How To Remove Rust From Stainless Steel With DIY Remedies

If you don’t know how to remove rust from stainless steel, then it’s time you learned. Rust will destroy your stainless steel pots, for example, if you let it. Once you learn how to eliminate rust, you’ll be one step closer to becoming a DIY home improvement expert.

Corrosion is a natural process that occurs in moist environments. Chemically active metals become corroded while rusting is a process where iron corrodes due to atmospheric exposure. This is how stainless steel appliances accumulate rust. 

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According to researchers at the University of Georgia, “There are chemical gels on the market that break down rust so it dries and hardens into a smooth protective base like a primer coating. Then the surface can be painted. Read all labels and precautions carefully.”

Why Does Stainless Steel Rust?

Rust is caused by the reaction to iron, and other metals, have when it comes into contact with oxygen and water. The Achilles heel for stainless steel surfaces is moisture. It’s a hotspot for rust to develop and can ruin tools, utensils, and structures. 

Removing rust from stainless steel appliances requires serious cleaning power.  While the item might be too far gone, what you need is the right cleaning products to remove rust without damaging your surfaces or stainless steel utensils.

DIY Rust Removal Solutions

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There are many ways to remove difficult rust spots from stainless steel. We’re going to show you a few DIY stainless steel cleaners you can use. We’ll also provide simple steps you can take to remove rust from stainless steel appliances without damaging them.

For example, you can start with baking soda or vinegar for difficult rust spots. Use an old toothbrush to scrub smaller rust spots, and make sure to use plenty of elbow grease.

When all else fails, try an acid cleaner. If all else fails, buy an intense rust remover that is safe to use on stainless steel appliances. 


Unlike other methods, vinegar might be the best DIY option for removing rust. It is super easy to do. Just draw a bath of vinegar in a small tub that is big enough for the object to rest in. Put the object in the bath and let it rest for a couple of hours.  

After, rinse with clean water and dry the surface. It may or may not need a soft brushing after it gets out of the bath. Just ensure that no matter the method you use, dry the item well afterward. 

Rust Removal With Baking Soda In 3 Simple Steps

Clean rust from stainless steel sink

Baking soda is an effective rust remover that breakdowns rust. Even if you’re not a baker, get some baking soda in your pantry

  1. mix a paste with 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 2 cups of water. Alternatively, you can sprinkle baking soda directly onto the stainless steel. This works better for larger areas. 
  2. rub the paste onto the stainless steel and scrub lightly. It is a good idea to let it sit for about an hour, though no more than an hour at first. After an hour, scrub with a soft-bristled brush.
  3. inse the substance and dry with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel. 

Lime Juice And Salt Rust Removal In 3 Easy Steps

Lemon and salt is a little-known trick that can remove rust from stainless steel appliances. The salt works well with the acidity of the lemon. 

  1. mix equal parts salt and lime juice in a small bowl. Let it create a paste of sorts that can be used like toothpaste on your item. 
  2. with a  clean cloth, apply the mixture to the rusty stainless steel. Then let it rest for an hour or two, but not overnight. 
  3. after it sits, break out the elbow grease and scrub lightly with a paper towel or soft cloth. Then rinse off the mixture and see if it worked.

Potato And Soap Rust Removal in 3 Easy Steps

This technique works well for small items. It can also work for large items but it doesn’t work quite as well as you will need to place pieces of potato along with the item which isn’t easy with small potatoes. 

  1. cut a potato in half and apply soap to potato flesh. It can also help to apply some of the dishwashing soap to the utensil as well.
  2. insert the utensil into the potato and let it rest for an hour or two. 
  3. remove the utensil and wash it as usual. This is a safe and efficient stainless steel cleaner. 

Citric Acid

Citric acid is an effective stainless steel cleaner, so if you have access to it, then give it a try. If you can’t find it in stores, you can buy it in large quantities at a low price online.

  1. place the item in a container of warm water then sprinkle the citric acid and gently stir the water. You will see it working when bubbles start forming kind of like when using peroxide. 
  2. after about an hour, you can remove the item and scrub it gently with a soft, abrasive cloth. Remember, you don’t want to scratch stainless steel surfaces. Next, rinse and dry. 

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is an effective rust stain remover, but it’s stronger.

  1. apply oxalic acid onto the rust. Make sure you read the instructions thoroughly on the cleaner to ensure it is safe to use in the way that you are going to use it. 
  2. rub the oxalic acid in the direction of the metal grain lines using a soft, damp sponge. You will need to buff the metal slightly to ensure you end up with a good shine.
  3. rinse off the substance thoroughly and then dry with a microfiber cloth or clean cloth. If this didn’t work then there is only one more option to try. 


CLR has its own instructions depending on the form you use. So follow the instructions on the package the only difference will be that you should start off with diluted CLR with half water, half CLR.

If it doesn’t work, you can try using full-strength CLR and this will likely remove the rust. Just ensure that the box doesn’t say that you cannot use it on stainless steel and keep it way away from pets and children.

Rust Removal Mistakes

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Most will let you know what to use on rust but often neglect to inform you on what you shouldn’t use. The following are used to remove rust but shouldn’t be used when cleaning stainless steel surfaces.


You may be tempted to use steel wool or another similar scrubbing item to remove rust on stainless steel. But when paired with the cleaning agents, it is simply too strong. So don’t use it, instead use a soft sponge. 


While WD-40 works great for tools, it is not good for kitchen items. So keep it in the garage and use it for exterior items rather than interior items that can break down if used with WD-40 on a regular basis. 

Chlorine & Iodine

Yes, chlorine and other chemicals used to clean pools may get rid of the rust, but it will also damage the stainless steel. So avoid using any type of bleach at all on your stainless steel, especially on a regular basis. 

How To Prevent Rust

Preventing rust is quite easy. All you need to do is keep the items dry as much as possible. You can get them we just make sure they don’t set in water. If you wash them, dry them and don’t leave stainless steel dishes in your sink.

Because water is what causes rust, this is the only thing you can do to prevent rust. If the item remains dry and clean then you’ll never have a rust problem. 

But sometimes, you miss opportunities to keep your stainless steel dry. So find out which method works for your items and memorize it so that if this happens to you, then you will have a quick fix with substances on hand already. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is A DIY Way To Remove Rust From Tools?

When removing rust from knives and hand tools, just soak them in vinegar overnight. Pour vinegar into a plastic bucket and place the rusty items in it. Remove the items and scrub them gently with a wire mesh brush or something similar. After, rinse the items with water and use a clean cloth to dry them.

What Is Passivation Of Stainless Steel?

Passivation is the process of enhancing stainless steel surfaces with a chemical treatment to safeguard against corrosion. The process also helps remove contamination.

What Is Dry Ice Blasting?

Also known as cryogenic blasting, this cleaning uses compressed frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, and sublimates under high pressure on a rusted surface. After, a high-pressure power jet blasts the ice, at a temperature of -79° C, onto your contaminated stainless steel surface. Because the stainless steel surface is warm, it creates a “thermo shock,” loosening the rust while the dry ice evaporates.

How To Remove Rust From An Iron Skillet?

Removing from an iron skillet requires a mixture of white vinegar and equal parts water. Pour the mixture in a plastic bucket and let your skillet soak in it for eight hours. After, wash it off and clean cloth.

Can You Remove Rust With A Laser?

Laser rust removal is designed to clean industrial metal parts. Fiber lasers can remove rust and contaminants without causing permanent damage to the metal or stainless steel surface.  

Remove Rust From Stainless Steel Conclusion

While there are many ways to remove rust, when working with stainless steel surfaces you will need to be extra careful. You’ll need to make sure you know what kind of metal your surfaces are made out of and if they have a protective coating that can be removed. 

When cleaning, use mild substances with soft formulas. When tackling  deep pitting, don’t hesitate to use an old toothbrush, wire brush, or brush attachment on an electric drill. Then sand down to bare metal with a medium-grit silicon carbide paper.

With hard to sand surfaces, brush off as much rust as possible with a clean cloth. After this, apply naval jelly, a commercial gel-like rust remover, and watch your rust problems go away.