Unsightly rust stains can appear on everything from clothing and carpet to toilets and sinks. That's because rust forms on metal surfaces when iron or steel is exposed to oxygen and moisture. While a handy box of borax, baking soda, and a bottle of vinegar might do the trick, you really can't go wrong with investing in the right commercial rust remover.
The best rust removers are formulated for the household surfaces you need to clean. That means they can come as liquids, sprays, or pastes that are ideal for soaking, spraying, or rubbing in. Just be sure to follow safety precautions, especially when handling industrial-strength solutions, and of course, allow for proper ventilation and wear protective gloves.
Take a look at our winners, and get ready to make your metal items sparkle like new again.
Evapo-Rust Super Safe Rust Remover
Does not require scrubbing
Safe for antiques
May need to soak
Requires rinsing with water
If you want powerful rust removal without harsh chemicals or irritation, a bottle of nontoxic Evapo-Rust is the way to go. It’s pH-neutral and won’t harm even delicate antiques while it removes rust down to the bare metal. The formula is water-based, so all you need to do is submerge your items so it can work its magic. Plus, it’s a great option for auto parts and tools, especially those that are made entirely of metal.
Just know that a little bit goes a long way, and it comes in a large 1-gallon container. You’ll need another tray or bucket to put your items in to soak. Expect to rinse the excess solution off with water. Then, add a sealant or protectant to help prevent rust from reforming.
This rust remover from Evapo-Rust is strong enough to get rid of most rust and its residue, but you may need to soak your pieces for longer than planned. If you find that the recommended time isn’t enough, just let it soak a bit longer. It’s best to use gloves when handling the formula, but it won’t irritate your skin if it does splash around a bit.
Price at time of purchase: $11
Type: Liquid | Amount: 32 ounces | Drying Time: No | For Use On: Auto parts, hardware, tools, cookware, antiques
Iron Out Rust Stain Remover Spray
Safe for various surfaces
Can use on color safe fibers
Easy to spray
Not great for large sections of rust
Does not prevent rust from returning
If you need to remove rust stains without spending a lot of money, this spray from Iron Out is ideal. It’s safe for most surfaces, including clothing, concrete, showers, sinks, tubs, toilets above the water line, tile, and carpet. You can even use it on color-safe fabrics and carpets.
It's a powerful spray gel that makes it easy to cling exactly where you want it to go without making a big mess. You won’t need to spend time scrubbing, although that’ll definitely help with stubborn stains. We love that you'll get good results, but note that this cleaner cannot remove fairly large sections of rust or prevent rust from forming. So, your old boat inherited from your dad or an entire vintage bathtub might be out of the question.
Price at time of purchase: $5
Type: Spray | Amount: 24 ounces | Drying Time: Not listed | For Use On: Shower, sink, tub, toilet, tile, colorfast carpet and clothing
Zep Calcium, Lime and Rust Stain Remover
Good for multiple types of stains
Ideal for homes with hard water
Can be poured or sprayed
Not safe for all surfaces
Might require some scrubbing
For those that want to tackle multiple stains with one product, this Zep formula takes care of calcium, lime, and rust. These types of stains are especially common in homes with hard water and can result in staining that is troublesome to remove. This liquid formula doesn’t require scrubbing on light stains but might need elbow grease or soaking time on older ones.
It’s safe on a variety of surfaces, including porcelain, brick, cement, stucco, glass, and fiberglass. You should not use it on wood, fabric, natural stone, aluminum, brass, chrome, or painted surfaces. If using it on a surface with different materials, you can carefully tape the ones that need to be protected. You may also want to apply it to a cloth and wipe it on rather than apply it directly to the surface by pouring or spraying. It’ll take longer to work this way, but offers you more control.
Price at time of publish: $5
Type: Liquid | Amount: 32 ounces | Drying Time: 1-10 minutes | For Use On: Porcelain, brick, cement, stucco, glass, fiberglass
Best for Kitchens and Bathrooms
CLR PRO Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover
Spray is easy to control
Works on calcium, lime, and rust
Safe for a variety of surfaces
Not safe for natural stone and grout
This effective spray formula from CLR Pro works to break down stains caused by calcium, lime, and rust buildup. It’s powerful enough for industrial use but still biodegradable and free of ammonia and bleach. It has a lemon scent that works well in the kitchen. But if you’re sensitive to chemical fragrances, it may be overpowering.
CLR Pro works on a variety of surfaces, including plastic, stainless steel, aluminum, fiberglass, ceramic tile, and concrete. Still, you should be careful when using it on natural stone and grout. Bonus? The spray bottle application makes it easier to control the path of the formula, plus it’s easy to clean.
Price at time of publish: $20/2-pack
Type: Spray | Amount: 32 ounces | Drying Time: Not listed | For Use On: Plastic, stainless steel, aluminum, fiberglass, ceramic tile, concrete
Best for Cars
Rust-Oleum Rust Reformer Spray
Doesn't require scrubbing
Seals rust to prevent spread
Can be painted over
Long drying time
Only in matte black formula
This formula goes right over rust to convert it to a surface that you can then paint and protect. You don’t need to chip and scrub down the surface to bare metal. Instead, you can cover it and prevent the rust from spreading while also getting rid of the rusty surface. It dries to a matte black within 40 minutes. You can paint the surface after a full 24 hours of drying time.
It’s an aerosol spray, so expect some overspray. You can avoid this by taking the time to cover the area that you don’t want to treat. It’s best to wear gloves and a mask when using the Rust-Oleum because it is quite strong. But it'll bond with the surface and keep the rust from returning.
Price at time of publish: $9
Type: Spray | Amount: 10.25 ounces | Drying Time: 24 hours for full drying | For Use On: Metal
Best for Tools
Rust-Oleum Rust Dissolver Gel Spray
Works quickly to dissolve rust
Safe for a variety of metals
Inhibits future rust growth
Needs to be wiped away when done
Requires protective gloves
Want to get your old hammer and wrench nice and clean? The rust dissolver from Rust-Oleum works in under an hour to get the rust off metal surfaces. It’s safe for steel, iron, chrome, aluminum, and galvanized metal. All you need to do is let any tools with rust soak for around 30 minutes. The rust comes right off without scrubbing, and you’re left with shiny, bare metal. On top of that, the rust dissolver contains an agent that inhibits future rust growth for up to a year.
The spray is a gel, which is good for vertical surfaces and precision when spraying. You’ll need to wipe the excess off after it’s done to get all of the rust cleaned away. And because the formula is strong, it’s best to complete this step while wearing gloves.
Price at time of publish: $12
Type: Spray | Amount: 32 ounces | Drying Time: 30 minutes | For Use On: Steel, iron, chrome, aluminum
Best for Pipes
American Hydro Systems Rid-O-Rust Rust Preventor and Remover
Safe for plumbing systems
Prevents rust and calcium stains
Safe for plants and vegetation
Requires extra mixing materials
Needs to be diluted
This Rid O' Rust formula is safe for plumbing and sprinkler systems. It can be applied directly to prevent rust stains, which is especially helpful for people with hard water. It’s also effective on calcium stains and prevention. Plus, the good news is that it won’t harm plants or vegetation in your yard when used as directed.
It needs to be diluted, which can be tricky if you plan to use it on targeted areas. It’s best to mix up a diluted batch and then use it in small doses from a spray bottle if needed. This requires some extra equipment, including a bucket to mix and a spray bottle to apply to smaller areas.
Price at time of publish: $101/4-pack
Type: Liquid | Amount: 128 ounces | Drying Time: Not listed | For Use On: Concrete, vinyl, asphalt, brick, stone
Best for Outdoor Use
Goof Off Rust Stain Remover Outdoor
Effective for outdoor metal items
Can use as a soak or spray
Safe for use near plants
Other application tools needed
Spray bottle not included
This formula can be used on just about anything outdoors that could rust, including sprinkler systems and metal surfaces. It's also a good option for soaking, such as for small hand tools and gardening items. While you can use it indoors, you will likely need a smaller spray bottle for easier application.
Because it is biodegradable, it's safe for use around plants and vegetation. It does come in a large container, which makes reordering less frequent. However, it does mean that you’ll need to pour it into a spray container to use it on small items. You can also apply it directly to your sprinkler system or put it in a bucket for soaking.
Price at time of publish: $20
Type: Liquid | Amount: 128 ounces | Drying Time: Not listed | For Use On: Tile, grout, sinks, tubs, toilets, dishwashers, counters, and all outdoor problem areas
WD-40 Specialist Rust Remover Soak
Very effective on heavy rust
No scrubbing needed
Biodegradable and nontoxic
Items must be submerged
Hard to use with large items
For really tough rust and rust stains, WD-40 rust remover soak can get the job done. Depending on the severity of the rust, you may need to soak your items for hours. For smaller things that can be fully submerged, the process is a bit easier and goes faster. Large metal objects, such as automotive parts, might need to be removed and broken down to get the best results.
Surprisingly for something so tough, this soak is also biodegradable and nontoxic. It dissolves rust, which then bonds to the formula and can be disposed of safely. WD-40 does note that you should check with your local water treatment facility to make sure that their process and equipment won't be negatively impacted before putting it in your normal wastewater.
Price at time of publish: $25
Type: Liquid | Amount: 128 ounces | Drying Time: 30 min-24 hours | For Use On: Metal
Best for Chrome
Quick-Glo Chrome Cleaner & Rust Remover
Removes rust and shines
Good for a variety of surfaces
Requires extra application tools
Can be irritating for hands
This highly rated tub of paste gets rust off of chrome and restores it to its previous shine. It can also be used on silver, brass, stainless steel, glass, and porcelain to clean and remove rust. You should expect some scrubbing and elbow grease to get the waxy paste into the surface. A toothbrush or stiff bristle brush can also help work it into small crevices and details.
You’ll need two separate application cloths to use the Quick Glo cleaner. One is used to put the paste on, and the other is used to wipe it away once it does its magic. It’s a thick paste, and a little bit goes a long way. It’s also important to apply it with the pattern of the metal to prevent scratching. We recommend using gloves because it can easily get on your hands as you polish.
Price at time of publish: $19
Type: Paste | Amount: 8 ounces | Drying Time: Not listed | For Use On: Chrome, brass, stainless steel, glass, porcelain
Best for Clothing Stains
Whink Rust Stain Remover
Safe for clothing and carpets
Also comes in a foaming spray
Might need to do multiple applications
Only for use on colorfast materials
Whink's rust remover is effective at getting rid of stains left behind on carpet, sinks, and toilet bowls. It’s safe for colorfast fabrics and carpets, too. The liquid formula is easy to apply on surfaces, and all you need is a little bit. For really stubborn stains, you may want to let it soak for a few minutes or do multiple applications.
The formula is also septic-safe. After spraying your clothing and getting them clear of stains, you can put them right in the laundry to remove any extra liquid before wearing. Plus, there is also a foaming spray formula that's ideal for removing stains from sinks and countertops.
Price at time of publish: $9
Type: Liquid | Amount: 66 ounces | Drying Time: Not listed | For Use On: Fabric, carpet, sinks, toilets
Adam’s Iron Rust Remover Spray
Easy to control and use
Won't damage paint
Needs additional spray bottle for rinsing water
Not strong enough for large rust flakes
This spray removes rust and tackles rust stains without causing a big mess. You don’t need to scrub or wipe it away. Just spray, let it dissolve the rust on contact, and then rinse the remnants away. The iron turns purple when it comes into contact with the spray, so you can see what is being removed from the surface. You will need another spray bottle or hose for water, however. Depending on your setup and the size of your items, this may be something that you need to do outside.
This mild formula won’t damage your paint or clear coat. This makes it an ideal choice for vehicles. You can target small rusty spots without worrying about overspray that gets on nearby paint. For really severe rust, it’s best to remove larger flakes and areas before using this spray. It’s a bit milder than some heavy-duty rust removers.
Price at time of publish: $19
Type: Spray | Amount: 16 ounces | Drying Time: Not listed | For Use On: Vehicles
CLR Complete Cleaning Kit
Works on calcium, lime, and rust
Includes multiple brushes
Comes with a microfiber cloth
Spray bottle not included
Not a lot of solution
Brushes and cloths can make getting rid of rust much easier, especially if you have large sections to tackle. This kit includes a top-performing CLR solution as well as two kinds of brushes and a microfiber cloth that can clean and polish. The solution works on calcium, lime, and rust stains, making it a good all-purpose kit to start with for a lot of cleaning uses.
You might need a separate spray bottle, either to use the CLR formula in a smaller area or for rinsing with water. The kit comes with 28 ounces of formula. If you already know that you like and use CLR to get rid of rust stains, you’ll probably go through this smaller amount quickly. Just know you can refill by buying it in bulk.
Price at time of publish: $27
Type: Kit with liquid | Amount: 28 ounces | Drying Time: Not listed | For Use On: Plastic, stainless steel, aluminum, fiberglass, ceramic tile, concrete
Our top pick, Evapo-Rust Super Safe Rust Remover, is the perfect nontoxic option that’s effective at dissolving rust on most surfaces, including auto parts, hardware, tools, cookware, and antiques. It works so well that a little bit goes a long way, and it comes in a large 1-gallon container. For a budget-friendly solution that is easy to spray, try Iron Out Rust Stain Remover. We love that it’s a gel, so it’s easy to apply exactly where you want it to go without making a big mess.
What to Look for in a Rust Remover
Rust removers can work to dissolve rust, remove rust stains, or prevent rust from reforming. The best solutions do all three. You can find them in a spray bottle, liquid application for soaking or pouring, or a paste.
Effectiveness and Strength Level
Industrial strength rust removers are highly effective and dissolve even stubborn rust and large sections of debris. These tend to be harsher chemicals, and you may need a protective barrier, such as rubber gloves or a mask, when using them. Milder chemicals are gentler on surfaces, skin, and plumbing. If you have a septic system, this may be a big factor. These are not formulated to handle heavy-duty jobs, however, and you might need multiple applications to get the same results.
Rust removers use powerful dissolving agents, and it’s always good to follow the included safety guides. These can detail what protective equipment you should wear when handling the solution, the best tips for safe storage, and what to do if you swallow the solution or if it should come into contact with your eyes. Nontoxic and biodegradable formulas are safer for the environment and are less likely to be irritating as you use them.
What dissolves rust fast?
Acidic solutions dissolve rust, which is one reason that so many rust removers use acid-based formulas. Tannic acid is a common ingredient in rust removers, which converts the rust into another form that doesn’t spread or further corrode the metal. Other solutions bind with the dissolved rust particles and remove them when the entire solution is rinsed or wiped away.
What is the difference between a rust converter and a rust remover?
A rust converter is made of primarily tannic acid. This solution converts rust to a black surface. You can then paint directly over the surface without worrying about rust reforming or coming through. Rust removers dissolve and bind with the rust particles. Then, you can rinse them away, revealing bare metal below.
How long does a rust remover last?
If you remove all of the rust and apply a sealant coat, rust removers can take care of the rust problem on your metal items permanently. However, if any rust is left on the surface, even in small pieces of dust, it can grow and spread. The inhibitor layer is also very important to reduce the exposure of bare metal to the air, which is how rust forms in the first place.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was researched and written by Katie Melynn, a freelance writer specializing in home and family products. Melynn has been writing for The Spruce since 2019. To compile this list, she researched rust removers that could work on a variety of surfaces. She also looked for solutions that could be used on small areas using spray bottles and larger soaking uses.