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How to Remove Rust Stains: 13 Simple Methods

No rusty surfaces on this side.

Rust stains are unsightly and unfortunately, very difficult — sometimes impossible — to remove. Got rust stains on your clothes, carpets, upholstery, bathroom fixtures, stainless steel appliances, or concrete? Don’t fret, we’ve put in the research so you don’t have to.

By the end, you’ll hopefully be saying goodbye to those nasty rust stains.

Key Takeaways

  • Use salt and lemon to remove rust stains from clothes, then wash and dry as usual.
  • Remove rust stains from carpets and upholstery with soapy water or vinegar, lemon, and salt.
  • For bathroom fixtures, try hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and vinegar, or a pumice stone.
  • Tackle rust stains on concrete with an industrial-strength degreaser like trisodium phosphate.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Clothes

Getting a rust stain on your clothing is super annoying, especially if it’s a favorite garment. But there are some methods you can try that should do the trick.

Salt and Lemon

If you’ve got some lemons and salt lying around, put it to good use. It’s a natural and non-toxic way to remove rust stains.

  1. Sprinkle salt over the rust stain.
  2. Squeeze lemon juice over the stain, too.
  3. Use a soft cloth to rub the solution into the clothing’s fibers.
  4. Leave the garment in a sunny spot to dry for a few hours. The UV rays will help speed up the stain removal process.
  5. Machine wash as usual.
  6. If the stain has gone, tumble dry. If not, repeat the process.


Lemon and sunlight are natural bleaching agents so we only recommend this for white or light-colored clothing.

Rust Remover

You could also use a rust remover, which is more heavy-duty. You should be cautious with this method as it may damage clothing, so always test in an inconspicuous spot. Also, wear protective clothing as if you get this on your skin, it could cause irritation.

  1. Lightly apply the rust remover to the stained areas of the garment.
  2. Use an old toothbrush to rub the cleaner into the fibers.
  3. Let it sit for a few seconds before rinsing the garment thoroughly.

Always Check

Make sure the cleaner you’re using is safe on certain colors of clothing. You don’t want to end up bleaching a colored shirt!

DIY Eco-Friendly Solution

This is another great non-toxic solution using ingredients you may already have in the home.

  1. Combine one teaspoon of cream of tartar, one teaspoon of baking soda, and a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Mix to create a paste.
  2. Apply the paste to the stains.
  3. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  4. Rinse well.
  5. Wash as usual if the stain is gone.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Carpets and Upholstery

If you’re anything like us, any stain on the carpet or couch can result in major stress! But let’s not panic yet. There are a few methods for removing rust stains from these items.

Soapy Water

Removing rust stains in the carpet or upholstery may be as easy as making a soapy water solution!

  1. Mix together cool water and dish soap in a bucket.
  2. Saturate a sponge in the solution and work it into your carpet or upholstery until it’s wet.
  3. Let this sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Use a cloth or soft brush to work this into the carpet or upholstery fibers.
  5. Use a clean towel to absorb the solution.

Vinegar, Lemon, and Salt

This is a nice eco-friendly but effective way of removing rust stains.

  1. Mix together one cup of vinegar, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and enough salt to make an abrasive solution.
  2. Use a sponge or cloth to apply the solution to the rust stain.
  3. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Use a cloth or sponge to work it into the carpet or upholstery fibers.
  5. Use a clean towel to absorb the leftover solution.

Add Ammonia

Similar to the above methods, this one has an extra powerful ingredient: ammonia.

  1. Use a butter knife to scrape off any loose rust particles. Vacuum over the stain.
  2. Mix together two tablespoons of dish soap, one tablespoon of household ammonia, and two cups of warm water.
  3. Apply the solution to the rust stain with a cloth.
  4. Let it sit for five to ten minutes.
  5. Blot with a separate cloth. You should see the rust stain transferring to the cloth, so make sure you use a clean bit of the cloth every time you blot. This prevents transferring the rust back to the carpet or upholstery.
  6. Dip a different cloth in clean water and blot the area to remove any soapy residue.
  7. Let the area dry.
  8. Vacuum again.

Top Tip

Don’t oversaturate the area with this method as the ammonia can cause some deeper problems within the fibers if you do.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Toilet, Sinks, and Tubs

Nobody likes a rusty bathroom so it’s important to tackle these stains as soon as you notice them.

Hydrogen Peroxide

This is an awesome method for removing rust stains on ceramic and porcelain surfaces. If your bathroom surfaces are made from another material, skip this method.

  1. Mix together a 1:2 solution of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar.
  2. Use a sponge to apply the solution to the rust stain.
  3. Leave for one to two hours.
  4. Scrub the stain with a stiff-bristled brush.
  5. Once the stain is gone, rinse the area well with water.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

These are two household supplies that you will love to use for a variety of cleaning needs, including removing rust.

  1. Sprinkle baking soda generously over the rust stain.
  2. Pour distilled white vinegar over the stain until you see the baking soda start to fizz.
  3. Wipe thoroughly with a cloth or sponge.
  4. Rinse well.

Pumice Stone

Sometimes a cleaning solution can’t remove tough rust stains. That’s where we recommend investing in a good quality pumice stone to scratch the rust stains away.

  1. Add a little bit of water to your pumice stone.
  2. Take the pumice stone to the rust stain and scrub well until the rust stain has been removed.
  3. Rinse the area well with water.

Did You Know

This method also works for mineral deposits, hard water stains, and other nasty stains you may find in your bathroom.

Removing Rust Stains from Stainless Steel

Despite its name, stainless steel can still be subject to stains. But our methods can help.

Bar Keeper’s Friend

This powerful cleaning solution, available in powder and liquid, is a great way to remove rust stains from stainless steel. But it’s versatile because it also works on porcelain, ceramic, glass, enameled cast iron, acrylic, copper, and many more surfaces.

Depending on which product you choose, you will have to follow the specific manufacturer’s instructions for removing the stain. Just keep in mind that oxalic acid is the main ingredient so you should wear gloves and protective eyewear.

Zud Scouring Cleaner

This is another product that uses the power of oxalic acid, plus abrasive ingredients, to get rid of rust stains in seconds! Make sure to follow the manufacturer instructions, but here is some general advice:

  1. Squirt or sprinkle (depending on if you bought a liquid or powder form) the Zud cleanser onto the rust stain.
  2. Use a cleaning brush or scouring pad to work the solution into the rust stain.
  3. Spray a bit of water over the solution to make sure that it saturates the area well.
  4. Add more cleaning solution if you have missed any spots.
  5. Leave it for up to 90 minutes.
  6. Now use a brush to scrub off cleaning and rust residue.
  7. Rinse well.

This works on stainless steel as well as brass, bronze, iron, pewter, copper, and chromium.

Baking Soda

Looking for a non-toxic and super safe way to remove rust stains on stainless steel? This is where baking soda shines.

  1. Make a baking soda paste by mixing one tablespoon of baking soda with two cups of water. It will be quite a watery paste so add more baking soda if you’d like.
  2. Apply the paste onto the rust stain with a cloth. Go in the direction of the steel grain.
  3. Wipe the paste away with a damp cloth.
  4. If the stain is particularly large, sprinkle baking soda generously over the stained area and let it sit for one hour.
  5. Scrub the stain into the steel with a soft-bristled brush going in the direction of the grain.
  6. Wipe with a damp cloth.
  7. Dry well.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Concrete

You might find rust stains on your driveway, garage floors, or sidewalks. What’s the best way to tackle these stains?

Industrial-Strength Degreaser

We recommend using a heavy-duty cleaner called trisodium phosphate, often referred to as TSP. You could use a regular rust stain cleaner but this can actually discolor the concrete.

  1. Wear protective gloves and glasses.
  2. Mix ½ cup of TSP with half a gallon of water in a bucket.
  3. Pour the mixture over the rust stain, covering it thoroughly.
  4. Let it sit for 20 minutes.
  5. Scrub the area well with a stiff-bristled push broom.
  6. Rinse with water from your pressure washer. If you don’t have a pressure washer, use a garden hose.

FAQs About Removing Rust Stains

How Long Does It Take Vinegar to Remove Rust?

When using vinegar on rust stains, you should leave it for between 30 and 60 minutes. That’s not too long for a natural product!

Can Coke Remove Rust?

Coke can remove rust. It’s particularly useful for cleaning chrome surfaces, tools, bolts, and even swimming pools.

Can You Use Steel Wool to Remove Rust?

Steel wools can remove rust but because they are very abrasive, you should be careful and always test in an inconspicuous spot. We particularly recommend steel wool for removing rust on tools as it doesn’t matter if these retain their aesthetic looks or not.

What Happens If You Paint Over Rust?

If you paint over rust, eventually the rust will start to show through. It discolors the paintwork and as the rust starts to lift, it cracks and peels.

How Do I Remove Rust Spots From My Car?

The best way to remove rust spots from your car is to sand the rust first then apply a primer and undercoat. Finally, sand the between paint layers and apply a topcoat that matches the existing color of your car.

Can Toothpaste Get Rid of Rust?

Toothpaste can get rid of rust stains, provided that you mix it with baking soda. It makes a thick paste that you can apply to the damaged area. Rub it in using a soft cloth and then wipe it clean.

Go Rust Free

While rust can be a difficult — sometimes impossible — stain to remove, there are lots of different methods you can try.

Just make sure to use the particular methods recommended for the particular stain types. For instance, don’t use the concrete method on your clothing!

Always test in an inconspicuous spot before starting, too, just in case any damage occurs.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism, and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!