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Can You Use Cooking Oil As A Rust Remover?

This post was updated on March 27th, 2024

cooking oil at store, image for rust remover article

Does Cooking Oil Work As A Rust Remover?

When it comes to RV maintenance, rust is one of the most prevalent and inevitable challenges you’ll face. It’s not just an aesthetic issue but can affect the integrity of the metal components in your vehicle. There are commercial rust removers available, but they can be expensive and filled with chemicals. That’s when you may start to wonder about alternative solutions. One such alternative often cited in DIY circles is cooking oil. But can you use cooking oil as a rust remover on your RV?

What causes rust in an RV?

Before diving into the efficacy of cooking oil as a rust remover, it’s essential to understand what causes rust in the first place. Rust forms when iron, or an alloy containing iron like steel, reacts with oxygen and moisture. Given the outdoor nature of RVing, your vehicle is constantly exposed to elements that accelerate rusting—humidity, salt, mud, and even road treatments for snow.

Why cooking oil?

Cooking oil has been touted as an eco-friendly, budget-friendly alternative to chemical-based rust removers. It’s non-toxic, readily available, and many people have reported positive results using it to remove light to moderate rust. The theory behind it is simple: oil can displace water and form a barrier against oxygen, thereby mitigating further rusting.

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Types of cooking oil for rust removal

Various types of cooking oil can be used for this purpose:

  • Olive oil: Rich in fatty acids, making it effective in loosening rust.
  • Canola oil: A lighter alternative, often cheaper than olive oil.
  • Coconut oil: Solid at room temperature but can be easily melted for application.

The type of oil may not dramatically impact the effectiveness, but it’s worth experimenting to see which works best for you.

The process of removing rust with cooking oil

Step 1: Clean the surface

Before applying any oil, clean the rusted area with water and a mild detergent to remove dirt and debris. You may also use a wire brush to scrub off loose rust flakes.

Step 2: Apply the oil

Soak a cloth in your chosen cooking oil and apply it generously to the rusted surface. You could also use a spray bottle to coat the area evenly.

Step 3: Let it sit

Allow the oil to sit for at least 20-30 minutes. For more severe rust, you may leave it on for a few hours.

Step 4: Scrub

Using a scrubbing pad or wire brush, scrub the rusted area. The rust should come off more easily now, thanks to the oil.

Step 5: Wipe and dry

Once the rust is removed, wipe off the excess oil and moisture with a clean cloth. You may wash the area with soap and water before drying it thoroughly.

Does it really work?

The consensus seems to be that cooking oil can be effective in removing light to moderate rust. However, it may not work for severe rust or rust that has penetrated deep into the metal. The oil can help in loosening the rust particles, making it easier to scrub them away.

Pros and cons


  • Economical: Cooking oil is relatively cheaper than commercial rust removers.
  • Non-toxic: Safe for pets and children.
  • Easily available: Most households already have some form of cooking oil.


  • Not for severe rust: Cooking oil is not effective for deeply set rust.
  • Time-consuming: It requires time for the oil to loosen rust.
  • May require additional treatment: For complete rust removal, further treatments may be needed.

Safety measures

While cooking oil is non-toxic, remember you’re dealing with rusty metal. Always wear gloves to protect your hands and safety glasses to protect your eyes. Be careful when scrubbing to avoid injuring yourself on the rusted metal.


While cooking oil may not replace commercial rust removers for heavy-duty jobs, it’s a handy, eco-friendly solution for tackling light to moderate rust issues on your RV. Being non-toxic and readily available, it offers a safe and convenient option for those unplanned moments when you notice rust starting to form. However, for more severe cases, or when in doubt, always consult a professional to ensure the structural integrity of your RV.

Track your RV maintenance

Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.

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