How to Remove Rust Stains

Have you ever been about to wash your kids’ clothes and suddenly spotted ugly-looking, reddish-brown stains, and wondered what on earth they could be? Chances are they’re rust stains. Rust stains are actually much more common than you think, and there are loads of places your kids could come into contact with rusty materials: riding old bikes, leaning against metal gates and fences, or even sitting on a garden bench that’s been exposed to the elements all winter.

Rust stains are notoriously difficult to remove. The problem is that they’re made out of tiny iron particles and these don’t respond to traditional stain treatments in the same way as food or drink stains, for example.

In fact, some cleaners can actually make the stain worse! So before you start pouring every stain remover and detergent you own onto that stain (we’ve all done it in a moment of panic), take some time to read on to discover how to remove rust from clothes in the washing machine, without making the situation worse.

The Number 1 Rule When Removing Rust Stains

Bleach is a good rust stain remover, right? It just gets that red mark right out, yes? No! If there is one piece of advice – parent to parent – about removing rust stains from your kids’ clothes, it’s do not use bleach or any detergent containing bleaching agents – EVER! Far from removing that stain, the bleach will actually react with the iron particles, intensifying the colour, and encouraging the stain to spread.

And if that happens, you’ll find yourself on the way to shops to pick up new clothes, pronto! For the sake of your clothes, your bank balance, and your own sanity, stay away from bleach!            

The Best Methods for Removing Rust

Now that we’ve determined what not to do, it’s time to look at what we should be doing to remove rust stains. It’s not just the detergent that’s important; it’s the methods you use, too. Here are some easy ways to tackle that stain:

  • Dampen a strong sponge or a microfibre cloth until it is just wet. Use a dabbing motion – not a rubbing motion – to apply a small amount of liquid to the stain. If you rub instead of dab, you’ll just end up spreading the stain, making it more difficult to remove.
  • Apply a pea-sized amount of laundry detergent to the stain using your fingertips. You want to use a detergent that is designed for heavily-soiled clothes, but doesn’t contain a strong-acting bleach.
  • Leave the detergent on the rust stain for a minute or two to allow it to soak in and soften the particles. Then, using your damp cloth again, dab the area once more to remove as much of the stain as you can before putting in the washing machine with your choice of Surf excel Matic detergent.
  • Wash the garment – not with a very hot machine cycle, but on a lukewarm setting. You might think the hotter the water, the more efficient it will be at getting out stains, but for some marks, particularly those caused by rust, hot water can help set the stain into the fabric. Set your washer to a warm or even cool cycle for best results.
  • Opening your washing machine when the cycle has finished can be truly nerve-wracking. It’s the moment of truth!

Hopefully, you’ll find that the rust stain has vanished, but if there’s still a bit of discolouration remaining, the best thing you can do is repeat these steps once more.

If you take a shortcut and simply dry the clothes with the stain remaining, the heat of the dryer will set the stain, and it’ll be there forever! Don’t take that risk – it really takes no time at all to just dab the stain, apply detergent, and wash the garment.

You CAN Beat Rust Stains

With the right sort of detergent, the right methods, and the right washing machine setting, you should find getting rust stains out of clothing a piece of cake. So the next time your kids ask if they can go out and play on their bikes, don’t break out into a cold sweat imagining the state of their clothes when they return home.

Instead, wave them off with a smile, but make sure to have Surf excel Matic to hand! How do you remove rust stains? Let us know in the comments below!