How to Remove Rust Stains From Clothes, Carpet, and Upholstery

Ways to Remove Rust Stains From Clothes

The Spruce / Alison Czinkota

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 3 - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $0-20

While not as common as other household stains, rust can stain your clothing following a burst, rusty pipe whose water moves into your washing machine or drips onto your couch or carpet. Rust stains are among the most challenging spots to remove from fabric, as they sometimes cannot be eliminated by regular laundering, and using chlorine bleach will make them permanent.

Fortunately, most commercial rust removers are effective and safe for colorfast fabrics. You can also take measures to remove rust stains at home using items you likely already have in your cupboard. Always wear gloves when removing rust stains, and never place a still-stained item into a machine dryer, as the heat can set the stain.


Click Play to Learn How to Easily Remove Rust Stains

Stain Type Mineral-based
Detergent Type Heavy-duty laundry detergent and stain remover
Wash Temperature Varies

Before You Begin

Unfortunately, it can be challenging to distinguish a rust stain from a similar, brown-colored stain. For example, caramelized sugar and benzoyl peroxide stains also can look like rust. When in doubt, investigate before treating the stain, as incorrect removal methods can cause damage. 

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools


  • Cloth (optional)
  • Gloves

Carpet and Upholstery

  • Butter knife
  • Vacuum
  • Bowl
  • White cloth
  • Gloves



  • Table salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Cream of tartar
  • Baking soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Commercial stain remover

Carpet and Upholstery

  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Ammonia
  • Table salt
  • Lemon juice


ingredients for removing rust stains
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

How to Remove Rust Stains From Clothes

You can follow a series of at-home steps using a variety of household products to remove rust stains from your clothing.

  1. Apply Salt and Lemon Juice

    Sprinkle salt on the rust stain, squeeze fresh lemon juice onto the salt, and then spread the garment in the sun to dry. The ultraviolet rays of the sun will help speed the reaction. You should have no problems with white or ecru-colored fabrics, but for darker-colored fabrics that may not be colorfast, test the lemon juice first on a seam or inconspicuous spot to see if fading or bleaching occurs. 

    salt and lemon juice
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  2. Apply a Stain-Removing Paste

    Make a paste by combining 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Apply the paste to the stain and allow it to work for 30 minutes before rinsing the fabric thoroughly. This is an alternative to the salt/lemon method.

    paste for rust remoal
    The Spruce
  3. Apply Rust Remover

    Apply a commercial rust remover to white and colorfast fabrics. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully; many removers are highly toxic and can burn skin and damage appliance finishes. Apply the remover, let it sit for a few seconds, and rinse thoroughly.

    using a rust stain remover
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  4. Wash as Usual

    Wash the garment as usual, with a heavy-duty laundry detergent and the water temperature recommended on the care label. After washing, check carefully for any trace of the stain before placing the garment in a machine dryer. You may also air-dry the fabric. Follow by checking for traces of the stain.

    putting the garment into the washer
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 


Soaking your stained garment overnight can yield effective rust-removal results.

How to Remove Rust Stains From Carpet and Upholstery

You can use similar methods for rust removal on carpet and upholstery as you would on clothing. Take care not to oversaturate upholstery fabric because excess moisture in the cushion or padding can cause problems.

materials for getting rid of rust stains
The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  1. Remove the Loose Rust

    Use a butter knife to scrape away and loosen any visible rust from the carpet or fabric fibers. Then, use a vacuum to remove the loose particles and lift the fibers.

    removing loose rust with a dull knife
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  2. Apply a Homemade Cleaner

    Mix 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid and 1 tablespoon of household ammonia with 2 cups of warm water in a small bowl. Dip a clean white cloth into the solution and saturate the stained area. 

    rust stain on rug and cleaning supplies
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska
  3. Blot the Stain

    Let the solution sit for at least five minutes, then blot with another clean cloth. Replace with a clean cloth as the rust stain begins to transfer and dirty the first cloth. Blot with a cloth dipped in plain water to rinse away the soapy residue and let the carpet or upholstery dry.

  4. Try Another Homemade Cleaner

    Make a thick paste of table salt and lemon juice, about 1/4 cup and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Apply the paste to any remaining stain. Let the mixture sit for at least two hours or until it is dry.

    lemon juice and salt as a rust remover
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska 
  5. Vacuum the Area

    Vacuum the treated area to remove the salt and lift carpet or fabric fibers.

    vacuuming the rug post stain removal
    The Spruce / Ulyana Verbytska

When to Call a Professional

If your stained garment is labeled as dry clean only, remove excess rust but do not rub the stain. Visit your dry cleaner immediately and identify the stain. If you use a home dry cleaning kit, treat the stain with the provided remover before putting the garment in the dryer bag. When treating rust stains on vintage or silk upholstered items, always visit a professional cleaner specializing in delicate fabrics. 

Additional Tips for Removing Rust Stains

Repeat removal steps if the stain remains after initial treatment, or you can try a different solvent or cleaner.

If rust stains are a recurring problem on your clothes, carpet, or upholstery, you'll have to track down the source of the rust to prevent the stains from continuing. Rust stains from corroded metal furniture, locks, walls, or cars are easy to track down, but sometimes they appear on laundry with little explanation. These stains could come from a few different sites, such as a water source loaded with iron, rusty water heaters, pipes, or water storage. A chip in the enamel of a washer or dryer drum can expose metal behind the enamel and create rust that transfers to clothing.

If the rust problem comes from iron bacteria, there are ways to treat the water. You should replace rusty pipes and water heaters as soon as possible, and you can repair chipped enamel in a washer or dryer with appliance repair paint.