How to Get Rust Out of Cotton

by Jaimie Zinski ; Updated September 28, 2017

Remove rust stains from cotton with salt.

salt image by Andrey Rakhmatullin from

Rust stains on cotton clothing occur when the pieces are exposed to water with excessive iron levels. The iron leaves behind a yellowish, orange stain that can be very noticeable, especially on a white cotton t-shirt or a child's cotton jumper. These stains can also occur when clothing brushes against rusted metals. Removing rust stains from cotton can be accomplished at home without expensive products or the assistance of a professional dry cleaner.

Pour white vinegar on the stained area of the cotton garment. The acids found in vinegar help gently remove the stain.

Sprinkle one tablespoon of the table salt onto the stain. The salt acts as an abrasive to help work out the stain.

Pour one quarter cup lemon juice onto the affected area. The lemon juice acts as a mild bleaching agent to help remove the stain.

Scrub the lemon juice, salt and white vinegar into the stain with a dry, everyday household sponge. Use a circular motion to work the ingredients into the stain.

Place the garment into direct sunlight for two to three hours. This will allow the ingredients time to remove the stain while the sunlight bleaches out the stain.

Place the garment into the washing machine. Set the machine to the cold water setting and add one cup of laundry detergent.

Inspect the piece once the washing machine cycle ends. If the stain is gone, place the piece into the dryer or allow it to air dry based on the drying instructions on the garment's label. If the stain remains, place the cotton piece back into the washing machine with one cup of detergent and run it through one more complete washing cycle.


  • Wash cotton pieces in cold water to avoid shrinkage.

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About the Author

Residing in Chippewa Falls, Wis., Jaimie Zinski has been writing since 2009. Specializing in pop culture, film and television, her work appears on Star Reviews and various other websites. Zinski is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in history at the University of Wisconsin.