How to clean rust from concrete — 5 steps to a gleaming patio

Get ready for summer hosting and clean rust from concrete with ease

Man cleaning a concrete patio with a pressure washer for article on how to clean rust from concrete
(Image credit: welcomia/Getty Images)

Knowing how to clean rust from concrete is key to maintaining your patio's gleam. 

Rust stains on concrete surfaces can be unsightly and detract from the overall appearance of your property. Whether from metal furniture, tools or other sources, tackling rust on concrete requires a systematic approach to ensure effective removal without causing damage.

When it comes to cleaning your home, it's important not to overlook the exterior and those all-important first impressions. In this article, our industry pros will walk you through the five simple steps to removing rust and restoring your concrete's shine. 

How to clean rust from concrete like a pro

Armed with the best cleaning supplies and following our expert tips, removing rust from concrete will be a breeze. 

From washing and scrubbing to longer-term maintenance, our industry pros reveal tips and tricks they use for each step of the process so you can enjoy a rust-free patio to be proud of.

Where our pros have suggested products, we've sourced high-quality items from trusted retailers, explaining their key benefits and why recommend them.

All prices were correct at the time of publication.

Step 1: Wash the concrete

A blue bucket of soapy water with yellow sponge floating in white bubbles

(Image credit: Lena Mirisola/Getty Images)

Before diving into the rust removal process, start by giving cleaning your patio and giving the affected concrete area a thorough wash. 

Prep the area by removing any furniture such as tables, chairs or barbecues. For bulky items, consider asking a friend or spouse to lend a hand.

In a bucket, mix warm water with dish soap then pour over the concrete. Repeat as necessary until most of the patio is covered.

Finally, use a garden hose or pressure washer to spread the soapy water across the concrete, then allow it to dry fully before the next stage. There are simple ways to clean your patio without a pressure washer if you don't have access to one.

This initial wash will remove any loose debris, dirt or surface grime, preparing the surface for the rust removal solution and ensure better adhesion of the cleaning agents to come.

Step 2: Apply a rust-removing solution to the concrete

Clean concrete patio with table and chairs in centre and raised wooden plant section on the border

(Image credit: John Keeble/Getty Images)

The next stage is to apply a suitable rust removal solution to the affected areas of the concrete. The choice of solution will depend on the severity of the rust stains.

For light surface rust stains, a mild acidic solution such as vinegar or a citrus-based cleaner can be effective.

Cleaning expert Amy Poulton, of Hometalk, says, "For light stains, I use white vinegar. Apply it directly on the rusty area, then cover it with a vinegar-soaked cloth for 10-20 minutes."

Amy recommends the Iberia All Natural Distilled White Vinegar from Amazon, which comes with an easy-to-use cap.

Alternatively, minor stains can be easily addressed with citric acid, such as the Earthborn Elements Citric Acid from Amazon

Wells Ye, founder of Fresh Tech Maid, adds, "In a plastic bucket, dissolve half a cup of powdered citric acid in one gallon of warm water. Liberally apply the citric acid solution to ensure the rust stain is fully soaked, then let the solution sit for 10-15 minutes."

Commercial solutions can also prove highly effective. Try the CLR Rust Remover from Target . It's EPA-CERTIFIED with its calcium, lime and Rust Remover part of the EPA's Safer Choice Program. This means the product is recognized as a safer alternative to traditional chemicals and contains no phosphates, ammonia or bleach. It's also a brand that's been around for over 40 years, with its formulations led by years of industry knowledge.

For slightly more stubborn rust stains that have penetrated deeper into the concrete, an oxalic acid-based cleaner — such as the Florida Laboratories Inc Oxalic Acid from Walmart — can provide better results. Mix the oxalic acid according to the manufacturer's instructions and apply it to the rust stains using a brush or sprayer.

In cases where the rust stains are particularly tough, stubborn or extensive, trisodium phosphate (TSP) can be used as a powerful degreaser and cleaner. 

Rafi Friedman, CEO of Coastal Luxury Outdoors, says, "This stuff is powerful. You should absolutely use heavy rubber gloves and goggles when working with it. Mix about 1/2 cup of TSP with 1/2 gallon of hot water, and let this mixture sit on the stain for 15-20 minutes before scrubbing."

Rafi recommends the Centaurus AZ TSP from Amazon, which comes with protective gloves included to help keep your hands safe from the chemicals which can cause skin irritation.

Rafi adds, "I'd advise taking extra care to ensure excess TSP solution doesn't get on your grass, since it will definitely kill your lawn if it does."

In the most extreme cases of heavy rust build-up, hydrochloric acid (also known as muriatic acid) can be used as a last resort. However, extreme caution must be exercised as it can be highly corrosive and should be handled with care. 

The CERTOL INTERNATIONAL Replacement Muriatic Acid from Amazon is a good option since it produces 90% less fumes than regular acids and is safer should it come into contact with skin. 

Dilute the hydrochloric acid with water according to the instructions and apply it sparingly to the rust stains, wearing appropriate protective gear.

Step 3: Scrub the concrete

Just like cleaning rust from an outdoor grill, scrubbing is a critical step.

Once your chosen rust removal solution has had time to penetrate the stains, use a stiff-bristled brush or scrubbing pad to agitate the surface and loosen the rust particles. 

This Full Circle Tough Stuff Brush from Target features nylon brushes, a scraper and an ergonomic bamboo handle.

Work in small sections, applying firm pressure to effectively lift the rust from the concrete. Be mindful not to scrub too aggressively, especially on delicate or painted surfaces, to avoid causing damage.

Step 4: Rinse the concrete

Concrete being rinsed by a person with a pressure washer

(Image credit: JJ Gouin/Getty Images)

After scrubbing, thoroughly rinse the treated areas of the concrete with clean water. Use a garden hose or one of our best pressure washers to flush away the loosened rust particles and residual cleaning solution. 

Wells says, "For an extra-shiny finish, consider rinsing your cleaned concrete with deionized water (such as the SMPLY Deionized Water from Walmart). This gives your concrete a brighter, cleaner appearance by eliminating mineral deposits that may leave a residue."

Take care to rinse the surrounding areas as well to prevent any lingering residue from causing damage or discoloration.

5. Maintain the concrete

Bright clean concrete patio on sunny day with rattan furniture in the centre

(Image credit: John Keeble/Getty Images)

Just as with cleaning a patio, maintenance is key to preventing future rust or staining.

Consider implementing preventive measures such as applying a rust-inhibiting primer to metal furniture or tools, using protective mats under metal objects, and regularly inspecting the concrete surface for signs of rust or damage.

Amy says, "Simple steps can make all the difference. Keep rusty car parts and yard tools away, and use a concrete sealer to stop water from seeping in and rusting the metal reinforcement inside the concrete."

Amy recommends the Eco Advance Store Siloxane Waterproofer from Amazon for an effective and eco-friendly concrete sealant. 

Meet our experts

Profile photo of Hometalk editor Amy Poulton
Amy Poulton

Amy Poulton is editor and home-improvement expert at Hometalk, the world’s largest home DIY community. It has 150,000 tutorial videos on everything from cleaning to decor provide inspiration, and shared expert guidance to more than 21 million members. 

Profile photo of Fresh Tech Maids founder Wells Ye
Wells Ye

Wells Ye is the brains behind Fresh Tech Maid — a respected, Chicago-based home cleaning service that boasts more than 10,000 happy clients thanks to more than 50,000 successful cleans. 

Profile photo of Rafi Friedman, Coastal Luxury Outdoors
Rafi Friedman

Rafi Friedman is Chief Executive Officer of Coastal Luxury Outdoors, which is dedicated to building high-quality custom backyard experiences. Founded in 1983, the company now provides bespoke service to more than 1,000 clients. 

By following this step-by-step process, you can effectively clean rust from concrete and restore the industrial beauty and integrity of your concrete surfaces. 

Remember to exercise caution when working with acidic or corrosive cleaning agents and always wear appropriate protective gear. 

Next, check out the best materials for outdoor furniture.

Andy van Terheyden
Freelance Writer

I'm a senior writer with an English degree and NCJ qualification, plus years of experience writing news, lifestyle and consumer articles for the national and international press. I'm also a copywriter, working on a breadth of consumer and corporate projects, and a private education consultant. I live in the quiet of the countryside and spend my weekends mooching around homeware shops, completing DIY tasks to breathe life into my small, newly-built home.