How to Remove Rust Stains From a Shirt

Rust stains may end up on your shirt when doing the laundry right after your water company flushes the pipes.

Don't wash as normal if you find a rust stain on your shirt.Don't wash as normal if you find a rust stain on your shirt.
If you take the shirt out of the washing machine and notice the rust, do not toss it in the dryer, as you will set the stain. You can also get a rust stain by accidentally brushing your clothes against a rusty object. In either case, rust stains require special removal. Washing your rust-stained shirt with chlorine bleach makes the rust stain darker and permanent.

Wash the shirt immediately using a heavy-duty detergent or 1 cup of non-precipitating water softener. Do not use both, as washing with a detergent and the softener may set the stain.

Treat the area with a fabric-safe rust remover, if the rust stain remains. Commercial rust stain removers contain hydrofluoric acid or oxalic acid. Follow the manufacturer's application instructions. If you don't have a commercial rust remover, sprinkle salt on the stain and squeeze lemon juice over it and leave it in the sun to dry.

Rewash the shirt after removing the rust. If you fail to remove all the rust remover from the fabric, the acid can deteriorate the fibers.

Things You Will Need

  • Detergent
  • Non-precipitating water softener
  • Rust remover or lemon and salt

Tip

  • Test the fabric for colorfastness before using a rust remover by following the instructions on the rust remover packaging or place a drop of the solution on the edge of a hidden seam, let set for several minutes and blot dry. If the color does not change, it should be colorfast.

Warnings

  • Lemon juice and sunshine can fade some fabric.
  • Rust removers containing hydrofluoric acid can burn the skin.

About the Author

Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.