How to Clean Rust off Metal Surfaces of Your Home Appliances

We all have metal appliances and fixtures in our homes. Over time, they can show signs of wear, most commonly rust. Who hasn’t grumbled when reached for a favorite skillet, disappointed to see that familiar reddish-brown tint? Rust isn’t just unsightly; it gradually degrades the metal, reducing its strength and lifespan. Given this, it’s crucial we learn how to effectively clean and prevent rust, ensuring our items last longer and perform their best. 

Supplies for Cleaning Rust off Metal Surfaces 

Before you can wage war on rust, you’ll need to gather some essential supplies. The items you choose may vary based on the techniques you use. 

Supply 1: Protective Wear 

Regardless of the rust removal method you choose, it’s crucial to have protective wear. This includes: 

  1. Safety glasses: These will shield your eyes from dust, splinters, or any accidental splashes of cleaning agents. 

  1. Rubber gloves: These will protect your hands from harsh cleaning agents and sharp edges on the rusted item. 

  1. Apron or old clothes: Rust removal can get messy. Wearing an apron or old clothes that you don’t mind staining will keep your usual attire clean. 

Supply 2: Cleaning Agents 

To dissolve and scrub away the rust, you’ll need cleaning agents. Depending on your preference, this could be:                                               

  1. Homemade solutions: Items like vinegar, baking soda, or lemon juice. 

  1. Store-bought rust removers: A commercial rust remover can do the job for tougher rust stains. These usually contain strong acids or other chemicals specifically designed to dissolve rust. 

Supply 3: Scrubbing Tools 

You’ll need to scrub the surface to remove the rust particles once your rust-dissolving agent has done its work. Here’s what you might need: 

  1. Steel wool or abrasive brush: These are great for scrubbing off larger rust particles. 

  1. Old toothbrush: An old toothbrush can get into hard-to-reach areas for smaller or more intricate items. 

How to Clean Rust Off Metal Surfaces: Homemade Rust Removers 

Sometimes, the most effective solutions can be found in our kitchen cupboards. Here are three DIY rust-removal methods. 

Method 1: Vinegar Bath 

Vinegar is more than just a cooking ingredient; it’s also a versatile cleaning agent, particularly when dealing with rust due to its acetic acid content. 

Step 1: Pour white vinegar into a container large enough to fully submerge your rusted item. If the item is too large to be submerged, soak a rag in vinegar and wrap it around the rusted area. 

Step 2: Leave the item in the vinegar bath overnight. The acetic acid in the vinegar will react with the rust, helping to dissolve it. 

Step 3: Scrub the item with a brush to remove any loosened rust particles. Steel wool or an abrasive brush can be particularly effective here. 

Step 4: Rinse the item thoroughly with water to remove residual vinegar, then dry it thoroughly to prevent new rust. 

Method 2: Baking Soda Paste 

Baking soda, or bicarbonate of soda, is mildly alkaline and can help dissolve rust while also being gentle on metal surfaces. 

Step 1: Create a thick paste with baking soda and water. You’re aiming for a consistency that’s easy to apply but will stay on your appliance’s surface. 

Step 2: Apply this mixture to the rusted surface using a spatula or an old toothbrush. Make sure all rusted areas are covered. 

Step 3: Let it sit for a few hours. This gives the baking soda time to react with the rust. 

Step 4: Scrub away the paste with a brush, taking the rust with it. A toothbrush can be useful for intricate items. 

Method 3: Lemon and Salt 

The combination of lemon and salt can be effective for lighter rust stains. The citric acid in the lemon helps dissolve the rust, and the salt acts as a mild abrasive to scrub it away. 

Step 1: Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the rusted area.                                                                               

Step 2: Cut a lemon in half, squeeze the juice over the salt, and soak it completely. 

Step 3: Let this mixture sit for a couple of hours. 

Step 4: Use the rind to scrub the rust away. Reapply the leftover salt-lemon paste if the rust persists. Let it sit for a few hours and scrub until the rust disappears.  

Method 4: Citric Acid 

Found naturally in citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges, citric acid can also be used as an effective rust remover. It can also be purchased in a pure, powdered form. 

Step 1: Dissolve the citric acid in water. Use a concentration of about 2–3 tablespoons of citric acid per liter of water. Stir until fully dissolved. The exact concentration can vary; a stronger solution will work faster but also has a higher risk of etching the metal. 

Step 2: Submerge your rusted item in the solution. Ensure that it’s fully covered. For large items, apply the solution directly to the rusted area. 

Step 3: Allow the item to soak in the citric acid solution. This could range from a few hours to overnight, depending on the severity of the rust. Use a brush to scrub off the rust. Repeat the soaking process until the rust is completely gone. 

Step 4: Neutralization is crucial if you’re using a high concentration of citric acid. Neutralize the acid by washing the item with a solution of 1 cup of baking soda per gallon of water, then rinse and dry again. 

How to Clean Rust Off Metal Surfaces with Store-Bought Products 

While homemade solutions are often sufficient for mild to moderate rust, severe or stubborn cases might call for store-bought rust removers. These specially formulated products contain stronger chemicals designed to quickly and efficiently remove rust. Here’s how you can use these products effectively: 

1. Liquid Rust Removers 

Liquid rust removers are ideal for smaller items as they usually require the rusty object to be submerged for a period. Simply pour the liquid into a container, fully immerse the rusted item, and allow it to soak for the time specified on the product label. 

2. Rust Removing Sprays 

Spray-type rust removers are convenient for larger items or areas that are hard to reach. Spray the product directly onto the rusted area, ensuring complete coverage. Let it sit for the suggested amount of time, then scrub and rinse. Sprays often include a penetrating feature that allows the product to seep into tight spaces or deeply pitted areas. 

3. Gel-Based Rust Removers 

Gel rust removers are perfect for vertical surfaces or targeted rust treatment as the gel clings to surfaces and won’t drip. To use, apply the gel to the rusted area with a brush, and leave it to work its magic for the specified time. Then scrub, rinse, and dry. 

4. Rust Converter Primers 

Unlike the others, rust converter primers don’t remove rust; instead, they chemically convert rust into a stable, paintable surface. They are ideal for large projects where removing all the rust isn’t practical. To use, remove any loose rust and scale, then apply the primer. It will convert the rust and provide a primed surface ready for painting. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Commercial rust removers can be hazardous, so always wear protective gear and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Use in a well-ventilated area and dispose of used products responsibly. 

How to Prevent Rust 

While rust removal can be simple with the right tools and know-how, prevention is even better. Taking proactive steps to stop rust from forming can save time and money and extend the life of your metal appliances and items. 

Tip 1: Regular Maintenance 

Rust is an iron oxide that forms when iron or an alloy containing iron, like steel, is exposed to oxygen and moisture over a prolonged period. As such, the best way to prevent rust is to prevent this exposure. 

Keep metal dry: Make it a habit of drying off any metal items and surfaces that get wet. This includes drying kitchen knives before storing them and wiping down appliances and outdoor furniture after rain. 

Clean regularly: Regular cleaning can also help prevent rust. Dirt and grime can trap moisture against the metal’s surface, providing a suitable environment for rust to form. When cleaning, avoid using harsh, abrasive materials that could scratch the surface, as these scratches can provide sites for rust to start. 

Store properly: Proper storage is another critical factor in rust prevention. When possible, store metal items in a dry, climate-controlled environment. If outdoor storage is unavoidable, consider using protective covers to keep the elements at bay. 

Tip 2: Protective Coatings 

Protective coatings create a barrier between the metal and the environment, preventing exposure to moisture and oxygen. 

Paint: Paint is one of the most common rust-preventive coatings. It’s ideal for large items like cars and outdoor furniture. Before painting, prep the surface by cleaning it thoroughly and removing any existing rust. 

Wax or oil: Wax or oil can provide a simple, effective barrier against moisture. This is particularly useful for tools or other small metal items. Just apply a light coating of protective wax or oil with a cloth, then wipe away the excess. 

Time to replace your appliances? 

If you happen to notice rust on your home appliances, know that it can compromise the structural integrity of the appliances, potentially leading to safety hazards while affecting the appliance's performance or contaminating your food or water, so it's best to consider a replacement. 

To keep your home running smoothly and efficiently Coast Appliances offers the best deals for major home appliances from 50+ top brands with thousands of models ready to ship!  

FAQs on How to Remove Rust from Metal Surfaces 

What’s the easiest way to get rust off of metal? 

Soak the item in a vinegar bath for a few hours. Scrub off the loosened rust with a brush. 

What removes rust the fastest? 

Commercial rust removers generally work the fastest, but they contain strong chemicals. Always use these products with caution and according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

What is a natural rust remover for metal? 

White vinegar, due to its acetic acid content, is a potent natural rust remover. It can be used alone or together with baking soda or salt. 

Will Dawn remove rust from metal? 

Dawn dish soap can help clean metal surfaces but is not specifically designed to remove rust. You’ll need a more potent agent like vinegar or a commercial rust remover for rust removal.