Why Does Vinegar Remove Rust?

In this article, we will discuss why vinegar removes rust. Instead of sanding, grinding, or using harsh chemicals to eliminate rust from your grill, metal cookware, and other objects, why not choose a natural and gentler option? You can use vinegar in getting rid of rust from your tools. It is a wonder how this cooking ingredient can clean rusted tools and make them look as good as new. Let us find out more about why and how vinegar removes rust below.

Why does vinegar remove rust? Vinegar is acidic that’s why it can remove rust. The acid in the vinegar will eat through the rust and corrosion that affects the metal. This makes it easier to scrub off the rust with an abrasive pad. Soak small rusted items in the vinegar and wipe them with an old cloth. You can also pour it vinegar directly over rust spots for larger items. See to it that you thoroughly rinse the items after the rust has dissolved.

If you want to avoid rust, make sure to keep any metal surfaces dry. In case you are dealing with rusted items, you can use rust removal products. However, most rust removal products contain toxic chemicals that are bad for the environment and are also not safe to use around children and pets. For a safer option, you can use vinegar that you can easily find in your kitchen. To help you get started, we have shared easy rust-removing hacks below.

Why does vinegar remove rust
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

How Long Does it Take for the Vinegar to Remove Rust?

How long it will take for vinegar to remove rust will have to depend on the item that is rusted and the reaction of the vinegar into it. Bear in mind that vinegar reacts differently to various metals. For instance, before the vinegar can begin to corrode aluminum, it needs to remove the protective oxide coating first. Hence, you need to be careful when using vinegar for removing rust from aluminum because it can damage the metal if you leave it in vinegar for a long time. See to it that you carefully check any metal in a vinegar solution so that you can be able to assess its condition. Avoid using vinegar on delicate and valuable metal objects.

Is Vinegar Corrosive to Metal?

Vinegar can be corrosive to metal. Take note that vinegar can be concentrated and acidic at high temperatures. While vinegar can be used to clean some metals, make sure that you take caution when doing so. Do not use vinegar for cleaning surfaces and objects with materials like stainless steel, iron, copper, and bronze.

How to Neutralize Vinegar on Metal

To neutralize vinegar on metal, you can use baking soda with the vinegar. Do this by pouring baking soda into the vinegar to create a paste mixture. Baking soda will also neutralize strong acids such as muriatic and sulphuric acids.

What Happens When You Soak Rusty Metal in Vinegar?

Soaking rusty metal in the vinegar will make the metal react and the rust dissolve. To remove rust from metal, soak it in white vinegar for a couple of hours and wipe afterward to remove the rust. When dealing with large objects, you can pour white vinegar evenly over the surface and give it some time to settle. Another method that you can use is to soak a cloth into the vinegar and use that cloth to wipe the object.  You can also check out this article titled, how do you keep the bottom of a grill from rusting? We have shared an in-depth discussion about the topic.

How to Remove Rust Using Vinegar

Vinegar is considered one of the most common household items used to remove rust. It works perfectly well for soaking smaller items that can fit into a bowl. It is an affordable but effective way to get rid of rust from various metal items. Below are the steps on how to remove rust from metal with the use of vinegar.

Step 1: Create the Solution

Create a vinegar solution by filling a large container with one gallon of distilled white vinegar. It is best to use containers like glass or plastic. Add one cup of table salt to the vinegar and stir the mixture until it is thoroughly combined. Adding salt will increase the potency of the acid in the vinegar which makes it more effective.

Step 2: Soak the Object

Once you have created the solution, submerge the rusted item into the solution and let sit overnight. Remove the item and scrape the rust with the use of steel wool or metal brush. If you have a large item that cannot be submerged into the solution, you can soak rags with vinegar and use the rags to wrap the rusted item.

Step 3: Scrub off Remaining Rust

The next step is to scrub off any rust that remains in the item. Protect your hands from rust by wearing rubber or latex gloves. Use an abrasive item like steel wool to scrub the loosened rust off of the item. You can also use a bristle brush or crumpled aluminum foil for scrubbing.

Step 4: Neutralize Acid and Remove Moisture

The last step is to neutralize acid and remove any moisture from the item. To do this, fill a container with one gallon of water and one cup of baking soda. Soak the item into the solution for about ten minutes. Using this process will neutralize the acid in the vinegar. Scrub the item to get rid of any remaining rust. Next, use a pad that is soaked with denatured alcohol to rub the item and remove any excess moisture. Prevent the item from rusting again by rubbing it with light machine oil.

Vinegar, Baking Soda, and Salt to Remove Rust

Vinegar, baking soda, and salt are popular cleaning agents. When you use them together, they create an effective homemade rust remover. This process may take longer as compared to using other rust cleaning methods, but it is ideal for cleaning items like kitchen utensils that need to be soaked.

  • In a plastic container, add one and a half cup of salt into a one-half gallon of vinegar.
  • Place the rusty items into the solution and allow them to soak for about twelve hours.
  • Pour out the solution and rinse off the items.
  • Fill a container with a one-half gallon of fresh water and one-half cup of baking soda and soak the items into the container for about ten minutes. This will neutralize any remaining vinegar that is trapped inside the crevices.
  • Rinse the items in warm water and dry them thoroughly.

You can also check out this article titled, why is my grill rusting? We have shared different factors that cause rust in your grill.

Homemade Vinegar Rust Remover

Vinegar is considered one of the best natural cleaners that can be used to remove rust. It is a popular ingredient when creating a homemade cleaning solution. Remove rust from small items Such as utensils and knives by soaking them in a bowl of vinegar overnight. Next, remove the items, and with the use of a metal brush or steel wool, scrub to remove rust. Rinse the items in clean water and dry them thoroughly with a towel. If you have a large item that will not fit any container, you can soak a rag in vinegar and use that rag to wrap around the rusted area of the item. Let it soak overnight and scrub to get rid of rust.

✅ Video – Time Lapse – Watching Rust Fall Off Using Vinegar

Alley Picked shared the video below on YouTube. It is a time-lapse on how rust falls off from items soaked in vinegar. The items are soaked in vinegar for 16 hours. Watch how rust falls off the metals and how clean the items are after being soaked in the vinegar.

Does Vinegar Break Down Rust?

Vinegar can break down rust. You can use white vinegar as an effective natural cleaning agent for rust removal. The rust will react with the vinegar and dissolve. You can soak the rusty item in white vinegar and let it sit for a couple of hours. Scrub the item to remove the rust and wipe it dry. You can also soak a cloth into the vinegar and use that cloth to wipe and wrap around large rusty items. We have also shared this article that discusses if rust on grill grates is bad. You can check out the article for more tips and information about the topic.

Does Vinegar Remove Rust from Cast Iron?

An effective way to remove rust from cast iron is to use vinegar. Even though you carefully follow the cleaning instructions and rust prevention instructions from your cast iron manufacturer manual, you will inevitably have to deal with rust on your cookware. Fret not because you can use a simple solution to get rid of this problem. Soak your cast iron in vinegar for about 8 hours. Do not let it soak longer than necessary because it can affect the long-term health of the cast iron. Make sure to check your cast iron as it soaks because the length of time that it needs to be submerged in vinegar varies. This usually has to depend on how much rust there is on the cast iron.


You have reached the end of this article that discusses why vinegar removes rust. Rust is an inevitable problem in the kitchen that you will have to deal with once in a while. Rust happens when iron oxidizes by prolonged contact with water. Anything that contains iron can become rusty. If you do not want to use commercial rust removal agents, you can opt for the natural methods that require ingredients that are commonly found in your kitchen like vinegar. It is a safe and effective method that you can use. Thank you for reading!

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