How To Remove Rust Stains: {Recipes & Tips}

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Have a rust stain problem that you want to get rid of? Here are a variety of methods for removing them from laundry, carpets, toilets & sinks, plus I added a couple old recipes I found for cleaning metal pieces (cast iron cookware, tools, etc.).

LemonsLots here, good luck!

  • Cream of Tartar & Hydrogen Peroxide: Mix together to make a paste then apply with a brush. Rinse well.
  • Borax & Lemon Juice: Make a paste then apply and work on spot with a brush. Rinse well.
  • Salt & Lemon Juice: Mix 2 parts salt to 1 part lemon juice then rub into area. For clothing: Try treating with a 50/50 mixture of lemon juice and water. Let sit for about 30 minutes before washing.
  • Toilets, Bathtubs & Sinks (porcelain): You can try any of the recipes above but if they don’t get the job done, try using a pumice stone or a piece of fine steel wool (being careful not to scratch porcelain).
  • Cast Iron Cookware: Use a nylon scrubber or fine steel wool. You can also sprinkle scouring powder over top if it’s an especially stubborn job. Cut a potato in half, drizzle a bit of liquid dish detergent or scouring powder in the cookware, then scrub with the cut side of the potato. Once rust has been removed, wash and season pan before storing away. More tips are found on this page.
  • Lighter Fluid: (remember, this is flammable!) Rub into the spot with a soft cloth then rinse well to completely remove the lighter fluid. Use a well ventilated room with this method.
  • Rubbing Alcohol: Using a generous amount, rub into area. Rinse well with clear water.
  • From Carpet: If it’s a light colored carpet, try the salt & lemon juice or borax & lemon juice methods (above) but be aware this may bleach or discolor the carpet. You could also try a straight shot of vinegar. Let the solutions set for several hours before washing with a soapy wet cloth (excess water squeezed out).
  • Cocoa Cola; Club Soda; Vinegar: I have several tips stating to soak metal pieces overnight in either coke, club soda or vinegar. This should loosen things up so you can get at it with a brush. Garden Tools: Soak overnight in vinegar then scrub the next day. To prevent them from rusting during the off-season, fill a pail with sand and dig your garden tools in right up to the handle and store them this way until you need them.
  • Nuts, Bolts, Screws, etc.: (that are rusted tight) Spray with one of the following and then let soak for a few hours: WD-40, vinegar, coke, club soda. You might have to soak a rag with a solution first and then wrap it tight around the bolt for this to penetrate.
  • Steel Parts: Spray them with a mixture of three parts water/one part phosphoric acid and allow to soak for 30 minutes. Rinse with clear water then scrub.

This article from an old Popular Mechanics magazine (1979) provides two different recipes for cleaning metal objects (their noted source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards’ Consumer’s Guide on corrosion). Use caution and note these are poisonous so keep away from kids while you’re working on this:

For Iron Or Steel: Dissolve four teaspoons of citric acid (or sour salt) in one quart of water. Carefully add small amounts of household ammonia to this solution, mixing thoroughly. Very carefully sniff the mixture after each addition. After the first few additions of the ammonia, you will not smell an ammonia-like odor from the mixture. Keep adding small amounts of ammonia and mixing until the mixture just starts to smell of ammonia again. Add more water to bring the volume of the mixture up to two quarts.

Put the solution in a fire-safe glass or enameled container. Place it on the burner of the kitchen range and heat the liquid to a temperature of about 150 to 160° F. Maintain that temperature and soak the object. Check from time to time by removing and rinsing with clear water. For heavy rust, the procedure may take several hours.

For small spots: Combine 2 oz. of cream of tartar and 1 oz. of oxalic acid (caution: poisonous). Moisten the spot, apply the powder and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly with water; then dry it quickly.

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Published: January 11, 2010

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