Fig 1: An example of CLR in its packaging
CLR is not intended to be used for fabric/clothing, which is indicated on the back label. However, most blue-collar workers will tell you if diluted, it is the only way to remove rust from clothing. As implied, you do this at your own risk and this should be your absolute last resort.
Points to consider:
- Prevention is better than cure. Remove all pins, brooch backings, clips etc before laundering your clothing, or if your clothing gets wet/damp through rain or spilling something. Check whether the place you are going to hang your clothing to dry is free of rust: easiest way is to soak a rag in water and giving the place a good hard wipe, including its undersides.
- I am identifying CLR by its brand because I know CLR does not contain hydroflouric acid. I cannot say the same for other commercial rust removal products.
- If you own a commercial "rust remover" that is not CLR, check whether the label states it contains hydroflouric acid. Hydroflouric acid is an extremely dangerous substance that goes right through your skin to remove iron and calcium from your bones, causing all sorts of painful medical conditions. It is now banned in many countries, and if you're buying a generic label off the shelf today, it should not contain hydroflouric acid. If it does not state explicitly on the label, a good rule of thumb is that generally products that come in the form of a small plastic eye-dropper bottle contain hydroflouric acid. This is because the stuff melts glass and you don't want it sprayed everywhere.
1. Are you sure it's rust?
Rust comes in many forms. People usually mean the flaky reddish-brown stuff, (iron hydroxide) but they can also come in black (iron(II) oxide) green (copper oxide), greyish-white (zinc/aluminium oxide). This looks like a lot of other common stains, such as tea, blood, food colouring, nail polish, makeup, anti-perspirant deodorant...for which you don't need the pain and suffering CLR can cause.
2. What material is your clothing made of?
I have used CLR on cotton, rayon, polyester chiffon and wool. I have NOT used CLR on spun acrylic, poly/cotton blends, linen or certain weaves such as satin, shantung, flocked fabric or velvet.
3. Did you try other means?
More common and readily available methods of removing rust involve soaking the fabric in lemon juice and leaving it to dry in the sun, and for Australians, eucalyptus oil. These have their own risks: natural fabric can potentially fade yellow (lemon juice) or synthetic fabric can dissolve to a tacky lump (eucalyptus oil).
Now for the actual tutorial!
You will need:
- A well-lit bathroom or laundry with a good light source so you can see what you are doing
- 1 spray bottle of CLR (like, duh)
- 1 medium sized plastic tub, or your laundry/bathroom sink with a plug in it*
- 1 pair of long rubber gloves that go past your wrists, preferably to your elbow if you can get them
- 1 silicon scrubber/brush - they sell these in cosmetic stores for your face.
- A rust-free place in the shade to dry your fabric
Fig. 2: Some of the things you need
*WARNING: Do NOT use CLR on your bathroom/laundry sink if your sink is made of chrome-plated iron,stainless steel, or stone/marble. Use a plastic tub. Enamel-coated sinks (the hard ceramic-like stuff) are fine.
1. Hand wash your fabric using washing powder of your choice. Rinse it completely and leave it soaking in clean water.
Fill the tub/sink with cold to lukewarm water, and dissolve a tablespoonful of the laundry powder completely before putting your item in to wash them. If you need to scrub at more stubborn stains, use the silicon scrubber. We do this just to make sure one last time that if there is anything else on the fabric, it's been washed out.
Once you are done, rinse the fabric clean, drain the rinse water and fill it back up with clean water. Leave the fabric in there. If you are absoutely sure your fabric is clean as a whistle and don't need to be laundered, fill the tub and soak the fabric in clean water.
2. Set the nozzle of CLR to the "STREAM" setting and apply the product on the wet fabric.
If you weren't wearing gloves for whatever reason in Step 1, dry your hands and wear them now. This is not because CLR does anything particularly bad to your skin, but more because if your skin has an open wound, it will sting like ... well, blood has iron in it. Rust has iron in it. CLR is meant to react with rust. Welcome to a new era of pain.
The nozzle of the CLR should be rectangular, with four settings: "OFF" on 2 opposite sides, "SPRAY" on one side and "STREAM" the other. You do NOT want it on "SPRAY" because you don't want this stuff getting in the air. Hold the fabric up with your gloved hands and apply the product so it covers all the areas where the rust are.
Previously, I mentioned that if diluted, the stuff is said to be safe for clothing. Your soaked and dripping wet fabric should have enough water in it to dilute the product when it comes in contact with the fabric. I find this easier than juggling bottles of a caustic product and water and potentially spilling it everywhere. If your fabric does not easily get "soaking wet" (eg chiffon), you may wish to dilute the product further, or leave the rest of the fabric soaking in the tub while you squirt the product on the parts that poke out.
3. If needed, scrub the fabric with the silicone brush. Rinse and repeat.
I don't go by the whole "leave the fabric soaking' method because it's boring to sit around watching rust fade, and if you are called out urgently, you might leave it out for longer than you want. With luck, you should see some light foaming and/or fading of the rust as it comes in contact with the product around ~10 seconds after you apply it. Dip the fabric back in the water and rinse it, apply more product and try again.
4. Once all the rust is removed, rinse the fabric completely in clean water twice and hang it out to dry.
When you are checking to see all the rust is removed, try to hold the fabric up against a light source and seeing through the fabric. Rinse 3-4 times and drip dry your fabric in shade. Make sure your washing line/rack/whatever doesn't have rust spots on it (the most common place is the underside) because all your hard work will go to waste. Turn the fabric inside out before drying to prevent fading/yellowing.
Good luck on your rust removal!
P.S. What should I tag this entry with? Tags aren't showing up for me.