Corrosion refers to the deterioration of any metal due to the metal's interaction with an outside substance, most commonly oxygen. In oxidation, oxygen molecules combine with molecules in the metal to create oxides, which are far weaker than the original refined metal. Rust is a type of corrosion. Specifically, it's the process of corrosion in metals that contain iron. When iron oxidizes, it forms the red, flaky substance commonly referred to as rust.
Many companies have sought to find the cheapest, most effective and most affordable way to remove rust, without taking into consideration the adverse effects the chemicals may have on the user’s skin and lungs. Acids like sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, and oxalic acid can be found in rust remover and other household products and can directly damage the surface layers of your bodily tissues, resulting in mild symptoms such as reddening to more severe symptoms such as blister formation and destruction of layers of the skin.5
Products like Whink Rust Stain Remover, advertised for cleaning “even the toughest of rust stains” on toilets and bathtubs also states in its fine print that it “May be fatal or cause permanent damage” and causes severe burns which may not be immediately painful or visible.”6
For a rust remover which is proven to not provide severe invisible burns, use the following:
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 20 drops lemon oil or a whole lemon
Rinse the rusty item thoroughly. Then mix into a non-metallic cup, bowl, or spray bottle, depending on the size of your object and either leave the item in the solution or spray generously onto the rusty areas. Very persistent and strong rust stains need to be diluted in ammonia in order to remove. There are other homemade formulas for removing rust involving coconut oil, ketchup, or coca cola, so if for whatever reason this does not work, those household items are also safe and an option. Linseed oil is an all-natural flaxseed-based compound which can prevent rust with the occasional application. This can be useful in keeping bike chains, refrigerators, tools, or other iron and copper items around the house rust-free.