Technically, rust is an iron oxide and occurs when iron or a compound containing iron is exposed to oxygen over a long period. Moisture, usually water, accelerates the process and this guide will show us how to remove rust stain from anything.
Rust stains can be a challenge to remove because the stain consists of tiny iron oxide particles, plus some treatments actually set the stain rather than remove it. Use a little chemistry know-how to successfully remove a rust stain.
The first step in removing rust stains is to identify the stained material. If you are dealing with delicate fabrics such as Acetate, Fiberglass, Rayon, Silk, Triacetate, Wool, Leather or Suede, you should take the item to a professional cleaner. Because of the degree of difficulty involved in the removal of rust stains, it is best not to try removing the stain from these delicate fabrics yourself. Rust in your car or on your outdoor furniture is a pain, but when that stain seeps on to clothes or furniture, it’s a shocker.
Table of Contents
- How to Remove Rust Stains From Clothing and Washable Fabrics
- How to Remove Rust Stains from Non-washable Fabrics
- How to Remove Rust Stains from Carpet or Furnishings
- How to Remove Rust Stains from Toilet
- How to Remove Rust Stains from Sink
- How to Remove Rust Stains from Upholstery
- How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron Pans
- How to Remove Rust From Just About Anything
- Stain Remover Notes
How to Remove Rust Stains From Clothing and Washable Fabrics
- If you’ve got rust on clothing it can be removed with either white vinegar or lemon juice.
- Lay the clothing or fabric out on an old towel and pour a small amount of white vinegar directly on the stain – or rub a cut lemon half on the stain.
- Saturate it thoroughly, then blot it with a clean white towel.
- Lay outside in the sunshine until the stain starts to fade, then launder as usual.
- More extensive or stubborn stains benefit from a dose of commercial rust remover, found at hardware stores.
How to remove rust from clothes – even your whites!
Rust stains on white clothes are often the trickiest to remove, but there are a few methods you can use to tackle the problem. Just read the following steps to find out how to remove rust stains from clothes:
Resist the temptation to rub it. Yup, your first instruction is to not do something – if only all stain removal steps were this easy. Touching or wiping the rust stain will nudge it deeper into the fabric.
Apply a pre-treatment. You’ve got a couple of options to choose from when it comes to completing this step:
• Lemon juice. Paint the stained area with plenty of lemon juice. If you’ve got salt to hand, you can use this to help draw out more of the stain: combine equal amounts of salt and lemon juice, and stir to make a thickish paste. Then (gently!) rub this onto the stain.
• White vinegar. Just like lemon juice, white vinegar is a natural anti-rust remedy. You can use this in exactly the same way, too.
• Sunlight. Sunlight can encourage a rust stain to fade. Follow up your lemon juice or white vinegar treatment with an hour or more outdoors in the sun.
Do your usual wash with OMO Ultimate Liquid. Consult the care label on your clothing for washing instructions. Once the wash cycle is over, line-dry the garment in the sun. Any remaining reddish-brown stains will then – hopefully – be faded by the sunlight.
Repeat, where necessary. Sadly, not all rust stains will disappear after the first wash. If the rust stain on your white clothing is still hanging around, just repeat steps 1 to 3 until the mark is completely gone.
Important: Always remember to read product labels and garment care labels before using a stain removal method you haven’t tried before. If you’re not sure how to get rust stains out of clothes that are delicate, ask a professional for help.
How to Remove Rust Stains from Non-washable Fabrics
- If non-washable fabrics have been affected by rust, you have two options: take it to a professional cleaner, or try the following method:
- Combine lemon juice and salt into a thick mixture. Test in an inconspicuous area, and if the fabric reacts well then you can treat.
- Apply the mixture to the stain and place in the sun.
- Moisten regularly with lemon juice until the stain disappears.
- Brush off residual salt.
How to Remove Rust Stains from Carpet or Furnishings
- If you have metal furniture chances are you’ve experienced rust stains on the carpet when you’ve tried to move furniture around. Don’t stress, here’s how to remove those pesky rust stains with ease.
- Soak a cloth in white vinegar and wring out.
- Sprinkle the rust stain with salt, and then lay the vinegar-soaked cloth over the top.
- Leave for 30 minutes before checking the stain.
- Reapply a clean cloth and repeat process until the stain has disappeared.
- Leave to dry and then vacuum up any remaining salt.
- If stain is stubborn, repeat these steps or attempt to remove stains using a commercial rust remover.
- If the rust stain is around the drain on a porcelain sink or on a stainless steel draining board, the solution is still the same – use lemon, vinegar or salt to remove it.
How to Remove Rust Stains from Toilet
Rust and other mineral stains can quickly build-up on the surface of your toilet bowl if it isn’t cleaned on a regular basis. While many commercial cleaners on the market will eliminate these stains, there are more natural ways to clean your toilet without using harsh chemicals.
Before you start cleaning the rust stains from your toilet, you want to shut off the main water valve to your toilet, which is located behind the toilet. Then you need to remove as much water from the bowl with a bucket or cup.
Next, add the vinegar to the toilet bowl along with a small amount of baking soda. Using a nylon toilet brush, swish the toilet bowl cleaner around the bowl and let stand for 15 minutes. Using the brush, scrub the stains. If the stains aren’t entirely removed, add the lemon juice to help dissolve any of the stains that remain. Turn the water back on and flush.
How to Remove Rust Stains from Sink
If you’re dealing with rust stains in your sink, there are two simple ingredients that you can use that won’t damage the material and will eliminate the stain.
Pour lemon juice over the stain. Allow it to sit for about ten minutes. Using a clean washcloth, scrub the stain until it is gone. If the stain isn’t immediately removed, pour some more lemon juice on the stain, then add some salt over the lemon juice and let stand for 15 minutes. Using an old toothbrush scrub the stain until it disappears.
Rust Remover Method
There are a variety of commercial rust removers available that will remove rust stains from fabrics and upholstery as well. They all have similar (good) reviews online. You can find them in the laundry aisle of supermarkets or at home goods or home improvement stores. Some examples are Rit Rust Remover, Whink Rust Remover, or Goof Off RustAid.
- Read the label for any precautions prior to use.
- Apply a small amount of rust remover to the stain. Follow any instructions provided on the packaging.
- Allow it to soak if necessary.
- Rinse with clean water.
- Launder the garment as usual.
Though not a common method, rhubarb offers another “green” method to remove rust stains. This works well if the piece has large rust spots that are too difficult to clean individually.
- Choose a pot that is large enough to hold water and the affected garment.
- Fill the pot ½ to ¾ full with water.
- Add rhubarb stalks to the water.
- Bring the water to a boil and allow it to cook for 20 minutes.
- Remove the cooked rhubarb, but do not dispose of the water.
- Place the stained garment in the rhubarb water and allow it to soak.
- Once the stain is gone, remove the garment from the water and wash as normal.
Vinegar and Salt Method
Often times, the rust stain is not noticed until after the piece has been washed and dried. Here is a method that can be used on old and new stains.
- Moisten a soft cloth or cotton ball with white vinegar.
- Blot the stained area to moisten it completely.
- Cover the stain with a thin layer of salt.
- Rub the vinegar and salt together onto the stain with your fingers.
- If possible, lay the piece on top of a towel in direct sunlight.
- If there is no sunlight available, allow the two to dry on the piece as it sits.
- Wash the garment as usual.
Additional Tips and Advice
Don’t dry the garment until the stain is completely removed. The heat from the dryer will set the stain and make it harder to remove.
For sensitive fabrics, such as wool and silk, it will be best to have the item professionally cleaned to remove the stain. If you attempt the above stain removal methods on a delicate item, be sure to test a small area first.
Other items that can be used include naval jelly and cream of tartar. Rub naval jelly on the garment or wet it and apply a layer of cream of tartar. Allow the piece to sit and then launder as usual.
If the stain is simply rust “dust” from brushing up against a rusty surface, it will likely come out with a regular wash.
Many rust removers are not skin friendly – wear rubber gloves for protection.
How to Remove Rust Stains from Upholstery
Rust can get onto virtually any surface that comes in contact with corroding steel or iron and it will usually leave a red-brown stain. For upholstery, these stains can be particularly difficult to remove because the fabric cannot be put in the wash. Follow the steps below to remove the stain from your upholstered item;
- Sprinkle salt over the stain, then apply lemon juice over the salt.
- Steam the area with an upholstery steamer, tea kettle, or steam iron.
- If possible, let the area dry in the sun. This will help the lemon juice to bleach the stain out. Use caution not to get lemon juice on the area surrounding the stain or the fabric may be bleached as well.
- Once dry, wipe off the salt, then sponge the area with a damp cloth to rinse.
- If the stain remains, apply salt and lemon juice again repeatedly until the stain is gone, not allowing the lemon juice to dry this time.
- If the stain is stubborn, combine equal parts hot water and ammonia. Let the mixture cool, then sponge it onto the stain. Sponge the area with plain water to rinse.
- If the stain is persists, there are commercial stain removers for rust available that may also work. Ensure the product you select is safe for upholstery, then follow the directions on the label of your selected cleaner.
How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron Pans
Steps to Remove the Rust:
- Spray the rusty area with cooking spray and rub away the rust with a soft cloth. Clean off the excess oil when the rust is removed.
- Moisten the rust with dish soap.
- Cut off one side of a potato and scrub the soapy area with the raw potato.
- Rinse away the rust and allow the pan to dry completely before reseasoning the pan.
How to Remove Rust From Just About Anything
Use the following six ways to remove rust stain from anything at all.
Acid, specifically citric acid or acetic acid, is a great way to remove rust, particularly if it has formed on parts which can be easily removed and soaked. If, say, you want to remove rust from screws, remove the screws and soak them in vinegar. Take a half-liter plastic bottle, and put the screws inside. Pour in enough white vinegar so that it’s about an inch above the screws. Put the lid on and shake the bottle. Soak the screws in the vinegar for a day or so, and then pour the vinegar out – use a colander or sieve so you don’t lose any screws.
Your screws should now be shiny and free from rust. If they’re not, try again and leave them for a bit longer so the acid gets more of a chance to do its work.
Try a Lemon
If you can’t easily remove the rusty components, you’ll need to use a little elbow grease to do the job. Before resorting to the DIY store, though, raid the kitchen again for a few more items that might help. First, try a lemon or lime and some salt (you won’t need the tequila). Rub the salt all over the rusted area and, when it’s thoroughly coated, squeeze the lemon or lime juice onto the salt. Squeeze out as much as you can, then leave it to work its magic for two or three hours.
Now you need to scrub it off. You could use a scourer or even some steel wool. But to avoid damaging the metal any further, it’s best to use the rind of the lemon or lime. It’s abrasive enough to remove the rust after its soaked in the juice and salt mixture for a while, and won’t do any more damage to the metal.
In the Bathroom
If you don’t have a lemon or lime to hand, you can try baking soda and a toothbrush. Pour some baking soda into a dish or bowl and add enough water to form a paste.. The paste should be thick enough that it doesn’t run, but not crumbly. Once you’ve made up the paste, apply it to the rusted area, leave it to set for a couple of hours, and then scrub it off with the toothbrush.
While you’re in the bathroom, you could also try using soap – the kind that sits in a dish on the side of the bath. You’ll also need a potato, cut the potato in half, and rub the inner bit on the soap until it’s coated. Place the coated end of the potato on the rust for a couple of hours, then brush off the soap.
Time to Get Tough
If none of these methods work, you’ll need to roll up your sleeves and employ some serious elbow grease. Rust can be removed from metal by scraping it off. Clearly, this is easiest where the rust covers a large and easily accessible area. Spokes on a bike, for example, are more difficult to scrape.
First, you’ll need to decide what to use as a scraper. This will depend on how bad the rust is. If it’s thick, you could use a paint scraper or even a screwdriver to get rid of the worst of it. Steel wool also works well, as does sandpaper – particularly if you can get at it with a power sander. Start with a rough grain paper and as you clean the rust away, switch to a finer grain. The idea being that you don’t want to scrape or damage the underlying metal any more than the rust has already done.
Get Rid of Rust Stains
Rust doesn’t just affect the metal it’s formed from. It can stain clothing, brick work, and just about anything else it touches.
If you find rust stains on clothing, try some lemon juice. Rub the lemon juice into the affected area, being careful not to spread the stain any further. Rinse the lemon juice off with water, then wash the clothing as normal. If the fabric is thick, and the rust stain particularly bad, add some salt to the lemon juice.
To remove rust stains from a wall, drive or patio, use a stiff wire brush and a hose. Wet the stain with the hose and then brush the stain firmly. If the stain is particularly stubborn, try using a cleaning product which contains oxalic acid, such as Bar Keeper’s Friend Stain Remover.
Use the Power of Electricity
If none of the above work, you’ll have to use a little physics. Electrolysis is an excellent way to remove iron oxide from iron or iron compounds. You’ll need a car battery charger, a basin of water large enough to hold whatever you need to remove rust from, a piece of ‘sacrificial’ metal with iron in it, and some washing (not baking) soda.
Put both pieces of metal in the water and add the soda. Make sure the charger is unplugged and connect the negative terminal to the rusty piece and the positive terminal to the ‘sacrificial’ metal. Make sure the positive terminal connector is above the water.
Plug the charger in, switch it on, and wait. After an hour or so, you’ll see the electrolysis start to work. Leave the whole lot overnight, and in the morning, unplug the charger, disconnect the terminals and have a look at the result. If the rust hasn’t fully gone, re-connect the charger, switch it back on and leave it a little longer.
Stain Remover Notes
- The quicker you deal with a stain, the more likely you are to remove it.
- Unless it’s a fat stain, cold water is best for rinsing a stain, so as not to set it and make it harder to remove later.
- Do not use any product that contains chlorine bleach when trying to remove a rust stain from fabric. The bleach could cause the rust stain to darken.
- If you decide to buy a commercial rust remover, be sure to read all warnings on the bottle, as it will likely be very caustic.
- Before using a cleaning solution, test on an inconspicuous section, such as the inside of a sleeve, to check it won’t ruin the fabric.
- Always rinse out one cleaning solution before trying another to remove a stain as certain chemicals are not supposed to be mixed.
- Read the care instructions on the item of clothing before attempting vigorous stain removal. Some clothing may be too delicate to attempt stain removal and are better taken straight to the drycleaner’s.
- Don’t rub fabric harshly to remove stains as this can abrade fibres and cause fading.
- The white towel blotting method is often recommended for stain removal. Simply fold a clean white towel and, once you have treated the stain with water, gently dab it with the towel and check to see how much of the stain has transferred to the white towel.
- If using commercial stain removers and detergents, always follow the product label to understand the proper use and safety precautions you may need to take.
- It’s always easier to treat a stain on a washable fabric