How to remove rust stains from sinks, tubs and toilets

11 April 2022


Orange rust stains on toilet bowls, sinks, tubs, and shower stalls are unappealing. Regular cleaning with the correct materials is required to keep your kitchen or bathroom fixtures spotless. Rust stains are difficult to remove with all-purpose bathroom cleansers, and using chlorine bleach can make rust stains permanent.

The most common method for removing rust stains from finished surfaces is to utilize acid-based treatments. Citric acid (lemon juice), acetic acid (distilled white vinegar), and tartaric acid (cream of tartar) are types of mild acids, while hydrochloric and sulfuric acids used in commercial rust remover treatments are examples of harsher acids.

Acid reacts with the rust, loosening it from other surfaces. Most powdered commercial rust stain removers contain sodium hydrosulfite, a salt compound that works well on textiles, stone, and finished surfaces like porcelain. Baking soda and pumice are gentle abrasives that can help remove rust particles from porcelain.

What causes rust stains?

The reaction between iron and oxygen when exposed to moisture and iron oxide is what causes rust stains on metal surfaces. Rust stains near sink and tub drains and toilet bowls, on the other hand, are formed by water with high quantities of iron particles, often found in rusted water heaters, or untreated metal components.

These persistent stains aren’t always caused by rust issues in your plumbing system or in the water pipes. Even though the water tastes fine and appears to be clear, any water with a high enough iron level might produce these stains over time. If you reside in a region where there are a lot of mineral deposits beneath, iron is most likely leaking into the groundwater and causing these bothersome rust stains.

The stains are especially common in residences that use well water and are located in hard-water areas. Due to a combination of iron bacteria and minerals in the water, rust particles can cling to the porcelain or enamel surfaces of bathroom fixtures. The stains return after cleaning unless the water is filtered or treated with a water softening device.

10 tips and best practices for springtime plumbing

How often to clean rust stains on toilets, tubs, and sinks

You should clean rust stains on toilets, tubs, and sinks as soon as you see them forming! Sometimes it suffices to wipe them with an old rag you don’t mind staining with that repulsive red-brown color. To prevent rust stains, you should clean your bathroom at least once a week to prevent any water depots.

Some portions of your bathroom may require more or less attention, but you shouldn’t let it go longer than a week without a thorough cleaning. Why? Water accumulation on surfaces causes rust stains.

Best ways to remove rust stains from toilets, tubs, and sinks

When cleaning the bathroom weekly, pay special attention to the areas that are prone to rust stains. After each use, fully dry your sinks, tubs, and showers before the rust particles in the water have a chance to settle on the surfaces.

What you need to clean your bathroom


  • Scrub brush
  • Old toothbrush
  • Toilet bowl brush
  • Spray bottle
  • Microfiber cloth


  • Lemon juice
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cleaning vinegar
  • Cream of tartar
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Pumice powder or stick
  • Plastic food wrap
  • Commercial rust remover


1. Citric acid

Grapefruits, lemon or lime juice, or even powdered citric acid from supermarkets and drugstores can all be used to make citric acid. Dip the cut edge of a fresh citrus fruit in salt or baking soda to create a gentle abrasive to scrape the rust-stained region if you’re using it for scrubbing.

For badly discolored areas, make a paste with lemon juice and baking soda and apply it to the rusty area. Allow the paste to sit for at least an hour, covered in plastic wrap to keep it moist and assist the rust particles in breaking down.

If using citric acid powder, make a paste with a few drops of water and apply it to the affected region right away. With a scrub brush or an old toothbrush and some elbow grease, scrape the discoloration away. After scrubbing rust spots in a toilet bowl, flush the toilet and turn off the water immediately to prevent the bowl from refilling. This will help clean the rusted areas while also preventing the cleaner from becoming diluted.

2. Distilled white vinegar

Rust stains can be removed with acetic acid in distilled white vinegar. It can be used weekly, just like citric acid, to help prevent rust stains from becoming permanent. For tough rust stains, cleaning vinegar with higher acidity is preferable to food-grade distilled white vinegar. Weekly, spray vinegar on rust spots to clean sinks, tubs, and shower walls. Scrub the area with a brush before rinsing thoroughly.

Pour one to two cups of vinegar into the bowl and scrape with a toilet brush once a week to clean rusted toilet bowls. Remove the water from the toilet bowl and pour undiluted vinegar into it, allowing it to soak for at least two hours to remove previous stains (overnight is better). Scrub in a circular motion before rinsing with clean water.

3. Cream of tartar

You may not have cream of tartar in your pantry unless you are a meringue fan or baker, but it is an excellent rust remover. Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) is a powdered version of tartaric acid that is commonly used to solidify whipped egg whites and leaven baked goods.

Sprinkle the paste over the rust-stained areas of sinks and tubs before washing with a moistened nylon-bristled brush. Make a paste with a few drops of water to apply to shower walls or toilet bowl stains. Allow time for it to work, then cover the area with plastic wrap to keep the paste damp.

4. Gentle abrasives

Baking soda, table salt, or pumice powder can be used alone or in combination with any of the acid cleaners. They’re gentle enough that they won’t scratch your bathroom fittings. Always moisten the stained surface with water or cleanser and keep it wet while using the abrasive for the best results. Pumice is a naturally occurring volcanic rock that comes in powder or solid form. Pumice sticks or stones can be used to brush away rust, limescale, and hard water stains.

5. Commercial rust removers

There are plenty of commercial rust removers on the market that do an excellent job at removing stains. Because some chemical cleaners are more abrasive than others, read labels carefully, follow instructions, and safely store and dispose of the items.

You may require the assistance of a plumber to discover and correct the underlying problem if new rust stains appear every day. If you have rusted pipes or a rusted hot water heater, you’ll need to replace them to stop the rusty water from flowing. Installing a water softening system will assist in controlling the problem if it’s caused by iron-rich water.

How to prevent rust stains in your toilets, tubs, and sinks

To prevent rust stains in your toilets, tubs, and sinks you need to eliminate the iron residue by wiping off the excess water after each usage. This is hard to manage in a toilet since it is bound to eventually create a mineral deposit if your water source is iron-rich. A master plumber can help examine your plumbing system.

Additional tips:

  • Rub the pumice stone on the tub or sink after it has been wet. As you rub the pumice, some of it will dissolve in the water and form a paste. To eliminate the rust spots, scrub them with the paste.
  • If the pumice stone doesn’t work, try spraying a mixture of one part white vinegar or lemon juice and one part water on your porcelain and brushing the rust off with a stiff-bristled brush.
  • If the white vinegar or lemon juice mixture does not work, mix one-part oxalic acid with ten parts warm water in a spray bottle and scrub the rusty discolored area with a firm-bristle brush. Spray the oxalic acid mixture on the bathtub or sink with a spray bottle and let it stay for 1 to 3 minutes to remove dark obstinate rust stains. To eliminate any residue left by the oxalic acid combination, scrub the rust-tainted area with a firm-bristle brush and thoroughly rinse the bathtub or sink.
  • Metal spray cans should be removed from your bathtub or sink and stored in a cupboard or cabinet. Metal cans with a metal ring on the bottom, such as shaving cream cans, air freshener spray cans, hair spray cans, rust and stain bathroom porcelain.
  • Installing a water softener in your home is a good idea. Calcium, magnesium, lime, and iron are all found in hard water. Use specifically-formulated water softener salts to eliminate iron from water and prevent rust stains in bathtubs, sinks, toilet bowls, and laundry.

Plumbing services

No sink, toilet, or tub is built to last forever, and etched-in rust stains may prompt you to consider replacing them. The specialists at Plomberie Prodrain can assist you with the installation of new fittings and resolve any plumbing issue you may encounter.

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