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Picture of How To Remove Rust Stains from Clothing
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I can't claim credit for this information - it's something I picked up a long time ago - I don't remember where (but Kudos to the Creator :)

Next time you pull that favorite white shirt out of the washer only to find rust stains on it - don't despair - there is a cheap, easy, and effective method for removing rust stains that costs almost nothing - and you probably already have the ingredients at home.

What you will need:

Table Salt
Lemon Juice
Sunlight

Mix the salt and juice in proportions that make a kind of paste-like slurry. You want a mixture where you don't have excess juice sloshing around - enough salt to "hold" the juice, but not enough to be crumbly. There is no exact proportion here, but it's better to err on the side of too much juice since the fabric will absorb it quickly,and you want to be able to spread the slurry out before it gets too dry.

Take the paste/slurry and smear it on the rust stains - try to cover them evenly. Then, take the garment outside and set it in direct sunlight for around 30-60 minutes - and the stains should be gone. You may have to re-treat really bad stains (but I've never had to). When the stains are gone, just launder as you normally would. I've found this method works best in the Summer - the Winter sun doesn't seem strong enough.

Disclaimer: I don't know how well this would work on colored garments (i.e. non-white clothing), but I think it would be OK.
gildedgypsies2 months ago

I find a lot of instructions on removing rust stains to say "put the garment outside in the sunlight"; but I live in New York City so sitting a garment outside to dry in the sun really isn't an option. Is this really a necessary step to removing the rust?

jwilliamsen (author)  gildedgypsies2 months ago

Hmmm - well, I can't say for sure if it's UV light that's required or just the heat. I tried this same recipe in the winter - putting the garment in the sunlight coming through a window, and it didn't work very well at all - nowhere near how well it works on a nice hot day. I suppose it might be possible to get it to work with a heat lamp - or just wear the garment next time you go tanning (JK). Sorry I'm not more help in answering this - I don't know the complete chemistry off hand - only that you're probably converting Iron 3 (rust) to Iron 2 (transparent).

I can assure you that this works like a charm. My son's pattered swimming shorts were ruined by him throwing them over a rusty rail to dry leaving a hideous rust line. This recipe sorted them out miraculously, and no damage to the pattern. Amazing - thank you so much. Interestingly I tried vinegar first, which didn't shift the rust, but the lemon juice worked brilliantly. Thanks so much.

I have a pink dress that was accidentally washed with blue jeans... needless to say the color from the jeans transferred slightly to the pink dress making it look dingy and in some areas blue spots. Would this work, or does anyone have other suggestions?
jwilliamsen (author)  HEKNOWSTHEPLANS3 years ago
Wow - that's a tough one. The problem is that "dye is dye" and once it's bonded with the fibers of the fabric, it's hard for anything to remove *that* specific color. I don't think the lemon juice/salt mixture would work because what is happening with this "fix" is a chemical conversion of the iron creating the stain from a visible form to a transparent form.

I don't know if there is a such thing as a "dye specific" remover - but then I'm no expert in dying fabric - so there might well be some way to do it. Your best bet would probably be to consult a professional dry-cleaner and see if they have a solution that might work.
I have used this before - it really works!
sunshiine3 years ago
Thanks for sharing!
twighahn4 years ago
thank u