So one day a couple of weeks or so ago, I grabbed my vinegar, a couple of plastic bags, and some rusty "people" I have used in the past, as well as that big cylinder I pulled from the dumpster. I also grabbed part of a bed sheet my neighbor Sally gave me.
I put on my disposable gloves and went to town. After wrapping several of the "people" and the cylinder in dry fabric, I placed them in two plastic bags. I poured vinegar over each of the bundles and allowed it to pool in the bottom of the plastic bags. I tied each bag tightly and rotated the bundles until I was certain they were well saturated. Then I set them in the hot sun to dry for two days. Please note that I ran out of fabric before I could use the wire hearts.
When I opened the cylinder (once again wearing disposable gloves), I realized I had allowed the fabric to accept more rust than I had hoped for.
It was even more evident on the people and their smaller bits and pieces. Before I took the fabric inside to wash it, I chipped much of the excess rust off the fabric. I had NO idea our extreme heat would activate the vinegar so quickly.
Next I took the fabric inside (still wearing disposable gloves) and ran it through three baking soda and water rinse baths in my kitchen sink. ONLY AFTER I had done all this did I remove the disposable gloves. The fabric was now safe to touch.
It's always easier to dry things on my front porch that I've washed in the kitchen than take them out back and hang them on the clothesline.
In case you are asking why I wrote it was now safe to handle the fabric, it's because rust reacts to the hemoglobin in your blood. I'm not sure how since I'm not an M.D., but I know it's a really bad thing. That's why I always insist on telling you to wear some type of non-porous gloves when working around anything rusty. If you want fabric to stop rusting, wash it in baking soda and water. If you want metal or paper to stop rusting, spray it with a fixative, a sealer, or cheap hairspray.
Here is a closeup of a couple of the rusty people. They look like they are dancing. In fact, they are now dancing their way to other, far away lands.
This is a really easy technique and one you can create if you have a bit of vinegar, plastic sacks, baking soda, and old fabric. As for the sun, that will depend on your climate!
Edit: I just noticed the neighbor's tree was still standing in the pictures from my front porch. Not a regular visitor? Don't know what I'm talking about? Here's the post on the fate of this gorgeous tree.