How To Remove Rust From Stainless Steel

Forgot a pot in the sink? Don't let rust spoil your day, or your sink. Try these no-fail methods to remove rust.

Next Project

15 minutes




Less than $10


We all have things we love about our kitchens. I love my big stainless steel sink. I also love my cast iron skillet. Unfortunately, these two faves don't mix, especially when my sink is so well-loved (aka scratched).

Here's what happened: The weather finally turned a somewhat-chilly 65 degrees down here in sweltering Texas, so I made some veggie chili and skillet cornbread. I left the cleanup to my (dear) other half. Whoops! After a night in the sink: Hello, rust.

Luckily, removing rust from stainless steel isn't a big deal. You probably have what you need in your pantry. For more muscle, store-bought cleaners cost next to nothing — a can of Bar Keepers Friend is two or three bucks.

Whether you have a rust ring in your sink, a little spot on a mixing bowl, or a bigger spot on your toaster or dishwasher, these tried and true methods I've been using for years will get your stainless steel gleaming again.

Tools Required

  • Microfiber Cloth
  • Non-abrasive sponge
  • Old toothbrush

Materials Required

  • Baking soda
  • Bar Keepers Friend
  • Coarse salt
  • Dish soap
  • Lemon juice

Project step-by-step (4)

Step 1

Clean first

No matter what method you use, for best results always clean the rusty item first.

  • Add a little dish soap to the sponge.
  • Run it under warm water and squeeze to get some suds going.
  • Scrub the surface of the rusty sink, pot or appliance to remove any grime or food.
  • Rinse well with clean water.

Soaking the Sponge with WaterAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 2

Baking soda method

This is my go-to. It’s easy and cheap because I always have baking soda on hand.

  • Wet the sponge with warm water.
  • Pour a generous amount of baking soda directly on the rust in the sink or other horizontal surface.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on the moist sponge, if cleaning a vertical or rounded surface.
  • Rub the baking soda on the rust, adding more water as needed, to make a paste.
    • Scrub with the grain of the steel to preserve the finish. Use the toothbrush in crevices.
    • If the rust doesn’t immediately vanish, let the paste sit for about 30 minutes, then scrub again.
  • Rinse well with clean water, then dry with microfiber cloth to prevent spots.

Cleaning Bowl with Baking SodaAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 3

Salt and lemon method

If you don’t have baking soda, this works well on light rust. Use coarse salt for better scrubbing power.

  • Pour a generous amount of coarse salt on the rust or sponge.
  • Squeeze a lemon on the salt, or dunk your sponge in lemon juice.
  • Scrub the rust with the grain, letting the paste sit for up to 30 minutes if needed.
    • Warning: Lemon juice is acidic and could harm finishes if left on too long.
  • Rinse well with clean water, then dry.

Cleaning Sink with Salt and LemonAlly Childress for Family Handyman

Step 4

Commercial cleaner method

Bar Keepers Friend contains rust-removing oxalic acid. It’s cheap and safe for multiple household surfaces, including stainless steel.

  • Wet the sink or sponge with warm water.
  • Sprinkle a generous amount of Bar Keepers Friend on the rust, or on your sponge.
  • Scrub with the grain to remove rust.
  • Let sit if needed, following directions on the label.
  • Rinse well with clean water, then dry.

Cleaning Sink with Commercial CleanerAlly Childress for Family Handyman