A Good Cleaning: Rust Removal
Cleaning Rust off of different types of materials can be difficult. Chemically, rust is oxidized iron, and the best way to remove rust is by applying an acid to it. Lemon juice, white vinegar, or a waterless hand cleaner such as Goop may be used to remove rust stains on a variety of materials. Be sure to test for colorfastness first, though, or the removal of the stain may come at the price of your favorite shirt. The following list includes methods for removing rust from different types of materials using items you probably have around the house anyway.
- Cleaning Rust From Fabric. To remove rust stains from fabric, apply full strength white vinegar to the cloth. Then shake salt onto it and rub the salt in. Allow it to dry, preferably in the sun. Launder as usual.
- Concrete. Muriatic acid is the preferred rust removal agent for use on concrete. It is available at most home centers, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. To use, pour the muriatic acid on the concrete, watch the stain lift, and rinse off. Do not let the muriatic acid sit on the concrete any longer than necessary. White vinegar may also work, depending on the severity of the stain, but the PH of white vinegar is much higher than muriatic acid, and consequently, it will take longer and may take several applications.
- Garden Tools. To remove rust from garden tools, you may apply citric acid to the metal and scrub lightly. To keep the tools from getting rusty in the first place, you can spray them occasionally with WD-40 or store them in a bucket of sand mixed with motor oil.
- Cleaning Rust From Appliances. Rust on your appliances is both unsightly and not good for the appliances themselves. You can remove the rust by using a paste made from adding table salt to lemon juice until it reaches a paste consistency. Rub on with a cloth until the rust is gone. You will need to paint over the area on the appliance, or rust will reappear.
- Baking/Cooking Pans. Unfortunately, because you have to submerge baking or cooking pans in water after every use to clean them, rust almost always reappears on these. Rust is also quite harmful to ingest, so the best course of action here is to throw them out. If you would still like to try to remove the rust, you can use a product called Bar Keeper’s Friend and a steel wool pad (like an SOS pad). Rub it in to remove the rust, and then wash the pan in hot, soapy water. You may try rubbing some cooking oil onto the pan after each use following the rust removal to try to keep the rust from reappearing.
Silverware/Knives. A paste mixture of vinegar and salt or lemon juice and salt should take the rust off of silverware. As in the case of the baking pans, though, keep in mind that rust is harmful to ingest. Try rubbing some vegetable oil onto the silverware after removing the rust to keep it from rusting again. If the rust reappears, you may need to discard that piece of silverware.
- Mirrors. To keep from scratching the surface of the mirror, try applying lemon juice to the stain with a soft cloth. Rub the lemon juice over the stain until the stain is gone. You do not want to use Comet, Ajax, Bar Keeper’s Friend, or any similar products on a mirror, because they will scratch the surface of the glass.
- Toilet bowls and sinks. If you have a high concentration of iron in your water, you will inevitably have rust rings in your toilet bowl and sink. To remove these, you can apply either Coca-Cola or white vinegar to the stain. Scrub it with a bristle brush and rinse.