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How to Get Rust Stains Out of Clothes

Whether it's from a bicycle chain or an old fence – rust can stain clothes fast! Find out how to pre-treat & remove rust stains with our expert tips.


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removing rust from clothes

When the weather is nice, and we’re out and about enjoying the great outdoors, it’s no wonder if the last thing on our minds is how to remove rust. However, iron and steel are used to make many everyday items, from railings to gardening tools – and when these materials come into contact with air and water, rust is sure to follow.

Rust is composed of iron oxide, and because of the stubborn nature of this particular mark, it can be difficult to know how to remove rust stains from clothing. Flaky and easily smeared into a larger stain, rust looks a lot worse than it is – so there’s no reason rust removal should be impossible.

Commercial rust cleaner is available in most hardware stores and is designed to remove rust from clothes on most materials. However, the chemical solution of these products is often strong, and you should be extremely careful to test it on a small, inconspicuous area of your clothing item first. Always consider the manufacturer’s instructions, and follow up the stain removal process with a laundry cycle and a quality detergent like Omo Ultimate Liquid.

How To Remove Rust Stains from Clothing

The obvious answer is to steer clear from rust altogether; but we all know that when the sun is out, no stain is going to keep us from flipping some burgers on the barbecue. Instead, learning these rust removal methods means you will know exactly what to do when the inevitable happens.

  • Move fast. The quicker you can remove rust from clothes, the less chance it will have at sinking and setting into the material.

how to hand wash your clothes
  • Lemon or white vinegar are rust’s worst enemies. Lay your garment on an old towel and saturate the affected area with white vinegar or half a cut lemon.

  • Blot the stain with a clean white towel or sponge to absorb the red discolouration.

  • Place your clothing item in direct sunlight so that the stain continues to fade.

  • Wash as normal with a good quality cleaning detergent. Choose a detergent with effective stain removing powers if possible – we particularly like Omo Ultimate Liquid, which can also be used as a pre-treatment. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and launder at the recommended setting, as detailed on the clothing care label.

  • Leave to dry and repeat step two if necessary.

So, now you know how to remove rust stains from clothing easily! Cleaning is often a question of having the right know-how rather than scrubbing for hours: once you understand what you’re dealing with, coming up with a solution is easy.

Frequently asked questions on removing rust from clothes

Can I use bleach to remove rust stains from clothes?

No, bleach can actually make rust stains worse by setting the stain into the fabric. Use a rust remover or a natural solution like lemon juice and salt instead.

Will using vinegar to remove rust stains damage my clothes?

Vinegar is a safe and effective way to remove rust stains from clothes, but it may cause some fabrics to discolor or fade. Test a small area first and dilute the vinegar with water if needed.

What if the rust stain is really old or set in?

If the rust stain is old or set in, it may be more difficult to remove. Try using a commercial rust remover or a mixture of baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. For delicate fabrics, take them to a professional cleaner.

Originally published