A table laid with water glasses and silverware that has bright rusty spots of light

Rust Spots on Silverware: Simple Fixes You Can Do Today

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Have you ever sat down to eat and noticed a rust spot on your fork or spoon? Before you replace your metal utensils with plastic stuff, let me explain how easy it is to get rid of the rust on your silverware and knives.

Then, after a word on what’s causing them, I’ll share the simple tweaks that will keep rust spots from forming on your utensils from now on. Your dog can even help with one!

Are Rusty Utensils a Big Deal?

Those rusty spots on your utensils and knives aren’t just ugly, they’re weakening your utensils. Plus, eating rust isn’t a safe practice.

Rust is iron oxide which can harbor dangerous bacteria and lead to excess iron intake for people with certain medical conditions. Fortunately, if you act fast, you can get the rusty spots off of your cutlery and knives.

Then a few simple tweaks to your dishwashing routine will keep it from returning. But don’t wait, because that corrosion will just keep getting worse until you do something about it.

How to Get Rust Off Silverware

Here are several simple ways to remove rust from silverware using common household ingredients. Once you’re done getting the spots off, wash and dry your utensils or knives, then read on to learn how to keep it from returning.

  1. Baking soda paste: Use a cloth to rub some baking soda on to damp utensils and let them sit for a couple of hours before scrubbing it off.
  2. Lemon and salt: Use a cut lemon dipped in salt to scrub the rusty spots then wait a half-hour for the lemon’s citric acid to loosen the rust before scrubbing.
  3. Potato and salt: Use the same approach as with a lemon. The oxalic acid in potatoes can loosen rust, too.
  4. Barkeeper’s Friend: This powder contains the same oxalic acid that makes the potato method work. Rub it onto the damp cutlery, wait an hour or so, then scrub away the rust.
  5. Vinegar: Soak silverware with stubborn rust spots in white vinegar for a few hours, then rub away the spots with a nylon scrubbing pad or old toothbrush. 

Did You Know?

Coca-cola can also remove rust from silverware after an overnight soak. Skip the diet stuff and go for full-strength regular Coke for this task.

What Causes Rust Spots on Cutlery?

Metal rusts when it comes into contact with too much water, with acids, or even with another metal in the right circumstance. And, wouldn’t you know, all of those are likely to happen when you’re washing dishes?

Water

Unless you’re posh, your silverware is actually stainless steel with a layer of chromium oxide that protects it from rust. But after using and washing your utensils for a while, that protection breaks down — especially if you live in a hard water area. This exposes the steel underneath, which can develop rust.

Acid

Citric acid is a common ingredient in dishwasher detergent and dishwashing liquids. It’s also the chief ingredient in tablets that clean your dishwasher along with the dishes. But citric acid speeds up the breakdown of the protective layer on your silverware, so it’ll get rusty.

Other metals

When two types of metals touch each other and there’s moisture present, it leads to galvanic corrosion as one metal corrodes the other.

This can happen in the dishwasher when your fork and steak knife share a compartment in the utensil caddy, for example. Or, it can happen when you stash a corroded utensil in the drawer with non-corroded ones if it’s humid or they aren’t totally dry.

Did You Know?

Spoons used to scoop peanut butter often get rusty in the wash even when other things don’t. That’s because peanut butter’s stickiness keeps them wet longer, giving rust more time to form. The easy fix? Let your dog lick the spoon before washing it. 😉

How to Keep Your Utensils from Rusting

Finally, here are some simple solutions to keep those rusty spots from developing on your utensils:

  1. Switch detergents. Skip any detergent which contains citric acid or boasts a citrus scent. 
  1. Use dishwasher cleaners with care. Since dishwasher cleaning tablets contain citric acid, plan to wash your utensils by hand when you use one.
  1. Wash separately. Keep your stainless steel knives separate from cutlery in the dishwasher so they don’t corrode each other. Some dishwasher caddies hold utensils upright and apart to prevent these spots. 
  1. Dry promptly. Dry your utensils immediately after washing. Hand-dry silverware right after the dishwasher cycle to prevent rust spots. (It’s okay to let the other dishes air dry.)

Now that you know how to keep rusty spots off of your silverware and knives, check out what to do when your glasses stink after washing them.

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