Pesky rust stains are not only a blight to your home’s exterior, but they are also a sign of rapidly deteriorating metal surfaces. Taking care of them quickly and safely will help keep the curb appeal of your home’s exterior at its best, and it can extend the life of the material that so that it will no longer be rusting. We are going to be giving you professional secrets as to what experts with hundreds of hours removing rust stains use as their preferred chemical mixtures.
There are several chemicals that remove orange rust stains. Each of them has their own potency, health hazards, and ease of use that can help you select which chemical is the right tool for you. Regardless of your choice, it is important to wear personal protective clothing such as long-sleeve clothing, a respirator, protective eyewear, and waterproof gloves. If you do not feel comfortable making your own rust removal chemical, leave it up to the professionals or buy a pre-mixed product from the store.
Different Types Of Rust Stains
Sometimes, orange rust stains can seem like they appear out of nowhere. Below are likely culprits for the various rust stains you will see on and around your home’s surfaces. Each type ranges in severity and difficulty to remove, but all can be removed with the right tools for the job.
- Irrigation stains: Well-water can contain an excessive amount of iron before going through a purification system. When unfiltered well-water is used in a sprinkler system, it can leave orange stains on the side of your house and other areas of your home. Below are two picture of rust stains from irrigation water before and after applying a rust removal chemical.
- Rusty nails and screws: When fences, decks, and other outdoor constructions are built without stainless steel nails, they will often leave rust stains running vertically down the surface. Nails left on concrete will leave dark orange stains. These stains are often because of contractors mistakenly leaving the nails on the ground. Nails will also go through a process called oxidation, where metallic streaks will be left dripping down the sides of wood fences and wood houses. Rust removal chemicals also remove oxidation, so you get two stains removed for the price of one if that is what your fence is experiencing.
- Rusting chimney flashing: The metal flashing at the top of your chimney is a common culprit for rust stains. Over time from interacting with the environment, it will leave streaks running down the sides of the chimney. Pressure washing alone will not remove these stains, and normal house washes wherein algae and mildew are removed, rust stain removal is typically not apart of this process as killing algae and dissolving rust are two completely different sets of chemicals.
- Orange fertilizer stains: Fertilizer contains a concentrated mixture of iron and other minerals that provide nutrients to landscaping. Accidental overspray of the fertilizer solution or carelessly let it drip onto concrete or pavers can leave dark orange stains on the surface. Since the nutrient mixture is so concentrated, these are usually the most difficult stains to remove.
- Rust on tools: Not only are rusty tools difficult to use, if they are left on a porous surface such as wood or concrete, they can leave rusty orange stains that are unsightly and difficult to remove. Rust can also develop on kitchenware when left in the sink for too long.
Different Chemicals To Remove Rust Stains
Each chemical has its own time and place based on what goals you are trying to accomplish with your rust removal project. The chemical we recommend for removing rust from tools is not the same we recommend for removing orange fertilizer stains, but they can be substituted for each other if need be. Some of the chemicals are overkill and are too strong for certain applications, while others are too weak and will not get the job done as quickly or effectively
Vinegar and table salt: This effective combo is great for hand tools, kitchenware, and other handheld small objects. Vinegar, whose active ingredient is acetic acid, is a mild acid that becomes more potent when mixed with table salt.
We recommend adding ½ dry cup per ½ gallon of white vinegar. Mix it thoroughly and drop in whatever item you need to remove rust from. The item will need to soak anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight. The “dwell time,” which is how long it takes for your chemical solution to do its job, will vary depending on what material the item is and how rusty it is.
Aluminum brightener: This chemical’s main purpose is for automotive applications such as removing road film from cars and trucks, and like the name says, brightening oxidized aluminum back to its original sheen. It also doubles as an effective and easy to use rust removal chemical. Wear a respirator and other protective equipment as its main component, hydrofluoric acid, is an irritant that can end up injuring you if not used and contained correctly.
We like using this chemical because it comes in a liquid form bypassing the need to dissolve it. Our concentration from our supplier requests adding 1 liquid cup per gallon of water. Whatever you buy may differ so read the instructions carefully. This is important: always add acids to water and not water to acids. It is a rare occurrence, but you can cause an explosion if you add water to acid. Check with the instructions on your locally bought aluminum brightener as to how to dilute it properly.
Aluminum brightener is best used on outdoor surfaces such as concrete and painted fences – anything that is not near shiny metals such as chrome or brass, as the aluminum brightener can tarnish polished metals. Spray it on using a garden sprayer or handheld spray bottle. Apply a generous coating to the rust, letting it dry into the concrete and rinsing it away. If you are using it on a painted surface, do not let it dry by reapplying the chemical mixture or misting it with water from a garden hose.
Oxalic acid: This chemical is found in natural sources such as plant stems, and it has been repurposed as a potent rust removal chemical. We also use oxalic acid to neutralize cleaning chemicals such as sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide during wood cleaning and concrete cleaning. Oxalic acid can also be used to remove oxidized paint from house siding and gutters.
This chemical gives off vapors to the air, so be sure to wear a respirator when using it. You can source this chemical locally in your area or order it online. For rust removal, mix 3-10 ounces of dry oxalic acid powder into 1 gallon of water. Stir it up and apply with a brush or spray onto the rust. You can also put tools in oxalic acid for quick results, but the finish on the tools could be affected by the acid itself.
Muriatic acid: This strong acid is commonly used in pH balancing for swimming pools but also doubles as an effective mineral dissolving chemical. Rust is made of iron oxide, so muriatic acid is used for rust stains frequently. This stuff is strong, so make sure to wear PPE, follow diluting instructions carefully, and always do a test spot!
We recommend starting with adding 1.5 ounces of liquid muriatic acid to 1 gallon of water to start. Apply liberally to your rust stain after first testing that mixture on an inconspicuous area. If you are using it on a porous surface like concrete, let it dry and then rinse the area. If the rust stain persists, try a stronger mixture of 3 ounces per gallon of water. Repeat, and if the stain persists, try 5-6 ounces per gallon of water. We do not recommend any more than this. If your rust stain persists, it may be worth calling a professional and having them do a full rust stain removal project involving multiple chemicals and various steps.
So, What Is The Best Homemade Rust Remover?
We showed you the chemicals and we showed you the methods of removing pesky rust stains. Each chemical has its own place, and they can be used interchangeably. Below is a quick summary of how to choose the right chemical for your DIY rust removal project:
Vinegar and table salt: Jewelry, tools, and kitchenware – removes rust from metal safely
Aluminum brightener: No messy powders, great for when you may not be able to tell if your stain is red clay or rust, as it removes both
Oxalic acid: Less worry about using too strong of a mixture in comparison to muriatic acid, highly effective for severe rust stains like fertilizer or irrigation stains
Muriatic acid: Easy to find at most stores, highly effective at removing all kinds of mineral buildup (including rust stains), but can damage surfaces if not used correctly
DIY rust removal can be a quick, simple, fun, and money-saving experience so long as you choose the right chemical for the job and know how to use them. If you are still uncertain about which chemicals to choose, how to apply them to your rust stains, and/or simply would rather pass it off to a professional, contact our team at Mount Pleasant Pressure Washing. We are rust removal specialists with hundreds of hours of experience getting rid of pesky irrigation stains and rusty metal runoff. From fully vetted and trained technicians, quick customer service, and competitive pricing, we are Mount Pleasant and surrounding areas’ number one choice for pressure washing and rust stain removal.