Removing Rust Stains From a Washing Machine

Updated February 21, 2017

Washing machines are designed to clean clothes, but sometimes the clothes emerge dirty. Finding rust stains on clean clothes is a common problem, especially when using older washers. When metal and water come into contact with each other, rust can form. While you can wipe the washer down after each load or keep the door open to let the water evaporate, if rust has already formed in the washer, you have several options to remove it.

Use Some Elbow Grease

Sometimes, it's possible to remove light rust stains simply by using a kitchen scrubbing pad or steel wool. Other options include wire brushes and sandpaper. A few household experts suggest adding mineral oil to the rust stains. This lubricates them and makes them easier to remove.

Use Natural Home Remedies

Most rust stains can be removed by acids. Rust stains respond well to acids because the acid breaks down the chemical compound and makes the rust water soluble. There are some acids you have in your kitchen that can help remove rust stains from the washing machine. Citric acids come from fruits like lemons, limes and oranges. Lemon juice is a popular rust remover for clothes and appliances. Ascetic acid comes from vinegars like white vinegar and apple cider vinegar. Using any of these liquids can help remove rust. Just add the juice or vinegar to a sponge or cloth, apply to the stain for a few moments and wipe away. Another option is to run the washing machine for the sole purpose of removing the rust. Add a cup or two of white vinegar or lemon juice to the water.

Use Commercial Rust Removers

For large, tough stains, use commercial rust removers that contain phosphoric acid, oxalic acid and hydrofluoric acid. Rust Free has phosphoric acid, while CLR, or Calcium Lime Rust Remover, has a proprietary formula. The commercial rust removers are strong and quite effective, but some are also toxic. Follow the instructions very carefully. Because you will be cleaning the washing-machine tub in such a small space, it is best to wear a face mask and to have plenty of ventilation. Iron Out is another commercial rust remover that is recommended by many consumers. It does not contain harsh chemicals, and can even be used on white clothes.

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