Got rust? Whether you are trying to clean rust stains from clothing, carpet, tools, cookware, or even your driveway – the answers are here. Read on, and if you have any rust stain removal tips to share, please do so using the form at the bottom of this page.
Rust is a red-orange chemical that is produced when iron corrodes in the presence of oxygen and water. When rust forms, it ‘puffs up’ from the surface of the metal that is corroding, which can make surface rust easily flake and rub off onto fabrics or get picked up by fluids and transferred to driveways and walkways (Tips on how to get rid of rust). The rust particles then lodge themselves in the porous material and can be a real headache to remove if you don’t know what to do. Follow along, and we’ll show you what to do!
Rust Stain Removal from Clothing
As usual, your first step should always be to check the care instructions for the article of clothing you will be cleaning to make sure it allows for the process outlined here. If it doesn’t or you’re not sure – either bring it to your dry cleaner or test the below process on an inconspicuous area to test for damage or discoloration.
- Pad the back of the rust stained area with several layers or paper towels.
- Saturate the rust stain with straight lemon juice. (fresh or bottled will work)
- Place the clothing in direct sunlight or someplace warm and allow the lemon juice to dry.
- Launder normally.
- If the rust stain remains and the article of clothing is white, you can boil the fabric in a solution of cream of tartar and water (use 1 tbsp cream of tartar per cup of water). This solution should remove the stain but may also leave a residue so once the rust stain has been removed you should launder the article normally.
- Failing both of the above methods, try saturating the stain with a household cleaning agent that contains oxalic acid and then laundering normally. Your local grocer should have a few of these products (Bar Keeper’s Friend is a common one); read the labels – but be warned, these products are more likely to damage or discolor your clothes so this should be a last resort.
Rust Stain Removal from Carpet
- Vacuum up as much of the rust as possible.
- Saturate the stain with lemon juice and allow it to sit for 5 minutes.
- Using a clean, white towel or several paper towels, blot the rust stain to remove as much of the lemon juice as possible.
- Using a solution of dishwashing detergent and water, re-saturate the rust stain and gently scrub with a toothbrush or small scrub brush. Scrub only within the borders of the stain as this can spread it. The purpose of the scrubbing is to loosen the rust from the carpet so it can be removed.
- blot the area dry once more. Repeat until the stain has been removed.
Rust Stain Removal from Tools and Cookware
The following instructions are best used on objects that are only lightly rusted. If you’re facing severe rust and pitting then you should consider using a commercial rust remover or replacing the tool altogether.
- Place the object to be cleaned into a container large enough to submerge the rusted area under water. A large pot or your sink will work.
- Fill the container with a mixture of ¼ cup lemon juice for every 4 cups of water – or – 1 cup white vinegar for every 4 cups of water and allow it to soak overnight.
- If needed, scrub the object with an abrasive pad, steel wool is also an option but try and use the least abrasive solution that works. If the rust stain is stubborn, increase the strength of the solution and let it soak for another 6-12 hours before scrubbing again.
Rust Stain Removal from Brick and Concrete
There are two types of acids commonly used to clean concrete and brickwork of rust:
Oxalic acid is a strong organic acid can be found in wood bleaches (powder), certain household cleaning agents such as ZUD, and products specifically formulated for rust.
WARNING: Oxalic acid is toxic – keep your pets and other people away from the area you’re cleaning, wear rubber gloves and goggles and have the garden hose ready to wash it off of anyone or anything that accidentally gets exposed to it.
- Saturate the area to be cleaned with the oxalic acid solution. If the product you’re using is a powder, wet the area to be cleaned, apply the powder, and then saturate it with water taking care not to rinse away the powder.
- Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Scrub the stained areas with a stiff brush.
- Apply more oxalic acid solution and allow it to sit for another 5-10 minutes.
- Scrub the area again.
- Continue to repeat this process until the rust stains are gone, then rinse well.
Muriatic Acid (Diluted Hydrochloric Acid)
Hydrochloric Acid Material Safety Data Sheet – Read this before using!
Hydrochloric acid works by eating away the surface material, thus removing the rust along with some brick or concrete. It does remove concrete stains better than oxalic acid, but is very corrosive and toxic to humans, animals and plants. Use this only as a last resort.
WARNING: This stuff is deadly and can blind, burn, and even kill you if you’re careless. Even the mist produced during use can damage your lungs. If you use it put your pets inside, keep all people away from the area, wear goggles, gloves, a painters mask, and clothing that covers 100% of your skin. If you dilute it with water, ALWAYS pour the acid into the water, never the other way around. If you pour water into muriatic or hydrochloric acid, a chemical reaction can take place that causes the water to instantly boil and splatter the acid all over the place. Have your garden hose ready to go at a moments notice to clean away acid from anything it gets onto that it shouldn’t, and rinse your concrete or brickwork immediately once the rust stain has diminished. Be very careful!
Use hydrochloric acid only if you’ve tried oxalic acid first. If you’re uncomfortable shouldering the danger involved, hire a professional to do it for you.
- Cordon off the area to be cleaned to make sure nobody will wander up and be exposed to the acid or it’s mist.
- Put your pets inside.
- Wear clothing that covers your entire body and leaves no skin exposed. Put on goggles, a painters mask, and heavy rubber gloves.
- Get your garden hose
ready to go at a moments notice so you can flood anyone or anything that gets accidentally exposed to the acid.
- If you choose to dilute the acid with water, pour the acid slowly and carefully into COLD water – not the other way around. Pouring water into the acid will cause it to splatter acid all over you and the surrounding area! Be VERY careful.
- Cover the rust stain with the solution and wait. Do not scrub.
- The instant the stain is removed, you should neutralize the acid or it will continue to eat into your brick or concrete. Cover the area with an alkaline powder such as lime to neutralize any remaining acid, then flood the area with water from your hose until all of the acid has been rinsed away.
*If you or anyone else comes into contact with the acid, flush the contact area immediately with water. Continue doing do for at least 15 minutes straight and seek immediate medical attention. If it comes into contact with clothing, remove the effected clothing immediately and wash thoroughly before reuse.
*If you accidentally spill hydrochloric acid, it can be neutralized with an alkaline material such as lime – saturate the area and then cover it with an absorbent material such as sand or earth and place it in a chemical waste container
*Do not re-use any containers that have been used to contain hydrochloric acid.
If you enjoyed reading this article, might as well read how to remove rust from Tile Grout.