How To Restore Rusted Metal

It's probably happened more times than you care to admit: You go to use a tool you haven't
touched in a while, and it's covered in rust. When this happens, as annoying as it is, don't throw the whole thing away. It's most likely just surface rust, and you can get it off with a few simple things you probably already have lying around the house (plus a little elbow grease).

Wire Brush, Files, and Steel Wool

After you loosen or dissolve the rust with the formulations below, you need to scrape away what's left to expose the fresh metal underneath. The best tools for doing that are a wire brush and steel wool. Depending on the shape of the item you're restoring and the location of the rust spots, metal files may also come in handy. For more delicate items, use a scouring pad or stiff toothbrush.

Baking Soda

You know how you can make a paste of baking soda and water to scrub your bathtub or sink? It turns out that the same simple mixture can do wonders to restore rusty metal. Make the paste, rub it onto the rusty spots, and wait for two or three hours. When the time is up, gently scrub off the paste, and the rust will come with it. This method works best for small, superficial spots.

White Vinegar

Plain old white vinegar is good for so many things. Who knew it also worked as a rust eliminator?

To treat rust with vinegar, soak the rusty item in the vinegar overnight. The next day, brush it
clean with a wire brush, a toothbrush, or steel wool. Vinegar and a steel scrubber work well for pervasive surface corrosion.

Lemon Juice and Salt

Lemon juice is another weak acid you may already have at home. To use it to restore metal, first, coat the item in salt. Then carefully squeeze lemon or lime juice over the salted item, making sure not to rinse away the salt. Let the whole thing sit for a couple of hours, then brush with a wire brush or steel wool. This method also works well on copper pots and pans if you use what's left of the lemon or lime as a scouring pad. (You should never use steel wool or a wire brush on copper.)


Kerosene works well as a lubricant, which, along with a wire brush, can remove corrosion and bring back brilliance to a piece of metal. To use this method, coat the item in kerosene and let it sit for a few minutes to several hours, depending on the extent of the rust. Once the kerosene has had some time to work, blast off the corrosion with a wire wheel brush or cup brush attached to a drill.

Whether you're trying to clean up tools you haven't used in a while, a decorative metal sculpture, a set of kitchen knives, or vintage implements you found at an antique shop, the methods listed here should work for just about any level of surface corrosion.

Toby - September 3, 2020

This info was great I am a sculptor and need to work with rust often

Margaret Hart - September 3, 2020

These are all great ideas, we should keep passing them round as they save us all a fortune and can help us clean more delicate items. If you want to clean silver jewellery leave it soak ing in cheap
coke for a few hours then rinse in warm water and it will look like new.

Therese Tuckness - September 4, 2020

My suggestion i saw o. Someone’s video is to soak the rake in soda..

remove from the wooden handle (if there is a wooden piece. Take a busket and a 2 to more leters of coke soda. Pour onto The rusted part
Wait a day or two.

Take a picture before and after the process.. you wouldn’t believe it. No need in scrubbing. Try it and see.

Therese T.
Wash. State

Frank - September 4, 2020

I’ve actually just used running water and scrubbed rust away. It helps to knock off some of it, but I usually resort to soaking metal in vinegar (White or red apple cider) and have waited as long as a week. It really does work.

Then it’s important to clean the metal. Sometimes carbon steel takes on a dark patina which although attractive, can be rubbed off and the metal polished to a nice luster if you prefer.

David Rutherford - September 4, 2020

Thank you for the INFO this will come in handy

Frank Rodriguez - September 4, 2020

Hello Bill, I do appreciate all your advice is in suggestions that you offered to us thanks and take care be safe

jan - October 18, 2020

My rust place is where I put bleach in slot of washer. I sanded off once and painted and it looked great . about 4 weeks later rust started coming trough, now its terrible again. Any suggestion?

laughingheart - November 2, 2020

Thanks for the rust removing metal care tips. What is the best way to protect metal from rusting once you have cleaned it up ? Appreciate the wisdom !

Marion - November 3, 2020

Great advice and so friendly to the environment.

Use baking soda and vinegar all the time for household cleaning.

Vinegar and salt really makes my copper things shine!

Eva Saunders - November 16, 2020

How about Coca cola it works

Linda Corbin - November 17, 2020

Then don’t use that slot. Add bleach after washer full of water.

Linda Corbin - November 17, 2020

I’ve used WD40 to coat my gardening tools.

Frederic T. Wilson - November 18, 2020

How can I stop a spot of corrosion on a stainless steel flatware knife?

Shirley Mannion - November 19, 2020

Thank you for this very useful information…

janice - November 21, 2020

Thank you for this info. I am an artist and have many metal art pieces that are outdoors. Nice to know how to restore them to their great beauty.

John Grossbohlin - November 22, 2020

These tips will take care of many rust problems. To remove heavier rust I use electrolysis… a power supply, Arm & Hammer washing soda dissolved in water, a sacrificial anode (I often use flattened cans), and a plastic bucket are all the materials needed for this process. I’ve cleaned up hundreds of old woodworking, machinist and outdoor hand tools; parts for mowers and cars; and other things made of steel using this method. Using a kiddy pool will let you clean up heavy rust on large things like table saw tables. There is a lot of information on this method on YouTube and elsewhere.

Virginio - December 3, 2020

Found your site/blog by pure chance and will try the above advises soon. I have a few rusted items that need work and am grateful for your help.

Donna - December 5, 2020

Thanks for the great típs. I’ll definitely use them. Í also have one for you. To clean copper (as long as it doesn’t have a clear coating on it ) use ketsup. Coat the item and wrap it in clear wrap.eàve sit for 15-30 miñutes, then wash with soap and water. Comes out beautiful.

Nina - December 6, 2020

Hello Bill,

I will, definitely, save the fruit of your experience for the next time when I will have to resolve a rust problem.
Thank you.
I like your e mail address !
warm regards – Nina

Jerry Pitts - December 12, 2020

An Ounce of prevention is worth 10 lbs of cure ! Grease or oil your steel tools and put them away is so much Easer!!!

Suzanne Kaufman - December 13, 2020

Also can use wadded up tin foil and just rub away.

Lyn du Toit - December 13, 2020

Thank you for all this very useful information. Sadly, it does not help my problem ! I have a fabric carry on bag with several zippers. One of them has rusted half way open and cannot move. Any suggestions please ?

Tiffany - December 27, 2020

Lemon juice and salt worked well

Eddie Fast - January 6, 2021

The KEROSENE segment of this story brought back some memories. Back in the 1960′ and 70’s a friend said to use it on my car to get rid of road tar. I tried it and it took the tar off and made that part of my car look great. So I thought I would try it on the whole car. It really shined and took off all the road grime. I used it on 4 cars.

Lynn Hoffmann - January 9, 2021

I rolled a piece of aluminium foil up into a ball and ran it over the stainless steel blade of the knife. The rust came offreally quickly.

Christine Symaeys - January 25, 2021

The ‘real Coca-Cola workshop very well too. Just put it in the liquid intik you notie differente. Clean up and there you are,ready

Colleen Black - January 27, 2021

Do any of these suggestions work on rusty side panels and bumpers on 18 year old pick-up trucks(truck has between 450,000 & 500,000 miles on original engine)?

Saundra Lanier - January 30, 2021

Very good information will pass it on.

Thomas D Ford - February 1, 2021

I have cleaned out old gas tanks on small engines with vinegar and even a little baking soda in at the end for the visual effect
I wonder if you had a chain or tool, could soak in kerosene, then lay it on an old towel then light it on fire and keep it going for a while by spraying with a spritz of kerosene, every now and then, lol may try it

Edith - February 6, 2021

How to clean an antique quater,very special print(2002) has rust residue,,not silver,but very different from today 25 pcs.

Edith - February 6, 2021

Antique quater,year 2002,best to clean without devaluing.very different pcs.

John F OKeefe - February 8, 2021

I have a 1965 Ford Mustang and both the front and back bumpers have rust spots. On the front the spot is the size of a silver dollar and the back they are much smaller but several of them in a row across half the bumper.

Your advice please, thanks
Jack O’Keefe

San Robertson - February 17, 2021

What about dill pickle juice? Will it work? We have gallons of it because husband Bill is a pickleholic.

San Robertson - February 17, 2021

Will dill pickle juice work? We have gallons because husband Bill is a pickle-holic.

Sandy Kasten - February 22, 2021

Hey Linda: Saw this on how to clean rust away from wraught iron..Thanks!! Same Linda from WHHS?

Sandy K.

Winsome - March 6, 2021

Good Heavens Black Bird have you not heard of Naval Jelly. Works like a charm been on the market for years. Fast and easy solution!

Gail Blanton - March 8, 2021

House on beach has brackets holding up an overhang. They are rusted. Had the old ones replaced and now they are rusting. Had them painted with rust prevented white paint but the paint is peeling and brackets are rusting. Please help me!
Gail Blanton, 252-902-6589

jerry shepherd - March 10, 2021

I have a large to chain that is rusted, ho can I derust them for preservation without using a wwoire brush or file?

Dianne - March 12, 2021

I have rust coming from the upper drain into my porcelain bathroom sink I won’t use a metal brush, but what solution should I use with a scrub brush or old toothbrush?

Lou Wieting - March 20, 2021

Very helpful advice . we all have rusty items laying around. Thanks so much-lou

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