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Ways to Remove Rust at Home

Unless you want your belongings to have an 'antique' appearance, then rust is an annoyance we can all live without. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that most of our metal objects including tools, kitchen utensils and decorative garden objects will fall foul of this common problem over time, costing us money and causing us irritation. But fear not, there are a number of home remedies you can use to banish rust from your precious items, and they are all cheap, easy and toxin-free.

Rusty Items

What Is Rust?

Rust is the common name for 'iron oxide', which forms on iron (or iron alloys like steel) when they are exposed to moisture and oxygen over a prolonged period of time. It develops when oxygen mixes with the metal's atoms, creating an entirely new compound which weakens the chemical bonds of the metal itself.

The main trigger for this process is water, which penetrates microscopic cracks in the metal's surface and reacts with other elements to form acids. These acids speed up the oxidation process and cause more of the metal to become exposed. When it forms, rust is flaky and provides little protection for the metal beneath, causing it to degenerate. Over time, an object left exposed to the process will eventually disintegrate altogether.


Ways You Can Remove Rust

There are chemicals available that can remove rust but they tend to be expensive and bad for the environment. You often have to try a few of these products on the same item before discovering one that works, which can add to your expenditure. These natural solutions provide a great, cheap and environmentally friendly alternative that you can try at home.

1. White Vinegar

White VinegarA trusty ally against a number of common problems, white vinegar also reacts with rust to dissolve it off the metal. This will take some time, and you will need to soak the object in the vinegar for at least a few hours, before scrubbing it off with a cloth or, if the rust is particularly stubborn, a wire brush, sandpaper or equivalent. 

Some Tips:

  • If an object is too big to soak in a bowl or pot, wipe it with a rag soaked in white vinegar and ensure you leave a layer on top of it. Step away and leave it for a few hours, before attempting to remove it.
  • Make yourself a nifty, rust reducing brush to scrub off the oxide if you don't have an abrasive on hand. Simply soak some aluminum foil in vinegar and wrap it around a sponge.
  • If you don't have white vinegar, use normal vinegar but soak the items for much longer - 24 hours would be ideal. The longer you soak the item in either type of vinegar, the less scrubbing you are likely to have to do.

2. Lime & Salt Combination

LimeWhen used together, lime juice and salt can be an effective way of removing rust. First, you will need to sprinkle the salt over the rusted surface so it is completely coated. Next, juice some limes over the top of the item, so that the juice mixes with the salt. Use as much lime juice as you can physically squeeze out of the fruit, and then leave the resulting solution to set on the item for a few hours.

 Some Tips:

  • When you come to scrub the paste off the item, employ the lime's rind for extra strength. You can use a toothbrush on smaller items, and a bigger brush on larger objects when rubbing the rind over the rusted surface.
  • Limes are best but if you don't have one, a lemon will do the job too.

3. Baking Soda

Baking SodaLike vinegar, baking soda has a multitude of uses around the home and is a useful addition to any kitchen cupboard. To use it against rust, mix it with water until it turns into a thick, spreadable paste. Spread it across the metal using a spatula or even a butter knife. Allow it time to set and leave it for at least a few hours. Scrub it off with a brush, cloth or abrasive.


  • Don't worry about the amount of water you use, there is no exact recipe. However, consider that a thicker paste will spread more easily over the rusty surface and try to experiment with your mixture to create one that works for you.

4. A Potato

PotatoA more unexpected warrior against rust is the humble potato. They contain oxalic acid which can dissolve rust, but you should mix it with soapy water for best results - the chemical reaction between the two will remove rust easily.. Simply cut a potato in half and layer a liberal amount of soap along the cut surface. Take a firm grip of the potato and rub it vigorously along the surface of the rusted item, stopping to add more soap when necessary. Rinse the object when you have finished and then dry it thoroughly.

Some Tips:

  • If your potato begins to mash, simply cut a slice off the end, reapply the soap and carry on scrubbing.
  • If you prefer, try using salt with the potato instead of soap. The abrasive qualities mixed with the chemicals in the potato will also do a great job of removing rust.

The Key to Preventing Rust

Rusty KeyAs ever, prevention is better than cure, and these steps can help stop rust from developing in the first place:

1. Keep metal objects dry: As water is the chief catalyst of the oxidation process, try to eliminate it. Of course, metal objects will get wet from time to time when you use them or clean them, but always dry them thoroughly and store them in a cool, dry place.

2. Use a Primer: When you paint metal, use a primer to help the paint attach firmly. This will help lock out unwanted moisture. Use a spray on primer on smooth metals, and a 'filler' primer on rough surfaces to ensure you fill any cracks and pockets.

3. Apply Solid Coats of Paint: Primer is a supplement, but paint can be your first barrier to moisture. You will need to use a good quality paint to produce successful results, and seal the paint with a clear top coat to add another layer of defense.

H/T Wikihow

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