How to Remove Rust Stains from Plastic – 3 Methods with Steps

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Rust stains on plastic usually appear on utensils, tubs, containers, and other household items as a harmful effect of hard water. You might also have a piece of plastic decor that has been stained with rust because of its proximity to rusted metal. That makes many people wonder how to remove rust stains from plastic.

Tip: Use a rust remover that’s safe for plastics

You can get a cleaning solution that is made to remove rust stains from plastic. First, grab a cleaning bucket and mix 1/3 cup of this cleaning solution in a gallon of warm water. Then, soak your plastic item in there for at least 5 minutes. Wear a pair of cleaning gloves and pick it up to check if the rust stains are gone. Keep it soaking until the stain is gone. Rinse it thoroughly with clean water. Repeat this process if that’s needed.

Removing rust from plastic is a simple process, but you need to know which cleaning solutions and methods to use so as not to damage the surface. In fact, it is not actual rust removal. Think of it as stain removal because what looks to be rust is actually the build-up of dirt.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Plastic

How to Remove Rust Stains from Plastic

Method 1: How to Remove Rust Stains from Plastic with Dish Soap, Baking Soda, Water, and Cleaning Acid Solution

This step-by-step guide will help you in removing rust from plastic with ease. However, remember that it takes some patience as you may need to repeat the process as needed.

Step 1: Wash and Rub

The rusty plastic should be rubbed with a damp rag. To remove stains that don’t come off, add soap to a sponge.

Step 2: Scrub Away Stains

If the cleaning cloth didn’t help, use super fine steel wool instead. You can also use a kitchen scrubber to prevent the plastic finish from dulling. Wet the scrubber/steel wool down and scrub away stubborn marks and stains on the plastic. Consider adding dish soap to enhance scrubbing power.

Step 3: Use a Weak Acid to Dissolve Rust

Make a 50-50 cleaning solution by mixing water with lemon juice or vinegar. This is where a spray bottle comes in useful. Pour the solution into it and spray the affected area. After about 15 min, wipe it clean. This step should be repeated if needed.

Step 4: Use a Stronger Cleaning Acid Solution if Necessary

For the most persistent stains, it is necessary to utilize a stronger cleaning acid solution, like a hypochlorous acid cleaning solution. Simply apply the mixture, according to the cleaning label. Then allow it to work for a few minutes before wiping it off.

You can use a similar method with concentrated cleaning vinegar, that will help you clean rust off exterior plastic like vinyl siding as well as PVC fencing and decking.

Rinse thoroughly with water before moving on the Step 5.

Step 5: Make a Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda has whitening properties that you can use to scrub and remove many types of stains. To prolong the exposure, handle stubborn marks with a paste. It can be made by mixing baking soda with water or full-strength lemon juice/vinegar. Then spread it on rust stains and let it work for 15-30 minutes. Once the rust dissolves, grab a scrubbing pad and clean off the paste.

Method 2: Remove Rust Stains from Plasticware with Baking Soda & Vinegar

Baking soda is one of the most versatile staples you’ll find in your kitchen. It’s the perfect ingredient for cooking or baking. But did you know that it can also remove rust stains when mixed with vinegar? Find out how with the following steps.

Step 1: Wash Plastic as Usual

First you need to clean your plastic thoroughly. Wash it with warm water and soap. Be sure to clean the entire area evenly so that no stain is left untouched.

Step 2: Apply Vinegar and Baking Soda

After applying baking soda to the stained area – make sure it is covered entirely – add vinegar to make a thick paste. It’s advisable to add only one tablespoon at a time. When baking soda and vinegar are mixed together, their ions react with each other, forming sodium acetate and carbonic acid. These chemicals can dissolve many types of rust stains.

Step 3: Spread the Paste Evenly

At this stage, the paste should be applied to the entire surface. Don’t skimp on it. Spread the paste thick and allow it to work for around 15 minutes.

Step 4: Scrub the Rust Stains

Now scrub away the stains with a kitchen scrubber or the finest steel wool available. Use a circular motion and keep scrubbing until you remove the paste completely. This process should be repeated several times if necessary.

Step 5: Wash and Rinse

We recommend rinsing and washing plasticware before putting it back in the closet, kitchen cabinet, or elsewhere. The next time you need a piece of plastic, it will be safe for use.

Method 3: Get Rid of Rust Stains with Cream of Tartar

Cream of Tartar (aka potassium bitartrate) is one of the most popular ingredients in many recipes. Aside from baking, this acidic byproduct of wine can be used for removing stains from plastic bathtubs thanks to its cleaning properties.

Step 1

Rinse off dirt on your plastic bathtub with a tub cleaner and clean water.

Step 2

Sprinkle the potassium bitartrate so that the stained area is covered well.

Step 3

Once the paste has formed, allow it to sit for several hours.

Step 4

When the paste starts working on stains, scrub them away with a kitchen scourer or sponge.

Step 5

Lastly, wash away the remaining paste by turning on the water and your tub will be ready to use again. Repeat the process if the rust hasn’t cleared entirely.

Tips on How to Remove Rust Stains from Plastic

Tip 1: Begin with the Gentle Rust Removal Method

It is recommended to start with a gentle stain cleaning method that doesn’t require scrubbing. This will reduce the risk of damaging your plastic items or furniture, even if you are dealing with cleaning discolored PVC.

You can start by soaking the item in a rust remover that’s safe for plastics.

If it doesn’t work, using more abrasive methods that require scrubbing could be more effective.

Sometimes rust can be removed easily from plastic with a wet cloth or magic eraser.

Tip 2: Choose the Right Rust Removal Solution

Rust can be removed with cleaning acidic solutions, so sometimes you don’t have to buy expensive cleaning solutions. Even weak household acids like lemon and vinegar juice can do a great job of removing surface rust stains from plastic.

You can try using soft drinks to help in cleaning the rust. This is especially true for smaller easy-to-remove stains. Even so, soft drinks are not the best stain cleaners because their acidity is weak.

You may also use budget-friendly household products like distilled white vinegar, baking soda, liquid dish soap (use it with baking soda for the best results), Cream of Tartar, (also known as potassium bitartrate), and so on.

For persistent stains on plastic that are hard to remove, your best bet would be to use approved cleaners that are available as rust removers.

Tip 3: Always Wash and Rub Well Before Starting to Treat the Stains

No matter what method you choose, be sure to rub and wash or rinse the stained area before applying a cleaning solution. Why is it important to clean plastic beforehand? That will save you a lot of time, allowing you to remove stains faster using less cleaning product.

FAQs About How to Remove Rust Stains from Plastic

How Do You Get Rust Stains off a Plastic Shower Stall?

Mix water with baking soda to make a paste to be spread on the area with rust stains. Then let it sit overnight or as indicated on the label. Afterward, take a microfiber cloth to scrub away the paste and rinse it from the plastic.

Can Rust Be Removed from Plastic Tubs with Bleach?

No, it can’t. Bleach is not only ineffective in removing rust stains, but it is also harmful to plastic tubs. So don’t use bleaching solutions as they can abrade plastic on the bathtubs and reduce their quality over time.

Will White Vinegar Remove Rust Stains from Plastic?

White vinegar is proven to remove rust effectively. After reacting with the vinegar, many types of rust dissolves. To remove rust stains from a plastic item, soak it (larger objects must be sprayed) in regular vinegar. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes before wiping away the rust.


When you find rust stains on plastic, it can be frustrating, but there’s no need to panic as this is often not permanent damage. By the way, you are not alone because many homeowners also struggled with it. If you’ve ever wondered how to remove rust stains from plastic, now you have an idea for how to take on the task.

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