I hadn’t planned to write about how to get rust marks out of fabric.
It wasn’t even on my radar.
But there I was – staring at two pieces of fabric (one a pillowcase and the other a tablecloth) that had lots of rust dots in random places.
I had been soaking old table linens in a tub with a mixture of Oxiclean to remove the yellowness that comes with age.
After I dumped out the Oxiclean mixture and went to put the fabrics into the washing machine, I notice the rust spots.
They weren’t there when I put the pieces into the tub.
How in the freaking world did they get there???
I still have no clue.
Clearly, there was some small piece of metal in the tub that rusted and then soaked into the pillowcase and tablecloth.
The random rust spots were a result of my stirring the fabric in the water, thereby moving the fabric around and creating spots in different places.
But how to remove the rust marks from the fabric?
Obviously, Oxiclean wouldn’t do it – after all, the pieces were sitting in an Oxiclean bath.
Oxiclean doesn’t remove rust stains, and from everything I read, bleach will make them worse.
Don’t try to bleach rust marks!
So, I decided to play scientist and use the rust spots as different areas to test rust removal methods.
Below I have before and after photos, and my results (of course yours might be different).
These are real results.
This is not a post that tells you how to get rid of rust stains, without actually doing the work.
Check out the 4 ways to remove rust stains from fabric that I tried.
Supplies Used to Test How to Remove Rust Stains from Fabric
Please note that this article may contain affiliate links. I may get commissions (at no cost to you) for purchases made through these links. You can read my full disclosure for more details.
How to Get Rust Marks Out of Fabric
The best thing about the following four ways to remove rust stains from fabric is they use everyday household products.
Items you probably already have in your pantry.
I didn’t try a commercial cleaner to remove rust marks from fabric.
I don’t need to clean rust stains from clothes or other fabrics very often. This was a first for me.
So why go buy a rust stain remover for clothes if I didn’t need to?
Note: I tried the four ways to remove rust stains listed below and then put my fabric in the wash. The results were minimal. I then went back and tried each method a second time, but this time I put the fabric out in the sun for a few hours before putting it in the wash.
That was key – putting your fabric in the sun is the key to seeing real results!
Method 1: Does using lemon juice to remove rust from fabric work?
The first method I tried to get rid of a rust stain was using lemon juice.
Just straight lemon juice.
I cut a piece of lemon and rubbed the inside directly on the rust mark.
Then I squeezed a tiny bit more juice onto the rust mark and rubbed it into the fabric.
Next, I put the fabric in the sun for a few hours.
And finally, I put the fabric in the wash.
The results: The rust mark faded a little, but is still noticeable.
Method 2: Does using white vinegar to get rust stains out of fabric work?
One method I researched to remove rust stains from clothes and fabric is to put distilled white vinegar on the rust mark.
So, I put a little white vinegar directly on the rust stain and let it saturate.
Then I put the fabric out in the sun and after a few hours, I put it in the wash.
The results: using vinegar to remove a rust stain didn’t work. I didn’t see much of a difference from the before to the after.
Method 3: Does using lemon juice and salt to clean rust marks from fabric work?
The third way to remove rust from fabric is using lemon juice and salt.
I started with method 1 above, and then sprinkled a little table salt onto the rust stain and rubbed the salt into the fabric.
Then I put the fabric outside to sit in the direct sun for a few hours.
After which I put the fabric in the wash.
The results: YES! This method totally worked. Using lemon juice and salt to get rid of rust stains did the job.
Method 4: Does using cream of tartar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide to get rust marks out of fabric work?
The fourth way to clean rust out of fabric was using a combination of items from my pantry.
I mixed about 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and rubbed it directly into the rust stain.
Then I poured a little hydrogen peroxide directly over the mixture and stain.
Just enough to coat the rust mark.
*Note: hydrogen peroxide is safe to use on most fabrics, but its mild bleaching might affect fabrics that aren’t colorfast. So you should first test your fabric in an inconspicuous area.
Then I put the fabric outside to sit in the sun for a few hours.
And finally, put it in the wash.
The results: using cream of tartar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide didn’t work to remove the rust stain. I had high hopes when I rubbed the mixture into the fabric and put it out in the sun. But after washing, you can see the rust mark was still there.
Conclusions on the best way to remove rust stains with common pantry staples
Conclusion #1: Key ingredient to removing rust marks
My first takeaway in trying to remove rust stains from fabric is that putting your items in the sun is key to seeing results.
Sunshine is necessary.
It was the key ingredient to getting rid of the rust marks.
Without it, my results were minimal (as noted at the beginning of my testing).
Conclusion #2: The best way to get out rust stains
My second takeaway is that the combination of salt and lemon juice was the obvious winner and proven best way to remove rust from fabric.
In fact, after I finished testing the four different methods to clean rust stains, I went back to the stains that were still there and used the salt, lemon juice, and sunshine combination on them.
All but two rust stains were completely gone. But now they are super faint.
Yay for lemon juice and salt!
It’s the way to go, and hands-down the best way to remove rust stains effectively from fabric.
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I definitely learned a new use for lemon juice! Thanks for sharing this excellent tip.
Lemon juice has so many wonderful uses. Thanks for letting me know you liked this tip.
Super helpful! I will need to keep this in mind as my husband always seems to stain his work clothes in weird ways😅
LOL! Husbands are like that. Glad it was helpful for you.
Thank you for the info! I had no idea this was possible. Very helpful!
Yay! Glad to hear you found it helpful.
Does it have to be fresh lemon? Will bottled lemon juice work? TYIA,
I haven’t tried bottled lemon juice, but I don’t think it would work. Bottled lemon juice has additives. The one in my fridge contains lemon oil and potassium metabisulfite. It might be minimal, but I wouldn’t use anything with “oil” to treat my linens.