Best Rust Removers 2023 | Rust Removers and Converters

Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. Why Trust Us?

Stop this stubborn nuisance in its tracks before it’s too late. Anti Rust Agents

Best Rust Removers 2023 | Rust Removers and Converters

When iron, water, and oxygen come together, rust is sure to follow. Left unchecked, it will slowly eat away at your car’s frame and lay waste to shovels, wheelbarrows, grills, and every outdoor appliance. If your home has old cast iron plumbing or hard water, you’re likely fighting an endless battle against ugly orange stains in your sinks and toilets. Rust residue can even stain your clothes.

Rust is inevitable, but there is a way to keep the decay at bay. Rust removers can chemically combat your orange foe, often with little to no effort. Simply coat or soak the material in a rust remover, give it time to work its magic, then wipe the orange stuff away. There are many kinds of rust removers made for many kinds of rust removal jobs: The best option for a rusty brake rotor might damage a stained toilet. We’re here to help you figure out what rust remover you need and recommend some of the best options for many of the most common rust-related cleanups.

Chemical rust removers use acid, solvents, or sodium hydrosulfite to dissolve rust off hard surfaces. Depending on the active ingredient, they can be very hazardous: Acid-based rust removers work very fast, often dissolving rust in mere minutes, but are so caustic that they may eat through anything but metal, leave permanent etches on stainless steel, and dissolve paint you may wish to preserve. Given that, acid chemical rust removers are best limited to removing rust from bare iron and steel.

Sodium hydrosulfite, a more gentle option, requires a longer soaking time, but won’t scar or damage the materials you’re trying to salvage. Rust removers with sodium hydrosulfite typically come in powder form, making them ideal for removing rust from more delicate surfaces, such as concrete, marble, and other types of stone and masonry. It’s also an effective ingredient for removing rust stains from fabrics and porcelain sinks, tubs, and toilets.

Lastly, petroleum-based solvents such as WD-40 penetrate through the rust and loosen it from the surface of the metal, allowing you to wipe it off. As an added benefit, they leave behind a film that helps to prevent rust from returning.

Since they won’t burn your skin or produce harmful fumes, petroleum-based rust removers are also much safer to use than acid-based options. That said, we still recommend using eye protection and gloves for any chemical-based option, since they can be harmful if they get in your eyes or under your skin.

Chelating rust removers offer a highly effective, nontoxic, acid-free, and biodegradable solution that binds to iron oxide (A.K.A. Rust) and strips it away, making it easy to remove.

Chelating rust removers typically require you to soak your rusted gear in a liquid solution for anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours, which gives the agent plenty of time to bind to the rust. There are also gel-based chelating removers, which are helpful for spot-treating rusty areas on toilets, patios, and other surfaces you can’t soak in a tub.

Since chelating removers are non-toxic and acid-free, you can safely use them indoors on a wide range of materials without fear of damaging them or surrounding surfaces. They aren't as powerful as chemical rust removers but are far safer and more convenient.

Rust converters transform rust into a primed, paintable surface, rather than wiping it away, which protects weathered metal from getting rusty again. Converters are typically reserved for treating broad areas that you plan to paint over, such as a trailer, metal fencing, or a vehicle.

In most cases, you can either spray or brush the converter onto the rusted surface and allow it to dry without needing to rinse or clean it afterwards, which makes the process less time-consuming and labor-intensive. That said, converters only work on lightly rusted metal, so you may need to scrape or sand thicker layers of rust before applying it, depending on the formula.

Workshop Essentials: Popular Mechanics Tool Awards 2023 • Best Shop Vacs for Cleaning Up Your Garage • Best Power Sanders for Your Shop

In addition to checking the active ingredient, keep in mind that rust removers come in a variety of different forms, including liquids, sprays, gels, and powders. Choosing the right form can make your job a lot easier. Choosing wrong will make it feel next to impossible.

Most rust removers come in liquid form. Depending on the product, you may need to soak the item in the remover to treat it, or apply it directly to a rust-coated surface and wipe the rust away with a rag or a brush. Liquids are ideal for soaking tools or rusty parts.

While it won’t penetrate rust as well as a liquid remover, a rust remover spray allows you to apply and treat rust in hard-to-reach places, like inside a car engine. While this can make a rust remover more convenient and easy to use, spray solutions are typically more expensive than purely liquid varieties, some of which can be used as a spray anyway.

The thick consistency of gel-based rust remover is particularly useful for spot-cleaning. Unlike a liquid, it clings to materials better than liquids, powders, or sprays, so it’s a good option for removing rust from vertical surfaces. It’s also helpful if you need to get rust stains out of clothing and upholstery.

Powdered rust removers are often used to remove rust stains from anything near a rusty metal surface, including fabrics, ceramics, and concrete. This type of rust remover is frequently made from sodium hydrosulfite, which can remove rust without damaging delicate materials. Depending on the powdered rust remover, you may either have to apply it directly to the stain or mix the powder with water and soak it by submerging the entire item in the solution.

You should plan to wear eye protection and gloves when using a rust remover. Depending on what you’re doing, an innocent accident could lead to serious injury if you don’t take proper precautions.

Acid-based rust removers can cause severe burns if they come into contact with your skin or eyes, and they produce fumes that can irritate your throat and lungs.

When using chemical rust removers, especially acid, work in a well-ventilated space and protect yourself with the proper protective equipment, including goggles, gloves, and work clothing to cover any exposed skin.

Less caustic options like chelating removers and rust converters are safer to use, but not completely harmless. In most cases, you should still take basic precautions. I’d recommend wearing gloves and safety glasses of some kind no matter what.

We selected a range of popular rust removers based on user reviews at online retailers like Home Depot and Amazon, as well as personal testing experience removing rust from toilets, tools, sinks, cars, and all kinds of gear.

We also consulted experts for certain specific picks. Barry Wilson, owner of Wilson Auto Repair in Garland, Texas, drew on 40 years of experience restoring classic cars to make our “best for cars” pick. The Popular Mechanics test team asked NASA’s Corrosion Technology Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Center to weigh in on our best overall pick.

Rust removers come in many forms, and are made for many purposes. Our selections reflect that variety, as we made sure to include recommendations for many of the common rust removal jobs the average person faces at home. Whether you’re looking to remove a light layer of rust in your kitchen or bathroom, heavy rust on your tools or car, or rust stains from your clothes, the best product for your needs is surely included below.

Evapo-Rust traces the development of its product to its work on behalf of America’s military, to make a safe industrial-scale method of rust removal. Evapo-Rust is effective and quick. After six hours of soaking, the testing material used at Nasa’s laboratory was quite clean. After 12 hours, it was spotless, including the corners and the weld.

We noticed minor carbon deposits had leached out of the steel, but with a little effort we managed to wipe these off using rags and a plastic scouring pad. This isn’t a function of the rust remover as much as it reflects the degree of carbon in the steel or the weld metal. Some steels will emit more carbon in the rust removal process than others. Bottom line: This is a fine and effective product.

CLR (Calcium Lime Rust) has been a household staple for decades, and my personal go-to for removing stubborn and unwanted rust. While it’s typically thought of as only a household cleaner, it’s actually an industrial-strength, acid-based solution that can tackle moderate rust formation on a variety of surfaces.

It’s safe to use on metal, brick, and stucco, along with all plumbing materials like copper and PVC plastic. In addition to removing rust, it can also be used to dissolve calcium and lime deposits.

During my last experience using CLR, I used it to remove the rust that had formed on a few of my sockets. Despite having to do some scraping with a wire brush prior to soaking it in the CLR, and having to perform few cycles of soaking and scraping, the sockets I treated were restored to practically pristine condition in a relatively short amount of time.

WD-40 might be most well-known for its lubricating spray, but its specialist formula is an industrial-strength, nontoxic, rust-removing soak capable of stripping off the most stubborn rust at an incredibly affordable price.

Best of all, there’s no scrubbing or scraping needed beforehand. Just soak the affected item for the recommended 24-hour period and rinse it off with water. Better still, a single soak can be reused multiple times until it loses its effectiveness, which contributes to its affordability.

Unfortunately, this formula is only useful on metal, so it lacks the multipurpose functionality of some of our other selections. Also, being a chelating agent, it doesn’t work as quickly as many chemical-based formulas.

When you have a large amount of heavily rusted items to deal with, Corroseal’s rust converter can cover it all with a paintable surface that protects against future rust formation. Although you would expect an industrial-strength formula to be an acid-based solution, Corroseal is completely nontoxic, so you can use it indoors and out.

While it’s technically a rust converter, rather than a rust remover, Corroseal can be used to eliminate the toughest rust that other formulas may not be able to handle. The downside? It’s more expensive than most of our other picks, so you may want to reserve it for the most intractable cases of rust.

Having lived in several homes with well water and hard city water, I’ve spent plenty of time battling rust stains in kitchens and bathrooms. This little brown bottle has long been my go-to rust remover on tile and porcelain. It’s easy to apply to sinks, tubs, and toilets, and doesn’t require much effort to wipe off. There’s no need for vigorous scrubbing or hours of soaking.

That said, Whink is a specialized cleaner. It’s great on tile and I’ve used it to clean carpeting, but it isn’t great for getting rust off metal. Also, the hydrofluoric-acid-based formula isn’t safe to touch, so you’ll want to suit up with heavy rubber gloves and wear eye protection when it’s time to clean.

Expert mechanic and car restorer Barry Wilson usually relies on a sand blaster to remove rusty spots when fixing up a classic car, but he relies on POR-15 Metal Prep when the rust is too extensive and might warp the metal. Unlike most acid-based rust removers, POR-15–short for Paint Over Rust–not only melts away rust, but preps the metal underneath for paint by lightly etching the metal and leaving behind a zinc phosphate coating.

The etching gives the paint something to hold on to, and the zinc phosphate chemically bonds the paint to the metal, reducing the chance it will peel off over time. Since you can also apply POR-15 with a brush, roller, or spray, it’s easy to cover a large area. Just make sure you wear a mask and gloves to keep your hands and face safe.

Metal Rescue makes it easy to clean your rusty tools quickly. Simply pour it in a plastic tub, throw the rusty tools in, and let them soak for up to a day. I’ve used this product to take rust off wrenches, c-clamps, pocket knives, saw blades, and old bike chains, among other things without any spraying, diluting, or scrubbing.

Metal Rescue is a water-based chelating rust remover, so it’s safer than acid-based alternatives. You can apply it without full PPE, and it can go down the drain when you’re done. That said, you should check your tools before giving them a bath: Metal Rescue will eat away at paint and special zinc and oxide coatings, so you shouldn’t treat them unless you’re okay losing them along with the rust.

Iron Out is the best way to remove orange rust stains from your sinks, tubs, and toilets. The gel-based spray makes it easy to apply to hard-to-reach places, and sticks to porcelain walls so it can sit and absorb stains.

Also, Iron Out’s active ingredient, oxalic acid, is one of the safer active ingredients you’ll find in an acid-based rust remover. That said, it does give off a strong odor, so make sure to open windows and switch on the bathroom fan before you start cleaning.

How do I protect surfaces from future rust formation after using a rust remover?

To prevent rust from returning on the objects and surfaces that you just treated with a rust remover, you can paint it, apply a corrosion inhibitor, rub on some paste wax, or coat it with a light layer of linseed oil. Using a rust converter instead of a conventional rust remover will also provide an additional layer of protection. You can further minimize the risk of rust returning by preventing or minimizing exposure to oxygen and water.

What materials can rust removers be used on?

The materials a rust remover is suitable for will depend on the type of rust remover it is. Rust removers that use strong acids are usually effective only on metal, while certain chelating rust removers and those primarily composed of sodium hydrosulfite can be used on fabrics, stone, and concrete, but are infrequently effective on most metals.

When should I use a rust converter instead of a regular rust remover?

Since rust converters can simply be applied without having to rinse or wipe off the rust afterwards, it’s usually the ideal solution for covering a large surface area. Since they’re frequently available in spray bottles or aerosol cans, they can also be more useful for applying to hard-to-reach areas that you can’t access by hand.

As a general rule, rust converters are best to use on objects and materials that you will consider painting later on, since they convert the rust into a permeable surface that’s intended for paint.

Tony Carrick is a full-time freelance writer who specializes in technology, home improvement, DIY, home security, and outdoor recreation. He’s tested and written about everything from home security systems to power tools to gas grills. His product guides, how-to articles, and feature stories can be found in such publications as Bob Vila, Angi, U.S. News and World Report, Field & Stream, Futurism, and Switchful. When Tony isn’t writing, he can be found working on his latest home improvement effort at his home in North Carolina.

The Best Leaf Blowers to Clean Your Yard Fast

This Champion Generator Is 49% Off at Amazon

The Best Leaf Bags for Clearing Your Yard

The Best Garage Heaters for Indoor-Outdoor Warmth

The Best Headlamps for Running, Camping, and More

Greenworks’s 3-in-1 Combo Kit Is 43% Off at Amazon

The Best Cordless Stick Vacuums

The Best Portable Fire Pits for a Bonfire Anywhere

Amazon Has So Many Clever Gadgets for Under $50

20 Useful Everyday Gadgets for Under $25 on Amazon

20 Useful Everyday Gadgets for Under $25 on Amazon

A Part of Hearst Digital Media

We may earn commission from links on this page, but we only recommend products we back.

Best Rust Removers 2023 | Rust Removers and Converters

Corrosion Protection Lubrication ©2023 Hearst Magazine Media, Inc. All Rights Reserved.