How to Remove Rust from Clothes

How to Remove Rust from Clothes

Let’s face it, rust stains are a nuisance. They taint clothes, they’re very visible, and they can appear seemingly out of nowhere.

So, how do you get rid of them? Easy. Just keep on reading to find out how to remove rust from clothes.

If you find yourself in a rusty situation, try one or more of the methods below to remove the rust from your clothes.


Tips Before Cleaning Rust Away

It’s worth keeping in mind the following tips when trying to get rid of rust from clothes:

  • Always do a patch test with your chosen cleaner before treating the actual stain. A quick test can tell you if the solution is going to damage the material or not. So, don’t skip this step.
  • Don’t bleach rust stains.
  • Remove the rusty patch as quick as you can from your clothes.
  • Don’t treat the rust stain with hot or boiling water as this will make it set, and it’ll be harder to remove. Cold water is best!
  • Don’t dry your rust-smeared laundry until you know the rusty marks have been removed. The heat will only set the stains and they’ll be tougher to take out.
  • Treat rust stains gently. If you rub the material too vigorously you will ruin or discolour it.
  • When removing a rust stain, work in small sections. Don’t try to cure the problem in one go. You’re more likely to miss patches of rust when doing this.
  • When blotting rust off clothing only use white cloths. If you use colourful cloths, you risk transferring the dye onto your clothes. Plus, if you use a white cloth, you can actually see the orange-like colour coming off your items and being transferred onto the cloth.
  • Don’t mix any cleaning chemicals together!
  • If your item says ‘dry clean only’, this is how the item should be cleaned and treated.
  • Always follow the instructions on the packaging of any specialised cleaners you use.
  • You may have to repeat some treatments more than once.

Let’s find out how you remove rust from clothes!


Removing Rust Using Homemade Remedies

Removing Rust Using Homemade Remedies

If you’re the type to go for classic home remedies, then you’re in luck.

There are a wide variety of basic household cleaning agents that will do the trick when it comes to removing rust from clothes. These include:

Lemon juice and salt

Note: Before treating coloured clothes, do a colourfast test. The acidic nature of lemon juice may discolour some colourful materials.

Steps to follow:

  1. Pop a towel flat out on a surface and put the rusty item on top of it (make sure the rust stain is facing upwards).
  2. Slot a second towel up between the rust stain and the back of the item of clothing. The towel will catch any excess liquid, so it doesn’t soak through and onto the rest of the material.
  3. Pop some salt into a bowl. It’ll act as an abrasive.
  4. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze its juice into the bowl of salt. You need to make a paste, so add more salt/lemon juice, if need be.
  5. When you have a paste-like consistency, you can scoop up the mixture and cover the entire stain with it.
  6. Pop the item outside in the sunlight.
  7. When the item is outside, gently drop some lemon juice onto the rusty area every so often.
  8. Allow the item of clothing to dry.
  9. When the item is dry, you can brush the salty paste off the material – use a soft brush to do this.
  10. Launder the item as usual.


White vinegar

Steps to follow:

  1. Lay a towel out on a flat surface and place the rusty item on top with the rust stain facing upwards.
  2. Slide a second small towel up between the rust stain and the back of the item of clothing. The towel is there to catch any liquid, so it doesn’t soak through and onto the rest of the material.
  3. Pour a small amount of white vinegar directly onto the rusty patch. 
  4. Wait a minute while the acidic nature of the white vinegar gets to work on the stain.
  5. Grab a clean, white cloth and start blotting the area.
  6. Repeat Step 5 multiple times and remember to use a clean patch of cloth every time.
  7. Pop your item outside in the sunlight to dry.
  8. Launder your item as usual.


Bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide

Removing Rust from Clothes - Bicarbonate of Soda

Steps to follow:

  1. Pop your garment on a flat surface with a towel beneath it.
  2. Stuff a second towel up inside the item, so excess liquid doesn’t soak into the opposite side of the item.
  3. In a bowl mix one teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda with one teaspoon of cream of tartar.
  4. Add a couple of drops of hydrogen peroxide to the bowl too – this’ll act as a bleaching agent.
  5. Stir the ingredients until you get a paste-like consistency.
  6. Spread the paste over the rust stain.
  7. Wait about 30 minutes.
  8. Rinse the garment under the cold-water tap.
  9. Wash the item as normal.


Bicarbonate of soda and laundry detergent

Steps to follow:

  1. Grab an old, soft toothbrush and start to brush any rust off the item. Do this over a bin.
  2. Hold the item of clothing, rust side up, under running cold water. The stain should be diluted.
  3. Fill a tub up with three to four tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda and water.
  4. Pop the rusty item into the tub.
  5. Make sure the item is completely submerged in the water.
  6. Leave the item alone for about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove the garment from the water.
  8. Pour some liquid laundry detergent directly onto the stain, covering it.
  9. Wait a few minutes.
  10. Put the item straight into the washing machine—don’t rinse the detergent off.
  11. Select the correct wash setting.
  12. Add a regular dose of detergent to the machine.
  13. Launder the garment as normal.


Removing Rust with Specialised Stain Removers

Removing Rust with Specialised Stain Removers

Your backup option is to use an off-the-shelf stain remover. And you can pick up a stain remover online or from most stores.

Just keep in mind that specialised stain removers get mixed results, you may need to apply the treatment more than once, and you must always read the label on the product you buy.

Some items have unique application instructions and some can only be used on certain types of material.

Check out the products below:

  • HG Stain Away 7 Rust is part of HG’s cleaning range and can be used to treat rust stains, as well as red wine, blood and pen stains. The gentle formula, that comes in a 50 ml bottle, can be used on most fabrics and some floors, and it gets to work fairly quickly.
  • Dr Beckmann – Stain Remover – Rust and Deodorant also comes in a 50 ml bottle and is incredibly simple to use. You just apply the product, wait and launder the treated item as usual!

Alternatively, though not strictly a stain remover, WD-40 can also be quite effective in removing rust from clothing. It’s a great option for anyone working in mechanics and engineering.


Paying a Dry Cleaners to Remove Rust

If you’ve tried the methods above, and you’ve not had much luck, you could take your item of clothing to a dry cleaners.

A dry cleaners should be able to use different cleaning tools and solutions to lift your rusty stain away.

An online search will bring up cleaners in your area. You just need to pick a reputable shop.

When you take your clothes in to be cleaned remember to ask plenty of questions! It’s worth finding out what chemicals your garments are going to be washed with just in case there’s a problem.

Keep in mind that if your item’s care tag says ‘dry clean only’, you should take your outfit to a dry cleaners straight away. If you try to wash the delicate material at home, you could ruin it!


Preventing Rust Stains on Clothes

Preventing Rust Stains on Clothes

In some cases, you won’t be able to avoid getting rust on your clothes. However, here are a few ideas you can try out to prevent lots of rust from staining your clothes:

  • Always make sure the area you’re storing your clothes in is dry and free from moisture.
  • Try not to store fabrics in close proximity to metals.
  • If you’re likely to come into contact with rust, make sure you wear work clothes/overalls.
  • Avoid wearing white coloured clothes when working with rust.
  • When buying outdoor items made from metal, such as garden furniture or barbecues, always try to buy aluminium or stainless-steel ones.
  • Protect items that can rust by covering them up. This’ll stop you from leaning on the item and getting rust on yourself. And it’ll also protect the item, so it should have a longer lifespan.


What Causes Rust Stains?

Rust stains can appear on clothes for many reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Clothes have come into direct contact with a rusty object. For example, you might’ve been cleaning rust off an old bike and you got some orange rust on your t-shirt. Or you might’ve lent on an untreated and rusty gate.
  • Alternatively, if your clothes come into regular contact with metal, such as the buttons on trousers, and this metal comes into contact with moisture, over a period of time the surface will oxidise and rust can rub off on clothes.
  • In addition to this, if you’ve got old rusty pipes in your home, some iron deposits could be found in the water. They can eventually find their way into your washing machine and onto your laundry.
  • On that note, your pipes could be filled with some sediment and this could also be your problem.
  • Similarly, your washer might be a tad rusty. And this rust could be brushing up against your clothes and tainting them.


Does Rust Permanently Stain Clothes?

Rust stains can permanently mark clothes, particularly if the stains are very old, or have been treated with bleach or hot water.

However, if you treat a rust stain quickly and with the right tools, the mark should come off most types of clothing. Your garment should end up rust-free by the end of the cleaning session.