The Best Rust Remover for Household Use
Get rid of tough rust on every surface by using one or more of these impressive products.
Though you scoured and scrubbed to rid that ugly orange rust from your garden tools or your favorite white shirt, the stain just won’t budge. When elbow grease fails, you may choose to reach for a commercial solution—but with numerous rust removers on the market of different strengths and drawbacks, which one is best?
There are acid-based products that have traditionally been used to banish rust stains and newer formulas that rely on advances in chemistry to either remove rust or convert it to a whole new substance. Keep reading to learn how the various types of rust removers work and check out our top picks to find the best rust remover product for the job:
- BEST ALL-AROUND SPRAY: Rust Kutter Remover and Converter
- BEST FOR TOOLS: Evapo-Rust Original
- BEST FOR CLOTHES AND HOUSEHOLD STAINS: Iron OUT
- BEST RUST CONVERTER: Corroseal
- BEST FOR CARS AND OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT: WD-40 Specialist Rust Remover Soak
- BEST MULTIPURPOSE CLEANER: CLR PRO Calcium Lime Rust Remover
First, Understand Rust
Before attempting the chemical process of rust removal, it helps to understand just what rust is in the first place. Basically, iron corrodes when it is exposed to oxygen and moisture (water or humidity), the technical term for the process being oxidation. When iron molecules are oxidized they form an orangey-red residue (rust) on any surface containing—or in contact with—iron, including clothes, tools, household faucets, shower caddies, and the chrome fixtures on cars and bicycles. Rust stains are difficult to remove because of their bright color and stubborn resistance to typical cleaners like bleach and soap.
A word of caution: For delicate materials like wool, silk, or leather that have been stained by rust, find a professional cleaner rather than attempting an at-home solution. But for most other items, consider the best rust remover products ahead.
Then, Select from 3 Types of Rust Removers
1. Chemical Removers
The most common method of removing rust involves commercial-grade chemicals that eat away at rust build-up and stains. The three main types of chemical rust removers are:
- Acids, including nitric acid, acetic acid (white vinegar), phosphoric acid, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, muriatic acid, oxalic acid, and citric acid. The typical percentage of acid in a rust remover is about 30 percent—the maximum amount that can dissolve in water and serve as a cleaning agent. Though effective and fast, usually working within minutes of application, acids emit harsh chemical fumes, so you must use them in an outdoor or well-ventilated space and wear protective gear (goggles, face mask or respirator, rubber gloves).
Acids also incur the risk of surface damage due to corrosiveness. Naval Jelly, a phosphoric acid-based, caustic rust remover, is suited for heavily rusted iron or steel, but should not be used on delicate materials like fabrics, as well as aluminum, chrome, stainless steel, cement, fiberglass, marble, plastics, or painted surfaces (it will remove paint). On the plus side, naval jelly gets rid of rust in about five to 10 minutes and any excess product can be removed and cleaned with water.
- Petroleum-based solvents, found in products like WD-40. While not as corrosive or toxic as acids, these products often use pressurized gases for dispersal, which are flammable and may have respiratory risks. Expect to wait up to 24 hours for these products to take full effect.
- Sodium hydrosulfite, an active ingredient often found in powdered rust removers. This salt compound is effective in removing rust stains from fabric. Research from the U.S. General Services Administration also shows its power to remove rust stains from concrete, limestone, and marble. In home cleaning products, sodium hydrosulfite eliminates the need for scrubbing away stains and can be used in bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, and washing machines. Expect rust stains to fade within five to 30 minutes after application.
2. Chelating Agents
Newer rust removers are non-toxic, acid-free, and eco-friendly, relying on a process of chemical chelation. The product’s molecules bind to the rust particles, making it easier to wipe away rust without damaging surrounding materials. Typically, these products require you to soak rusty items for a minimum of 30 minutes to overnight, time well spent that results in rust-free, stain-free tools and surfaces.
3. Rust Converters
When there is too much rust for either a chemical or chelating product to completely remove the build-up, use a product that converts rust into a stable, black coating that serves a dual purpose: It protects the original surface and works as a primer for oil- and epoxy-based paints.
Though rust converters don’t work on aluminum, copper, stainless steel, or galvanized metal, they’re suitable for any iron or steel object that can be repainted, like garden tools, lawn equipment, fences, and iron railings. After applying, wait 24 hours before applying a second coat, and a full 48 hours before painting over the rusted area.
Finally, Pick the Best Means of Application
There are four means of application for rust removers and converters:
- Soaks are best for removing rust from tools, automotive parts, and other metallic surfaces you don’t want to scratch by scouring with abrasive pads or harsh acids.
- Sprays are helpful for household cleanup, as well as rust stains that aren’t too deep.
- Powders are best for preventing or treating rust stains on clothing, as well as sinks, toilets, and bathtubs. Powered rust removers can also be added to your washing machine and toilet bowl, making them ideal for homes with high iron content in the water supply.
- Rust converters, similar in formula to paint or primer, are applied with a brush.
The Best Rust Removers and Converters
Ready to bust some rust? The six products here rate highest with regular folks and expert reviewers for all your home and outdoor needs.
1. BEST ALL-AROUND SPRAY: Rust Kutter Remover and Converter ($16.99 for 1 qt.)
An easy-to-use spray-on product, dual-purpose Rust Kutter both removes rust and converts it into a primer-ready coating. With phosphoric acid and citric acid as active ingredients, Rust Kutter must be used in a well-ventilated or outdoor space, while wearing protective gear; it dries in about 30 minutes, after which rust can be wiped clean. It’s effective on a variety of interior and exterior surfaces, including tools, tile, marble, and masonry, but is best for items you wish to paint, as converted rust can tinge metals a whitish hue. Note: Do not use on already painted materials, as it can damage or strip the surface. Amazon customers give Rust Kutter a resounding 4.6 out of five stars. Available on Amazon.
2. BEST FOR TOOLS: Evapo-Rust Original ($16.83 for 1 gal.)
One of the first and best chelation-based rust removers on the market, Evapo-Rust is water-based, environmentally safe, non-toxic, and non-corrosive, containing no acids to irritate your eyes, skin, or nose. It’s also safe to use on un-rusted steel, plastics, PVC, cast iron cookware, toys, and most painted surfaces that may be in contact with rusty metal hardware. To remove rust fully, soak items in Evapo-Rust overnight.; if a surface cannot be fully immersed, soak a rag in the product and apply to the rust stain for 24 hours. User tip: Evapo-Rust is reusable, so you needn’t discard it after soaking your tools. Amazon customers give it 4.5 stars for great acid-free rust removal. Available on Amazon.
3. BEST FOR CLOTHES AND HOUSEHOLD STAINS: Iron OUT ($12.97 for 4 lb. 12 oz.)
Gentler than acid-based formulas, Iron OUT contains sodium metabisulfite and sodium hydrosulfite, crystals that are proven rust erasers. This septic-safe powder works for numerous household needs, including bathroom, kitchen, and laundry. It removes iron build-up in water softeners, helping maintain their performance, and can extend the life of your washing machine; if you live in an area with hard water and high iron content, you’ll want to keep Iron OUT handy. With an average of 4.5 stars (based on 800 reviews), Amazon customers praise Iron OUT for banishing tough stains from toilets, bathtubs, baseball uniforms, towels, and white shirts. Available on Amazon.
4. BEST RUST CONVERTER: Corroseal ($48.95 for 1 gal.)
Specially designed for the marine industry, Corroseal is ideal for heavily rusted outdoor equipment and. Instead of eating away at rust the way acids do, Corroseal relies on a chemical conversion process to turn rust into a completely new surface. The formula changes iron oxide molecules (rust) into magnetite, a stable black coating. Just brush this water-based formula onto any rusty surface (except stainless steel and galvanized metals) and let dwell 24 hours until fully dry and cured, then paint. Nearly 800 customers give Corroseal 4.5 stars on Amazon, calling it “the best product on the market” for everything from patio furniture to trailer restoration. Available on Amazon.
5. BEST FOR CARS AND OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT: WD-40 Specialist Rust Remover Soak ($21.51 for 1 gal.)
In the petroleum-based category, non-toxic, industrial-strength WD-40 is perfect for auto restoration and rusty yard equipment. The company claims this formula is specially designed to make old metal “look new again without scraping, chipping, or scrubbing” within 24 hours. Customers give it 4.3 stars, commenting that results can be dramatic, without fumes or strong chemicals. Available on Amazon.
6. BEST MULTIPURPOSE CLEANER: CLR PRO Calcium Lime Rust Remover ($21.38 for 1 gal.)
With its potent yet non-toxic mix of active ingredients, CLR PRO is fast-acting, industrial-strength, EPA-certified—and one of the most versatile cleaners for home and outdoor use. The formula utilizes both lactic and gluconic acids, which are less caustic but no less effective than harsher acid-based removers. It works wonders on rusty tools, outdoor equipment, car parts, stainless steel, plastic, ceramic tile, glass, and fiberglass surfaces and is also a great alternative to ammonia- and bleach-based products on hard water deposits, soap scum, and rusted toilets. With 4.4 stars on Amazon, customers are impressed with CLR PRO’s safety and everyday usefulness. Available on Amazon.