How to Get Rust Stains Out of Clothes

I want to be that “cool” mom. I want my son to remember his childhood summers spent exploring the great outdoors. I want to let him enjoy his toddler days fully.

It’s all fun and games, though, until it’s laundry time! Dirt, grime, and stains are a common sight in children’s clothes. Bonus points go to rust stains after playing with metals bars on a hot summer day!

Rust stains are unavoidable. You can get them from the monkey bars at the park where your kids played. You can even get it from the old barbecue grill you used a couple of summers ago. Rust or iron oxide follows any steel and iron that comes to contact with air and water. It’s challenging to remove rust stains. Once smeared, rust stains from clothes create a bigger and more intimidating problem. But how do you get rust stains out of clothes?

WARNING: Do Not Use Chlorine Bleach

Bleach is an awesome whitener. If you ever came across a rust stain, you probably thought about the idea of using that bottle of chlorine bleach to remove it. Put down that bleach and listen to me first.

Chlorine bleach makes rust stains from clothes permanent. Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient found in bleach. It is an oxidizing agent that speeds up rusting.

Is It Really A Rust Stain?

There are a couple of stains that can look like rust stains. Stains from benzoyl peroxide (acne medicine), povidone-iodine (antiseptic), and even caramelized sugar can disguise themselves as rust stains.

When dealing with rust stains or rust-looking stains, it’s better to deal with them carefully. Do not apply chlorine bleach on any stains without observing them.

You can soak the fabric in cold water for around 30 minutes. Then you can apply an all-purpose stain remover before tossing the garment in the washing machine.

5 Ways To Get Rust Stains Out Of Your Clothes (White or Colored)

Rust stains on clothes are not a pretty sight. And removing it from clothes is difficult. The best way to avoid getting rust stains is to avoid them altogether. But who wants to say no to a fun barbecue session on a sunny day? Besides, you can even get rust stains by using an old rusty washer or through old pipes that deliver your water supply.

You don’t have to be a party pooper to avoid rust stains. There are household items that guarantee promising results when it comes to removing rust stains from clothes. The best thing you can do is to act fast.

1. White Vinegar

bottle of white vinegar against blue background

Rust hates white vinegar. To use white vinegar to remove rust stains,  lay your garment flat on the surface. Then you can saturate the affected area with white vinegar and let the vinegar lift-off rust from the fabric. Blot the stain using a sponge or clean cloth. You can then place the garment under direct sunlight until the rust stain fades away. Wash the garment afterward in the washer using a detergent with tough stain remover.

2. Salt and Lemon Juice

Rust hates lemon juice as much as it despises white vinegar. Lemon juice is a great substitute for laundry detergent and can remove most stains from clothes.

Most stains hate lemon juice, combine it with salt and you get an effective rust stain remover. Use lemon juice and salt as a rust stain remover by laying your fabric on a flat surface and sprinkling salt on top of the stain. You can then pour lemon juice from a fresh lemon on top of the salt. Let the solution sit. If it’s a sunny day you can let it dry under the sunlight.

Using lemon juice and salt to remove rust stains on delicate fabrics such as silk is recommended. Lemon juice is effective on whites or other light-colored fabrics. Be careful when using it on colored clothes though. Test the lemon juice first on your clothes’ seam and see if the color fades.

3. Cream of Tartar, Baking Soda, and Hydrogen Peroxide

When you think about cream of tartar or baking soda, you might think of cakes or cookies. Meanwhile, you would probably associate hydrogen peroxide with wound disinfection. However, these ingredients are also great for rust stain removal. You can make a paste out of cream of tartar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide to effectively remove rust stains on clothes.

Cream of tartar is effective in rust stain removal as it is slightly abrasive and acidic. Meanwhile baking soda when mixed with water results in an alkaline solution that also dissolves rust. You may get confused however with hydrogen peroxide as it can increase rusting. However, when you mix it properly with cream of tartar and baking soda, it becomes an effective rust stain removal cream.

You can mix 1/4 cup baking soda with one teaspoon of cream of tartar. Make a stain removal cream by adding a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Eyeball the mixture until a paste is formed. You can then rub this paste on top of the cloth to remove rust stains. Let the cream sit on the fabric for at least 30 minutes. Rinse the fabric with cold water. You can then wash it as usual in your washer.

4. Heavy-Duty Laundry Detergent

If the rust stain is new and light, you can use a heavy-duty laundry detergent to remove it. Follow the care label on your clothes before washing the garment. Before using the dryer, check the stained area. If there are still rust stains left, you can air-dry the garment so the stain doesn’t set.

5. Commercial Rust Removers

It can be tricky to remove rust stains from colored clothes. Commercial rust removers can help when dealing with colored clothes. But, you need to check first if the fabric is colorfast. You can easily find commercial rust removers in grocery stores. The product usually contains hydrofluoric acid or oxalic. Remember to use gloves when dealing with this solution since oxalic causes skin irritation.

You can use a commercial stain remover by applying it to the rust-stained cloth. You can then let it sit for a few seconds. After that, rub the area with a piece of cloth. Rinse the garment using cold water and wash it in the washer.

In Conclusion

Rust stain is one of the most troublesome stains you will encounter. But it should not prevent you from doing the things you love, especially with your family and loved ones.

The key to removing rust stains is to deal with them as fast as you can. Using bleach is not an option for this type of stain as the bleach will make matters worse. To remove rust stains from clothes, you have to do it by hand first using the solutions mentioned above. Only then can you proceed to wash it in the washer. Make sure that you check the stained fabric first before you dry them using the washer too. The heat from the washer can seal rust stains.

When in doubt, always check the care label instructions of your clothes. Also, spot test the fabric first before using any cleaning solutions. Have a rust-free summer!

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About Margaret Croom

Peggy is a contributor and editor at Tidy Diary. She is a proud mother of three children who inspired her to level up her tidying skills. She enjoys her me time by lounging in her favorite nook with a lovely cup of tea. She also keeps a handy diary.