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How to remove rust on vinyl siding

A. This is to comment on cleaning rust off of vinyl. I cleaned my vinyl siding with citric acid [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] and water. The same kind that is used for canning tomatoes. It worked immediately. I put it on with a regular paint roller. It was a small amount of rust that came from a window that was exposed to power washing the siding with bleach. This is a good remedy also for a toilet tank that is full of rust. It will look like new.

Gilly Bovett
homeowner - Missouri City, Texas USA
July 12, 2023

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Q. Wanting to get rust stains off my chimney that the metal is started to run rust down the side of the house in the front. I heard that manatic ^muriatic acid will; is that true and will I need to get a professional to do the work or will that work with just a hose spraying it off... I have a light beige vinyl siding. Thank you.

Deborah Large
homeowner - Virginia Beach, Virginia

A. Should I read here, muriatic acid [affil link] (hydrochloric acid) instead of manatic acid? This will work most likely, as might citric acid [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon]. You would want to be careful your siding is not damaged, and so might want to try a small spot first. Rust is basically iron oxide, and that is attacked by a number of acids. The trick is to find the simplest and safest one that is effective and that does not attack the siding. I would try citric acid [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] first, and then hydrochloric, though the latter is likely much easier to work with! rubber gloves [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon], and avoiding the fumes, etc., are in order.

Vincent E. Summers
- Charlottesville, Virginia

A. An easy and safe way to get rid of "rust" stains on vinyl siding is to use "Lime-A-Way [affil link]" cleaner. I worked as a maintenance man for a local mobile home sales company and one of my responsibilities was to pressure wash the houses and keep the rust stains off. All of the houses used vinyl siding. For regular cleaning, use a diluted solution of chlorine bleach and water (about 1 in 10 parts). Bleach is a surface tension inhibitor (lubricant). Any built up dirt will run off of the vinyl siding within 2 to 3 minutes, then just spray fresh water on the siding. The rust stains are not real rust, but lime deposits. I spray the deposits with Lime Away and the deposits will dissolve within 1 or 2 days.

Raymond Bliss
- Jacksonville, Florida

Ed. note: You've experienced it, Raymond, so if it works, it works. But we do not agree with you that the brown stains are lime; they are not, they are rust. Limeaway would be expected to have some capacity towards removing rust though.


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Q. I have been watering my yard and not even caring about the well water hitting the siding on my garage and side of my house. I've read that possibly Lime Away for a form of citric acid [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] or hydrochloric acid might work. How would I apply these solvents and is there something in a name brand available that might be easier on me?
thanks a lot in advance!

Ted Trulley
- Mokena, Illinois

A. I have spent all week trying to get the rust off my vinyl siding and finally found the magic. It's called RustAid [affil link] by WM Barr and Co..
Spray it on in a sprayer straight and the rust is gone in minutes. Then just hose it down. It took a Gallon to do 2 sides of the house. It comes in a maroon container.It is in with the heavy household cleaners. There is also one for indoors that is in a quart bottle.I tried Clorox straight and CLR and Limeaway but it didn't budge the rust. This RustAid is awesome.

MaryBeth Ruger
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
July 18, 2008

Ed. update: WM Barr has now relabeled this as 'Goof-off Rustaid' (RustAid [affil link]) and the bottle is no longer maroon but white.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

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A. I purchased an expensive vinyl siding rust remover and a bottle of "CLR". Neither one worked. at all!
By chance I bought a bottle of The Works [affil link] at the dollar general store because it said it will remove rust from toilets. What did I have to lose? Just $1.
I was pleasantly surprised. It removed the rust stains on vinyl siding almost instantly. It is 1/5th the cost of "lime-a-way" and "CLR" plus you can cut it to a 50/50 mixture with water and it still works great.
Apply to concrete sidewalks and driveways at 100% concentration and it will clean it to a like new finish.

John Schmitt
- Granger, Indiana
July 27, 2009

thumbs up signI just completed a power wash of my house with yellow vinyl siding. The irrigation system left rust stains on the siding from where the wind blows the mist onto the siding. The power washing didn't touch the stains. I tried The Works [affil link] as recommended in this post and it worked extremely well. Quickly, efficiently, then rinsed to remove all the chemical which is [dilute] HCl. I did a 12 sq. ft area in about 1 1/2 minutes...thanks John.

Michael Cherubini
- Hampstead, North Carolina
April 25, 2010

A. Hi John, Michael, and readers.
I used The Works [affil link] myself on the vinyl siding on my own house so I am certainly not one to wag a finger at anyone else :-)

Still, the reason it works well is that it is a very strong acid (9.5% HCl), and is intended for use on toilet bowls, not vinyl siding. It is dangerous stuff, and rubber gloves [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] and goggles [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] are absolutely required. And some sort of breathing protection is a good idea as well -- the manufacturer didn't intend for this stuff to be sponged or brushed or sprayed on siding. If readers google "sds" or "msds" and the product they have in mind, they can usually get the manufacturer's "safety Data sheet" explaining what is in the product and where the dangers lay.

Michael is not exactly wrong in calling it 'dilute' hydrochloric acid, after all it is only 1/4 the strength of concentrated HCl (38% is the maximum practical concentration because HCl is actually a gas not a liquid) ... but if anyone thinks that 9.5% HCl is 'dilute and mild', that would be a big mistake, it is still very strong.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. I too had rust stains on my vinyl siding from my irrigation system and nothing seemed to work until I read this thread. I bought The Works [affil link] at our local Dollar General store ($1.50) and it really does work. I had to put it on full strength but after a minute or so I was able to wash it off and the rust came away. I followed up with a soap and water wash and final rinse. The product works for even severe rust stains on siding.

Jeff Hahn
- Quantico, Maryland, USA
July 31, 2010

A. I use well water to water my lawn and am usually very careful not to let overspray hit the house, but one day the wind blew the water on the house and left behind a rust like color stain all over the side of the house. It was most likely hard water stains or something of that nature. I panicked needless to say. I saw the posting of "the Works" from the Dollar General store (also available at the Dollar Tree) and thought what the heck, let me give it a try. This stuff really does works with a little effort; I actually used The Works tub & shower cleaner [affil link] rather than "the Works toilet bowl cleaner" (I bet they both work). Thank you Mary Beth for your posting, I live in Virginia Beach too, it must be something in the well water

Paul Anderson
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
August 13, 2010

thumbs up signThe Works [affil link] from Dollar General did the trick on my vinyl fencing! Spray on and rinse off. Amazing!

Jeff Mitchell
- Elizabeth City, North Carolina USA
November 29, 2010

thumbs up signI tried The Works --awesome stuff. I stained the side of my house with my water sprinkler and was trying all kinds of stuff trying to get it off. Thank you, stains wiped right off with The Works from the Dollar Store.

Margaret Brunke
- Bellefontaine, Ohio USA
July 8, 2011

Q. I have "rust" stains on the vinyl siding from our sprinkler. I try to keep the sprinkler from hitting it, but it never fails. I was going to try The Works - but wanted to ask if anyone has used it around plants. I'd hate to be killing my garden while I'm cleaning the siding. Thanks for any info you can give me.

Margie Conklin
- RAMSEY, Minnesota, USA
July 20, 2011

thumbs up signThanks for the hint.

It worked great. It cleaned long time stains below my windowsill very quickly. I wore heavy rubber gloves [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] and applied the liquid to a scrubby to rub the stain. The cleaner ate through the scrubby in no time so be careful to use heavy duty rubber gloves NOT hospital type thin gloves. I then hosed the area very carefully to remove all the cleaner. Very happy to recommend this product. Cost $2.99 plus tax here in New York at the dollar store which is well worth it.

Patrick Murphy
- Carmel, New York USA
August 19, 2011

thumbs up signOMG!! I spent hours scrubbing my siding with CLR after the sprinkler left rust stains all over it two years ago. I tried The Works [affil link] toilet bowl cleaner and a sponge, amazing. Finished the whole area in about 20 minutes with no scrubbing. Just wiped it on and then hosed it off after a few minutes.

Amber Barnes
- Big Lake Minnesota USA
September 5, 2011

thumbs up signI have to agree with the earlier posts about "The Works". I too had rust stains on the vinyl siding of my house. I used several cleaners such as Lime-a-way, CLR, and Awesome ... to no avail, they didn't work. I used The Works [affil link] and within a few minutes; I let it sit then I scrubbed and pressure washed off and the rust came off! This stuff is truly amazing!

Duane Spruill
- Portsmouth, Virginia
December 13, 2011

A. I had rust stains on my vinyl shed and had previously tried Rust-Aid, which did not work. So glad I kept reading these comments to find The Works [affil link]. Wow, what results. I diluted it, wet the vinyl, and wiped it on with a sponge (rubber gloves [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] a must) and rinsed it off. In no time the shed looked like new. It was pretty bad before that. I then went on to the mailbox. I also had a spot on a window that had a film from the sprinkler. Nothing I tried before got it off until "The Works". I splurged and got two! Thanks for a great product!

Gail Leskow
- Port St. Lucie, Florida
March 25, 2012

thumbs up signI took the suggestion of previous posters to use The Works [affil link] to remove rust from vinyl siding. I purchased the spray for bath and shower cleaning and the toilet cleaner. However they only had the thick version of toilet cleaner. I used the spray first and it was magic. I sprayed it on the siding and the rust just disappeared. Amazing. I also had a spot on the siding under an outside light that was all spotted up from bugs and tree frogs who congregate there at night when the light is on. Again, I sprayed it on, scrubbed a bit with a brush, rinsed and those spots were gone as well. Nice to find something that works that does not cost and arm and a leg.

Charlie Fiseher
- Miltona, Minnesota, USA
July 2, 2012

thumbs up signThe Works [affil link] is amazing. My well irrigation system over-sprayed on my neighbor's brand new pool deck. I called our church maintenance dept. because I know they are constantly fighting iron stains. They named some of the other products in this string and said "good luck, they don't really work very well." Got a bottle of The Works toilet cleaner. The sprayer stopped working after a couple of minutes, but this stuff literally dissolves the iron deposit on contact. Zero waiting. Amazing.

Paul Harris
- Tampa, Florida USA
September 11, 2012

A. I removed rust from an AC unit running down my siding; I used rust remover from my local drycleaner mixed about two ounces in a spray bottle 20 ounce water, spray directly on rust and rinse with a water hose -- LIKE MAGIC!

Mike S
- Greensboro, North Carolina
November 4, 2012

thumbs up signWOW ... after reading this blog, I went to the local $ General and purchased The Works [affil link].....ABSOLUTELY AMAZED with the results!!!
I purchased two different products one was the Toilet bowl cleaner and another same brand in a green bottle made for vinyl siding. Green bottle first, was not so impressed so I decided to throw a bottle of the toilet bowl cleaner down. By the time I was completed with pouring the cleaner down the rust was GONE! I mean gone, SPARKLING CLEAN! This was not a little rust stain either, years of accumulation of a rust run-off from my AC unit.

DEFINITELY A MUST USE!, I went back to the store and bought a case to keep in the garage!

D Baum
July 5, 2013
- North East Maryland

thumbsdownAfter reading the responses I bought a bottle of 'The Works' in the green bottle. I brushed it on full strength and waited about a minute before rinsing off and nothing happened!
The stain is from the AC unit, if that makes a difference. I'll try the spray next time. Don't waste your money ($1.30) on this one.

Paul Sutherland
- Simpsonville, South Carolina USA
March 26, 2014

Ed. note: The green bottle is the Tub & Shower cleaner not the toilet bowl cleaner.

thumbs up signTo be fair, I didn't give up on 'THE Works" products. The green bottle did not remove the rust stain from the AC drain, but the toilet bowl cleaner by 'The Works' did do the trick!
Applied it with a brush and waited a couple minutes before rinsing. Gone!

Paul Sutherland [returning]
- Simpsonville, South Carolina USA
March 29, 2014

Q. Does "The Works" harm plants if you wash it off the siding?

Barb Clark
- Fremont, Michigan
July 17, 2014

Ed. note: Probably if you don't greatly dilute it with copious rinsing.

thumbsdownTried the works and lime-a-way on my siding. Did not remove one speck of rust. Don't know about all these raves about these products -- sounded too good to be true!

bob kane
- parsippany New Jersey
October 16, 2014

thumbs up signI was doubtful when I bought the works based on the recommendations here. I had a white vinyl fence with red stains from the well water irrigation system. I had tried power washing and lime away. Would not go away. I applied The Works bathroom cleaner that I bought for $1.50 at Dollar General. NO bull, the stuff melted off immediately. I mean, I did not have time to scrub it. I just was gone. Unbelievable stuff!!

John Peterson
- Vero Beach, Florida USA
June 2, 2016

thumbs up signI had a pro replace the chimney cap on our home, did a great job! He said he could get the rust stains off the vinyl from the old cap, but his solution didn't work. Gave us a $250 price to replace the stained vinyl, which was reasonable ... but I read the reviews for The Works -- guess what it works!

This stain was 20 yrs in the making; with some elbow grease, a 00 steel wool [affil link on Amazon] pad for the grooves in the vinyl, and a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser [affil link], the stain came off the chimney vinyl. $250 saved with a $1 bottle. Note, this wasn't the toilet bowl cleaner, it was a bottle of clr_the_works in a spray bottle. Best dollar ever spent!

karin trevitt
- yorktown Virginia
August 13, 2016

A. Just tried The Works toilet bowl cleaner on a horrible rust stain years in the making on our vinyl siding from the run off of an AC unit. WORKED AMAZING!! Within minutes the stain was gone and the vinyl siding looking brand new. I put on heavy duty rubber gloves [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] and just poured it on, some very light scrubbing and GONE! Thank you so much.

Robin Hopkins
- Coventry Rhode Island USA
October 11, 2016

thumbs up sign Agree with John Peterson... 'The Works' ... Works. Just tried it on my vinyl siding rust stains an hour ago and it got about 97% of it.

Steve Roman
- Circle Pines Minnesota
May 5, 2017

A. I too had rust stain on vinyl siding and all over the electric meter from the AC unit run off. I used The Works toilet bowl cleaner in a sprayer, I was impatient did not see any results, sprayed on a bottle of lime away and removed the glass on the meter the rust started coming off, sprayed again let it stand for 5- 10 minutes the stain was gone.

Stef Jones
- Richmond, Virginia, USA
August 10, 2017

A. Hi. As the editor, I've worked this page for 13 years without comment. Finally, our tenants ran the sprinkler system on a few very windy days, and rust stains started accumulating on the white siding because the sprinkler system uses a very shallow well with recirculated tan, iron-rich, water. So yes, that side of the house largely turned the color of coffee ice cream.

We used a scrub brush [affil link on Ebay & Amazon] with both vinegar [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] and The Works. vinegar [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] was slower and less effective than The Works, but both worked to some degree. What we did find though, was that the degree of success depends a good deal on what it is that discolored. The white siding came clean quite a bit better than the white plastic surrounds around the windows and the other trim. The idea of cleaning the rust colored staining did work in substantially reducing the staining, but certainly not 100% since apparently some plastics are more absorbent of the rust staining than others.

I've now gone back and added a response early in the thread to warn of how aggressive The Works is though! It is a very strong and dangerous acid when used on siding rather than in a toilet :-)


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey
September 2017

A. Hi,
We have a condo at the beach in Brigantine NJ. It sits right next to the back bay and about 1.5 blocks from the Atlantic Ocean
Our steel/concrete steps were poorly maintained, and with continuous contact with high ocean salt environments, rust type stains have built up on the vinyl siding for decades.
I'm a trained chemist and took on the task of finding a suitable stain remover which did not negatively impact the vinyl siding. Tried all the common products from the hardware store, with unacceptable results.
Came across The Works [affil link] a couple years back. Have had good success with this product, but found out that it takes some time for the reaction to dissolve the iron complexes for ease of removal (up to 30 minutes), plus sometimes a double or triple application for really stubborn stains.

28059-1b   28059-1a  

Hope this helps

Frank McDonough
McDonough Technologies LLC - Collegeville, Pennsylvania, USA
October 6, 2017

Q. Two vinyl rust removers discussed on this site are: The Works and RustAid.

The Works is 9.5% hydrochloric acid and 0.5% hydrofluoric acid.

[ed. note: We don't see hydrofluoric acid mentioned in that material safety data sheet, at least anymore]

RustAid is <10% oxalic acid and <0.5% hydrofluoric acid


Both seem to easily take rust stains off vinyl fences and siding, according to comments on this site and my personal experience with RustAid.

I have diluted Rust Aid with water in a 1:8 mix, and it still works well. (That makes it only 1.25% acid.)

Even so I worry about long term use damaging the vinyl surface. I called WM Barr, maker of RustAid, and could not get an answer about long term effects.

John Anderson
- Lake Mary, Florida USA
December 19, 2017

A. Hi John. Vinyl is very acid resistant. Vinyl lined vats are extensively used in plating shops for a wide variety of acids. However, I learned from personal experience on my own house that sometimes some stuff has been painted over the years to restore a white freshness, and the paint does not hold up well at all to acid-laden scrub brushes :-)

So. for us, it worked surprisingly well on most of the siding, but on some of the filler/trim pieces, which may have been painted, it did not help and might even have hurt a bit.

If we haven't emphasized it enough yet, spraying and brushing rather strong acid around has its downsides. Make sure you are wearing rubber gloves [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon], goggles [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon], a respirator, and enough clothing to keep any splatter off your skin.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

thumbs up sign Ted

Glad you noticed my slip-up. The hydrofluoric acid is indeed only shown in the RustAid material safety data sheet.

And thanks for the practical info on vinyl holding up in plating shops. I forgot to mention that my concern is for my brand new, beautiful vinyl fence. Would sure hate to see that finish degrade! It does seem that diluting Rust Aid 1:8 in water, <1.25% oxalic acid, should not be a problem. Heck, I could probably go to greater dilution, but I haven't tried it.

John Anderson
- Lake Mary, Florida USA


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! This ongoing discussion was a tremendous help to me as I am faced with a huge amount of rust stain to remove from vinyl siding on a home, and metal siding on a shop. The bottom line is this: Even though it's not easy getting these products for a Canadian, I tried The Works Toilet Bowl Cleaner, The Works Limeosol, and even Barkeepers Friend [affil link]. Out of those, The Works Limeosol worked the best (very well). However, then I tried Magica. Don't even bother with anything else. Magica worked fabulously. Just get it and forget all the other stuff.

David Fedoruk
- Vegreville, Alberta, Canada
October 12, 2018

A. Readers, a wise responder on another thread wrote that life is too short to spend weeks researching how best to paint a rock or a tiny birdhouse. Still, David's posting has reminded me that there might well be a personal safety advantage to products based on oxalic acid and no hydrofluoric acid, like Magica, rather than the hydrochloric acid in toilet bowl cleaners.

I personally found that The Works did work a bit better than undiluted vinegar [affil links to item on Ebay & on Amazon] on my siding, but I didn't try oxalic acid.

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

thumbs up sign So, like this post states; I had rust on my vinyl siding, tried everything I could think of like elbow grease and CLR. To my surprise, I saw that people were using The Works Toilet Cleaner. Went to Dollar Tree where most picked it up, they didn't have any, but they did have The Works Tub and Shower. For a dollar I figured it's worth a shot.

Got home put it in a spray bottle being the rust started at the soffits and ran to the ground from a rusty nail in the gutter. Sprayed it down and let it sit for about 10 minutes and lo and behold, IT WORKED! It may have taken a bit longer than the toilet cleaner from what I've read, but it still did the job and cheaply! So glad to find this post.

J Wadell
- St Paul, Minnesota
October 5, 2020

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