5 Ways to Say Goodbye to Bathtub Rust Stains

Lawrence Bonk
Written by Lawrence Bonk
Reviewed by Asya Biddle
Updated September 14, 2022
A woman sitting on edge of bathtub
Photo: Jack Hollingsworth / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Remove the rust without too much fuss

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Nothing hits the spot more than a long, relaxing bath, but nothing ruins the sanctity of bathtime more than unsightly rust stains. There's more than one way to remove rust from a bathtub, and it's likely you already have the supplies for one of these methods. Follow these five tips to remove rust stains from a bathtub.

1. Squeeze Lemons and Salt Over the Stain

You read that right. The acidic nature of lemons makes them the perfect rust remover. This process only takes a minute of active work. Here are the steps. 

  • Gather lemons or lemon juice, a dull knife, and table salt. 

  • Use the knife to scrape off any excess and apparent rust. 

  • Squeeze lemon juice over the stain until thoroughly covered. Don't rub the liquid in—just squeeze. 

  • Sprinkle table salt over the stain and lemon juice. 

  • Let the stain sit for 24 hours, squeezing on more lemon juice if it looks completely dry at any point. 

  • Rinse the spot with cool water and watch your rust slide away. Didn't work? Repeat the process.

2. Make a Paste With Baking Soda and Vinegar 

Vinegar is a versatile cleaning agent, and it shines when removing bathtub rust when combined with ordinary baking soda. This method is particularly useful against stubborn rust stains. 

  • Make a paste using 3 parts baking soda to 1 part vinegar. 

  • Apply the paste to a scrub sponge and use the sponge to wipe the paste on the rust stain. 

  • Let it sit for at least one hour, leaving it alone. 

  • Rinse the stain off with cold water, repeating the process for extremely tough stains. 

3. Rub a Pumice Stone Over Rust

What’s a pumice stone? These stones form via volcanic eruptions and are prized within dermatologist communities for exfoliating skin. They're abrasive yet gentle on certain surfaces like porcelain, making them excellent for removing rust from bathtubs.

  • Get yourself a pumice stone online or at a retail store.

  • Wet both the stone and the rusty surface with cold tap water. 

  • Rub the stone lightly over the rusted surface.

  • Work carefully and methodically until the rust disappears. 

  • As you work, the stone will gradually turn into a paste. For stubborn rust stains, leave the paste on the stain for an hour and try again. 

4. Go for a Dedicated Rust Remover 

Pick up some dedicated rust remover if you're heading out to the grocery store or hardware store. These products work when some of the more pantry-friendly options struggle, though these aren't as eco-friendly. 

  • Rust removers immediately oxidize rust without any scrubbing, making them a safe option for use in a bathtub. 

  • Spray on or apply the rust remover according to the instructions. Always wear gloves and a mask when dealing with commercial rust removers. 

  • Let the mixture sit on the stain for a while (follow the instructions, as times vary).

  • Rinse away the impacted area using cold tap water. Repeat for any lingering stains. 

5. Buff the Stain With a Scouring Pad or Sandpaper

Standard kitchen scouring pads and sandpaper are great for light rust stains. 

  • Use the scouring side of a kitchen sponge or sheet of sandpaper. 

  • Dampen before use with tap water. 

  • Scrub slowly and gently to remove the rust. It should wipe off with minimal effort.

  • The keyword here is "gently." Don't over-rub the stain, or you'll scratch the tub.

Causes of Bathtub Rust

A modern white bathtub
Photo: Daly and Newton / OJO Images / Getty Images

Rust occurs when metals like iron interact with oxygen in your water supply. These metals aren’t naturally found in water, but lakes, rivers, and groundwater supplies have plenty of metal to spare. In other words, if you live somewhere with hard water, your bathtub is susceptible to rust. Another culprit? Rusty pipes leak metal particles through faucets, leading to unsightly buildups. Also, leaving metal like shaving cream cans on or near bathtubs contributes to rust formation. 

“In areas with hard water, we most commonly find rust stains inside of sinks, showers, and bathtubs,” says Asya Biddle, Angi Expert Review Board member and manager of The Dustbusters, a family-owned and operated janitorial company in Williamsport, PA. “Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all cleaner for this type of rust because it depends on the minerals found in the hard water. However, the solutions listed in this article are a great starting point."

Pro tip: Never use bleach to remove rust in your bathtub since this can lead to intensified discoloration. 

Preventing Bathtub Rust

Removing rust is just one part of the equation. Preventing it from coming back is equally important. Luckily, there are several foolproof methods for making sure rust doesn’t get green-lit for a sequel. 

  • Rinse after use: Rinse the bathtub after using it and wipe it down with a towel. This removes any lingering iron residue. 

  • Install a water softener: Hire a local water softener company to install one of these great gadgets in your home. Hard water, after all, is one of the main reasons rust shows up in the first place.

  • Remove metal spray cans: Metal spray cans, such as shaving cream and hair spray cans, have a metal ring on the bottom that stains bathroom fixtures. Store these cans in a dry cupboard out of the way.

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