How to Get Rust Off Metal: 18 Ways to Clean and Shield Your Metal

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Metals like iron and steel are sturdy, reliable and strong. That is why they are a main material used in construction and other everyday objects. (And yes, maybe even Iron Man.)

However, just like any superhero, metals like iron and steel have a major weakness – rust. Yes, it is the formidable red enemy that can weaken these sturdy things.

Rust is otherwise known as iron oxide.

It forms when iron is exposed to water and oxygen. The interaction of these three elements lead to corrosion, which translates to the dark red dust we see on metal items. Corrosion even happens at a faster rate when metal is exposed to seawater and acid rain.

As a result of rust, nuts and bolts are difficult to twist, pliers are harder to use, and on some degree, rust can stain clothing.

Rust can also damage antique items and heritage pieces. But just because rust starts to accumulate does not mean it cannot be removed. There are some nifty ways on how to get rust off metal in order to restore your metalware.

Ways of Removing Rust from Metal

Rust is the result of the reaction between iron, water, oxygen, and time. Rust when left for a long time, can eat away the metal and turn it into red dust. But there are still ways to salvage rusty items. Here are some ideas:

  • Vinegar is the so-called miracle acid. It works well as a cleaning agent including removing rust off metal. All you need to do is soak the metal in vinegar overnight.
  • The combination of lemon and salt can also wash out rust. Rub the metal item with salt, and then squeeze the lemon juice on it. Leave for a couple of hours and then use the lemon rind to scrub off the rust.
  • Use baking soda and a toothbrush or abrasive brush. Mix baking soda and water until you make a paste. Apply on the metal and use a brush to scrape off the rust.
  • ​Use a potato half and dishwashing liquid. Apply some dishwashing liquid to the exposed half of the potato and apply on the rusted metal. Leave for a few hours and rub until rust is removed.
  • Dip the rusted metal object in oxalic acid. (Extreme caution is needed as the acid is highly dangerous.)

There are a lot of other ways that can take out rust including electrolysis and even cola. However, for cola, even though the phosphoric acid content can help clean, it is not an advisable cleaning agent because of the high sugar content.

Removing Rust Using Household Items

The most common way of dealing with rust is by using a combination of household items. Here is a video that shows how rust can be taken off nuts and bolts using vinegar and baking soda.

Follow the steps right below on how to get rust off metal.

  • Prepare an empty glass bottle, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, and WD-40.
  • Put all your rusty nuts and bolts in the glass bottle and fill with vinegar.
  • ​Close lid and shake a bit. Make sure the nuts and bolts are totally submerged in vinegar.
  • ​Leave overnight.
  • ​Drain the vinegar and then pour some baking soda in the bottle (with nuts and bolts in).
  • ​Add water, close lid, and shake a bit again.
  • ​Leave overnight.
  • ​Drain the liquid from the bottle and put nuts and bolts on dry cloth.
  • ​Leave to dry.
  • Spray nuts and bolts with WD-40 to protect against further corrosion.

This is just one way to remove rust from small items like screws and bolts. For bigger items, other methods might be better. Using rust removers might also be more useful for larger objects.

Preventing Further Corrosion

Just because you got the rust off does not mean your metalware is rust-proof. Remember that continuous exposure to water and oxygen can still create new rust points unless you take some steps to prevent it.

Once you’ve cleaned your metal items, it is important to take note of these tips to keep them protected and preserved.

  • Always keep your metal items dry. As much as possible, do not expose your metals items to water and more importantly to saltwater and acid rain. If it does get exposed, make sure to dry it quickly.
  • Apply primer paint to your metal items to serve as a protective coating. This will shield your metal items from water and air exposure.
  • As an additional layer of protection, it would be great to coat your metal items with good and solid paint.

Whether you’re restoring old items or making rusty metal feel like new again, these household tips can help you do it with much ease.

Remember that not one method is the most effective as it will depend on the metal item you want to de-rust. Feel free to try out different methods on how to get rust off metal and come up with your most effective way.


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