In this tutorial I’ll show you how to remove rust stains from antique and vintage clothing without damaging the fabric.
A while ago I bought an antique Edwardian princess petticoat with rust stains on the fabric and lace. Rust stains should be removed because they’ll eventually break down fibers and cause holes. So I searched the internet how rust stains were removed in the Edwardian era. To remove rust stains, iron mould or ink, Victorians and Edwardians usually used lemon juice, lemon juice and salt, cream of tartar, oxalic acid, or milk and salt (A Manual Of Home-Making, 1919/ Encyclopedia Of Practical Receipts And Processes, 1872). In this tutorial I’ve tried two methods: lemon juice and boiling water, and lemon juice with salt.
- boiling water
- optional: salt
Here’s how the petticoat looked before: many large and small spots, mainly at the shoulder. Probably the petticoat was dried on a metal hanger sometime.
The lemon juice recipe is for ‘rust stains on white washable materials […] This method is rather slow but does not injure delicate white cotton or linen fabrics.’ (A Manual Of Home-Making, 1919)
Squeeze the lemon to saturate each rust stain with some drops of lemon juice.
Hold the fabric over the boiling water for a while. Then rinse the fabric in cold water. Repeat the process as often as necessary.
Rinse the fabric in cold water and put it into the washing machine. The stains will look slightly different prior to washing but won’t disappear till after washing.
Alternative: You could also cover the stains with a paste of lemon juice and salt and let it soak for some hours. Then rinse the fabric and wash in the washing machine.
This is how the petticoat looked after washing in the washing machine: The small stains are completely gone and the larger stains are smaller. I think they’ll also disappear when I repeat the process.
Here you’ll find more Victorian laundry tips and tricks.
14 thoughts on “How To Remove Rust Stains From Antique Clothing [Tutorial]”
wow that is amazing how well it took out the stains. I am impressed because I am not good at taking stains out of anything. Thanks for sharing this
It’s a slow process but it works! Thanks for stopping by!
I just did this recently with some vintage linens! Thanks for sharing your tip at Vintage Charm!
Thanks for stopping by, Cecilia!
I’ve heard of this, but have never tried it. Thanks for sharing with SYC. Pinning.
Thanks for pinning!
Hi, does it work on satin? My satin Communion dress is 50 years old and has bad rust stains I would love to remove. Thanks for your handy hints.
Sorry, I don’t know if it works on satin. The Victorian and Edwardian recipes recommend it just for washable materials (cotton and linen fabric) – silk was usually not washed in the Victorian era. I just tried it on cotton fabric and cotton lace. If you try it out, please let me know if it works on satin.
Did both processes work as well? Or did one work better than the other?
Both processes worked but the first method worked better in my opinion! 🙂
Hi! Thanks so much for sharing!
I have a 60s girdle that has rust stains on the inner lace panel, do you think this is a safe to keep and is this a good method for it?
I’ve successfully used it on a 1900s cotton lace petticoat. Is it natural or synthetic lace? I don’t know if it works on synthetic lace. So far I’ve only used it on natural lace (cotton). But you can just try it and see if it works.
Thanks for this!! I found a linen tablecloth with lace inserts that’s most likely my hometown’s style of crochet, and it has a few rust spots on it. I couldn’t leave it at the thrift store and I have some “vintage” lace that my grandmother made in the 90s that needs a spruce-up — hopefully it will work for those too!
Glad you find it helpful! 😀