How to Get Rust Off Metal With Everyday Cleaners

Updated February 16, 2017

Rust occurs when the moisture in air and water causes oxidation on metal, resulting in crusty brownish-red deposits. Any metal not galvanised or protected with enamel paint will rust, including garden tools, kitchenware, irons or even the inside of a dryer. Remove rust by applying acids that react with the rust to remove it, or by rubbing it with something abrasive. Protect your tools from developing rust in the first place by drying them after washing, and storing them in a protected area. Coat garden tools with a thin coating of oil in the fall before storing them.

Pour enough vinegar on a paper towel to moisten it thoroughly. Lay the paper towel over the rust spots. Wait 30 minutes.

Remove the paper towel and rub the rust stain. Rinse with a cloth dipped in clean water and wipe dry.

Rub any remaining rust stains with a fine steel wool pad to remove the rust completely. Wipe away any debris with a damp cloth and dry.


Substitute lemon juice, peroxide or trisodium phosphate for vinegar to remove rust stains. Make a paste by mixing lemon juice and borax or cream of tartar and peroxide. Spread on rust stains and wait 30 minutes before rinsing. Oxalic acid is the active ingredient in commercial rust products. Buy it at hardware stores or pharmacies for difficult rust stains, or use a commercial rust remover. Follow all package directions carefully, though, because these products are toxic and highly corrosive.

Things You'll Need

  • Vinegar
  • Paper towel
  • Fine steel wool
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About the Author

Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."