Eco Chef: Homemade Natural Rust Removers

Eco Chef: Homemade Natural Rust RemoversAfter sharing all of the many reasons I adore Mason jars with you last week, I started rummaging through my pantry to dig out my collection and do a quick inventory. To my not-so-pleasant surprise, I found that many of my jars had little patches of rust around their rims.

I have a hunch that the rusty guys came from an old batch I discovered at the top of a dusty closet around the holidays, which all had lids screwed on even though they probably hadn’t been used in years.

It’s a good idea to store Mason jars and their lids separately, and to make sure you replace older lids that show any sign of tarnish or rust. A pack of 12 is usually only a couple of bucks.

There’s no need to toss the jars themselves, though, if you find they’ve collected rust spots as mine did. My initial reaction was to go buy some rust remover at the store, but since we’ve been keeping things eco-friendly lately, I decided to do a little research on a more natural home remedy.

Turns out, all it takes is a little citrus and/or some vinegar to get rid of rust. There are several ways to do it. Some folks mix baking soda with a little lemon juice and/or vinegar into a paste, and rub that over the rust spot(s). Others pour salt over the spot, then soak it with lime juice and let it sit for a bit before wiping away. Some just spray or dab the spot with undiluted vinegar until it dissolves. But I had a lot of jars, and not enough patience for these spot-check methods. So I got a little creative.

First, I filled a wash tub with about a half-inch of distilled white vinegar. I juiced two lemons and two limes into the tub, then lined up all of my jars rim-side down inside it. The rust spots still weren’t quite submerged, so I back-filled with a little water.

I let them sit in the mixture overnight, and then ran them under cold water and used a steel wool scouring pad to scrub the rims the next morning. The rust came right off.

This type of natural, high-acid solution works great on glass and some metals. After living by the ocean in Mexico, I came home with tweezers and cuticle scissors that were nearly sealed shut with rust. An overnight bath in this easy at-home rust remover cleaned them right up.

Do some quick research to make sure that the material you’re working with will respond well to this type of natural cleaner. I tried it on a rusted cast-iron pan, for example, and had spotty results (click the link to read up on some alternative methods that work great for cast iron).

Then, challenge yourself by exploring what other types of cleaners or household products you can create with everyday ingredients. Did you know that citrus peel and lemongrass work great at warding off bees and other flying insects? Or that water, alcohol, and vinegar make the perfect homemade window cleaner? See what else you can create at home—and how long you can avoid the grocery store cleaning isle.