Most pool ladders are made of stainless steel, which is highly resistant to rust. This is a good thing, since a large portion of those ladders will be underwater in an environment that is highly conducive to rust formation. However, over time pool chemicals generally will create a situation where some rust will form on your pool ladders. While preventative maintenance is best, you can remove rust from your pool ladders and even delay further formation indefinitely with the right treatments.
Remove the ladder from the pool. Wipe down the ladder with a dry rag to make sure it is completely dry.
Combine a cup of baking soda and a cup of the powdered cleanser in a bucket. Add enough water to make a thick, spreadable paste.
Coat the entire surface of the ladder with your cleaning paste. Depending on how big the ladder is, you may have to mix more paste. Make sure that any rusted spots in particular are completely hidden beneath the paste.
Dampen your nylon scrubber and get to work. If you can see the "grain" of the stainless steel, try to scrub mainly with the grain. However, this is not always visible on pool ladders, so you may just have to scrub. As you scrub, the baking soda and cleanser will remove the rust.
Rinse down the ladder. Use a garden hose to rinse all of the remaining paste off the ladder. Use plenty of water, and keep an eye out for spots of rust you may have missed. If necessary, you can hit them again with the cleaning paste and scrubber.
Dry the ladder. Use firm pressure and buff it with a clean, dry cloth. Make sure that the metal is completely dry before you move on.
Wax the ladder. A layer of automotive wax can dramatically improve your ladder's odds when it comes to battling rust. Use a clean rag to apply the wax in circular motions. You will likely need to let the wax set for 10 to 30 minutes, but since all brands are slightly different, refer to the specific manufacturer's instructions to determine how long to wait after application before buffing.
Buff the pool ladder. Use a clean, dry rag and firm pressure. Once all the excess wax has been removed, your sparkling pool ladder is ready to be replaced in the pool.