Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Boys Will Be Boys - Removing Rust from Clothing

Ah, the beautiful Red Mountains. Such a lovely site. 
I took this picture when we were in Ouray a few weeks ago. What a glorious morning it was.

The reason I'm showing you this picture is so you will understand the source of the rest of this post.
A day or two before this photo was taken, we took the boys to the abandoned mining town of Ironton.
Ironton is a neat little place that a lot of folks don't even realize is right off of the main highway. Many of the buildings are still standing in this place that was once home to over a thousand people. Today, it's a quiet respite. At least for us adults.

But if you're a kid, it's ripe for all sorts of mischief. Like throwing rocks.
Notice the golden hue to the water. That's from all the minerals as the water flows past the Red Mountains. Actually, it usually has more of a rusty tint, so I was a little surprised by the different color.

Whatever the case, our little genius in the aqua shirt was pretty irritated when he discovered those wet rocks had left deep golden spots all over his shirt. 
Rather than spark his ire by reminding him it was his own fault, I told him he could change shirts when we got back to hotel and I would try to rinse out the color.

No go. Those marks were there to stay. At least until we got home and I had all sorts of laundry products at my disposal. 

So, once we got home, I pretreated the spots with liquid laundry detergent. 
No go.

Stain remover.
No go.

By the way, I never put the shirt in the dryer. That would set the stains for sure.

Since the stains actually reminded me of rust, I took to the internet, looking for ideas on removing rust from clothing. Believe it or not, I found something that really worked. And everything I needed was in my kitchen and right outside my back door.

Okay, so these are the spots in question. 
Sorry, I didn't even think about taking a picture until I'd already treated them.
 By now you're probably wondering what I treated these pesky stains with, aren't you?
A simple slurry of salt and lemon juice. Just enough juice so it's thinner than a paste, but not too soupy.
I spooned it evenly onto each of the spots.
 Then laid the shirt out in the bright summer sun and waited for the magic to happen.

Round one - stains were faded, but still obvious.

Round two - faded more, but still there.

 I rinsed the shirt out after the first two applications to make sure the stains really were fading and not simply covered with salt residue.

Liking what I saw, I kept going. I don't remember if I did three or four rounds, but I was determined to get those stains out. And I am happy to say that I was successful. It's always good when moms can score brownie points with their kids. And resurrecting their favorite shirt from the dead scored me plenty.
Okay, I just now took this picture instead of when the shirt was first cleaned and it has been worn and washed several times since. That light area over the logo did not appear until this most recent washing, so I'm not sure what caused it.
I will tell you that the person who posted this information on the internet did say they had only used it on whites. But since the shirt was headed for the trash anyway, I figured it was worth trying. It did lighten a couple of the areas at the bottom just slightly, but not enough for my son to notice, so I didn't say a word.

All in all, it was a fun experiment so I thought I'd pass it on in case you ever had to tackle a rust stain.  Or mineral deposits from boys throwing wet rocks. :)
I'm also wondering how this treatment might work on some yellowed antique linens I have tucked away. Nothing too delicate. Perhaps when I unearth them during the move I'll consider giving it a go.

Do you have any stain removal secrets? If so, you know we'd love to hear about them,


  1. This is what I use to clean the copper bottom of my Revere Ware kettles, but I would have never thought of it for rust stains.

    Oh mylanta, you are amazing, Mindy!!!! YOWZA!!!!

    And I've done similar things... if the shirt or dress is about to become a rag for washing cars, we might as well experiment!

    Good for you!

    I love helpful hints like this. Especially on the farm where farm mud has ruined many a piece of clothing. Oh my stars, we are dirty folks!!!

  2. Copper, rust... I'm detecting a trend with this concoction, Ruthy. And I hear you on the mud. When it rains at the ranch, nothing is safe.

  3. Oh my - where curious minds will lead us. You are much more industrious than I. My solution would be the trash. But then, you did mention the part about the shirt being a favorite of your son's and brownie points for getting it clean. Guess that makes it worth all that time and effort. smile

    1. Sandra, sometimes there are challenges too tempting not to try. I'm just grateful to the person who posted this "recipe" on the Internet. Twenty years ago, the shirt would have been a tosser. Of course, the fact that I had both salt and lemon juice on hand made it too easy not to try. Then it was just a matter of persistence. For brownie points, I will be persistent. Well, as long as it doesn't involve running or any other lengthy form of cardio. :P

  4. PS The mining town looks really interesting and fun. I love exploring places like that. Thanks for sharing the photos.

    1. Sandra, if your travels ever take you along Hwy. 550 between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado (aka, the Million Dollar Highway), let me know and I'll tell you where to pull off.

  5. The only thing I can think of off hand is rubbing alcohol to get off ink.

    I was in a dress store once many years ago. They had a beautiful linen dress on sale for $20 because it had ink stains on it. I always have those little alcohol in my purse so I tried on in the corner of the dress (in the dressing room). Ink vanished. I bought the dress, brought it home, and used alcohol to get the rest out.

    Still have the dress and I belive it predated my daughter who is about to turn 29. (Sadly, I'm not saying it still fits. I took it out for RWA last year and didn't quite make it. But some day. I'm determined!

    1. I had forgotten all about rubbing alcohol and ink, Mary Cate. One of my children once took a Sharpie to the carpet and a couple of window sills. It may have taken an entire bottle of rubbing alcohol, but I got it all out, meaning said child lived to see another day. :P

      Thanks for the reminder.

  6. Well this is a handy dandy post. I actually have what I think must be a rust stain around the drain of my bathroom sink. No amount of scrubbing with anything and everything can make it go away. I'm going to try this and see what happens.

    As to close -- true confession: if a stain didn't come out in the first wash and the item was a favourite of my daughter's I just embroidered a critter or flower or some such thing over the stain to hide it. A little quirky fashion wise I suppose, but my girlie had the panache to carry it off. LOL

    1. Kav, I think the bright sunlight was what made the magic happen. However, if you wanted to give it a go, try putting the salt on half a lemon and scrubbing with that.

      Do y'all have CLR up there? If so, that might work, too. It's not natural, but if it works...

      Love the embroidery idea! Probably wouldn't fly with my boys, though. Can't you just see them walking around with a cute butterfly on their shirt. Better yet, an entire swarm of butterflies. :D

  7. My daughter just got a rust stain on her beach towel, so thank you for this!