipe it across. Keep in mind that some magnets aren't so easily charged this way. Refrigerator door seals, for example, often have a more difficult pattern to replicate, and doing so incorrectly can lead to the demagnetization of the object.
5. Measure twice, magnetize once.
It's kind of fascinating the kind of wizardry you can do at home with magnets. But just as they are restorative, they can also be destructive! This is in the sense that many people accidentally demagnetize their item entirely trying to fix it. This is often the case with credit cards.
Passing a magnet over your credit card will only further demagnetize it. On a scientific level, your credit card stripe actually contains data written onto it through the process of magnetization. Swiping a magnet over the card effectively erases this data, rendering it unusable. When in doubt, contact a professional on how to fix your item.
Can You Remagnetize a Credit Card?
The answer to this is no–and don't try! As mentioned previously, the magnetic stripe on your credit card is actually polarized in a microscopic way that inscribes data onto it, much like a hard drive on your computer does. When this stripe comes in contact with something else magnetic, you might find that your card stops working at the checkout.
That's because the other magnetic object (most commonly a phone) depolarized the stripe, scrambling all of the data on it. The only way to fix this is by getting a new card. Alternatively, instead of cutting up a card, try demagnetizing it!
Can You Remagnetize a Refrigerator Seal?
It's a common complaint among homeowners that their refrigerator door isn't sealing properly anymore. Most refrigerators have a vinyl or silicone seal with a thin magnet strip running through it that helps keep it shut. Actually, the more effective thing in sealing your fridge is the vinyl, because it creates an airtight gap. The magnet just helps “auto shut” your fridge when you push the door.
If your refrigerator isn't sealing well, first ensure the vinyl seal is clean and free of any buildup or residue. K&J Magnetics suggests even lightly rubbing some petroleum jelly along the seal to help it be more airtight. If all else fails, you could potentially try to remagnetize the seal, but it's difficult as it has a unique pattern of polarity. You're better off replacing the seal entirely or buying a new door. In some cases, fridge doors just have one small magnet at the top. In that case, if you have a compass handy, you can easily remagnetize it. Just be warned that if you mess up during the process, you might ruin the magnet in your fridge seal forever.
Can You Remagnetize a Generator?
If your generator suddenly dies on you, it could be that it's lost its small amount of magnetic charge needed to convert the mechanical energy to electrical. You won't need a magnet to remagnetize your generator, however. You simply need to give it a boost, or what's called a “flash.”
To flash your generator, you'll need to connect some other source of energy, like a car battery, to restart it. Similar to jumping off a car, this small boost of energy will allow the generator to restart things and recreate its magnetic field. Be sure to follow safety precautions.
Can a Magnet Kill You?
This is actually a common question. Magnets are surprisingly lethal for how common they are. Swallowing magnets, for instance, can cause lacerations in your intestines and dangerous internal bleeding, typically leading to death. On a large scale, especially strong magnets can trap the user between the magnet and piece of metal, leading to injury, usually in the form of pinching the skin or degloving.
Finally, another source of injury with magnets stems from MRI machines. MRIs actually use a giant, rotating magnet for imaging. It's perfectly safe unless you have anything remotely metal in your body! If you have pins from prior surgery, a pacemaker, or body jewelry on, it will react with the industrial-strength magnet–and the results aren't typically good. That's why you have to go through a metal detector before taking an MRI.
Can You Magnetize a Non Magnetic Item Like Metal?
You can easily magnetize a non-magnetic object right from home! You can even customize the polarity of your object to create interesting patterns or shapes, which will appear when passed over metallic dust or small objects like screws or nails. However, only certain metals can be magnetized to have a magnetic field of their own. Typically, these metals are iron, nickel, or cobalt.
Metals like gold, silver, or bronze won't magnetize (and if they do, they might not be authentic)! Aluminum also won't hold a charge, although if it contains any iron, it just might. Some companies add a small amount of iron to a thin, flexible material to make it magnetic, as in the case of sheet magnets.
Can You Remagnetize a Compass?
The needle of a compass is quite delicate and can be easily damaged. However, it is still possible to remagnetize it. It's simple in theory to do because the needle's poles are usually marked or denoted by color. If possible, remove the glass or face of the compass. Stabilize the needle and gently place your neodymium magnet on the corresponding pole. Slide the magnet across and gently lift it away. You may need to do this several times.
Repeat for the other pole of the compass. Compass needles are dangerously thin and are prone to snapping if not magnetized carefully. You might opt for using a weaker magnet or even a non-neodymium one. When finished, test to see if the compass is working correctly and pointing in the right direction (it helps to compare it against the compass on your phone). If you snapped your needle in the process, don't worry. You can easily replace it.
When You're “Stuck” With a Broken Magnet…
Can you remagnetize a magnet? The answer is yes! It's more than possible and very easy to do so. But be warned, not all magnets are simple to remagnetize. Some magnets are intricately polarized for maximum effectiveness. Other magnets are incredibly strong, and if used improperly, can cause injury. You should always exercise caution when working with magnets.
Whatever kind of magnet you're looking to recharge, it's a good idea to have a strong, neodymium magnet on hand. You might already have one, as it's a common alloy used for household magnets. With just a few quick swipes, you can easily recharge your favorite fridge magnet. Just be careful to avoid your phone, credit card, and other electronics, because it could permanently damage them. When in doubt, call a professional! Many electricians and other field experts can guide you on how to fix your object.