How to Remove Rust From Cotton

by Tammi Clements ; Updated September 28, 2017

Rust contains oxalic acid, which is toxic and causes rust to eat through anything, including fabric.

rust image by hazel proudlove from

If you have ever encountered ugly rust stains on your cotton fabric clothing, you are not alone. Rust can destroy the structure and appearance of your cotton clothing and linens, and should be treated as soon as possible to avoid permanent damage. While there are several commercial rust removers on the market, they should be avoided due to their high level of toxic chemicals. As an alternative, try removing the rust using a homemade rust remover. There are two homemade cleaning methods that can be made with common household products.

Lemon Juice Method

Lay a clean towel on a flat sunlit outdoor surface.

Place the rust stained garment on the clean towel.

Squeeze the juice from a fresh lemon onto the rust stain. Be sure to saturate the entire stained area.

Let the garment sit in the sun until it is completely dried.

Repeat the process if the stain is still present after the lemon juice has dried.

Cream Of Tarter And Salt Method

Place a clean towel on a flat sunlit outdoor surface.

Lay the rust stained garment across the towel.

Combine 1 tsp cream of tarter with 1 tsp salt in a small bowl.

Mix the ingredients with a mixing spoon.

Use the spoon to apply the mixture to the rust stained area of the garment.

Let the garment sit in the sun until the mixture has dried.

If the stain remains after the mixture has dried repeat the process.


  • For extra cleaning power, a toothbrush can be used to scrub the lemon juice or cream of tarter mixture into the stained fabric.

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About the Author

Tammi Clements is a Los Angeles, California based fashion, and entertainment writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast communications from the University Of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her articles have appeared in Jane Magazine, Marie Claire Magazine, and Entertainment Weekly. She is currently writing her first novel, and travels the globe in her free time.