Effectively removing old rust stains from fabric is all about following the proper methodology and using the right stain removal products. Luckily, the best rust remover for laundry is often made up of ingredients that you already have lying around the house, like lemon juice, vinegar, or baking soda.
Why Are Rust Stains So Hard to Treat?
Rust is created when metal oxidizes, or combines with oxygen. When a rusty object then comes in contact with any type of fabric, that rust will flake off or smear, transferring onto the fabric and creating a stain.
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The longer rust is left untreated on any given fabric, the tougher it becomes to remove. Likewise, if you wash and dry rust-stained fabric before treating stains completely, the heat from your washing machine can set those stains into your item forever. Bleach can also set unwanted rust stains into fabric indefinitely. These limitations aside, removing rust stains is, in fact, totally possible.
Finding the Best Rust Remover for Laundry
The best rust remover for laundry combines some sort of acidic agent with an abrasive. The acidic component acts to dissolve the stain, while the abrasive ingredient helps to lift the stain remnants. The simplest combination to try first is lemon juice and salt.
To implement this stain removal method, lay your rust-stained item flat on top of a clean sheet, preferably out in the sunshine. Sprinkle salt on the stain and squirt lemon juice on top of the salt. Completely saturate the stained area. Then blot the area with a clean white towel. Let this solution dry on your garment. Remove the solution with warm water and repeat if the stain remains. Once the stain has completely disappeared, launder your item in your washing machine.
Cream of tartar is also a mild cleaning agent you can use to treat rust stains on clothing and fabric. Combine 1 teaspoon each of cream of tartar and baking soda with a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to create a paste. Apply this paste to the rust stain and leave it alone for 30 minutes. Rinse off the paste and let the affected piece of clothing or fabric dry completely. If the stain still remains, repeat this process. Wash your item in the washing machine once the stain is completely gone.
If you're working with a rust stain on a natural fiber, like silk, that cannot go into the washing machine, once you've treated the stain with lemon juice and salt, rinse the treated area with warm water and lightly dab the silk with distilled white vinegar.
Protect Fabrics From Further Damage
Whichever method you choose to use on rust stains, you'll first want to test the solution on a less visible area of your garment. This will ensure that if the cleaning solution causes any unwanted discoloration, you can switch course before making matters worse.
Additionally, if rust stains are becoming a common problem for your wardrobe, examine potentially staining sources, like your water heater, washing machine, and dryer. All of these machines run the risk of developing rust and iron deposits over time, and this can unfortunately lead to rust stains on your clothing. Be sure to repair any problem areas before running any more rounds of laundry.