Home Improvement

Removing Rust & Iron Stains From Timber


Rusty iron stains on timber can look terrible and permanent, but there are actually a few DIY tricks you can use to easily remove them. You probably have the items you need right now in your cupboard! So whether you are revamping an old piece of wooden furniture by removing rusty nails, or you accidentally left a rusty tool on top of yourfavourite coffee table – don’t worry, this article has you covered. Just follow these simple steps, and your wooden furniture will look as good as new in no time.

DIY Ways to Remove Rust & Iron Stains From Wood

The stain removal method you choose depends on what sort of rust stain you are dealing with, as light stains can be removed with either lemon juice and salt, or a vinegar and water solution. Tougher stains sometimes require the use of oxalic acid, as this transforms iron oxide into a transparent compound without damaging the wood.

Lemon Juice or Vinegar

These are the easiest DIY stain removal methods, as you just need to look in your cupboard to find the necessary ingredients. However, they usually only fix mild rust stains, such as when you leave a rusty tool on top of a wooden coffee table for too long. So it’s important that you don’t just keep scrubbing at the wood for ages if it doesn’t seem to be working – this could damage your furniture.

Lemon juice method:

  • Soak a sponge in a bowl of lemon juice
  • Add some salt onto the tip of the sponge
  • Scrub the affected area of the wood with the sponge until the stain lifts

Vinegar method:

  • Mix together one part vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle
  • Spray the mixture onto the affected area and leave for 10 minutes
  • Scrub the stain away with a toothbrush, and keep applying the solution to keep the area moist
  • Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the residual solution away

Oxalic Acid

This is the method to choose if you have attempted the vinegar or lemon juice and it hasn’t worked. Just drop into Bunnings or Woolworths and you’ll easily be able to find an oxalic acid cleaning product. This method can also be used for removing stains made by a rusty item resting on your wooden furniture, but it can remove stronger stains caused by non-galvanised nails and hinges as well.


  • Make sure to wear gloves if you have sensitive skin, and work in a well-ventilated area
  • Test the product before use to make sure it won’t damage any paint or lacquer
  • Spread the oxalic acid powder over the rust stain, only using enough to cover it with a thin layer
  • Wet a toothbrush, and then use this to scrub the stain – the oxalic acid will turn into a paste
  • Leave the paste to sit on the stain for half an hour, the water will evaporate and the paste will form a crust
  • Wet the toothbrush again and scrub the oxalic acid until it becomes paste again – this allows you to easily wipe it off
  • Use a clean cloth or paper towels to wipe the paste away
  • If the stain is still there, repeat the process
  • If after two applications it’s still there, you might need to sand the wood and refinish it

How to Prevent Rust Stains on Timber

Timber furniture often falls prey to rusty iron stains if the hinges, nails or screws in the piece have not been galvanised. This means that when the iron comes into contact with moisture it starts to oxidise, and this creates rust. The rust then spreads into the furniture and forms brown or red stains, sometimes if the rust reacts with chemicals in the wood the stain can be blue. So, the best way to avoid rust stains in your timber furniture is to make sure the iron items are all galvanised. Galvanisation is when the iron pieces are coated in a protective layer of zinc, which prevents them from rusting, and therefore saves your furniture from ugly stains.

Expert Advice & New Furniture Options

If you attempt these DIY fixes and they’re unsuccessful, or you just want to start over with a new piece of timber furniture, then the best course of action is to talk to a professional. An expert timber furniture manufacturer can assess your particular situation and explain which is the right method of cleaning, or tell you when something is a lost cause. You can then look into new, interesting furniture options that will spice up your home, such as live edge furniture or something unique and bespoke.

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