How to Remove Rust Stains from Sinks and Showers

Before you head to the hardware store for chemicals solutions, try these natural alternatives recommended by cleaning experts.

toilet interior with a mirror, plant, chair and black cupboard
Photo: Getty / KatarzynaBialasiewicz

Pesky rust stains in sinks, bathtubs, and showers are no joke. Sometimes these ugly marks sit on surfaces for months—or even years—before getting the attention they need. So what can be done? For this type of heavy-duty residue, is it necessary to break out the chemicals? We turned to cleaning experts to find out what they do when faced with rust stains in the bathroom. Their first stop is usually a natural solution, including anything from lemon and salt to vinegar or a pumice stone. Ahead, their best tips for tackling rust using naturally—and how to know when it's time to bring out the more intense cleaners.

The rust removal processes depend on the surface.

Melissa Maker, YouTube host and author of Clean My Space ($13.99,, suggests selecting a product that will work well on your rusted surface without causing damage. She says, "Soft surfaces like fiberglass or acrylic can scratch easily, so be wary of products that can scratch, and choose accordingly. Avoid any products that contain bleach, as this will speed up the rusting process," she explains. "Keep in mind, rust can leave permanent stains if it has been sitting long enough. You can use commercially available products, although those can be quite harsh. There are many alternatives available that are gentler and effective. Test the gentler methods first and if they work, great. If not, you can level up."

Natural products can be effective.

If you want to avoid using harsh chemicals, Maker suggests trying a pumice stone for tough surfaces like porcelain. "Simply wet the stone and rub the area until the rust lifts off. Rinse and dry," she says. And if that doesn't work, "lemon juice and salt is another great way to get rid of rust. Make a paste of equal parts and apply it to the surface. Allow the paste to sit overnight then scrub off with a damp toothbrush and rinse well."

Another method? Becky Rapinchuk, founder of Clean Mama and author of Clean Mama's Guide to a Healthy Home: The Simple Room-by-Room Plan for a Natural Home ($12.59,, suggests using using white vinegar for rust removal in the bathroom. "You can pour it on a cloth or paper towel and wrap it around faucets or bases of the sink, let it sit, and scrub off with a scrub brush. If that doesn't quite do the trick, add a sprinkle of baking soda and scrub," she says.

Natural not cutting it? Try powdered cleansers.

If natural products don't get rid of significant rust stains, Maker suggests trying "powdered cleansers, which can be quite effective. Look for products that have oxalic acid as an ingredient—this creates the type of reaction that will help. Other products such as CLR can be helpful, but this is what I would consider bringing out the big guns."

Be selective with your tool choice.

Maker says the tools you use to remove rust from your bathroom surfaces are just as important as the chemicals you use to treat the stains. She says, "You want something that won't scratch the surface, but will be tough enough to lift the stain out. For soft surfaces, something like a Scotch-Brite non-scratch sponge would work, or an old toothbrush. Rags are great for wiping up only."

Prevent future stains.

Ultimately, prevention is key to avoiding major rust stains. For this, Rapinchuk suggests cleaning sinks and bathtubs weekly and wiping up excess water regularly. This helps to prevent water accumulation, which can lead to staining.

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