How to Remove Iron and Rust Stains

Lemon juice can help remove rust stains on certain fabrics.
Lemon juice can help remove rust stains on certain fabrics.
2007 Stockbyte

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­When iron starts to corrode, it forms rust, a substance that often causes unsightly brownish stains. If you accidentally brush up against a rusty surface, you'll be rewarded with a serious laundry stain. Follow these stain removal tips to give your fabrics and household surfaces a clean start.

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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.

Many other types of rust-stained materials can be cleaned at home. Follow the specific tips on each page for the following materials:

Washable Fibers

Follow these steps to remove iron and rust stains from washable fibers such as such as Acrylic Fabric, Modacrylic, Nylon, Olefin, or Polyester:

  • Apply 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 stain remains, try these steps:

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  • 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 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 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 clear water and let dry.

Carpet

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

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

If any stain remains, try the following steps:

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  • 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 also is effective on iron 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

Follow these steps to remove rust stains from Cotton or Linen:

  • Rub liquid dishwashing or laundry detergent into the stain.
  • 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.

See all stain removal articles.

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