Although you may not have been paying attention, your high school science teacher might have mentioned how rust is formed. The Farmers’ Almanac mentions it, too: Rust is formed “when metal faces prolonged contact with water, and combines with oxygen in a process called oxidation. The process corrodes the metal, dissolving it into the chalky reddish-brown substance known as rust.”
Here’s how to remove it—with a potato.
Preparation. Before demonstrating your amazing domestic abilities by removing rust with a potato, rub the rusted area with steel wool. Often the rust can be removed by rubbing it with steel wool, sandpaper or a wire brush. Even if you’re dying to dazzle your friends and family with your potato prowess, the steel wool will remove loose flakes, making your potato bedazzlement even more amazing.
The process. Start by slicing the potato in half. It can be cut lengthwise or widthwise depending on how much surface you need to clean. Dip the non-peel covered end in dish soap or baking soda. Firmly rub it over the rusted area. Bask in the “ooohs” and “ahhhhs” of your peers. If the potato becomes slick, simply slice off the exposed side and apply more baking soda or dish soap.
How it works. Although it’s perfectly OK to let your friends ascribe magical cleaning powers to you, removing rust with a potato involves no magic. It involves oxalic acid, a natural rust remover. Potatoes can be used to remove rust from cast iron, baking pans, nuts and bolts, and other household items. If you really want to impress important people in your life, take a rusty knife and insert it in the potato. Let it set for a while. Remove it. Voila! No rust. If you’re trying to maintain a magical aura, wrap the potato in a fancy red handkerchief before you pull out the knife (optional).