Home Remedies for Cleaning Rust Stains

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The orangey discoloration of rust not only rubs off on your clothing, but can compromise the appearance of household features, such as kitchen tiles, sinks, tubs, and concrete. Regular cleaning products might not do the trick, but there are a few home remedies for rust stains that can come in handy.

About Rust Stains

Rust stains are commonplace in the household because of the moisture and amount of metal found in the building of a home. Rusty pipes can cause stained fabrics. For example, using chlorine bleach in your wash can leach iron out of water to form rust stains. Hanging damp clothing on a metal hanger can cause rust stains to form on fabrics. Hard water can create rust stains in sinks, bathtubs, and toilets. The wet conditions of the bathroom make the perfect environment for rust to develop – as seen when a can of shaving cream or pair of scissors are left on a wet counter.

Rust Stain Home Remedies

Before you reach for the commercial cleaners and rust removers at the store, you may want to consider some of the following home remedies for rust stains first:

a) Vinegar [1]:

To remove a rust stain from your cotton clothing, moisten the spot with undiluted vinegar, and then rub off with a bit of salt. The best way to dry the clothing is to sit out in the sunlight if it is warm outside, and then toss in the wash as usual.

b) Vinegar and Salt:

A combination of equal parts of vinegar and salt creates a cleaning paste that can help remove rust stains from ceramic tile. Apply the paste to the stain and let it sit until it becomes dry. Remove the residue with cold water and a soft cloth.

c) Lemon Juice:

To remove rust stains from white fabrics, spread the stain over a bowl of boiling water and sprinkle with lemon juice. After a few minutes, rinse well and repeat if necessary. This remedy is good for light stains on delicate fabrics.

d) Lemon Juice and Salt:

To treat rust stains on your white clothing, sprinkle salt on the spot and rub with lemon juice. Place the garment in sunlight, and keep moist with lemon juice until the stain has disappeared. Follow up with a thorough rinse.

e) Lemon Juice and Borax:

To remove rust stains from ceramic tile, add equal parts lemon juice and borax to create a paste. Borax contains a bleaching additive that comes in handy with cleaning clothes, but also has many other uses. Let the paste stand on the stain until it dries. Use a soft sponge and clean water to remove the residue.

f) Cream of Tartar:

To remove stubborn rust stains from white fabrics, add four teaspoons of cream of tartar to 600 mL of water, and boil. Add the garment to clean. For less damaging stains, moisten the spot and spread cream of tartar over it. Hold the stain above the steam of a boiling tea kettle, and rinse immediately until the stain vanishes. Do not use this remedy on fabrics that cannot be washed in hot water.

g) Spray Bottle:

To quickly treat stains before they set in, fill an empty spray bottle with your homemade stain removal remedies to have on hand for those messy little spills.

h) Old Toothbrush:

You don’t have to toss away that old toothbrush just yet – use it to remove tough stains from clothing. A soft-bristled nylon toothbrush can help penetrate stains in the soft fibers of a material. Gently dab to work in your stain remover.

i) Spic-n-Span:

Spray on the all-purpose cleaner known as Spic-n-Span to a rust stain on ceramic tile. Let the cleaner soak in before using clear water and a soft cloth to clean and rinse away the residue.

j) Kool-Aid [2]:

Remove ugly rust stains on your concrete by mixing unsweetened lemonade Kool-Aid with hot water, and scrubbing the rust.

k) Cream of Tartar:

To remove rust stains from vinyl tiles, pour one tablespoon of water in a small bowl and add cream of tartar (one tablespoon at a time) until a thick paste forms. Spread the paste with a plastic spatula to directly cover the rust. Spread the paste on as an even layer, and let dry for one hour.

l) Dish Detergent:

Fill a small container with warm water, and then add two to three drops of dish soap. Stir the ingredients together, and then dip an old toothbrush into the warm, soapy water. Scrub the paste using a back-and-forth motion. Continue scrubbing until you no longer see the rust on the tiles. Use a dampened cloth dipped in cool water to rinse the tiles clean. Dry with a towel.

m) Eye Dropper:

If you only want to apply a small amount of stain remover to a garment, use an eye dropper to better control the application of your cleaning solution.

n) Cotton Swab:

A cotton swab (like a Q-tip) offers the absorbing material plus a small size that helps treat stains that require only a small amount of stain remover [3].


[1] Extraordinary Uses for Everyday Things by Reader’s Digest; pg. 362.

[2] Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things by Reader’s Digest; pg. 194.

[3] Stain Rescue by Good Housekeeping Research Institute; pg. 39.