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How to Remove Rust Stains From Clothes (Quick and easy)

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Rust can sneak into your clothes when you least expect that to happen. That could be from door hinges, metal clothes hangers, or corroded water taps. 

Once that happens, they form annoying stains that might be next to impossible to remove. Luckily, we’ve found some unique tricks to defeat pesky rust stains. 

Join us as we share these tips on removing rust stains on clothes and more.

First, pretreat them with a commercial stain remover or a homemade solution to remove rust stains. Popular commercial stain remover brands include Ridrust and Carbona Stain Devils. For homemade types, several solutions available include baking soda, lemon, and vinegar, among others.

The Procedure for Removing Rust Stains From Clothes Using Lemon

Rust stains on my old t-shirt.

In this process, we are using lemon to remove rust stains. Rusts are obstinate stains that can mainly be dislodged by acidic stain removers.

And there is no better acidic cleaner than lemon since it is rich in citric acid. 

In the absence of an actual lemon, the store-bought bottled type would work as well.

But before proceeding, it is important to note that lemon is a mild bleach.

Therefore it is best restricted to only white clothes or colorfast ones. 

Especially avoid using it on delicates such as rayon, silk, and chiffon, among others.

Like all pretreatment agents, the role of the thumb is first to test it on an inconspicuous spot if unsure of its reaction to the fabric.

  1. First, spread the garment on a flat surface, preferably on a tabletop.
  2. Next, place a paper towel between the two sides to avoid the stain from spreading to the other side of the garment. 
  3. Then using a brush, or a blunt object, scrape the excess rust materials from the spot onto a paper plate for safe disposal. 
    The scraping is to ease the penetration of the pretreatment solution on the garment for faster softening of the stain.
  4. At this stage, cut the lemon into two and squeeze some juice on the stain, and spread it evenly on the entire stain spot. You can do this with your fingers to ensure adequate penetration of the juice into the fabric. 

For more challenging or set stains, you will need to add some salt on the spot in addition to the lemon juice.

Lime will work fine too.

Alternatively, squeeze lemon juice on a ½ tablespoon of salt, stir to make a thick paste, and spread it on the stain spot.

Once done, allow the pretreated stain spot to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the sun. Sometimes a longer period of time might be required for tougher stains. 

The direct sunlight accelerates the breakdown of the stain, making it easier to remove.

After the lapse of the period, rinse off the stain spot, preferably under a running water tap, while holding the spot carefully to avoid contaminating the rest of the garment. 

You can load the garment in the washer after applying a standard dose of a heavy-duty laundry detergent and wash and rinse normally. 

However, before drying, be sure to check if the stain has been cleared to avoid stain setting after drying.

If not completely removed, you will need to repeat the process with a more powerful stain remover.

How to Keep Rust Stains off Your Clothes

The best solution to rust stains is to keep it off in the first place. Of course, that is easier said than done. But you can try by first investigating the stain’s source. 

For example, the typical culprits are the water sources such as rusty water pipes and taps

Others include rusty railings within the surrounding, rusty drying lines, or a chipped part of the drier or washing machine, exposing the steel or iron below the enamel layer. 

For most of the causes above, the solution lies in replacing the offending item and repairing or avoiding contact with it.

All these are easier than having to clean stubborn rust stains with an uncertain chance of getting removed.

Removing Rust Stains From Carpets and Upholstery

Carpets and upholstery can get rust stains, especially during transportation or even rearranging them within the house.

Other sources include rust transferred from other clothes or from metal parts that are part of the furniture. 

Whatever the source of the stain, these items pose unique challenges in cleaning them. Unlike clothes, it is not possible to just toss them into a washer, as you can do with washable clothes. 

Also, you have to avoid saturating them with water as much as possible to avoid ruinous molding or further messing up the stain. 

Plus, some furniture has metal parts in their structure, which can rust if water is applied to them, creating more problems than solutions. So you have to use tactful methods and appropriate cleaning agents.

One of them is to use dish soap in combination with ammonia. First, scrape off the loose part of the stain with a blunt knife, and dispose of it safely. 

You can use a vacuum cleaner to suction off any remaining loose scrapings from the stain to avoid messing the spot further.

Then add two tablespoons of dish soap and one tablespoon of ammonia to a ¼ liter of water, and stir well to make a solution.

Then using a white piece of cloth dipped into this solution, soak the stain spot before letting it rest for 10 minutes.

Afterward, use another white cloth or the untainted part of the first one to blot the stain repeatedly while observing the rate of transfer of the stain to the cloth. 

The continuous changing of the cloth color is an indication the stain is getting lifted. Be sure to replace the saturated cloth, and continue blotting until the stain is completely removed. 

But also avoid over-saturating the spot to avoid spoiling the upholstery or creating an environment for the growth of mold. Finally, you can rinse the spot with clean water and air dry thoroughly.   

Removing Rust Stains Dry-Clean Only Items

Removing non-washable items requires much more care. Most non-washable items, such as delicate fabrics, are best handled by professional dry cleaners. 

Of course, it may be more costly, but you are guaranteed better results. Most dry cleaners have better expertise and equipment for this sort of work. 

All you need is to prepare your garment and identify the stain spot. That way, once in their office, you can give them instructions on what you want to be done. 

But if you have the dry cleaning kit, you can also do it at home. Most kits come with cleaning solvents and cloths for the cleaning task.

Furthermore, they have directions on how to do the cleaning which you can follow for better results.

How Do You Get Old Rust Stains From Clothes?

Once rust has lodged deep into the clothes fiber, it is challenging to remove it except with a few strong stain removers. One of these is vinegar, a well-known household commodity with many other uses. 

In the laundry industry, it is used to remove the toughest stains, which is why it is the best choice for removing old rust stains.

To use vinegar, place the garment on a flat surface with the stained part well spread out. Next, pour some vinegar on the stain, add a sprinkling of salt on the spot, and spread it evenly. 

You can then leave it in the sun for an hour for the pretreatment to take effect.

After this period, you can soak a clean white cloth in water and use it to blot the spot with it until the stain is removed. Finally, you can wash with a heavy-duty detergent, rinse and dry.

Can Baking Soda Remove Rust From Clothes?

Baking soda is quite an effective rust remover. To use baking soda, add two tablespoons to half a liter of water to make a pretreatment solution. 

Apply this solution to the stain and spread it well with your fingers before letting it sit for 10 minutes. Thereafter, you can rub the fabric spot against itself slightly to agitate the stain before rinsing with cold water

Once done with that step, measure the usual dose of a strong detergent and wash the garment normally.

Will WD 40 Remove Rust From Clothes?

WD 40 is a powerful stain remover used on the most stubborn stains. When used on rust stains, WD40 loosens the stain almost instantly.

To use WD 40, pour some water on the stain spot to soften it before applying WD40. 

Be sure to apply sufficient quantities to have the cleaning agent soak deepest into the clothes fiber. Next, place the garment in the sun and wait for about 10 minutes for the sun to accelerate the reaction.

After the completion of this period, you can wash the garment with a strong detergent and dry it. Do not forget to check if the stain has been removed to avoid setting when dried.

Does Chlorine Remove Rust From Fabric?

Chlorine doesn’t remove rust stains from clothes. On the contrary, using chlorine bleach hardens the stain on the fabric. 

To remove rust stains, you can use alternative effective commercial and homemade stain removers. Common examples include vinegar, dish detergent, baking soda, and vinegar.

Will Oxiclean Remove Rust From Clothing?

Oxiclean is not an effective rust stain remover. Its formulation consists mainly of oxygen bleach which itself doesn’t remove stains from clothes. 

This is because of the presence of elements of oxygen, one of the causative agents of rust. So using OxiClean can only worsen the stain rather than remove it from the clothes.

Some Important Points to Note

Before embarking on the above procedures, there are a few things you need to ponder. These are essential cautionary and safety measures to avoid ruining your clothes.

  • The older the stain, the harder it is to remove. So acting early guarantees better results.
  • Use cold to warm water during washing or pretreating the stain. Using hot water runs the risk of the stain setting.
  • If unsure of the reaction of the cleaning agent on the fabric, be sure to test on an indiscreet spot, for example, an inside part of the clothes hem. That way, you can avoid ruining your garment.
  • Always use one cleaning agent at a time. Mixing two agents might resort in a vigorous reaction, sometimes producing toxic fumes.
    Also, for the same reason, be sure to rinse off the stain spot before applying another one.
  • Reading the care label before starting is essential. Most clothes have specific instructions on the washing requirements. Ad-hoc cleaning agent applications can be disastrous.
  • Use a white towel when blotting the stain. This will help in gauging the rate of stain transfer to the towel to know if the stain is getting removed or not.
  • For commercial stain removers and detergents, be sure to follow the directions from their manufacturers. Most brands have their unique formulation with specific use instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Removes Rust Stains Instantly?

Baking soda is one of the quickest stain removers. Once applied, the baking soda instantly dislodges even the toughest of stains from most surfaces. 

You can use baking soda to make a solution with water and apply it to the stain and wait for 30 minutes before cleaning normally.

Does Toothpaste Remove Rust Stains?

Toothpaste is a fantastic stain remover, especially when used in combination with another cleaning agent. One such method is to make a thick cleaning solution with toothpaste in a 1:1. 

Using this ratio, you can make a general estimation of the cleaning paste mix you need depending on the treatment stain size.

Why Do My Clothes Have Orange Spots?

If you find orange spots on clothes, the culprit could likely be rust stains. To remove the stains, you can opt for commercial rust removers or create a homemade solution. 

One of the effective methods is to use dishwashing detergent in warm water and use it as a pretreatment agent. If they are old stains, you can also add ammonia to increase its potency.

I also wrote a guide on what to do if you get rust on your clothes out of the washer that may interest you.


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