In the many urban legends pertaining to household items, one of the more obscure is the legend that you can get tetanus from ingesting rust from rusting utensils. The idea that even if a utensil is clean, the rust can collect in the body, however, is almost never true. The amount of rust needed to be ingested would be extremely large, or you would have to have a particularly awful immune system.
Rust is iron deposits on the utensil. The rust is made from pieces of the steel that have transformed into rust from water entering through tiny porous parts of the flatware 1. The amount of iron that could be transported from the utensils to the body is minuscule, and some research shows that the iron may even be a bit helpful as our bodies need iron anyway, and the clean rust is iron in its purest form. The urban legend of rust from utensils causing tetanus has never had a documented case, but some experts allow that enough rust may cause a problem.
Researchers agree that if a utensil is completely covered in rust to the point where it can fall off of the utensil, it would be possible for enough of the rust to enter the body and cause some lower forms of tetanus. If you were to receive tetanus from a utensil, a simple tetanus shot at any hospital would cure you in just a day. There have been reports of people ingesting a large amount of rust from other means, but never from off of any type of utensil.
If there does happen to be more than just spots of rust on the utensils in a kitchen, and replacement is not an option, there are options for removing the rust from them. Steel cleaning kits use special chemicals in which you soak the utensils and remove rust. Another method of rust removal would be to go to any local sheet metal shop and ask them to use a fine steel wool scrubber. Normal steel wool does not have the ability to remove the rust spots.
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