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How can I Remove Rust from Metal?

By Norma Jean Howland
Updated May 17, 2024
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If you need to remove rust from metal, there are many commercial products available. Most of them are highly toxic and rely on some form of acid — either phosphoric or oxalic — to do the job. If you use them, make sure to wear rubber gloves and carefully follow all of the instructions and precautions that are provided by the manufacturer. This will remove the rust and protect you from the toxic chemicals. If you would rather avoid toxic chemicals, there are several common household items that can safely remove rust from metal, including white vinegar, baking soda, sandpaper and steel wool.

Vinegar

White vinegar can often work well for small items, such as earrings. Just pour a little vinegar into a glass, and let the items have a good soak. After you see that the rust has dissolved, just rinse off the jewelry, and dry it with a cloth.

Vinegar can also be used on bigger items. Either pour it directly onto the item, or spread it with a cloth. When the rust is dissolved, just wipe it off, rinse the item, then dry it if necessary.

Baking Soda

Using baking soda is another way to remove rust from metal. You can make a paste by mixing baking soda and water. Make sure that the solution is pasty enough to adhere to the surface, then spread it onto the metal and let it sit. After the rust is loose, you can scrub it off. If the rust stains are very deep, removing them might require additional applications of the paste. Baking soda paste also can be used in a variety of other ways around the house, and it is a good substitute for many toxic household cleaners.

Coarse Materials

If you want to remove rust from metal and don't mind a little bit of hard work, you can try to remove it manually with sandpaper or another coarse item, such as steel wool. This might take a while, though. If the rust is widespread, it might take several attempts to get down to the clean metal.

Preventing Rust

Of course, it is best to not let your metals get rusty at all. Keeping your metals as dry as possible helps prevent rust because water is what sets the stage for rust to appear. Prevention isn't always possible, however, especially if you where there is a lot of humidity, so it’s a good idea to attack rust right away, before it starts eating away at the metal. Remember, the longer that rust is left untreated, the harder it is to remove and the more severe the damage.

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Discussion Comments

By anon997678 — On Feb 12, 2017

To anon321812: "How can I remove rust from my rosary?"

Your best bet would be to get new findings (i.e., loops, jump rings). If the rust is on the decades or the Crucifix, you may want to see a jeweler.

By anon983714 — On Jan 01, 2015

Use a wire brush.

By anon969213 — On Sep 08, 2014

@post 26: Throw it in the trash.

By anon958366 — On Jun 26, 2014

Using foil may sound 'too good to be true', but it really does a great job. It's fairly labor-intensive, so I wouldn't use it for a big project with a lot of area, or one with a ton of rust. Something with some minor rust spots is perfect for using aluminum foil. Just crinkle it into a ball and rub away.

I've also used it to remove some burned-on food from a stainless steel skillet. No distunguishable scratches since the foil is so soft.

By TimReeves — On Nov 13, 2013

You can try using Innosoft B570. It is an organic cleaner and does not cause any side effects. I use that for rust removal from stainless steel appliances.

By anon354317 — On Nov 07, 2013

I am sorry but the last post sounds too good to be true.

By anon340783 — On Jul 05, 2013

Dampen the area to be cleaned with a bit of water and then rub down with aluminum foil. It works a treat on chrome, but is also good on painted areas as well. It doesn't damage the chrome or paintwork. Dry off with a soft cloth. There are loads of examples of this online. It's cheap and non toxic. --Tom

By anon321812 — On Feb 24, 2013

How can I remove rust from my rosary?

By anon316783 — On Jan 30, 2013

I just wanted everyone to know that there are other options for rust removal- rust911. It is a higher performing, lower cost alternative to others.

By anon276927 — On Jun 27, 2012

The best way to get rid of rust on metal is use the nanoShell metal rust liquid.

By anon275563 — On Jun 18, 2012

For white cotton fabric, make an aqueous paste with BarKeepers Friend Stainless Steel cleaner and water. Apply liberally with Q-tips. The brown stain will disappear.

By anon268817 — On May 15, 2012

I used enviro-safe rust remover and got fabulous results. It was cheap and worked great. I used it on some bicycle parts. My bikes look new, it worked just as it said it would.

By anon236727 — On Dec 25, 2011

Hello! Billy Mays here with the latest great product!

How many paid shills are leaving comments on internet boards?

By anon165886 — On Apr 06, 2011

I have recently used Rust Off on my motorcycle chrome. This stuff works awesome specially if you have a part that can soak in it, wish it came in a paste though. i have yet to try Naval Jelly on the engine, which is aluminum or cast iron. Nothing else I've tried has worked on that yet, but I'll try the baking soda paste trick.

By anon128697 — On Nov 20, 2010

I soaked the metal in vinegar for about 20 minutes and then scrubbed it with an S.O.S pad. Worked really well.

By anon125238 — On Nov 08, 2010

Coke's (and other carbonated drinks') acidity comes from carbonic acid, formed by the CO2 used to carbonate drinks.

By anon123499 — On Nov 02, 2010

coke is acidic. Phosphoric acid, i think.

By anon118733 — On Oct 15, 2010

We tried using a bottle of coke on some of our dental instruments as recommended by a theatre nurse. it worked like magic! No one has been able to give us the mechanism of action.

By anon105259 — On Aug 19, 2010

I used another product to remove rust, Innosoft B570. It worked really awesome. all the rust disappeared like snow in hot sunbeams. Really fantastic.

By anon104331 — On Aug 16, 2010

Try a nonhazardous rust remover like Esprit Performance rust remover. it comes in concentrate so it saves a lot on shipping costs. Plus you don't have to worry about acids. This won't remove metal.

By anon85866 — On May 22, 2010

A word of caution: Although vinegar is a mild acid, it is still strong enough to dissolve some metals. Copper and nickel, for example, dissolve easily in vinegar. So make sure you don't remove the shiny nickel plating to reveal dull base metal beneath. The point applies to all acids form organic lemon juice to toxic super rust remover.

One other small remark is if you try both vinegar and baking soda to remove your rust, make sure you rinse the object in between, otherwise the two substances (acid and alkali) will cancel out each other's rust cleaning potential.

By anon77316 — On Apr 14, 2010

I remember years ago when I saw someone soak a rusted lawn mower chain in something smelly like, gasoline or paint thinner. Then scoured it with steel wool and it came right off. Wish I could remember which one.

By anon71901 — On Mar 20, 2010

Tried to use baking soda to remove rust from a patio table. Didn't work worth spit. Neither did vinegar. Although now I smell like a pickle. Toxic rust removers, here I come!

By anon66808 — On Feb 21, 2010

works great.

By anon55313 — On Dec 06, 2009

Brilliant! Love the URL too ("how-can-i-remove-rust-from-metal"). Almost exactly what I typed into Google.

By powerone — On Jan 25, 2009

Power one rust remover!!! Fast acting rust/calcium/lime & organic stain remover!!!

Works when others don't!! Stains disappear like magic!!

Will remove stains from Hull of boats, upholstery, wood, copper, rims, brake dust, vehicle, fenders, fiberglass, sink, toilet, bathtub, clothing, cement, stainless steel, humidifier, fabric, concrete, grout, painted surfaces, body of carburetors, decks, chrome…Will also remove coffee stains, grape juice stain....and much much more. Its biodegradable, no smell, will not hurt skin, no fumes, no solvents, non-acid product, non-flammable, no scrubbing.

Apply on dry surface, wait 60 seconds, watch it disappear like magic. Simply rinse when done.

Will also remove grease from cement and concrete, apply directly on dry surface, wait 5 mins, scrub with brush, may require more than one application.

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