How to Remove Rust from Carpet

I’m currently in Toronto, Canada and I have limited access to wifi. Posting may be erratic until Sunday. Don’t forget to enter the Bissell Steam & Sweep giveaway running through 10/31/2010.

Dear Home Ec 101,

I recently moved some furniture only to discover rust rings on my carpet. Can you help me figure out how to safely remove the rust stains from my carpeting?

Thanks!

Rusty in Rucksburg

Heather says:

Whatever you do, do not get chlorine bleach anywhere near the rust stains. Bleach sets rust stains, this goes for all of them, whether on clothing or bathroom fixtures. (In cases where the rust is on a solid surface the chlorine bleach can only interact with the topmost layer, so it may be removal despite contact, just know it’s not going to make your life any better).

Acids are usually quite useful in removing rust stains. You can try using lemon juice or a paste of cream of tartar on the rust stain. Follow with a rinse of plain water and blot dry.

Another option for rust removal from carpet is a product called Whink which is specifically for rust removal and mentions carpeting in its use cases. I have not personally tried this product but it does have a lot of testimonials.

Good luck!

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  1. If all else fails…

    CAVEAT: Definitely do test this method in a VERY inconspicuous area and let dry for several days to be sure there isn't going to be some delayed chemical reaction that causes fiber bleaching before applying to exposed areas.

    I have found that lime scale/rust removers like CLR or LimeAway will remove rust stains from just about everything, including fabrics. Unfortunately, they can bleach some dyes, too, thus the warning. These products use phosphoric acid as their active ingredient, so be sure not to get this on painted or wooden surfaces, and you probably should use gloves.

    Pull up the carpet if you can, so you can put a plastic trash bag under the affected area to protect the pad. Pour the lime remover in a small bowl or cup and use a natural cellulose sponge or cotton ball to dab the liquid onto the rust stain. Get it pretty thoroughly damp and rub lightly to ensure penetration. Wait about 15 minutes and check it. If it's not gone, apply a little more, rub it again, and wait another 15 minutes…if it's not gone after that, it isn't going to go away. When the stain is gone or when you've given up, use a clean cloth and clear water to rinse the area as thoroughly as possible without soaking the carpet. Dry it as much as possible with another clean cloth. Neutralize any remaining acid by scattering baking soda over the area and work it down into the fibers with your fingers (don't rub it in, just make sure it doesn't just sit on the surface). You can let that dry and vacuum it up later. After all is dried and vacuumed, remember to remove the garbage bag and re-secure the edge of the carpet.

    BTW, I once had a bleach bottle split open on the bottom as I was carrying it in from the store, and it left a trail of bleached spots on the carpet in an apartment. The carpet was olefin shag and dark rust in color (this was a LONG time ago) and the bleach left it darn near white. I was very, very broke at the time and this was a total disaster. So the next time I was at the store, I bought orange and brown Marks-A-Lot markers (the kind that will get you high) and spent an afternoon on my belly recoloring the carpet. It was painstaking work to get the blend right, but IT WORKED, it didn't show and the end product remained stable. I saved my deposit. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but it's still a MOTHER! ;o)

  2. There's also a carpet cleaning product called "Folex" that works well on rust. Actually it works amazingly well on every carpet stain I've used it on. I think I got it at Bed, Bath, and Beyond…

  3. It's really nice to hear all of the products that will remove rust from carpet just in case I ever run into this problem. I've learned a lot by coming to this blog. You do a super job. Have a great time while you're in Toronto, Canada.

  4. I'm not really a whiz in doing housework. So I get all my information from surfing the internet, reading blogs like this. Thank you for all the tips and be sure to know that you are helping a lot of moms like me by sharing your knowledge.

  5. I guess it could be helpful in any kind.

  6. Sailfish says:

    My rust was on a light tan carpet and was caused by many years of carpet steam-cleaning around a pinball games metal legs. After removing the pinball game, the rust looked so embedded in the carpet I had prepared myself for the inability to remove the stains. As it turned out, the rust was removed easily and thoroughly using the following steps. 1. Acquire a hand-held portable steamer like a Shark unit similar to, http://bit.ly/fEaL1x). 2. Liberally steam the effected area beforehand, this acts to loosen the carpet fibers and the rust within them. 3. Apply lemon juice on affected area and let sit for 3-5 minutes. 4. Use paper towel to blot up the rust. All the rust came up easily with only a single application and in less than 15 minutes time.

  7. To remove the rust, I would start simple. Use some dish soap and water. Apply this and blot with a clean white towel. If you see any transfer then keep going. If not then try some lemon juice and salt, apply this and let it sit for a while. Rinse thoroughly. If there is still no change then try a paste of cream of tarter and water and let it sit for 3-4 hours after applying it liberally to the affected area. Rinse thoroughly with water.
    If none of these work, then it is probably time to call a professional who has access to rust remover products that usually work almost instantly.