How to Remove Rust Stains From Toilets, Tubs, and Sinks

  • 01 of 05

    Removing Rust Stains From Bathroom Fixtures

    person cleaning bathtub
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    Rust and other stains can occur from hard water mineral deposits. This can be particularly bad for homes on well water or city water with a high iron content. Staining can also occur from rusty galvanized water pipes leaking into a kitchen sink, rusty toilet components leaking into the back of a toilet bowl or something metal left on a wet surface. These stains can be difficult to remove. If this is a recurring problem and the staining is chronic, there may be no way to remove the stain as it may have etched itself into the porcelain.

    However, most rust staining is not that bad and can be successfully removed with the right products, but regular toilet bowl cleaners or powdered chlorine based cleansers will not do it. 

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  • 02 of 05

    Mechanical Removal: Shaws Pads (Environmentally Friendly)

    toilet ring remover

    One of the simplest and most effective solutions is a product called Shaw’s Pads® Toilet Ring Remover. These pads use no chemicals, are safe for septic systems, and work on an old principle called “elbowsus lubricatus,” Latin for “elbow grease.” You can purchase the pads alone or get a short plastic handle for attaching the pads to. The handle makes it easier to get under the rim of the toilet. 

    Simply wet the pad and scrub the rusty area with short, vigorous strokes. This removes the scale from the porcelain and, along with it, the rust stain. Rinse the area with clean water when you're done. 

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  • 03 of 05

    Mechanical Removal: Pumice Stick (Environmentally Friendly)

    scouring pads

    A pumice scouring stick works well for removing stains from porcelain. One example is the Pumie® brand made by United States Pumice Company. To use it, you wet the bar under water, then rub it back and forth on the stain. This will create a pumice paste, which will assist in cleaning and polishing the surface. Rinse away the residue once the stain is gone.

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  • 04 of 05

    Scouring Cleanser: ZUD (Environmentally Un-Friendly)

    zud cleanser

    Don’t even think of using regular household food stain cleansers (containing chlorine bleach),  since they will not work at all on rust stains. One cleaner that does work is ZUD®, (by Reckitt Benckiser, makers of Spray-n-Wash and Brasso), which uses oxalic acid and a very effective combination of abrasives made up of finely ground quartz and pumice. The combination is potent. Although oxalic acid is a naturally occurring organic acid, it is considered a poison and is not recommended for homes that have a septic system. 

    To use ZUD in a toilet or sink, you just squirt or sprinkle it on the stains, then scrub with a toilet cleaning brush or a scrubby sponge or plastic pad. Add more water to the bowl or sink so the stain is covered by the ZUD solution. Add more ZUD where you can’t cover with the solution (such as high on the bowl). Wait for 60 to 90 minutes, then clean the area with the brush or sponge and either flush the toilet or rinse away the solution.

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  • 05 of 05

    Chemical Cleaner: The Works® (Environmentally Un-Friendly)

    The Works has been around for over 50 years and will do a good job of getting rid of rust stains without a lot of elbow grease. You just spray it on, let it set, and then rinse the rust away. However, this is strong stuff that contains two types of acid (sulfamic and oxalic) and is a serious skin and eye irritant. Do not use this product if you have a septic system.