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Rust is no one’s best friend and spotting it can feel like a disaster has struck. But all you need to combat the feelings you get when seeing rust is to learn safe and effective ways to remove it from your items.
While there are many ways to remove rust from other metals, stainless steel requires different care. So make sure you know what kind of metal your items are made out of and if they have a protective coating that can be removed.
Note: it’s a good idea to start with mild substances in order to use the gentlest formula that works for your item. If that fails, then move into something stronger. Keep doing this until something works.
What Causes Rust On Stainless Steel?
Rust is caused by the reaction iron, and other metals, have when it comes into contact with oxygen and water. So moisture-ridden stainless steel is a hotspot for rust to develop and ruin your tools, utensils, and structures.
But getting rust on stainless steel doesn’t mean that the item is a goner. While the item can be too far gone, most of the time, you just need a strong enough substance to remove the rust without damaging the metal.
If the rust has already eaten away at the stainless steel, then it is probably too late. So try removing the top layer of rust to see if the item is worth saving. If not, then focus on finding a replacement instead.
Substances That Removes Rust
There are many substances that remove rust from stainless steel. We’re going to go over the easiest substances to get ahold of and the simple steps you can take to remove rust from stainless steel with each of them.
Start with something soft like baking soda or vinegar. If that doesn’t work then move onto one of the acids. If all else fails, buy an intense rust remover that is safe to use on stainless steel.
Vinegar is a great 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 it is done, then you can rinse it off and dry it really well. 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.
Baking soda is a great rust remover that works to break down rust and scrub it away. This substance has so many uses that it would be a shame not to keep it around. So even if you’re not a baker, get some baking soda in your pantry.
Step 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.
Step 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 it has been an hour, you can scrub with a soft-bristled brush.
Step 3: rinse off the substance thoroughly and then dry with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel. You should now be able to tell if the baking soda removed the rust or if you need to get something stronger.
Lemon And Salt
Lemon and salt is a little-known trick that can remove rust. The abrasiveness of the salt works well with the acidity of the lemon. So these are another two items that are great to keep on hand. The lemon smells great too!
Step 1: mix equal parts salt and lemon juice in a small bowl. Let it create a paste of sorts that can be used like toothpaste on your item.
Step 2: using a cloth, apply the mixture to the stainless steel. Then let it rest for an hour or two, but not overnight.
Step 3: after it sits, then you can start scrubbing lightly. Then rinse off the mixture and see if it worked! Hopefully, it did because this is a fairly gentle method.
Potato And Soap
This interesting 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.
Step 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.
Step 2: insert the utensil into the flesh of the potato and let it rest for an hour or two. The bigger and fresher the potato is, the better that it will work. So use your best if possible.
Step 3: remove the utensil and wash it as usual. This is a very safe and efficient way to remove rust from stainless steel. So if it works then you are home free.
Citric acid is a great way to remove rust 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 batches for quite a low price online, so shop on Amazon or home improvement sites.
Step 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.
Step 2: after about an hour, you can remove the item and scrub it gently with a soft, abrasive cloth. Then, you can rinse it, and let it dry.
Oxalic acid is a great rust remover but it is stronger than anything else that is safe to use on stainless steel. Test it out on an item that you don’t mind losing before testing it on the main item you are trying to save.
Step 1: apply a generous amount of 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.
Step 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.
Step 3: rinse off the substance thoroughly and then dry with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel. 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.
Never Use These On Rust
While most guides will let you know what to use on rust, they often neglect to tell you what not to use. These are some commonly used substances to remove rust that should not be used on stainless steel.
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, Etc.
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 immediately, and don’t leave stainless steel dishes in the sink.
Because water is what causes rust, this is really the only thing that you can do to prevent rust. If the item stays dry and clean at all times then rust will never be able to make its home on your stainless steel possessions.
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.
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