How to remove rust stains from concrete – I tried these 8 methods on tile and they work

Summer may have made its mark, with rust stains from grills and furniture left on outdoor tile. Here's how I got them off

a covered patio area with dining furniture
(Image credit: Breegan Jane)

Over the course of summer, rust stains from metal patio furniture and grills has damaged the appearance of our outdoor tile. Not only are rust stains an eyesore, I know that they can be difficult to remove because they often penetrate into the pores of the material, particularly more porous ones such as concrete, like ours.

Removing rust from paving can be a quick and easy job once you know what to use; however, time is of the essence, as I discovered. The sooner you tackle those stains, the more thoroughly and quicker they come off.

Of course, there are patio cleaning mistakes to avoid, which can damage your tile. And I don't necessarily want to use chemical cleaners – in fact, I try to avoid them. So I spoke to paving specialist and founding director of Infinite Paving, Rowan Cripps, who have me his top tips on how clean tile floors to remove rust stains outdoors, using natural products where possible, and the odd chemical, just to see if it worked (I realise not everyone's an eco-warrior like me!).

How to remove rust stains from outdoor tile

According to Rowan, you don't need chemical cleaning products to remove rust stains from outdoor tile – many pantry staples will do the job for you. I tried each of these on the (multiple) rust stains on our outdoor tile, and they all worked. I've put them in order of preference, and explain the process for each. 

'Before you start, remove any furniture, grills, or planters from the patio so that the entire surface is visible and sweep away loose dirt, debris, or leaves,' Rowan told me. 'This is a great time to inspect the patio for damage and make any necessary repairs before beginning the cleaning process.'

1. Use dish soap and water

I'll always try the least caustic cleaning option first. Dish soap works well to clean oily and grimy tile, particularly concrete and other porous stone. I mixed warm water with dish soap and applied it to the surface. I let it sit for a while until the dirt became loose and easy to remove, before mopping the tile and rinsing it with fresh water. Don’t be afraid to continue this process if it requires further cleaning – mine took a couple of tries.

2. Remove rust stains with vinegar 

Cleaning with vinegar – white vinegar – is an eco-friendly way to remove rust stains from outdoor tile in a practical and effective way. 

Simply spray it onto the stain and let it sit for less than an hour. Once it has penetrated the stains, scrub the surface with a stiff-bristle brush. 

If you are scrubbing concrete or other porous stone, always do a test first in a hidden corner to ensure it won't stain. If the tile was made to look like stone, try to brush in line with the original surface to avoid any scratches. Then, rinse with water and let it dry.

3. Remove rust stains with lemon juice

Cleaning with lemon juice is a surprisingly effective option for small rust stains. For the best results, try gently soaking the surface for up to 15 minutes in lemon juice, before cleaning with a brush in a circular motion. This allows the lemon juice to dissolve much of the staining before you go for the scrub brush. Complete this by rinsing away the acidic residue with water.

4. Clean stained tile with a pressure washer

Pressure washers can effectively clean patios – they can remove green mold from wood decks, too – however be careful not to damage your outdoor flooring. We happen to have one, which is regularly used for cleaning the deck. As with the deck, I would always suggest you try testing the power washer on a low setting and only focus on a small area first to see the effects. This is our Sun Joe pressure washer, which is Amazon's top buy with over 50,000 reviews.

5. Use fizzy soda drinks to clean off rust

Who doesn't have soda in the house? Fizzy drinks are great for removing rust stains on your patio due to their high acidic content. Pour the fizzy drink onto the stain and wait for it to soak for about 15 minutes, work it with a scrub brush, and rinse with water similar to the white vinegar method.

6. Clean outdoor tile with detergent

For small to medium rust stains, grab a paintbrush and fill a spray bottle with water. Then, mix up your detergent, baking soda and cold water until you’ve got a paste. Brush the mixture onto the stain, covering all the rust you can with your paintbrush. Rub this into the stain and leave for about an hour, then, when the time’s passed, scrub hard and rinse (you may need to add a splash of water to loosen the paste if it's dried).

7. Clean with WD40

We had some in the garage, but WD40 is available at Amazon. Made to penetrate tile surfaces, such as concrete, very easily, you can use WD40 to get rid of rust stains from tile. It is as simple as giving the affected area a good spray over and then taking your wire scrubber (this six-pack is Amazon's top choice) to get down deep. WD40 tends to work on pretty much everything straightaway, meaning there’s no need for you to wait for more than a few minutes.

8. Remove rust stains with commercial cleaner 

Although a more expensive option, commercial cleaner has effective results due to its oxalic acid levels. All that is required is a quick spray and a scrub with metal bristles and the rust should start coming off your outdoor flooring. It’s advisable to wash away with warm water or with hose water to ensure the surface is clean afterwards.

Iron Out dissolves rust stains easily, but as always, test a patch before applying it over large areas of tile.

What is the best rust remover for concrete?

You should find that a warm water/dish soap mix removes rust stains easily from concrete, though you should avoid scrubbing too hard so as not to mark it. Failing that, try lemon juice on the stain, allowing it to soak in before wiping it away and rinsing off. In both cases, allow to air dry.

How do you remove rust from outdoor ceramic tile?

To remove rust from ceramic tile, you can use bleach. Simply apply it neat to rust stains, leave it to sit for 20 minutes before wiping it off with a clean, wet cloth. If you prefer a more plant-friendly approach, try a baking soda/water mix, which can be combined to the consistency of toothpaste, spread on the stain, left for an hour, then scrubbed off. Toothpaste, applied and removed in the same way, will also work for removing rust stains from ceramic tile. 

How do you remove old rust stains from tile?

If you have only just noticed rust stains on tile that have been there for some time, using vinegar should be your first option. Poured neat on to the stain, allowed to sit for a short time (up to five minutes) and then rinsed off should clean your tile of rust. Repeat the process if you need to to get a perfect result. As always, start with a test patch.

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.