Here’s How To Use a Potato to Remove Rust in a Pinch

Updated: Dec. 21, 2023

The next time you need a natural rust remover, look no further than your kitchen. You can remove rust with a potato in a few easy steps.

We’ve all been there—pesky rust has formed on your cast iron pan or steel tools. Some items don’t rust as easily if they’re made of a particular material (stainless steel, for example, is highly rust-resistant unless poorly maintained or weakened). Still, others are very susceptible to rusting.

So how do you remove rust? While your instinct may be to look for a highly-rated rust remover product, you don’t have to look farther than your kitchen pantry, because you can remove rust with a potato and salt.

Can You Remove Rust With a Potato?

Before you learn how to remove rust with a potato, here’s the science that backs the spud as a natural rust remover. It turns out that potatoes are relatively high in a natural chemical called oxalic acid. Per Encyclopedia Britannica, “Oxalic acid is widely used as an acid rinse in laundries, where it is effective in removing rust and ink stains because it converts most insoluble iron compounds into a soluble complex ion.”

Combined with salt as an abrasive, a potato’s oxalic acid dissolves the rust. You can restore your rusty items to their unrusted state with some simple scrubbing.

According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s list of oxalic acid foods, potatoes contain a moderate amount of oxalic acid, but sweet potatoes contain an even higher concentration, so if you have the sweet orange root vegetable on hand, it may do as well as the common spud.

@demeteorite Replying to @gypzymike I looked at my team like they were crazy when they suggested potatoes! Apparently potato juices + the abrasiveness of salt make for an EXCELLENT rust removal remedy on steel! And I have to get my armor ready for this weekend’s #imcf #amcf #amcfworldqualifier this weekend in #nashville !!! #buhurt #armoredcombat #knight #knightinrustyarmor #potato #cleaning #rust #swordfighting #rennie #hmb #armor ♬ Delicious – T-Spoon

To remove rust with a potato, start by cutting the potato in half. Next, get some salt and dip the potato half in it until it’s well-coated. Then, with your rusty item in hand, rub the potato over the affected areas. You may need to cut the end of the potato half off between scrubbing intervals and apply more salt. Continue to scrub your rusty item until the rust is gone. To finish, rinse off the salt and wipe your item dry.

Other Rust Removal Hacks to Know

If you don’t have potatoes handy, there are some other hacks to remove rust that work just as well.

  • Try an overnight vinegar soak to dissolve rust from metal tools or smaller metal items that have rusted. The next day, rinse them off and scrub them with steel wool. Finally, apply light machine oil to prevent further rust.
  • Crack open a can of Coca-Cola and use it to clean a cast iron skillet. The phosphoric acid in the carbonated beverage dissolves the rust.
  • A simple baking soda and water mixture is also an effective rust-removal hack. Use the solution to scrub rust spots until they’re gone.

A rule of thumb after removing rust is to make sure you’ve thoroughly dried your item to prevent rust from reoccurring. Since rust is formed through oxidation (i.e., the combination of water and oxygen forms hydrated iron oxide), keeping your item dry will help prevent rust. If you’ve just removed rust from a cast iron pan, you should also use cooking oil to season it, which acts as a protective barrier against the formation of rust.