PSA: This Is How to Clean Rust On Your Knives and Pans

Milk and Honey Life kitchen.

Milk and Honey Life

Rust has a nice aesthetic finish if you're aiming for a farmhouse or industrial vibe, but it's not always a welcome sight.

Over time, rust will destroy your metal utensils and tools like pots, pans, and knives. So, while you may enjoy the weathered look of antique décor, in your kitchen cabinets and drawers, rust spells doom.

Fortunately, there are a number of simple, effective ways to tackle the issue of rust using everyday household items. To give your kitchenware a longer lifespan, here are four sure-fire methods for removing rust and restoring your kitchen goods to their former glory.

How Often Should You Clean Your Rusty Kitchenware?

It's recommended that you clean kitchenware and knives regularly to avoid rust. But, if rust has already begun to form on your metal, clean it immediately, as leaving it will corrode and damage your metal.

A pink kitchen lined with copper pots and pans

Pure Salt Interiors

Things You'll Need:

  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Lemon juice
  • Potato
  • Mineral oil

Step 1: Try Using Baking Soda

Baking soda is a versatile and affordable cleaner, able to revive anything from shower grout to stovetops. For those already aware of baking soda's remarkable skill set, it will come as no surprise to hear it's also a powerful solution for removing rust.

To clean your weathered knives and such, you'll just need baking soda and water. Combine the two ingredients in a small bowl to create a thick paste, then cover rust spots with the mixture, just as you would frost a cake. Let the paste sit for an hour or two, then use a toothbrush or kitchen scrubber to remove the rust. Finally, rinse off your kitchenware, then pat it dry.

Baking soda is best used for items with minimal rust build-up. If you're repairing a pan that's coated in rust, try soaking it in white vinegar instead.

Step 2: Soak in White Vinegar

For the rust that's been left a little too long, a white vinegar bath may be the best solution. This method may take a little longer, but the results are worth the wait.

Start by placing your kitchen utensils in a large bowl, then fill it with white vinegar. You'll need enough vinegar to cover the rust, so if you're removing rust from a pan, make sure that section is submerged. Allow the knife or pan to soak overnight, then use a metal scrubber to remove the residue. Rinse and dry, or repeat the process if there's still rust leftover.

If you don't have enough white vinegar or a large enough bowl to fit your utensil or pan, soak a dishrag in vinegar, then wrap it around your knife or press it into the pan. Let it sit overnight, then wipe away the rust come morning.

Kitchen knife.

Step 3: Clean With Lemon Juice

Another kitchen essential that's useful for both cooking and cleaning is lemon juice. The acid serves as an effective rust remover—and the smell is pleasant, too.

For this method, you'll need a lot of salt and a lot of lemon juice. Begin by sprinkling a generous amount of salt over the rusted area. The salt will act as an abrasive element to help scrape away rust. Next, squeeze lemon juice over the salt. Let it sit for one to two hours before scrubbing the rust off with a bristle brush, steel wool, or even the leftover lemon rind. Finish it off with a good rinse, then wipe your kitchenware down with a dry rag. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Lemon juice is also a great solution if you need to remove rust from fabric, such as carpet or towels. Drizzle lemon juice over the stain, then rub in some cream of tartar. Let it sit for 20 minutes, rinse with water, and sop up the remaining liquid with a rag.

Step 4: Opt for a Potato Scrub

You read that right. The oxalic acid in potatoes is an excellent tool for banishing stubborn rust, and of all the options listed, this one is the quickest.

To clean your rusted kitchenware using this method, cut the potato in half, then coat the open side with a layer of dish soap. Use the potato as you would a kitchen brush and start scrubbing. It shouldn't take long before the rusty residue starts slipping away and down the drain!

If you're cleaning a rusty knife, try inserting the blade in a potato and leaving it overnight. The next morning, you should be able to take out the knife and wipe away the rust.

Tips to Keep Your Kitchenware Rust-Free

Since rust thrives on the combination of metal and moisture, the simplest way to give your kitchen tools a longer life is to keep them clean and dry. Here are a few quick tips to help your kitchenware stay rust-free:

  • Don't let your kitchen knives and pans sit in the sink.
  • Wash your metal kitchen tools immediately and dry them with a towel instead of letting them air dry.
  • Avoid washing your knives and pans in the dishwasher.
  • Wipe your knives in mineral oil a few times each year to prevent rust build-up.
  • Sharpen your kitchen knives at least once a year to prevent pit corrosion.