How to Protect Your Washing Machine From Rust

Washing machines will almost always rust because they are constantly exposed to moisture. Even so-called rust-resistant stainless steel machines may end up getting rusty. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent and remove rust from your washing machine.  

You can protect your washing machine from rust by removing all metal objects from your laundry, using laundry bags, closing zippers, buttoning buttons, limiting your use of corrosive materials, wiping your machine down, and using a dehumidifier.

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss ways to prevent a washing machine from rusting and how to remove the rust once it has formed. If you want to protect your washing machine and clothes from rust, keep reading!  

Things you can do to prevent and remove rust from your washing machine.

1. Ensure You Remove Metal Objects

One of the main causes of rust in a washing machine is that a foreign metal or iron object ends up in the drum and degrades and corrodes over time, releasing rust into the machine and then onto your clothes when you wash them.

To prevent this, you can try to be more careful about what ends up in your washing machine. Always ensure that you empty all pockets so a paper clip, coin, key, or other object doesn’t end up in the laundry. 

2. Wash Some Items in a Laundry Bag

Some metal items will end up in the laundry, such as the underwire in bras or a belt buckle. However, you can ensure that this metal doesn’t get lost in your machine’s drum and cause rust by washing these items in a small laundry bag.

I like these Muchfun Honeycomb Mesh Laundry Bags from Amazon because they are made with heavy-duty mesh designed to last so that you can use them repeatedly. They’re also made with premium anti-rust zippers and smart zipper protection, which prevents the bag from opening in the wash and the contents from getting loose.

If you wash items that have metal in a laundry bag, should the metal item get loose, you can recover it in the bag instead of losing it in your machine. 

3. Close Zippers and Button Buttons

Lost buttons and zippers can cause serious damage if they get lost in your machine’s drum, and they’re more likely to come loose if you leave the garments unzipped or unbuttoned. Therefore, an easy way to prevent rust is to ensure that everything is zipped or buttoned before you wash it.

4. Don’t Use Too Many Corrosive Materials

Most modern washing machines are made with stainless steel with a chromium layer on top to make them more corrosion-resistant. However, this layer will break down over time, especially if you use highly corrosive materials and cleaners. Once this layer wears down, your washing machine becomes more susceptible to rust.

One of the most corrosive chemicals is bleach, which many people frequently use while doing laundry. Bleach is necessary sometimes to remove stains and whiten whites, but I recommend using it sparingly to avoid breaking down that chromium layer. I also suggest using gentle cleaners and detergents whenever you can.

5. Wipe It Down

Another way to protect your washing machine from rust is to keep the machine nice and clean. I recommend wiping the machine down with a dry cotton cloth every time you do laundry. This task may not seem like it would help, but removing as much moisture as possible is extremely useful in preventing rust, so this little act can go a long way.

I like these Valengo Fabrics Lint Free Rags. These rags are made with 100% biodegradable cotton, so they’re as eco-friendly as they are useful around the house. I also appreciate that the rags are machine-washable, making them reusable and easy to clean. You can wipe your washing machine and toss the rag in with your load!   

6. Use a Dehumidifier

Rust develops in moist areas, and most washing machines are kept in humid parts of the home. Therefore, you can use a dehumidifier to reduce the air’s moisture and prevent rust.

Many different dehumidifiers are available at various price points, but I recommend the hOmelabs Energy Star Dehumidifier. You can choose the right size for you, between 1,500, 3,000, 4,000, and 4,500 square feet. This dehumidifier is extremely effective; the 1,500-square-foot dehumidifier can remove up to 22 pints of moisture from the air daily. I also like the sleek, modern look of this machine.

Tips for Removing Rust From a Washing Machine

You can do all of the above actions to protect your washing machine from rust and still notice those telltale signs of rust on your clothes. This can be frustrating, don’t panic! You can remove the rust by following these steps:

Use White Vinegar or Lemon Juice

If you have interior rust stans, one of the best ways to get rid of them is to use white vinegar or lemon juice. The acidity in these ingredients breaks down the iron oxide compounds in rust, so they’re effective, and you might already have some in your kitchen.

To remove interior rust stains, put two cups of lemon juice or two cups of white distilled vinegar in your washing machine and run through a wash cycle on the hottest setting. If you’re using vinegar, you’ll remove more of the rust if you let it sit for forty-five minutes to an hour before running the wash cycle. 

If you do this and still notice rust, don’t hold back from doing another wash cycle.

Scrub Rust Spots

If the lemon juice or vinegar didn’t completely remove the rust, you could treat specific spots with a mix of vinegar and water. Spray the solution on the spot, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then wipe the spot with a rag.

You can also rub the spots with crumpled-up aluminum foil and baking soda. Mix a quarter cup of water with a quarter cup of baking soda in a bowl and then use that solution to scrub at the stubborn spot with the foil.

For particularly stubborn spots, I recommend using a rust dissolver, such as this Rust-Oleum Rust Dissolver Gel. I like that this gel comes in a spray bottle that is simple to use and apply on any surface, and the solution contains a rust inhibitor that prevents metal from rusting for about a year. This product gets rid of most rust stains in under thirty minutes.

You should use these methods to scrub any exterior stains as well.

Sand Down the Affected Areas on the Exterior

Once you’ve cleaned the exterior stains with a vinegar solution, baking soda and aluminum foil, or rust dissolver, you should sand down the area with 150-grit sandpaper to eliminate the rust. I suggest using protective eyewear while you do this, so you don’t get flakes of metal in your eye.

Then, use an auto-body filler and apply it with a putty knife. Sand down the filler and polish it so it is smooth to the touch. Then, you can paint this spot to match the rest of the machine.

Check Your Pipes

If you’re careful about preventing rust, clean all the visible rust stains, and still notice rust residue on your clothes, the pipes may be rusted, not the machine. You’ll have to have a plumber come and take a look and offer a quote for fixing it. 

How To Remove Rust From Clothes

If you didn’t notice the rust until it was too late, and now you have rust stains on your clothes, don’t fret. Some garments might be permanently stained, but you can probably salvage others.

Follow these steps to remove rust from clothes:

  1. Scrub the stain with a toothbrush to get rid of any extra rust.
  2. Rinse the stain with cold water.
  3. Treat the stain with a stain remover, such as the Carbona Store Laundry Stain Remover. I like this product because it is dermatologically tested, environmentally friendly, and safe to use on all washable fabrics. 
  4. Mix three tablespoons of baking soda in cold water and place the clothing in the mixture. Let it soak there for an hour.
  5. Place the garment in the washing machine and wash it as usual.

The garment is likely ruined if the stain is still there after this process. In most cases, however, you’ll be able to wash a rust stain out. Of course, protect your washing machine from rust and prevent rust stains on your clothing in the first place.

Final Thoughts

Many washing machines develop rust over time because the iron material is regularly exposed to water and metal objects in clothing. You can protect your washing machine from rust by removing all metal objects from the laundry, using laundry bags, buttoning buttons, zipping zippers, and limiting your use of corrosive materials. If rust forms, you can clean your washing machine until it goes away.

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