Get Rid of Rust Stains From a Bathtub & Sink Fast!

How Do You Get Rust Stains Out of a Bathtub and Sink?

Your bathroom sink and bathtub are made of white shiny porcelain or ceramic (or other materials) and will remain so unless stained. A brown discoloration is usually caused by rust and is not easy to remove unlike other stains.

So, why is there rust stains in your bathtub and sink and how can you remove them?

Rust stains in bathtub and sinks are caused by hard water which contains iron minerals. As the iron is deposited on the surface of the tub or sink, it combines with oxygen to form a brown stain known as iron oxide. The stains can also be as a result of an old water heater or corroded galvanized steel pipes in your house.


Apart from the bathtub and sink, a brown discoloration around your toilet bowl’s water will also form. This is called a toilet ring and it is also caused by iron minerals present in the water flowing to your house.

To remove rust stains out of a bathtub or sink, you can scrub it using baking soda and vinegar, pumice stone, scouring pads, lemon juice and salt or result to a chemical rust removal. If you however want to solve the problem permanently, you will need to install a water softener.

The thing about removing rust stains from bathtubs, sinks and toilets without installing a water softener is that they will always recur. As long as you still have hard water flowing in your house rust stains and limescale will always be present in your fixtures.

 A water softener removes the iron and other hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium through a process of iron exchange. It is installed where the water main service line enters your house, preventing the hard water minerals from getting to your fixtures and staining them.

As I have already mentioned, your bathtub and sink could be staining because you have old and corroded galvanized steel water pipes. To find out if that is the case and why you need to replace them, check out this post.

Another source of the rust could be an old water heater whose internal lining has been eaten away resulting in sediment settling at the bottom of the tank. The sediment can make it to your sink and bathtub and end up staining them.

Flushing your water heater is an effective way of removing the sediment. You can also replace the anode rode which will stop further degradation of the water heater. A water heater that is too old will need to be replaced.

In summary, here is how to get rid of rust stains from a bathtub and sink.

  • Scrub using a pumice stone
  • Apply a baking soda and vinegar paste then scrub using a sponge
  • Clean using lemon juice and salt
  • Use a chemical rust remover
  • Remove the stains using a scouring pad
  • Install a water softener

How to Remove Rust Stains from a Bathtub and Sink

Let us now look at all the methods you can use to remove rust stains from bathtubs and sinks in more details.

1. Use Baking Soda and Vinegar Paste

Both baking soda and vinegar are fantastic cleaning agents that are readily available at home and cheap as well.  They are also safe for you, your plumbing and the septic system if you are using one.

Baking soda is a base while vinegar is weak acid. The 2 react in a fizzing reaction when mixed together and the reaction is very effective in breaking down stains and even clogs in drains.

In this job, you will need more baking soda than vinegar probably in the ration of 3:1. You need to make a paste with a thick consistency that you can apply easily on the rust stains.

The amount of paste to make will depend on the extent of the stains and whether you are cleaning a bathtub (big) or sink (smaller).

  • Use a large mixing bowl or pan to make the paste.
  • Start by pouring the baking soda and then slowly add the vinegar. I insist on slowly since baking soda reacts very fast with vinegar.
  • Mix the 2 together until you achieve a paste with a nice consistency.
  • Use a sponge to apply the paste all over the rust stains being sure to apply more where the stains are severe.
  • Wait for about an hour for the paste to work out its magic.
  • Use the sponge to scrub away the stains until all of them are gone.
  • If you had severe stains you may need to repeat the process one more time to completely get rid of them.

If you don’t have baking soda or are looking for something stronger, use a vinegar and borax paste.

2. Scrub the Stains Using a Pumice Stone


Pumice stone is basically a light and porous rock which is formed when a gas-rich froth of glassy lava solidifies fast. They are mostly used to scrub feet but are also very effective in getting rid of hard water stains especially rust stains.

The good thing about a pumice stone is that it is cheap, safe and effective in remove rust stains. It will also not leave scratch marks if you use it properly.

To effectively remove rust stains from a bathtub and sink using a pumice stone, make sure that both the stone and the surface you are cleaning are wet. You will therefore need to keep spraying water on the surface of the tub or sink to keep it wet.

What I would also advise you to do is soak the pumice stone in water for about 15 minutes. Being a very porous rock, the stone will take in a lot of water, softening it in the process and that is how you avoid scratches.

Just that you are on the safe side, a pumice stone should not be used to scrub plastic, fiberglass, laminate or marble surfaces. It will end up leaving very unsightly scratch marks.

After soaking the pumice stone in water, pick a spot on the bathtub or sink and start scrubbing either in a circular motion or back and forth.

As already mentioned keep the surface moist and apply pressure on the stone to have better contact with stains. If you notice any scratches, stop immediately and use an alternative method for the same.

3. Scrub Using Scouring Pads

In this category, there are so many options to choose from. The first and what is available to most people is the standard kitchen sponge only that this time you will need to use the rough side.

You can also opt to by such pads but which are purposefully designed to scrub stains out of porcelain and ceramic surfaces like sinks, toilets and bathtubs.

Personally, I like squirting a generous amount of dish soap all over the stains and then scrub them away using the pads.  It can take time to get rid of all stains but it definitely works.

One product that will not disappoint you though is not always available is Shaw’s Pads.  They are very effective in rust stains elimination, are eco-friendly and most importantly will not leave ugly scratch marks on fixtures’ surfaces.

If however the only thing you can find at the moment is dryer sheets then grab them and get to work. Whether they are new or old, dryer sheets will help get rid of rust stains from bathtubs, sinks and even toilets.

4. Try Salt and Lemon Juice

This method works just like the baking soda and vinegar one. If these are the products you have at hand then they will work though it takes some time as well.

  • Use salt and lemon juice to make paste with a thick consistency then apply it all over the stains.
  • Let it sit for about 30 minutes or even longer
  • Use a sponge to scrub away the stains and then rinse the tub or sink with water to see if all of them are removed.
  • Repeat the process if there are some stains still visible.

5. Use a Chemical Rust Remover

This is my least favorite method for several reasons. You will find very many of this products in stores and online but I reckon CLR and Iron Out are the most common ones.

They are actually very effective since they use oxidation to break down the rust and you don’t have to keep scrubbing like in the other methods. You will only need to rinse it away and you will be left with a sparkling sink or bathtub.

The reasons I do not recommend using chemical rust removers are:

  • They are bad for the environment
  • Fumes from these chemicals can make you feel sick
  • They will kill the good bacteria in the septic tank if you are on a septic system.
  • Some products can burn your skin.
  • They can result in fading of the finish on the bathtub, sink or other fixtures.
  • They eat away rubber seals resulting in leaks.

These products should only be used as a last result.

And basically that is how to get rid of rust stains from a bathtub and sink. I hope this guide was helpful.

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