How to Remove Rust Stains from Tub: Best Methods

Rust stains are common in the shower especially when you have items made of iron. When the rust isn’t cleaned fast enough, it can cause stubborn stains which may take a while to clean. However, you can easily get rust stains out of your tub no matter the material of the tub as shall be detailed in the following sections. 

To remove rust stains from your tub, add 1 to 1.5 teaspoons of salt into a cup of lemon juice and stir to make a uniform solution. Dip a cloth into the solution then apply it on the rusty parts of the tub. After 1 hour, rub off the rust stains from the tub using the same piece of cloth.

The best way to prevent rust stains is to use soft water with the Aquasure Harmony Series 48,000 Grains Water Softener being the best choice to soften water at home. It’s efficient and softens water without increasing your electricity bill by much. 

How to Remove Rust Stains from Tub

What causes rust stains on tubs?

Rust stains come about when iron reacts with water and oxygen to form iron oxide which is red-orange to brown in color and is quite unsightly. For equipment made of iron-free materials such as plastic, rust stains come about when you leave them in contact with an item made of iron such as a shaving razor.

Another source of rust stains is iron bacteria (iron-oxidizing bacteria) which are bacteria that oxidize dissolved ferrous iron for sustenance. These bacteria cause rust in the process and thus require to be eliminated to prevent rusting. 

How to remove rust stains from tub

Rust stains can be removed from the following tub materials as follows:

Bathtub materialCleaners
Porcelain bathtubBaking soda and microfiber cloth
Fiberglass bathtubBaking soda and nylon brush
Cast iron bathtubBaking soda and microfiber cloth
Bathtub drainBaking soda and pumice stone
Ceramic floor/wallLemon juice, salt & white vinegar & pumice stone

How to remove rust stains from a porcelain bathtub

Since porcelain doesn’t rust on its own, the rust stains on it can come from other items with iron in them such as the faucets, shaving equipment like razors, and even cleaning equipment. To remove iron stains from porcelain tubs, you need baking soda, water and a microfiber cloth and follow these steps:

  1. Pour a small amount of baking soda in a bowl then slowly add water to create a smooth paste. 
  2. Apply the paste on the areas with rust stains on your bathtub. You can use your hand or a fine brush to evenly spread out the paste. Allow it to stay overnight. 
  3. Use the microfiber cloth to gently scrub away the rust stains from your bathtub. 
  4. Rinse the paste and rust from the tub with clean water (warm or cold) and let it dry before using the tub. 
  5. If the stains aren’t removed properly, repeat the process until you get the right results. 

The same procedure is used to remove rust stains from bathtubs made of cast iron. This method gets rust off bathtubs quite easily and when done right. 

You use a microfiber cloth instead of an abrasive item like steel wool and a scouring pad or powder to avoid damaging the surface of the tub. This also makes it possible to remove rust stains from plastic tubs given their delicate nature. 

How to remove rust stains from fiberglass bathtub

With fiberglass being used to cover and coat a lot of materials, there are chances that it’ll get rusty with the underlying material. Besides, that, placing iron items on the fiberglass tub can also lead to rust stains.

To remove rust stains from a fiberglass bathtub, you need baking soda, a sponge, acetone, a soft nylon brush, and a white cotton cloth then follow these steps:

  1. Spray or sprinkle some water on the rust stains to dampen them. 
  2. Lightly pour some baking soda on the wet rust stains. The water helps the baking soda to stick to the tub. 
  3. Place the nylon brush in water then use it to massage the baking soda into the rust stains. It should form a paste on the surface of the bathtub. 
  4. After 1 hour, rinse off the baking soda paste from the tub and let it dry before using the tub. 

If the stains aren’t fully eliminated, you should repeat the process until you get satisfactory results. You can also fix rust in bathtubs made of fiberglass or acrylic by wiping the stains with a cloth dipped in acetone then rinsing it off. With acetone having some unhealthy fumes, make sure you open the window or turn on the fan when using it. 

You can also use baking soda in the procedure above to remove rust from the bathtub drain. For better results in cleaning limescale from bathtub and shower drains, use equal parts of baking soda and white vinegar.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Tub

How to remove rust from ceramic surfaces

Besides the surfaces mentioned above, ceramic surfaces such as tiles are also prone to rust stains even when ceramic itself doesn’t rust. For this case, there are several ways to remove rust from ceramic surfaces as follows:

Lemon juice

Remove rust stains from shower stalls made of ceramic in the following steps:

  1. Squeeze some lemon juice on the rust stains then wait for about 5 minutes. 
  2. Before the lemon juice dries up, scrub the stains with a clean toothbrush. 
  3. Rinse with clean water. 

If the rust on the bottom of the bathtub isn’t eliminated by the lemon juice at first, repeat the procedure until the stains are gone. Lemon juice removes rust stains by breaking down the rust (iron oxide) with its acid (citric acid) and is one way to remove rust from a bathtub naturally. 

Borax and lemon juice

Borax has its own cleaning qualities and, mixed with lemon juice, they make one of the best solutions to get rid of rust stains in the shower in the following steps:

  1. Mix equal parts of borax and lemon juice in a container.
  2. Apply the mixture to the rust stains then wait for 5 minutes or just before it dries up. 
  3. Scrub the stains with a brush. 
  4. Rinse with clean water. 

You should repeat the procedure for any iron stains that remain after the first cleanup procedure. 

Salt and white vinegar

A mixture of salt and white vinegar is quite efficient at cleaning rust stains off ceramic and other surfaces as shown in the following steps:

  1. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and salt to create a paste. 
  2. Apply the paste on the rust stains then wait for 3 to 4 hours. 
  3. Use a brush or pumice stone to remove the rust stains before rinsing. 

Be careful not to damage the ceramic surface. If the pumice stone you have seems too abrasive, go for pumice stone powder which is milder. Salt and white vinegar remove rust from bathtubs naturally.

Commercial rust removers

Commercial rust removers are an easy way to get rid of rust stains when you don’t have the ingredients mentioned in the methods above. Bathroom rust removers are affordable and work faster than their alternatives. Since you can’t tell whether a certain cleaner is safe for your type of bathtub, always do a spot test on one area of the tub before using it on the rest of it. 

They include the following:

1. Evapo-Rust Super Safe Rust Remover

Evapo-Rust is a biodegradable rust remover that can be used on almost all surfaces including grill grates, cast iron cookware, tools, bathroom surfaces, and many more. Evapo-Rust Remover quickly and safely removes rust on the bottom of bathtubs and other areas of the bathroom. Being biodegradable, it won’t harm the environment when in use.

2. Iron OUT Rust Stain Remover

Iron OUT removes and prevents all types of water-related stains including rust and water stains. It also works on many different surfaces from the bathroom to the kitchen and even the laundry. 

3. Lime-A-Way Lime Calcium Rust Cleaner

Lime-A-Way is a great formula that does away with rust, calcium, and limescale in a few steps. It also works on most surfaces without issues. 

Other ways to remove rust from tubs

Besides the methods discussed above which are specific to certain types of surfaces, there are other methods you can use to remove rust stains from your tubs. As always, do a spot test by testing the cleaner on a small inconspicuous part of the tub before using it on the whole tub. 

These alternative methods include the following:

Lemon juice and salt

Lemon juice mixed with salt creates a paste that is very effective at removing rust stains off tubs. Lemon juice and salt are used to remove rust stains from bathtubs naturally as follows:

  1. Apply some lemon juice on the rust stains. You can squeeze it directly from lemon or just add lemon juice (not the commercial one) to the stains. 
  2. Sprinkle salt on the rust stains to mix with the lemon juice then leave it to sit for 3 to 4 hours. 
  3. After that, scrub the stains with a microfiber cloth then rinse the tub with clean water. 

You should repeat the process if you’re not satisfied with the results. Besides lemon juice, other acids used in rust removal include acetic acid (distilled white vinegar), sulfuric and hydrochloric acid (commercial cleaners), oxalic acid (Bar Keepers Friend), and tartaric acid (cream of tartar). 

Baking soda

Baking soda can be used on its own or with either lemon juice or white vinegar to remove rust stains off bathtubs. On its own, baking soda is used as follows:

  1. Add some baking soda in a bowl then slowly add water while stirring to make a smooth paste. 
  2. Spread the baking soda paste on the areas with rust stains on your tub. 
  3. Let the paste sit overnight. 
  4. Scrub the paste away the next morning using a microfiber piece of clothing. 
  5. Rinse the remaining baking soda with clean water. 

If it hasn’t worked to your satisfaction, repeat the process all over again. 

Cleaning screen

A cleaning screen is similar to lightweight sandpaper and will thus not damage the surface if your tub when used to clean it. It’s used as follows:

  1. Sprinkle some water on the cleaning screen to dampen it a little then wait for 1 to 2 minutes. 
  2. Rub the area of the tub with rust stains using the cleaning screen in gentle and repeated motions to do away with stains. 
  3. Rinse the dirt off. 

Repeat the procedure to your satisfaction. You can use Shaw’s Pads in the same way. 

Cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide

Cream of tartar is combined with hydrogen peroxide to form a paste with great rust removal qualities. Both of these ingredients can be used on their own to clean rust stains but combining them makes them more effective at it. 

Use them to clean rust stains as follows:

  1. Mix cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide in equal parts to form a consistent paste. 
  2. Apply the paste on the rust stains on your tub then wait for 10 to 15 minutes. 
  3. Scrub the rust stains with a nylon brush then rinse it off. 

Repeat the same procedure if the first time didn’t give satisfactory results. 

How to remove rust stains from bathtub naturally

There are many ingredients you can use to naturally remove rust stains from bathtubs but the most efficient method is to use baking soda and vinegar as follows:

  1. Mix 3 parts baking soda with 1 part white vinegar in a bowl. 
  2. Apply the mixture to a scrub sponge then use it to scrub the rust stains on the tub. 
  3. Let it sit for an hour. 
  4. Rinse it off after an hour to get rid of the rust stains. 

Repeat the process if the first-time cleaning doesn’t clean the rust stains to your satisfaction. This is the same method used to remove rust from shower rods

How often to clean rust stains on tubs

Rust stains should be cleaned from tubs on a weekly basis to prevent their spread. For the weekly cleaning of rust stains on tubs, spray vinegar on the rust stains then use a scrub brush to scrub the stains off before rinsing. For tougher stains, use the methods detailed in the sections above. 

How to prevent rust stains on tubs

Cleaning rust stains on tubs is quite easy as has been shown in the sections above. However, you can keep the tub surfaces looking clean with the following tips:

  • Wipe the surface of the tub after each shower. 
  • Avoid using chlorine bleach to clean tubs as it my make the rust stains permanent. However, careful use of chlorine is helpful in killing iron bacteria as it acts as a disinfectant. 
  • Kill iron bacteria using disinfectants, surfactants and acids such as lemon juice (citric acid), white vinegar (acetic acid) and cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate).
  • Use soft water since hard water encourages rusting in water pipes and the growth of iron bacteria. If it’s not readily available filter the water or add a water softener before use. Soft water also saves you cleaning and repair costs in the long term. 
  • Don’t store metal items in the bathroom since the metal will rust and cause iron stains. These include shavers, hair sprays and many others. 
  • Fix any leaks in the plumbing since they’re the cause of most rust stains. 

If the cleaning methods and the prevention tips don’t work for you, always call your plumber to have the problem resolved. 

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