My daughter's boyfriend was helping around the yard, we were using old metal chains to help take down an un needed tree. His white pants were covered in rust so my daughter did what she thought was right, she scrubbed them with stain remover then let them soak in bleach and proceeded to wash them... afterwards I read that that is a big no no... is there any hope for these brand new pants??

  • I googled and the advice seems to focus on white vinegar or lemon juice. Absolutely no mention of bleach...
    – Solar Mike
    Nov 14, 2022 at 9:27
  • Rust is essentially metal fragments and they've embedded themselves in the clothing. You're not fighting a traditional stain, you need to remove the oxidation from the metal without destroying the fabric. You need to Google "how to remove rust".
    – MonkeyZeus
    Nov 14, 2022 at 13:25
  • 2
    New white pants and tree removal is a no no. :)
    – JACK
    Nov 14, 2022 at 13:28
  • 3
    I’m voting to close this question because it's clearly not about home improvement.
    – George Anderson
    Nov 14, 2022 at 13:40
  • 1
    Maybe a mod could migrate this to Lifehacks.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 14, 2022 at 14:11

1 Answer 1


Bleach tends to make rust stains worse, because it operates by oxygenating substances. For most stains, this will oxidize colored compounds into uncolored ones -- but rust is already an oxide, so oxygen won't help.

Two fairly common materials will reduce the iron and let it wash out of the fabric: oxalic acid or phosphoric acid. Oxalic acid is found in potato and rhubarb leaves (and is responsible for their toxicity), while the easiest source of phosphoric acid (on a lifehack basis, anyway) is genuine Coca-Cola.

Either of these will likely improve a rust stain, but the best solution is to get a product called "Iron-Out" in the laundry aisle of most supermarkets; it's made of sodium dithionite and is a very strong antioxidant, specifically marketed for removing rust stains. Follow directions on the package and you should see your stain either completely cleared or greatly improved.

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