Common Housekeeping Conundrums: Rust in Bathtubs and Sinks

My husband and I purchased our house last year. A new bathtub was installed by the previous owner right before we made the purchase. Unfortunately, during the short time the house stood vacant before we moved in, a spot of rust developed in the tub where some water had pooled around the drain.

Do you have spots of rust in your bathtub or sink? Find out how to remove the rust and how to prevent its formation in the future.

Why did pooled water cause rust to form? Rust forms as a result of a reaction between iron and oxygen in the presence of water. Iron can be found in the water supplies of most households, which is why tubs and sinks are prone to rust formation. When I did some research to figure out how to get rid of the spot, I came across many suggestions. I selected one to try, grabbed the necessary supplies, and got to work.

Using lemon juice and salt to remove rust

The method I selected requires lemon juice, salt, and a little elbow grease.

Lemon juice and salt | Do you have spots of rust in your bathtub or sink? Find out how to remove the rust and how to prevent its formation in the future.

I poured salt and lemon juice over the stain.

Salt and lemon juice on rust | Do you have spots of rust in your bathtub or sink? Find out how to remove the rust and how to prevent its formation in the future.

After letting it rest for about 10 minutes, I scrubbed at it with a washcloth. As you can see in the picture below, the stain improved but still remained.

Rust spot partially gone | Do you have spots of rust in your bathtub or sink? Find out how to remove the rust and how to prevent its formation in the future.

I added a second dose of lemon juice and salt. Fifteen minutes later, I scrubbed at the stain with an old toothbrush. An area of slight discoloration remains, but the results are overall impressive.

Drain clean of rust | Do you have spots of rust in your bathtub or sink? Find out how to remove the rust and how to prevent its formation in the future.

I’m glad I found a way to remove the rust from the tub, but as with so many other things in life, wouldn’t it have been easier to prevent its formation in the first place?

Ways to prevent rust formation in bathtubs and sinks

  • Install a water softener. Specially formulated water softener salts can remove iron from water and prevent rust stains in bathtubs, sinks, toilet bowls, etc.
  • Remove metal cans from the bathtub and sink. Metal cans (e.g., shaving cream cans, air freshener cans) contain metal rings on their bottoms that rust and stain surfaces. Store these in a cabinet instead.
  • Wipe down the tub and sink after each use. This removes standing water and wipes away iron residue.
  • Ventilate the bathroom. Ventilation will reduce the amount of moisture present, decreasing the likelihood that water will pool in the tub or sink.

Additional strategies to remove rust

As I mentioned earlier, there are several substances suggested for removing rust stains. I can’t personally vouch for any of these because I’ve only tried the salt and lemon juice approach, but I’ll list them here for your consideration.

  • Pumice stone
  • Hydrogen peroxide with cream of tartar
  • Commercially available products such as Bar Keepers Friend
  • White vinegar

Though it may initially seem counterintuitive, do not use bleach to try to remove rust. Bleach can make the situation worse! Through a chemical reaction, bleach causes dissolved iron to pull out of water and collect on the surface of your tub and sink, worsening rust stains.

Have you successfully removed rust from a bathtub or sink? How did you do it?

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  1. Shannon,
    This is pretty impressive…rust is so stubborn. I will remember that as we can have some rust build up in our upstairs tub…nowhere else in the house, though! It’s a mystery~
    I am glad to meet you and find your blog through your comment. I want to invite you to link-up on Wednesdays when we have out linky party…just like this post on rust…it is encouraging to others to know this simple information, so please share your posts, if you can 🙂 There is a great group of gals that would lie to meet you…just comment on other’s blogs and they might comment on yours back! In time you get to know some real friends 🙂 Blessings1

    • Thanks for the comment, Jacqueline. I was somewhat doubtful something as simple as salt and lemon juice could work, but I’m glad it did. 🙂
      I’ll be sure to visit the linky party on Wednesday. Thanks for the invitation!

  2. This is a wonderful tip. Thanks so much for sharing this all -natural remedy!

    • You’re welcome! I’ve continued to use the salt and lemon juice on other rust stains and am pleased with the results.

  3. How do you keep it from coming back? I cleaning mine with vinegar and dawn dish soap and removed it completely 3 days ago. Now it’s back grrrrr so what works to keep it away???

    • We have found that we have to ventilate the bathroom so the drain gets dry each day. We also pulled out the metal ring at the top of the drain and realized that whoever installed it didn’t put plumber’s putty beneath the drain ring. We added this and it has helped considerably.

  4. The salt and lemon juice didn’t even make a dent in the rust around my kitchen sink drain, so I tried the peroxide and cream of tarter. First try took out about 80% of the rust, so now I’m giving it a second try for the remainder of the rust 🙂

  5. BTW, vinegar didn’t work either 🙁

  6. Bill Collins says:

    CLR will remove the rust, but once some of the paint is rusted off, it recurs after each use of the tub, even when I dry the tub and air out the room.

    • Shannon says:

      Hi Bill,
      A couple of years after I wrote this post we also began having this issue in the area where the paint had rusted off. I ended up removing the drain ring so I could sand down the area. I then filled the portion where the paint was missing with this porcelain filler and I then painted over the top with this porcelain paint. We’ve since moved, so I don’t know how this has held up in the long term, but it worked for the several months between the time when I did the repair and when we moved. I hope this helps!

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