Below you will discover vinegar rust removal tips for removing rust with vinegar from metal, cast iron skillets, clothes, and carpets. Say goodbye to those ugly rust stains!
I am not a fan of rust.
I don’t like the color and I don’t like how it damages the surfaces underneath it. It makes things less shiny, less perfect, less nice. And many people don’t actually know that you can use vinegar to remove rust from many objects!
Hate cleaning but love a clean house? Pick up this printable Spring Cleaning Bundle and you'll be able to clean it all without feeling overwhelmed!
I didn’t really know this until two years ago when I was doing some cleaning experiment for my blog post on how to remove rust from a bicycle. We had gifted my son a nice Schwinn tricycle for his birthday, but because we lived in an apartment and it stayed outside all the time, it started rusting fairly quickly which made me super sad for all the reasons I mentioned above.
I wanted this (kinda expensive) tricycle to last a long time! Ideally, it would pass down to the next kid in our family for them to ride. I knew that wouldn’t be the case if I let it rust so much it broke apart (which is sadly what ended up happening – that and losing one too many screws).
But, the good news is that in my desire to preserve my son’s trike, I discovered the amazingness that is removing rust with vinegar! It worked so well! I have since done some vinegar rust removal on other metals, like on my friend’s Foosball table’s rods.
Removing Rust With Vinegar
If you’ve ever wondered “will vinegar remove rust” the answer is a solid YES! I want to share with you some tips and information today on how to use vinegar to remove rust from different items. Vinegar is a cheap, natural solution that works, so I hope it can work wonders for you!
How to Remove Rust with Vinegar
In order to use vinegar to remove rust from metal, there are a few ways you can do it.
1. Soak the item in Vinegar
If you can soak the item in vinegar for a while, that will work the best. Depending on how severe the rust is, let it soak for anywhere from 10-60 minutes.
Some recommend adding salt to the vinegar soak, up to a cup per 1 gallon of white vinegar, or 1/2 cup per 1/2 gallon.
2. Scrub with Foil
Then come back and scrub the item with some aluminum foil or scour pad or steel wool.
If you cannot, or don’t want to take the time to, disassemble the item (like if it’s a bike or trike or another larger object) then you can do what I did for my son’s trike – use a scrunched up ball of aluminum foil and dip it into some white distilled vinegar and then use the ball of aluminum foil to scrub at the rust on the metal.
You could also dip rags or paper towels in vinegar and then place them on the metal to soak there for a while first before scrubbing.
You may want to use gloves as your hands will get very black and nasty looking while scrubbing off the rust, not to mention smell like vinegar the rest of the day.
3. Neutralize with baking soda
Once you have removed the rust as much as you can (sometimes there is still some permanent discoloration of the metal underneath the rust now) it is important to neutralize the acid, dry it and then seal it.
To neutralize the acid in the vinegar, rinse the metal in some warm water. If you doubt that’s enough, dissolve 1 cup of baking soda in a gallon of water and let it soak in there for about 10 minutes (which, by the way, baking soda is also a good abrasive and rust-remover, so you can use it to scrub a little more rust off too).
Remove the object from the baking soda soak, rinse with clean clear water, and rub with a rag soaked in denatured alcohol (like isospropyl alcohol, acetone, or rubbing alcohol) to remove excess moisture.
4. Seal the metal
Now you’d want to seal the metal.
I am not sure the BEST way to seal metal in order to help prevent more rust from developing. I wish I was! But, I do know that applying some sort of wax or other water-resistant material or painting it, is what you want to do, though some say rubbing it with some light machine oil or gun oil can help too (but again will depend on what you’re removing rust from).
A simple way to do this is to grab some wax paper and rub it all over the rust-free metal. I did this after I cleaned the foosball table rods. It not only helped prevent rust from forming so fast again (because it will come back) but it also helped the rods slide smoothly and quickly, which is rather important in a game of foosball.
But, you can get something like Turtle Wax, Rust-Oleum spray paint, or other products to help you protect the metal. It will likely depend on the type of metal you are trying to seal and its use and purpose.
How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron with Vinegar
If you are dealing with a rusty cast iron pan, it is totally easy to remove rust from cast iron with vinegar! Well, as long as it’s not so deeply rust or pitted cause then it’s best to just pitch that pan.
1. Soak the pans in vinegar
To do remove rust from cast iron with vinegar, you’re going to do a vinegar soak.
Use a 50/50 water and vinegar mix and put it in a bucket, plugged sink, or dish large enough for you to submerge your cast iron skillet into it and let your cast iron soak in vinegar 1-8 hours, only as long as needed to remove the rust. You don’t want to damage the original surface.
2. Scrub with Steel Wool
Once that’s done, scrub it with a good abrasive pad or steel wool and a mild detergent and some warm water.
3. Dry It Immediately
Then dry it with a towel right away or stick it on the stove quickly to warm up and evaporate any lingering water.
4. Re-Season the Skillet
Now it’s time to officially re-season your cast iron skillet! Line the bottom of your oven with some aluminum foil, then preheat it to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Coat the pan in a quality high-smoke oil like sunflower oil, grapeseed oil or vegetable oil, inside, outside, top, bottom, handle – all of it – and then flip it upside down and put it in the oven for an hour.
Once it’s done, pull it out and it’s ready to go! Be sure to dry and recoat it with oil after every use and wash it without dish soap! Just use some water and coarse salt as needed.
How to Remove Rust Stains from Carpet with Vinegar
Sometimes you may not want to remove rust stains on metal but on your carpet! Perhaps you left something on the rug and it got wet and left that awful orangey-red mark on your floor.
I have (thankfully) never had to deal with this one! I did some internet searching and it seems the best method for removing rust stains with vinegar from your carpet is to:
- Remove the rust source from the carpet.
- Scrape up any visible rust from the carpet fibers with a butter knife or fork and vacuum it up.
- Pour white distilled vinegar onto the rust stain.
- Let sit for 5-30 minutes.
- Blot with a clean white cloth (don’t rub!)
- Keep blotting until dry.
- Let air dry.
- Repeat, as needed, until the stain is completely gone.
If it’s not working well, you can try using some dish soap and a damp cloth to blot the rust stain on your carpet or adding some lemon juice (said to help lighten remaining stains) or salt to the vinegar and then blot. Or you can dilute some ammonia and try pouring that onto the stain and then blot it.
RELATED: How to Get Slime Out of Carpets
How to Remove Rust from Clothes with Vinegar
When my twins were toddlers, they destroyed their room at nap and bedtime, so we removed everything from their room. Or so we thought. They found the one thing in their room – the floor vent – and starting shoving their socks and other clothing down the register. Not only was this annoying, it also left ugly orange stains on their clothes.
So not happy about their shenanigans.
Anyway, if for whatever reason you too are facing the dilemma of rust stains on clothes, let me tell you how to remove rust from clothes with vinegar.
- Remove any surface rust stains with a scraper of some kind (butter knife) and shake it off.
- Pour vinegar on the rust stain on your clothes and scrub gently with a toothbrush.
- Leave it in the vinegar for an hour.
- Remove from vinegar and then pat/blot well.
- Rinse with warm water. Pat dry with clean rag.
- Let it air dry, preferably out in the sunshine (can add some lemon juice before placing out in sun).
- Repeat the process if needed.
- Launder the clothes as normal.
You will need to make sure your rust stain clothes are color-fast and won’t bleed and to be gentle with the scrubbing motion as you don’t want to damage the fabric.
I hope this information helps you in removing rust with vinegar! Vinegar is such a great natural cleaning product and cheap too, so I hope it will work well for your rust removal needs! If you have any additional tips for removing rust with vinegar, please leave them in the comments below!
More Cleaning Tutorials
Check out these other great cleaning tutorials: