Easy Ways to Clean Rust from Vinyl Siding

5 Easy Ways to Clean Rust from Vinyl Siding

In Home Exterior, Tips by Jamie

Have you noticed rust stains on your vinyl siding? This is quite a common issue which is unavoidable, in many cases. But don’t worry, there’s no need to take it off and replace it, you just need to clean them. This article will explain the causes of rust stains, how to avoid them, and the best ways to clean them.

What Causes Rust Stains on Vinyl Siding?

Although vinyl siding is very durable, it can still develop rust stains when exposed to too much moisture. There are a few main causes of rust on vinyl siding and being aware of them can help you avoid it in the future.

If you have metal flashing or gutters on your home, you’re more likely to get rust on your siding. As the metal degrades and rusts, rain picks up rust and carries it onto the siding. Clogged gutters cause a problem too. The water pools up and rusts the metal, and then the iron-rich water spills out of the gutter onto the siding, leaving stains.

Dirt from the garden can also cause rust stains. If the soil has a high iron content, it will create small rust stains. Wind and rain will pick up dirt and deposit it onto the siding, where it will start to leave orange stains if it isn’t cleaned off. You’re more likely to experience this problem if you use fertilizer on your lawn because they tend to have a lot of iron in them.

Finally, pollution can cause rust stains. Acid rain is rain that has picked up substances from the atmosphere, including iron. As it rains onto your home, it can leave small orange rust stains on the siding.

Some of these issues are easily avoided with regular maintenance, but some are out of your control and you will not be able to avoid rust stains. The good news is, a few stains doesn’t mean that your siding is completely ruined and there are plenty of ways to clean the rust stains.

How to Know When it’s Time to Buy New Siding?

How to Know When it’s Time to Buy New Siding

Vinyl siding lasts a long time, especially if you look after it well, but it’s not indestructible. You can clean off stains but there comes a point when you need to replace it altogether. But how can you tell when it’s reached the end of its useful lifespan?

The first thing to look for is any noticeable damage on the outside of the siding. Small holes and fine cracks can be repaired, but if there are large holes and cracks in the siding, consider a replacement. These big gaps will let moisture into the home and cause a lot of interior damage. Look inside the house for evidence of moisture too.

Check for signs of rotting on the wooden frame underneath the siding too. If the vinyl is compromised and water seeps in, it will begin to rot from the underneath. Pressing the siding gently, especially in areas where a lot of water is likely to collect, will soon tell you if it is rotting because it will feel soft and pull apart easily.

Warping and buckling is also a very bad sign. There is some natural movement that comes with temperature changes and siding should be installed loosely to account for this. However, if it has been installed incorrectly or it is warping and buckling too much, it may need to be replaced.

Lastly, pay attention to your energy bills. When there are big holes in the siding, you let out a lot of heat and your utility bills will shoot up as a result. So, if you notice a sudden increase, it’s worth checking your siding.

Vinyl siding is incredibly durable and can last between 20 and 40 years, depending on a few factors. If it is exposed to more extreme weather and temperature shifts, it won’t last quite as long. But if you look after it well, including cleaning rust stains, you can keep it in good condition.

How to Clean Rust from Vinyl Siding?

Here is my list of the best methods for cleaning rust from your vinyl siding, complete with some product recommendations.

1. Goof Off Rust Stain Remover Goof Off No Scent Rust Stain Remover 1 Spray

Goof Off Rust Stain Remover (sometimes called by its old name, Rust Aid), is an excellent product designed for cleaning rust stains off a variety of materials, including vinyl. It doesn’t require a lot of scrubbing and hard work as the active ingredients (hydrofluoric acid and oxalic acid) strip most rust stains away easily.

To use this product, put it in a small hand sprayer (no need to dilute it) and spray liberally over the affected area. It is safe for plants, so don’t worry about getting a bit of splashback over the lawn or any other nearby plants. It is best to avoid getting it directly on glass, though, so if you are using it near a window, cover it with something.

Once you have sprayed a good layer on, leave it for around 5-10 minutes to start working. You should notice that it starts dissolving the rust stain right away. After it has been left, check to see if any of the stain is still there. If it is, apply another layer and leave for a minute or two. You don’t need to scrub the stain, just wait until it has pretty much disappeared and then rinse the area down with a hose.

You can find some more information on how to properly apply this product in a great video here.

2. Pressure Washer and Oxalic Acid Method

Oxalic acid is one of the main active ingredients in Goof Off and other rust removing products. But you can buy it separately and mix it up yourself if you like.

Take 8 ounces of Oxalic acid and mix it with a gallon of hot water, to help it dissolve faster. You can use cold, it just requires more mixing to make sure that it is properly dissolved. You can then put this mixture into a sprayer and spray over the rust stains. Give the stains a good covering and then let the solution sit as it dissolves the rust. Bear in mind that it may take a little longer than it would with a product like Goof Off because you don’t have the other active ingredients, like hydrofluoric acid, but it should still dissolve the stains quickly.

Once the rust is dissolved, rinse the siding down with water to remove any residual rust or Oxalic acid. You can see a video of how it works here.

This is a great option if you have a large stained area and you need a lot of Oxalic acid solution. It’s also cheaper to buy Oxalic acid on its own and mix it rather than buying a ready-made product. It only costs a few dollars for a fairly big bag, so if you have consistent problems with rust stains around the home, it’s worth keeping one on hand.

3. Iron OUT Outdoor Rust Stain Remover Iron OUT LI04128N Outdoor Rust Stain Remover, 1 Gallon

Iron OUT Outdoor Rust Stain Remover is another Oxalic acid-based product. It’s a heavy-duty stain remover that works on all kinds of exterior surfaces, without causing damage to the surrounding vegetation, so it’s ideal for siding.

You can apply this with a sprayer or simply wipe it on with a cloth. A sprayer is easier if you have one. It doesn’t need to be diluted, just spray it directly onto the stains and let it sit for 5 minutes while it gets to work. Again, this product doesn’t need any scrubbing, it should just dissolve the rust so you can rinse it off. Thick stains may need two applications, but you will see it working in real time.

The formula is safe for plants but it can damage painted surfaces. So, make sure that you protect any surrounding areas (window frames, doors, etc.)

4. White Vinegar Method

If you don’t want to buy any rust remover products, you can use home remedies like white vinegar. Vinegar is acetic acid, which can cut through stains very effectively, which is why it’s often used as a home cleaning solution. It’s great for stripping away rust stains, though it may not work as well on very dark stains.

Take ½ a cup of vinegar and ¼ cup of baking soda and mix with a gallon of warm water. Wipe this solution onto the stains and let it sit for around an hour. This should dissolve the rust stains and you can then wipe it away with hot soapy water. Bear in mind that you’ll need to do a bit more scrubbing than you would if you were using a rust remover product.

It’s always worth trying this on your rust stains first because, if it works, you save yourself a bit of money. If you have small stains from dirt or rain, this should work fine. But if a rusty gutter is leaking down the side of the house, you may need a heavy-duty cleaner.

5. Hot Water and a Magic Eraser Mr. Clean 16449 Magic Eraser Extra Power Sponges (Case of 30)

Magic erasers are a great invention. They can take stains off a lot of things without damaging the surface underneath, and you don’t need any cleaning chemicals. A magic eraser is just a compressed melamine sponge. It has a very fine, abrasive surface that can clean off tough stains fairly effectively. All you need to do is dip it in hot water, squeeze it out, and then scrub the stains off.

There is no guarantee that this will work, especially if the stains are quite old. But if they are recent, they will come off much easier, so it’s worth a try.

How to Prevent Vinyl Siding from Rusting?

Cleaning rust stains off your vinyl siding isn’t that difficult with the right products. But it’s a lot easier if you can just avoid them in the first place. There are a few key things you can do to prevent rust.

Firstly, keep up with gutter maintenance. Cleaning a gutter isn’t a glamorous job but if you neglect metal guttering, it will rust and water will collect and drip stains down the side of your home. The paint on your guttering gives it a layer of protection and stops rust, so make sure to reapply when you notice that it is peeling and flaking. Clear out any leaves and debris so the gutter drains properly too.

Cleaning the siding helps too. If dirt and fertilizer, or iron-rich rain gets onto the siding, it takes a while before rust stains start to form. If you clean off any dirt right away, you won’t get as many rust stains. Washing it down with a hose or pressure washer from time to time will keep your siding in excellent condition.

Related Questions

Can Cleaning Rust from Siding Damage the Color or Structural Integrity of the Siding?

This depends on how you clean the rust. If you use any of the methods outlined above, you won’t have a problem. All of the cleaners and home remedies on this list are perfectly safe for your vinyl siding and won’t cause any damage. However, if you use more harsh chemicals, you could do some damage. Things to avoid include:

  • Undiluted chlorine
  • Undiluted bleach
  • Nail polish remover
  • Liquid grease remover
  • Furniture polish or cleaners

Is CLR Safe to Use on Vinyl Siding?

CLR (Calcium Lime Rust) is a great heavy-duty acidic cleaner that can be used on rust. However, you should be careful when using it on vinyl siding. It is a strong cleaner that will damage the surface unless heavily diluted and it can only be left on for a couple of minutes. I would say that it’s not worth the risk when you have so many other great cleaning products out there that won’t damage the vinyl.

Does Lemon Juice Help Remove Rust from Vinyl Siding?

Does Lemon Juice Help Remove Rust from Vinyl Siding

Yes, the key to cleaning rust stains is finding some kind of acid. Most cleaners have Oxalic acid, vinegar is acetic acid, and lemon juice contains high levels of citric acid. It is not as strong as rust stain removers, but it can be used to gently clean off any small stains. Use the same process as you would with white vinegar.

How Do You Remove Rust from Aluminum Siding?

If you have rusty aluminum siding, CLR is one of your best options. It is too harsh for vinyl but works brilliantly on aluminum and won’t damage it. Be careful when using CLR and always wear gloves. Don’t breathe in the fumes either. Apply it with a cloth and leave it for a few minutes before rinsing it off and the rust stains should disappear before your eyes.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Rust from a Vinyl Fence?

A vinyl fence is made from the same material as vinyl siding, so it can be cleaned in the same way. Just use one of the methods listed above.

Can You Hire Someone to Remove Rust from Your Siding?

Yes, if you don’t want to deal with rust stains yourself, you can hire somebody. Anybody that does exterior home cleaning and pressure washing services should be able to get rid of rust stains no problem. This can be part of a full home cleaning package.

Final Thoughts

Rust stains are a common problem on vinyl siding, but they shouldn’t cause lasting damage. You can avoid them by keeping the siding clean and maintaining gutters and other metal fixtures. If you do spot any stains, all of the methods on this list will help you deal with them easily, so you can increase the lifespan of your siding and keep your home looking amazing.

About the Author

Jamie

Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.