The One Stain Bleach Will Actually Make Way Worse

For many, bleach is considered an all-purpose, failproof way to remove just about any stain. It's a harsh chemical that you want to be careful around, but if you've got a pesky dark chocolate or red wine stain on your favorite white throw pillow, it might just be the perfect solution to return your precious item to its previous glory, minus the unsightly stain. However, there is one type of stain that bleach can't do anything to help with: rust. That's right — if you're trying to remove a rust stain from a textile, bleach isn't where you want to turn.

While you may scratch your head, since rust is the same color as many other stains that are easily removed by bleach, it's more the nature of what rust does that makes it an issue. That's because one of the primary ingredients in bleach, sodium hypochlorite, is an oxidizing agent, and rust is an iron oxide, notes Apartment Therapy. So, chlorine bleach actually has the potential to react with the rust and make the stain even worse, according to Cleanipedia. Rather than lifting the stain, it further oxidizes the rust and the discoloration stays. In fact, if you happen to use bleach in an attempt to remove rust, it actually sets the stain and makes it permanent (via University of Georgia). When faced with a rust stain, put down the bleach and look to some other solutions for help.

Get rid of rust with these solutions

Rust stains can be difficult to handle, but there are quite a few easily accessible solutions that you likely have right at home that can help you tackle the issue at hand. One option, for those who prefer to avoid chemicals and find more natural solutions, is to use salt and lemon juice, per The Spruce. If you sprinkle some salt on the stain, add fresh lemon juice, and allow it to dry in the sun, you should be able to tackle the stain. Just make sure if you're using this method on darker fabrics to test the lemon juice on a hidden spot to ensure you don't get any discoloration from it. 

Another option is to create a paste from baking soda, cream of tartar, and hydrogen peroxide that you can simply apply to the stain, leave for about half an hour, and then rinse out. If you happen to be facing a stain on carpeting or upholstery, a great way to remove it is to place a vinegar-soaked cloth and salt over the area, and allow it to do its work (via Bob Vila).

If you're dealing with an insanely stubborn stain that just isn't responding to some of the more natural, DIY solutions, you may just have to turn to a commercial rust remover — just make sure to properly read all the directions on the label to avoid accidentally damaging the item you're trying to fix.