Rust is always an unwelcoming sight on metal. It forms when iron, oxygen, and moisture collide. You'll want to attack rust at first glance because it can corrode and pit metal the longer it stays on the surface. Luckily, some of the acids found in everyday household items, such as vinegar, lemon juice, and potatoes, can remove rust. Add the abrasive action from other ingredients, like borax, baking soda, or salt, and say goodbye to rust without the need for harsh chemicals or fumes.
Caring for your tools and equipment properly can prevent surface rust. Be sure to oil garden tools before storing them, hand-wash kitchen knives (instead of putting them in the dishwasher), and store belongings where they'll be protected from the weather.
Note that objects may appear black after soaking in vinegar or lemon juice but should return to their original color after being rinsed in water. It's also a good idea to keep ingredients, such as vinegar, borax, and baking soda, away from children and pets. Though these natural methods are less harsh than most store-bought rust removers, it is up to you whether you want to use them to clean antiques and other valuable items or use the ingredients in a home with kids and pets.
Equipment / Tools
- Large old bowl or basin
- Spray bottle (optional)
- Clean rags
- Hard-bristle brush, nail brush, or old toothbrush
- White vinegar
- Borax or baking soda
- Lemon juice
- 1/2 potato
How to Remove Rust With Vinegar
Cover Object in Vinegar
Submerge the rusted object in undiluted white vinegar. If the object is too large to do so, liberally spray it with vinegar or use a saturated rag to dab vinegar over the rusted area.
Soak the Object
Allow the object to soak in the vinegar for at least 30 minutes. If you're dealing with a lot of rust, a longer soak will probably be necessary. If that's the case, start with a couple of hours. Then, check on your progress.
Scrub Surface Rust
Pull your object out of its vinegar bath, and use a brush to scrub off any remaining surface rust. An old toothbrush or nail brush works well for this.
Rinse and Dry
Rinse the object, and dry it thoroughly with soft, clean rags.
Repeat the process if any rust remains.
How to Remove Rust With Lemon Juice
Make a Paste
Apply the Paste
Use a clean rag to apply the paste to the rust, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes (longer for rustier objects). If the paste starts to dry out, just spray a bit of water over it to re-wet it.
Scrub the Paste
Use a brush (a toothbrush works great) to scrub the paste into the rusted object. The scrubbing should lift the rust right off. If you still see any rust, repeat the process.
Rinse and Dry
Wash and completely dry the object before using or returning to storage.
How to Remove Rust With Baking Soda and a Potato
Oxalic acid, which is frequently used in laundry detergents and other cleaners, can eliminate rust stains. Potatoes, which contain oxalic acid, can make an effective toxic-free rust cleaner when paired with baking soda.
Prepare the Potato
Slice the potato in half, and sprinkle the cut side with salt or baking soda.
Rub the Potato on Rust
Then, rub the cut side of the potato over the rusted area. The acid in the potato will lift the rust, and the salt (or baking soda) will help scrub it away.
If you're trying to remove rust from your kitchen knives, plunge them into a potato, and let them sit while you go about your day. When you pull the knives out of the potato, the rust should wipe right off.
Rinse and Dry
Wash and dry the object you cleaned before using or returning to storage.