How to Remove Rust from Practically Anything (2024)

I think you would agree with me that rust is a nuisance that we can all live without. The good news is that there are simple and effect ways to give rust the old boot. But, how you deal with that rust should really depend on the type of item that has rusted. As much as I love vinegar, you can’t just use it on everything, or at least you shouldn’t. Tailoring your treatment to the specific situation can mean the difference between a renewed item or a destroyed one. In this post, I will explain how to remove rust from practically anything.

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How to Remove Rust from Practically Anything (1)

When it comes to removing rust, there are two steps that you must consider – restore and protect. Obviously, we would first have to come up with a way to restore the item back to its pre-rust state, or as close to that as possible. Once that is achieved, we need a way to protect the item from forming more rust in the future. Below are several common problem areas and how to correct them, broken down by the best methods.

How to Remove Rust from Common Household Items…

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Use Vinegar:

Since I already mentioned vinegar earlier, let’s just get into the nitty-gritty of using it to remove rust. Yes, it will remove rust, if given enough time. You can soak just about anything in vinegar (usually for several hours) and it will eat away at the rust. However, vinegar will also eat away at metals and some types of stones. So, you will need to weigh the benefits against the risks.

For the best results, use vinegar to soak items like glass, ceramic or porcelain. These items can develop rust stains when a wet, metal object is left in close contact for a long length of time. They will not be harmed by the vinegar, and can be left to soak until the item is completely clean.

Use CLR:

One of the most used rust removers that is used for interior cleaning is CLR.* This is great for rusty surfaces that can’t be soaked in vinegar, such as fiberglass showers and doors. It also states that it is safe to use for cleaning a coffee pot, but personally, I have never used it on anything from which I eat or drink. I recommend using vinegar for those situations. In addition, there is a long list of items that their website says you should not use this product on, including: natural stone, aluminum, Corian, Formica, and steam irons. Just to name a few.

How to Remove Rust from Cast Iron Pans:

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My cast iron pan is my very favorite, cooking device. Its use is second in line only to my Pampered Chef stoneware.I am very diligent about keeping it in tip-top shape. But, occasionally it will get left to soak in the sink, where it is sometimes forgotten. I’ve had a few instances where I needed to remove some rust.

(But Wait!……….)

Remember what I said earlier about vinegar on metals. Well, I am sure that you have seen all over the internet how you can clean your cast iron pan with vinegar. Sure, you can do that, and it will definitely remove the rust. However, you are also subjecting your cast iron to unnecessary damage. If left long enough, irreversible pitting will occur.

Luckily, I live in the wonderful state of Tennessee, the same good old state that brings you your Lodge Cast Iron pans.* So, I decided to get my advice straight from the horse’s mouth – or more accurate, straight from the Foundry. They say that the proper method to remove rust from a cast iron pan is to first, dry scrub it with a steel wool scrubber. Then, using a bit of soap and water, scrub it with a nylon or soft scrubber.

Once all the rust has been removed, its time to move on to protecting your pans from more rust. For that, you will simply need to season your pan again. This will restore the coating that was removed during the rusting and clean up phase.

How to Remove Rust from Exterior Surfaces…

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With exterior surfaces, the need to follow up with a protective layer is vital in preventing the rust from reoccurring. In most cases, this will mean that you need to apply some rust resistant paint* after the rust has ben removed. The most common methods for exterior surfaces are listed below.

Wire Brushes:

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There is nothing that beats a good scrubbing to remove rust. I have always kept a good wire brush* on hand for those early signs of surface rust. A few quick strokes and the rust is gone. You can also use wire brushes in conjunction with a chemical for even quicker treatments.

For those areas that are a bit deeper than just surface rust, I generally use wire wheel brushes.* They make fast work of rust, but can not be used on all surfaces. You can even get wire bottle brushes* in all different sizes. I have a set of varying sizes that I use for cleaning cylinder shaped areas.

Naval Jelly:

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When my fencing develops rust in and around crevices, I always go with naval jelly.* It is thick enough to stay on vertical surfaces, and I can apply it and let it set. It also does not evaporate like other rust removers. Once it has done its thing, I wash it away and follow-up with my manual wire brush to remove any remaining bits.

Sand Blasting:

For seriously rusty surfaces, you may want to consider sand blasting. It is quick but also the most costly. At my first home, I had an iron deck which was covered in rust. I had it sandblasted and then repainted it with some rust proof paint. It made the once unusable deck into a nice little outside space, and was much easier than ripping it out and replacing it.

Convert Instead of Removing:

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There are a few products out there that can be applied directly over rust, and they will prevent the rust from spreading. It goes on just like primer. What’s more, you can paint right over the converter once it has dried. The one that I prefer is Corroseal.* It is perfect for covering rust on pieces that are too complex to remove yourself. Great for iron chairs, tables, and outdoor gear. Just make sure to wear gloves when applying this stuff, because it is difficult to clean from your hands.

How to Remove Rust from Tools and Gears Parts…

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Tools and gears should not be handled the same way that other items are handled. You wouldn’t want to put CLR on anything that will be exposed to gas or oil. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend soaking a rusty lock in vinegar.

Boeshield VS WD40:

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Some people prefer to use WD40 to remove rust from tools and other devices. I have tried it, and in a pinch, it will work on lightly rusted items. However, my preferred product is Boeshield. They have a rust removing product as well as a protection product. The protection product (Boeshield T-9*) is actually the bomb for preventing rust on tools. It is one of my 10 workshop must haves. But, the rust remover is perfect if you first need to get rid of some rust.

I use it on hand tools as well as power tools (table saw, locks, hinges, all hand tools, etc.) . If you buy their kit,* you will not only get the rust remover and T-9, but you will also get a resin, gum and pitch remover to help keep your saw blades in perfect condition. And, perfect cuts begin with good blades.

Final Comments…

Now, I am sure that someone is going to read me the riot act for saying to not use vinegar on some of these items, and instead recommending other chemicals. Just understand that I am not anti vinegar. On the contrary, I love it in so many ways. I use it to help keep my washing machine fresh and to keep my wood floors clean. And, if you want to use it to take rust off of your cast iron or even your stainless steel, please feel free. But, I try to only post accurate information, and I would remiss if I recommended it as a catch-all, without pointing out the possible pit falls.

If you have any special tricks that you use to remove rust, please feel free to let me know in the comments section. I am always interested in learning new techniques. :-)
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How to Remove Rust from Practically Anything (2024)
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