How to Clean Rust

Skip the commercial rust removers. These common ingredients in your kitchen can remove rust from knives, tools, even furniture.

Related To:
Oiling Pruning Blades to Protect Against Rust

Oiling Pruning Blades to Protect Against Rust

Photo by: DK - Gardening Step by Step © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - Gardening Step by Step , 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

When water sits on metal for too long, you get ugly, damaging rust. Rust can happen on tools, outdoor furniture, a car or anything made of metal. It’s a sign of wear and tear and if you leave it, it will corrode and destroy the object. Here’s how to clean rust from just about anything. There are commercial rust removers available, but you can also make your own cleaners from ingredients you probably have in your home.

Lemon Juice

The acid in lemons is a well-known natural cleaner. It works for rust, too. You’ll also need salt to make this work. Rub salt all on the rusted areas you want clean. Once it’s coated, cut a lemon in half and squeeze its juice onto the salt. You can also use limes. Let the salt and lemon juice mixture remain on the item for two hours. Now, scrub it off. For tough stains, use steel wool or a scouring pad. If you don’t want to scratch the metal, use a soft-bristle brush or a cloth. You’ll have to scrub a lot harder with a gentler tool.

You can also use lemon juice to remove rust from fabrics. Here’s how you get rust stains out of carpet. Put lemon juice on the rust stain and then sprinkle cream of tartar onto the top of the juice. Rub in the solution and let it sit on the stain until the rust is gone. The citric acid will take the rust off. Some stains are tougher than others, but 15 to 30 minutes should work just fine. Rinse with clean water and soak up excess water with a towel.  

Baking Soda

Pour baking soda in a bowl and add enough water to make a paste. Apply it to the rusted area. Let it sit for a couple of hours. Use a toothbrush to scrub off the paste. Rinse with clean water and dry the area with a towel. 


Vinegar is one of the best natural cleaners around. It will attack rust. To remove rust from small items like knives and hand tools, soak them in a bowl of vinegar. You’ll need to let them sit overnight. Remove the item and scrub with a metal brush or steel wool. Rinse with clean water and dry with a towel. For items too large to soak, soak a rag in vinegar and wrap around the rusted area. Let sit overnight and scrub. This is a slower method for how to clean rust, but it works.

Knowing how to clean rust from metal surfaces will help you lengthen the life of your tools, kitchen knives and outdoor furniture, and keep them looking their best.

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