How to Remove Rust Stains

Stain-Removal Tips

Rust is caused by a chemical reaction with iron.
Rust is caused by a chemical reaction with iron.

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Rust stains can be a challenge to remove because the stain consists of tiny iron oxide particles, plus some treatments actually set the stain rather than remove it. Use a little chemistry know-how to successfully remove a rust stain.

Materials You Will Need

  • Lemon or lemon juice and table salt
  • Or mild dishwashing soap and ammonia
  • Or a commercial rust-removal product

Instructions for Removing Rust Stains

  1. First, do not make the stain worse by applying chlorine bleach as this will react with the rust and may intensify the discoloration.
  2. Remove as much of the rust stain as possible before applying a treatment.
  3. Follow the instructions on the package if you are using a commercial rust-removal product.
  4. Squeeze lemon juice onto the stain so that the spot is thoroughly saturated.
  5. Sprinkle salt onto the lemon juice.
  6. Allow the salt and juice to react with the stain for 24 hours. Refresh the lemon juice to keep the spot damp.
  7. Blot the stain (do not rub, as this may damage the fibers).
  8. Rinse the spot with cool water. Repeat the process if needed.
  9. Another method is to apply a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon of mild liquid dish soap in 1 cup of warm water. Thoroughly saturate the stain and allow the solution to react for at least five minutes. The surfactants in the detergent will help to lift the rust particles.
  10. Blot the stain with a clean white cloth or paper towel and rinse it with cool water.
  11. Repeat this process until the stain is removed or until no more discoloration is picked up by the cloth.
  1. Thoroughly rinse the spot with water to remove all traces of cleaning solution.
  2. If the rust stain persists, saturate the stain with a solution of 2 tablespoons of ammonia in 4 cups of warm water.
  3. Blot the spot with a white cloth or paper towel.
  4. Rinse the spot with cool water.
  5. For carpeting or upholstery, layer clean cloths or paper towels over the spot to remove any moisture.