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Clean Rust Off Stainless Steel Knives Naturally

DIY Household

Clean Rust Off Knives Naturally


Lately I’ve noticed little rust spots on my cutlery.  Ok, it’s been longer than lately.  When I get a chance (ok, almost never) I scrub these spots off, but over the past couple of months some of these spots have refused to budge.  It was time to buy new knives, or to learn how to clean rust off stainless steel knives naturally.


My stainful steel knives were especially bad, as scrubbing wasn’t working anymore, and to be honest, I really didn’t want to spend all night scrubbing 20 or 30 knives (for some reason, I can’t resist a good steak knife sale).  I dug into my limited scientific past, and figured some sort of household acid would work.  I found a bottle of lemon juice (citric acid) in the fridge, and put my theory to test.


How to Get Rust Spots Off Knives Directions

1.  Quickly go through your knives, and sorted them into “rusty” and “all good” piles.

2.  Fill a tall water glass about 3/4 full of lemon juice.

3.  Plunge the rust spotted knives into the lemon juice, blade end first.  If some of the blades are above the lemon juice line top it up with more lemon juice until the blades are totally covered.

4.   Leave the lemon juice/knife mixture for a few minutes.  The rust spots will then be easy to scrub off the knives.


I really didn’t want to have to scrub the blades, so I figured the longer I left the knives soaking the better.  Right?  Wrong.


The next morning something smelled “off” in the kitchen, but I chalked it up to my (lack of) cooking skills and went on with my day.  That night we stepped out for a few hours…I did not expect what I found when I opened the front door.


That SMELL!  It was horrid.  I’m really not quite sure how to describe it.  It was meaty, yet sulfury, with a hint of battery acid?  I almost gagged.


At first I couldn’t figure out where the smell was coming from.  It didn’t smell like lemon juice, so the knife cleaning set up wasn’t something I suspected at first.  I made my way around the house.  When I hit the kitchen, I reached for my science experiment, and instantly regretted bringing it so close to my face.  The glass of knifey lemon juice was definitely the smelly culprit.


Afraid I might spill it, I brought it to the sink for a closer look.  The lemon juice itself seemed different, kind of milky.  Nothing in me believed that milky lemon juice was a good thing.


I started pulling knives out of the juice and the smell intensified.  I felt an instant wave of nausea.  That said, my formerly rusty knives were shiny and totally rust free.  I had to get the stink off the knives, and loaded them into the dishwasher.


After thinking about it I decided to see what I could find out about using lemon juice to remove rust spots from knives.  It turns out:

  • Lemon juice is a very effective rust remover.
  • Cutlery should be dipped into lemon juice for a few minutes.  This will loosen rust spots, making them easier to scrub off.
  • After the lemon juice works through the rust, it will start to break down the knife’s metal, if they are left together long enough.
  • The chemical reaction does create an “unpleasant” smell, but no one noted whether this gas was harmful or not.
  • There was no information on the potential effects of dumping the lemon juice down your drain.


This image shows shiny clean cutlery.

Sparkling clean, rust free cutlery.


My thoughts on this experiment are:

  • Yep, I will continue to use lemon juice to remove knife rust, because it’s very effective.
  • Dip for a few minutes?  Huh.  I think mine were left soaking for 27 hours.  On the plus side, I didn’t have any rust spots left to scrub.
  • My stainful steel knives might have been stripped of some metal.  Bummer.
  • I don’t know if that smell is harmful, but it sweet Jesus it was horrid.  That smell was thick, meaty, and wrong on so many levels!
  • I couldn’t find any info that verified if dumping it down the drain is a good or bad thing.  That said I dumped mine, but chased it by A LOT of hot tap water.  At the time I was mainly concerned with the gawd awful smell, but after looking stuff up, the whole “eating metal” thing sounds a little less than ideal too.


Judging by this experience, I can say that lemon juice works well to clean rust off stainless steel knives.  If you let them soak for a just few minutes, the rust spots will easily scrub away.


Stephanie  🙂

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