How to Remove Rust in a Sink or Tub

Last Edited: 9/15/23

A close up of a rusted drain.
Rust stains are unsightly and can make an otherwise clean sink or tub appear dirty and neglected. If you've tried in the past to remove these stains and had no luck, with our two-tiered approach, rust stains can become a thing of the past. Read on for tips on how to get rust out of a sink using a variety of do-it-yourself and commercial cleaners.

How to Remove Rust Stains

Your success at removing rust stains will depend on factors such as the material your surface is made from (acrylic, porcelain, or enamel) and how long the rust stain has been there. In cases of chronic staining, the color may have permanently etched itself into the porcelain, making it impossible to remove. 

Before attempting any of the methods listed below, be sure to wear personal protection, including eye and respiratory protection, gloves, and a long sleeve shirt. Test the method in an inconspicuous sink, tub, or toilet area to prevent damage. If you are uncomfortable with this, contact a professional service for assistance. 

When removing rust stains in a toilet bowl, flush the toilet and turn off the water to prevent refilling. An empty toilet bowl makes cleaning the rust stain easier and prevents the dilution of your cleaning solution. Use these tips to remove a rust stain from your sink or tub:

Abrasive Scouring Pads

For light stains, scrub the rust with the rough side of a sponge or scouring pad that has been slightly dampened. If the scrubbing alone doesn't remove the rust stain from the sink, add one of the cleaning solutions below. 

Pumice Stones

A pumice stone removes rust stains from porcelain, although it is not recommended for fiberglass. Wet the stone and scrub the stain. The dampened stone will create a paste that lifts and removes the rust stain. Once the stain disappears, rinse the area with clean water.

Baking Soda

Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and rub it into the rust stain. Leave the mixture to sit overnight, and then scrub the stain with a toothbrush or microfiber cloth. Rinse the sink with clean water. If you still need more firepower, distilled white vinegar will help. 

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar are a powerful rust stain cleaner combo that is safe on many surfaces, but please remember to test in an inconspicuous area first. Mix a ¼ cup of baking soda with enough vinegar to create a thick paste and scrub the stain. Leave the paste to dry for an hour, then rinse the residue with clean water. 

Lemon and Salt

Use bottled or fresh lemon juice, add enough salt to form a wet paste, and apply it to the affected area(s). While this solution is ideally suited for flat surfaces, it can also work in the toilet bowl, although the application may be tricky. Let the mixture sit for several hours before scrubbing the stain, then rinse with clean water.

Hydrogen Peroxide and Cream of Tartar

Hydrogen peroxide is a safe, natural stain remover, and when mixed with tartar, it works well for rust stains. Mix two parts cream of tartar with one part hydrogen peroxide to create a paste. Rub the paste into the stain and let the solution work for about two hours. Use a damp scrubber to scrub the stain, then rinse the sink with water.

Oxalic Acid 

Oxalic acid removes rust and other mineral stains from many surfaces, including sinks and tubs. Mix 1 cup of borax and 1/2 cup of lemon juice in a bowl and apply the paste to the stain. Allow the mixture to almost dry, then scrub the paste into the stain. Rinse the sink with water. 

Commercial Rust Stain Removers

Several cleaning products on the market are formulated to remove stains, including rust. Avoid products that contain bleach, as those may only exacerbate the problem. 

The above methods and stain cleaning solutions will remove rust from a sink or tub, but you can save time and effort by preventing more rust stains. 

What Causes Rust Stains?

Rust stains can be challenging to remove and may become permanent over time. Even when you know how to remove rust in a sink, if you don't fix the cause, you'll continue to have rust problems. Possible causes of rust stains in a sink or tub include:

Plumbing System

A rusty or deteriorated water heater, fixtures, or pipes can cause rust particles in your water supply. In addition to the damage to your home, this is a health concern that should be addressed as quickly as possible by a professional, licensed plumber. A water softener or filter is recommended if an abundance of iron deposits is the problem.

Water Supply

If the water entering your home has a high iron content, the water may look and taste normal—but rust stains may appear in areas where there is often standing water, such as the toilet bowl. One option is to have your water tested or contact a professional, licensed plumber. A water softener or filter is recommended if an abundance of iron deposits is the problem.

Tips to Prevent Rust Stains

Without taking corrective action, there's no getting around rusty pipes and hard water. Besides replacing pipes and adding water filtration, you can take a few measures to prevent rust stains:

  • Dry the sink or bathtub after each use.
  • Avoid having shaving cream, hair spray, and other metal containers on the sink or tub. 
  • Replace or repair the hardware if you have a slow leak from your sink or tub faucet.
  • Check the inside of your toilet tank and upgrade to non-corrosive components if you find rusted and corroded metal parts.

Time for a Bathroom Makeover?

Now that you know how to remove rust in your sink and tub, you may have noticed other issues with your bathroom. When it's time for bathroom repairs or a complete overhaul, Mr. Handyman’s service professionals are pros at home repair, maintenance, and improvement projects.

No matter what your home needs, we have a professional handyman ready to roll up those sleeves and get to work. We back all of our services with the Neighborly Done Right Promise™ and make it quick and easy to request service. Contact your local Mr. Handyman to find a trusted partner for all your home improvement projects.