Everything You Need to Know About Removing Rust

Rust peeling off of metal

A common problem you will experience if you have metal tools and objects in your home is rust. This is something that can affect everything from knives to DIY tools, and from metal fittings to decorative items in your home. Although rust is unsightly, it is a problem that is easy to overcome yourself. In fact, there are many different methods you can use for rust removal using items and products that you already have in your home. Here is everything you need to know about rust removal, including some simple rust removal recipes you can make yourself.

What is Rust and What Does It Look Like?

Rust is something that you will easily identify if your metal objects are affected. It forms in brown, flaky patches on the surface of some metals. NCH explains that rust is a form of corrosion. It is the oxidation of iron that can affect any metals that contain iron. These include iron alloys, such as steel. In technical terms, rust is hydrated iron III oxide, which is also known as iron oxide.

What Is the Cause of Rust?

Rust is the result of a reaction between iron, oxygen, and water. There are different types of rust that can form under different circumstance. Once the rusting process begins, it will spread throughout the metal object and the item will eventually disintegrate, although this takes time. The more contact a metal containing iron has with water and oxygen, the greater the risk of rust forming.

Why Should You Remove Rust?

There are several reasons that you should get rid of rust as soon as you notice it. Some of the typical reasons include:

  • Aesthetics- One of the predominant reasons that people want to get rid of rust is that it is unsightly. Removing rust will improve the appearance of your possessions.
  • Function- If tools, knives, and other pieces of equipment are affected by rust, then it is possible that they will not work as well. By removing the rust, you are potentially improving the function of these items.
  • Preventing deterioration- Once rust appears on a metal surface, it will only get worse. Getting rid of it as soon as possible will slow down the deterioration process.
  • Contamination prevention- Getting rid of rust can reduce the likelihood of contamination. This is especially the case for rust on knife blades. If you do not get rid of the rust, the spotted areas of the knife blade can potentially harbor bacteria. Therefore, it is important to remove the rust as soon as possible.

Is it Possible to Prevent Rust?

Before worrying about the different methods, you can use to remove rust, you should try to prevent rust forming in the first instance. Treehugger says that there are two ways to prevent rust from forming. The first preventative measure is to keep the metal dry. If the metal does not come into contact with water, it will not form rust. Therefore, you should always dry your knives, pans, and tools properly before they are stored away.

Second, coat the surface of the metal to prevent moisture touching the metal. You can paint the surfaces or coat them with oil. There are specialist knife oils that protect the blades, but a little olive oil works just as well. You should always oil your tools and garden equipment prior to storing them away.

A further tip to reduce the risk of rust is to cover your tools and belongings. If they come with a protective case or cover, make sure you use them as they will stop moisture getting in and will significantly reduce the likelihood of your tools developing rust.

Homemade Rust Remover Recipes and Methods of Removing Rust

There are many excellent rust removal products on the market that are effective and affordable. However, you can save more money by making your own rust remover using products you have at home. There are a surprising number of rust removal recipes that you can use, and the following are some of the simplest and most effective.

  • Method 1: Just ScrubAccording to Farmer’s Almanac, the method you should use first before bothering to use any products is to simply scrub the item using steel wool. An alternative to this is to use a crumpled up ball of tinfoil. If this doesn’t work, then consider one of the other methods.
  • Method 2: Use VinegarLifehacker UK says that one of the easiest and most effective methods of removing rust is to use vinegar. Soaking an item with rust in vinegar is one of the most effective ways to get the rust off smaller items, such as screws or knife blades. If you use the soaking method, you need to leave the rusty object in the vinegar for at least a day. White vinegar or apple cider vinegar are two of the best varieties of vinegar to use for removing rust, although any vinegar will work because it is acidic. For spots of rust on flat surfaces, you can spray the surface with vinegar and leave for a few hours before wiping off with a cloth, rinsing, and drying.
  • Method 3: Use a Lemon and Salt – Another method suggested by Lifehacker UK is to use a lemon to remove rust. Just like vinegar, lemon juice is acidic and can break down the rust while the salt acts as an abrasive. First, you should rub some salt over the affected area. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the affected area before leaving for a few hours. Next, you need to run the affected area. You can use the skin of the lemon to do this. Alternatively, you can use a scourer, but avoid using steel wool as this will scratch the surface. You can also use limes as an alternative to lemons.
  • Method 4: Baking Soda – One method of rust removal suggested by Apartment Therapy is to use baking soda. This is a versatile product that everyone should keep in their cupboard as you can use it for both cooking and cleaning. To remove rust using baking soda, you should rinse the time first and then shake it dry. Next, dust the surface with the baking powder and leave for at least one hour. You should then scrub down the item to remove the rust. If it doesn’t matter about scratching the surface, then steel wool will remove the rust quickest. However, if you are removing rust from a pan that you do not want to scratch, you should opt for a scouring pad. Once you have removed the rust, rinse off the item and dry it thoroughly with a towel.
  • Method 5: Potato and Dish Soap – Apartment Living also says that using a potato and dish soap is a proven method of removing rust. This is a method that is best used on less stubborn rust stains. All you need to do is to cut the potato in half and then cover the open end with dish soap. Rub the potato over the rusty surface and you will see the rust stain disappear before your eyes as the rust reacts with the dish soap and potato. If you have small spots of rust on your kitchen knives, you can simply plunge the blade into a potato and leave it there for the day.
  • Method 6: Coca-Cola – Farmers Almanac says that Coca-Cola contains high levels of phosphoric acid. This is a substance that you will also find in rust removers that you can buy from the store. You can leave smaller items that are affected by rust to soak in Coca-Cola overnight and then scrub to remove the rust. The downside to this method is that Coca-Cola becomes sticky and is sometimes tricky to clean off properly. You do not have to use the brand Coca-Cola as any cola will do the job just as effectively.
  • Method 7: Sandpaper – Another method suggested by One Good Thing by Jillee is to lightly sand off the rust using sandpaper. For large patches of advanced rust, you will need to use coarse sandpaper first and then finer sandpaper. For lighter rust, opt for finer sandpaper. Remember that sandpaper will scratch the surface of the metal, so this is an option best used on tools and not on any decorative items.
  • Method 8: Diesel – For rusty items that do not come into contact with food, diesel works just as well as other methods, says interesting engineering. All you need to do is to allow the times to soak in a container filled with diesel for 24 hours. Next, remove the rusty items from the diesel, scrub them, and wash them thoroughly to get rid of all the fuel.
  • Method 9: Use a Molasses MixtureTodays Homeowner suggests using a molasses mixture to remove rust from tools if you do not want to use chemicals. Their instructions state that you should use one part molasses to nine parts water. You can then soak the rusty items in the mixture for between three days and two weeks. This works because the solution breaks down the rust and then holds it in suspension. Once the rust has gone, remove the items from the solution and scrub them with a wire brush before drying.
  • Method 10: Use Hydrogen Peroxide – If you don’t mind using chemicals, then another household substance you can use is hydrogen peroxide, says HomeQuicks. This is a common household substance that is used for cleaning purposes. To remove rust with hydrogen peroxide, just pour a little of the substance directly onto the rusted area and then scrub with steel wool or a wire brush. For more aggressive rust removal, you can mix a little hydrogen peroxide with borax and then scrub onto the metal surface.

Commercial Rust Remover

If you do not want to try removing rust using products you have at home, you can just buy a commercial rust remover. These usually come in spray bottles and contain either phosphoric acid or oxalic acid. These work by dissolving the rust into a water-soluble phosphate compound that is easy for you to scrub off the metal. The downside to using these is that they are highly toxic and you will need to handle them with great care. It is best to wear goggles, a mask, and gloves when using commercial rust remover to remove rust.

Some Tips and Warning for Using Homemade Rust Removers

According to The Spruce, the following tips and warnings will help you to safely and effectively use your homemade remedies:

  • If you soak an item in vinegar, it may appear black when it is removed. This is a temporary discoloration, so do not worry. The item will return to its normal color if you rinse it in water and then dry it thoroughly.
  • Many methods of natural rust removal use abrasives and acids. It is best to wear protective gloves when using these products.
  • When removing rust, protect your work surface by covering with newspaper or a towel before you start using acidic products to remove the rust.
  • Do not allow children to help you when removing rust using acidic or abrasive products.

Removing Rust- The Final Verdict

Rust is a common problem that can affect any items, tools, or equipment that contain iron. Taking proper care of your belongings and keeping them dry will reduce the likelihood of them developing rust. If they do develop rust, there are many options you can use to remove it other than commercial rust removers. You can even use many products in your home that are natural or safe to remove the rust quickly and easily.


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