How to Remove Rust Stains

Use a little chemistry—and simple products or produce you have at home

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

You will need only one of the following:

Using Salt and Lemon Juice

  1. 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. Squeeze lemon juice onto the stain, thoroughly saturating the spot.
  4. Sprinkle salt onto the lemon juice.
  5. Allow the salt and juice to react with the stain for 24 hours. Refresh the lemon juice to keep the spot damp.
  6. Blot the stain. Do not rub it, as this may damage the fibers.
  7. Rinse the spot with cool water. Repeat the process if needed.

Using Dish Soap

  1. 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.
  2. Blot the stain with a clean white cloth or paper towel and rinse it with cool water.
  3. Repeat this process until the stain is removed or until no more discoloration is picked up by the cloth.
  4. Thoroughly rinse the spot with water to remove all traces of cleaning solution.
  5. If the rust stain persists, saturate the stain with a solution of 2 tablespoons of ammonia in 4 cups of warm water.
  6. Blot the spot with a white cloth or paper towel.
  7. Rinse the spot with cool water.
  8. For carpeting or upholstery, layer clean cloths or paper towels over the spot to remove any moisture.
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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Remove Rust Stains." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2023, April 5). How to Remove Rust Stains. Retrieved from Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "How to Remove Rust Stains." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).