Getting rid of rust is not necessarily the same as getting rid of rust stains. These two conditions that occur on iron and steel should be treated differently. Of course, getting rust stains out of fabric and clothing requires specific steps that are much different from removing rust stains from more solid surfaces.

With this in mind, we need to look at rust stains and find out just what they are. Rust is the result of moisture acting on exposed iron/steel. The metal deteriorates and produces flaking of the metal as well as an orange or red color. This stubborn color is what makes removing rust stains so difficult.

What Do We Use?
Suppose that an article of clothing comes into contact with rust – perhaps a rusty nail or from rubbing against a rusty surface – what steps can we take to get this stain out? One of the most popular and effective methods uses two common natural substances: lemon juice and salt. * Keep in mind that acids may fade the color or even pull all the color from the spot. Juice from lemons, limes and oranges contain a lot of citric acid, a rather mild acid type.

Start by soaking the stained part of the fabric in lemon juice. It may help to rub the stain lightly with a toothbrush or other brush with plastic bristles. Sprinkle salt over the entire area. The salt should absorb the remaining lemon juice and the rust with it. If you don’t have lemon juice you can use vinegar, which usually contains acetic acid. In either case, you may want to experiment on a piece of fabric that you won’t be wearing, just to see the results. Some people have successfully removed rust stains using a paste made from cream of tartar.

It’s in There
Rust stains are particularly difficult to remove because the orange/red color finds its way into the spaces in the fabric. Returning to the cream of tartar idea, some people experienced in removing rust stains use this substance in a mixture with water, boiling the article of clothing or fabric until most traces of the stain are gone. It may be necessary to work on the stained area by hand with one of the above methods to complete the job.

The lemon juice/toothbrush method can also be used on carpet that is stained by rust. But this is only a way to prepare the stained area, loosening the rust so that it can be vacuumed.

If all else fails, you can use one of the stain-removing agents available on the store shelf. Some of these can cause permanent damage to fabric or fade the colors, especially if not used according to instructions. Oxalic acid is known as an organic acid that is helpful in removing stains. But it is toxic to living things and must be used sparingly and according to strict instructions.

No stain-removal method is guaranteed to work in every situation but these might help you get rid of rust stains.


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Lucas Beaumont
Generalist. Wikipedia contributor. Elementary school teacher from Saskatchewan, Canada.

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