How to Remove Iron and Rust Stains

By: Editors of Consumer Guide  | 
If you're wondering how to get rust out of clothes, lemon juice can help.
Lemon juice can help remove rust stains on certain fabrics.
2007 Stockbyte


­When iron starts to corrode, it forms rust, a substance that often causes unsightly brownish stains. Worse yet, if you accidentally brush up against a rusty surface, you'll get to wear that rust stain all the way to the laundry hamper. Wondering how to get rust out of clothes?


That all depends on the fabric or surface you're cleaning. Luckily, this article covers everything from gentle cleansers (like lemon juice) to complex homemade poultices. Simply follow these stain removal tips to give your fabrics and household surfaces a clean start.

How to Approach Stubborn Rust Stains

The first step in rust removal 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 non washable fabrics yourself.

Fortunately, many materials are tough enough for you to clean rust stains at home. Follow the specific tips on each page for these materials:


Washable Fabrics

Dealing with stained fabric? Follow these steps to remove any oxidized rust stain from washable fabrics such as such as acrylic fabric, modacrylic, nylon, olefin, or polyester:

  • Add lemon juice to the stain, but do not let it dry.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water.
  • If possible, launder.

If laundering is not possible and the rust stain remains, try these steps:


  • Test a fabric-safe rust remover, such as Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish, then apply according to package directions.
  • After using, flush (the method of applying stain remover to loosen staining material and residue from stain removers) the area with cool water and launder as soon as possible. Caution: Be careful not to spill other brands of commercial rust remover on porcelain or enamel finishes (like those on washing machines), as these products can ruin the finish.


Asphalt, Linoleum, or Vinyl Tile

To remove rust stains from ­asphalt, linoleum, or vinyl tile:

  • Wipe the rust stain with a cloth or sponge dipped in warm sudsy water.
  • Rinse well and wipe dry.
  • If any stain remains, try a rust remover, such as Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish, which is safe for resilient floors when used according to package directions.


Brick, Concrete, and Granite

­To remove rust stains from brick, concrete, or granite surfaces:

  • Make a poultice from 7 parts lime-free glycerine, 1 part sodium citrate (available from drug stores), 6 parts lukewarm water, and enough powdered calcium carbonate (chalk) to create a thick paste.
  • Apply this paste to the stain and allow to harden.
  • Remove with a wooden scraper and repeat if necessary.
  • Wash area thoroughly with cold water and let dry.



To remove tough stains of rust from carpet (synthetic and wool):­

  • Add lemon juice and salt to the stain.
  • Flush with water and blot well.

If any stain remains, try the following steps:


  • Test a fabric-safe rust remover, such as Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish; if the fabric is not damaged, apply according to label directions.
  • Flush thoroughly with water; blot excess liquid.
  • Allow to dry.­


Ceramic or Porcelain

Follow these steps to remove iron and rust stains from ceramic tile, porcelain dishes, or porcelain fixtures:

  • On the tub, sink, ceramic tile, or toilet, wet a pumice bar, and rub the iron stain. Caution: Do not use this pumice stick on the ceramic glass found on cookware or ceramic cooktops, as it will scratch the surface.
  • A paste of borax and lemon juice is also effective on dried rust stains.
  • Rub the paste into the stain and allow it to dry.
  • Rinse with clear water, then repeat if necessary.
  • Dry with a clean cloth.


Cotton or Linen

Removing rust stains from delicate clothing? Follow these steps to remove the toughest stains from cotton or linen:

  • Rub liquid dishwashing or laundry detergent into the stained fabric.
  • Rinse with water, then launder as soon as possible.
  • If stain remains, test fabric for colorfastness, then use a fabric-safe rust remover, such as Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish, according to package directions.


Stainless Steel

Use the following steps to remove rust stains from stainless steel:

  • Rub stainless steel with a damp piece of very fine grade emery paper, followed by rubbing it with a slice of onion.
  • Rinse well with hot water and dry thoroughly with a soft cloth until the stain disappears.


Beware Household "Miracle Solutions"

You've no doubt noticed that we haven't included baking soda, white vinegar, chlorine bleach, or hydrogen peroxide in any of our instructions. While these common household cleaners are often hailed as miracle solutions for various stains, they fall short when it comes to tackling rust on clothes.

Baking soda and distilled white vinegar, although effective for mild stains and odors, lack the chemical composition needed to break down rust. Chlorine bleach can further set rust stains and damage fabric, while hydrogen peroxide's bleaching effect might alter the color of your garments.


Therefore, it's crucial to choose cleaners specifically designed for rust removal to preserve the integrity and appearance of your clothing. By understanding the limitations of these common cleaners, you can avoid potential damage and find more suitable and effective solutions for rust stains.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.

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