11 Smart And Easy Ways To Remove Rust From Metal

Has your metal fence rusted, and you don’t know how to fix it? A simple way would be to replace it. However, if you can’t afford it, there is a more inexpensive way to fix things. You can just remove rust. Fortunately, there are many cleaning tips to get rid of rust.

Old rusted tools on wooden table

Rust can occur on chrome like your radiators and metal. When metal comes in contact with water and stays like this for days, oxidation and corrosion start, and the first signs of rust appear. You might feel a bit disappointed and frustrated with yourself when you look at your rusted hedge shear sitting in the bucket with the water. Thankfully, there’s no need to throw it away. You can clean it and turn it into new again with the several DIY natural and chemical ways you can remove rust from your metal possessions.  

How to remove rust metal naturally?

Rusting is a natural process that occurs on iron when it contacts water for a long time. And as natural as it is, you can remove it with natural and harmless ingredients you use in your daily life for entirely different reasons. 

1. Lemon and salt

This method is a combo of the acidic properties of lemon with abrasive salt. Combining these two ingredients and some elbow grease can remove rust mainly from small rust surfaces. 

Needed materials:

  • Salt
  • A lemon
  • Steel wool/ wire brush
  • A dry towel

Steps to follow:

  1. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt on the rusted surface and squeeze lemon all over the salted area. 
  2. Let the salty-lemon mixture sit on the item for about two hours or so
  3. Then, scrub the item with a lemon rind. If there are any stubborn rusty spots, you can rub them using a wire brush
  4. Rinse the object very well to clean off any residue left and dry it very well with a towel.

2. Baking soda

Baking soda (or else bicarbonate soda) is a well-known cleaning remedy used for most cleaning tasks around the house. It’s also handy to clean rust, mostly from small, light-rusted metal items.

Baking soda in a glass jar

Needed materials:

  • A bowl
  • Baking soda
  • Warm water
  • Steel wool/ toothbrush
  • A cloth

Steps to follow:

  1. Mix the soda with warm water to form a thick paste in a bowl.
  2. Apply the soda paste on the rust spots and leave it for an hour and more. 
  3. Scrub the surface rust with the iron wool, or if you don’t have one, with a small brush until the rust is gone. 
  4. Finally, rinse very well and dry completely. 

3. Citric Acid

You might not have your cupboards filled with citric acid, but it’s something you can find easily at most health food stores.

Needed materials:

  • A bowl
  • 2 cups of hot water
  • 2 tablespoons of citric acid
  • A scouring pad
  • A soft cloth

Steps to follow:

  1.  Mix in a bowl (large enough to fit your object) 2 cups of warm water and 2 tablespoons of citric acid.
  2. Place the rusted item in the solution and let it soak for several hours. For best results, leave it overnight.
  3. The following day, scrub the rust left using a pad.
  4. Then, rinse very well. After rinsing, dry thoroughly with a soft cloth.

4. Vinegar

White vinegar is a famous agent with incredible cleaning properties. Due to its acidic nature can be an excellent rust remover. Let’s see how it works.

Glass jar with white vinegar on a black table

You need:

  • A container/ a bowl
  • White vinegar
  • A scouring pad/ toothbrush

Then, follow the below simple steps to get rid of rust successfully:

  1. If you have small rusted spots or your item is lightly rusted, soak the pad or the brush into the bowl filled with vinegar. But if you have larger areas, fill a container with vinegar and soak your object. Let it soak for up to 24 hours. 
  2. Then, scrub the area with a pad or small brush. This step applies to both cases. 
  3. Rinse the object very well and dry.

5. Potato and dish soap

You’ve probably never read before a cleaning hack using potatoes. However, a potato can be an excellent rust removal due to its oxalic acid

Needed materials:

  • A potato
  • Dish soap
  • A cloth

Steps to follow:

  1. Cut the potato in half.
  2. Soak the half potato in dish detergent and place it on the rusted area.
  3. Let it sit for a few hours. After the time has passed, check the area. If rust hasn’t been removed, coat the other half of the potato on the soap and reapply. 
  4. Afterwards, rinse very well the item and dry it completely with a cloth. 

Extra tip: You can scrub rust stains with the potato, as you would do with a cleaning pad.

6. Ketchup

Ketchup isn’t used only to make your burgers and french fries tastier. You can also use it to remove rust from metal possessions. Its acetic acid can fight the oxide formed by the chemical reaction between oxygen and iron when the latter contacts water. The ketchup method is very effective when cleaning small rust spots.

A cup full of ketchup next to a spoon

Needed materials:

  • Ketchup
  • A soft cloth

Steps to follow:

  1. Cover the item with a thick layer of ketchup and let it work for 30 minutes. 
  2. Then, scrub the area covered with ketchup with a soft cloth. 
  3. Finally, rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly with a clean, dry cloth. 

7. Toothpaste

Even if you can’t believe it, toothpaste can remove rust from your metal items as long as you mix it with bicarbonate soda. 

Needed materials:

  • Toothpaste
  • Bicarbonate soda
  • A small brush/ a cloth

Steps to follow:

  1. Mix in a bowl toothpaste and a few pinches of soda to create a thick paste
  2. Apply the paste on the item and scrub with the brush.
  3. Rinse very well and dry. So simple!

8. Aluminium Foil

Another handy household item that is effective enough to remove rust is aluminium or else tin foil.

an aluminium foil on a brown surface

Needed materials:

  • Aluminium foil
  • Dish soap
  • Water
  • A bowl
  • Microfibre cloths

Steps to follow:

  1. Fill the bowl with water and add a few drops of the dish detergent. Stir to dissolve the soap. 
  2. Soak the cloth into the soapy water and clean the rusted item. 
  3. Empty the bowl off the soapy water, rinse it very well and refill it with clean water. 
  4. Get a piece of tinfoil and dip it in the bowl.
  5. Scrub the rust stains with the wet foil.
  6. Rinse very well and dry with a clean cloth. 

How to removerust from metal using commercial rust removers

Beyond natural ways to remove rust, there’s always the option of using commercial products.

Rust converters

Rust converters are similar to spray paints. They are not as effective at removing rust as they are at preventing it from spreading. They’re usually used as a primer before painting the metal surface

Oxalic acid

Oxalic or ethanedioic acid is an organic compound used in carpentry to freshen wood colour and remove stains and rust. You have to dissolve it first in water before applying it. 

  1. Dissolve 60gr of oxalic acid in 1l of water.
  2. Apply it to the rust and let it sit for 20-30 minutes.
  3. Then, rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry very well. 

Rust chemical removers

Commercial products formulated to remove rust are usually made of oxalic or phosphoric acid, hazardous chemicals that can irritate the skin. Thus, when using them, you should be well protected. 

When you try to remove rust with commercial products, make sure you always read the instructions indicated on the package and do exactly as instructed. What’s more, most rust removers need time to sit on the rusted object and a lot of elbow grease.

Abrasive tools

It is probably the most tedious method as it requires a lot of labour. It’s also an inexpensive method. It needs tools that don’t cost much, or you can even rent them from a hardware store.

What you need to do is to scrape the rust off the item. You can either use steel wool or an electric sander, especially if the build-up rust covers a large area, or use any metal tool. Just remember that after using a metal tool to scrape off the rust from a metal object, you’ll have to use fine-grain sandpaper to remove any marks made from the scrapping. 

How to Remove Rust From Painted Metal

If you thought that painting your metal things, you’d save them from rusting, and you’d probably have realised that you were wrong. Painted metal can rust too, but you can remove it as well. 

rusty metal scissors on a blue background

Needed materials:

  • A bowl
  • ½ cup of baking soda
  • ¼ cup of white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • A small brush/ a cloth

Steps to follow:

  1. Mix ½ cup of soda, ¼ cup of vinegar and two tablespoons of lemon juice in the bowl to form a paste.
  2. Apply the paste by using a small brush/ cloth on the rusted object.
  3. Let the paste sit for 10-15 minutes.
  4. After the time has passed, rub the paste with the brush/cloth using a circular motion. Repeat the process until you see the rust is gone. 
  5. Rinse thoroughly with clean water and dry very well before storing it.

Do all metals rust?

Iron and metals obtaining iron can only rust. Metals like aluminium, brass, bronze, galvanised steel, stainless steel, copper, titanium, and precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum don’t rust. They corrode, get tarnished and stained, but they are rust-free.

How to prevent metal from rusting

Now that you’ve cleaned your metal things from rust, do you know how to protect them and keep rust away? Water is metal’s enemy. So, the prevention key is to keep metal away from water.

When washing metal objects, don’t let them dry. Wipe them with a dishcloth right after cleaning them and store them in a dry, low humidity place. 

What’s more, you can apply a protective coating that will stop rust from reforming on your metal surfaces. You don’t need to buy an exaggerated product. Mineral oil can work wonders, especially on kitchen knives. Apply a small amount of mineral oil with a soft cloth, and that’s all! You’ll just have to reapply for it every two to three times per year. For your rest metal tools, you can use a wax paste or WD-40.

rusty metal tools on a wooden surface

Rust is an inevitable process. Hopefully, you can prevent it from happening and remove it from your belongings. Try not to wet metal as water speeds up rusting if you have to clean them with water. Make sure you dry them with a cloth very well and avoid letting them air dry. Apply one of the above ways on your already rusted possessions the sooner possible. Don’t let rust spread and build upon the entire surface cause it’ll be harder to clean it.

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