How to Get Rid of Hard Water and Rust Stains: Remove Tough Water Stains From Sinks, Toilets, Tubs, and Clothing

Michelle Tether
Written by Michelle Tether

The oxidation from rust causes stains that may seem impossible to remove. All the scrubbing in the world won’t help without the proper products and home remedies to banish rust stains from the home and prevent them from coming back. Rust is one of those really gritty stains that needs extra work and we will go through how to clean it up.

What Causes Hard Water and Rust Stains?

Hard water and rust stains are primarily caused by high iron and calcium levels in the water supply. These high iron and calcium levels result in oxidation when water is left to dry on a surface.

Sink rust

Sink rust that’s extremely hard to remove.

In bathrooms, water is commonly left pooled up in the shower or dripping from a sink. Toilets are in particular trouble here because while a fastidious individual can wipe down a shower or sink after use, a toilet contains water at all times and is particularly susceptible to rust staining.

How to Remove Rust Stains From Clothing

Rust stains on clothing are a particular problem and many individuals will simply dispose of a garment without ever attempting to treat it. Some common and effective treatments for rust-stained clothing are:

– Lemon juice
– White vinegar and salt
– Naval jelly

Dip clothing in water boiled with cream of tartar

In his book, “2,001 Amazing Cleaning Secrets”, Jeff Bredenberg recommends washing clothing in cold water with non-precipitating water conditioner to remove rust stains. He does offer caution for those attempting to successfully remove rust stains from their clothes, however.

Cream of Tartar

Cream of Tartar

According to Bredenberg, an individual must check their detergent for any level of bleach before washing because bleach sets stains. Those hoping to remove rust stains from garments should also take care not to dry the clothing in the dryer after washing. If the rust stain is not completely removed, it will be permanently set in the hot dryer air.

How to Remove Rust Stains in the Sink, Shower, or Tub

Removing rust on bathroom surfaces is as simple as purchasing a pumice stone from a local beauty supply store. A pumice stone is composed of soft volcanic rock and can provide fantastic scrubbing power without scratching delicate porcelain surfaces. Make sure to purchase a legitimate pumice stone. Imitation pumice stones are common and will not work to remove rust from bathrooms.

Rust in the bath tub

Rust in the bath tub

Wet the pumice stone and use it to gently scrub away difficult rust stains. Rinse the area and the pumice stone frequently to prevent smearing. Should any rust residue remain, this can be removed by gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush and wet baking soda.

How to Remove Rust Stains in Toilets

Toilets present more of a challenge than sinks, showers and tubs because very few individuals want to get up close and personal scrubbing a toilet bowl. For toilets, Reader’s Digest recommends using a cleanser with a hydrochloric acid base. Hydrochloric acid, however, is a very strong substance and individuals who choose to use it should vent their bathrooms well, and wear gloves and protective eyewear.

The hydrochloric acid solution can be applied to the toilet bowl and left to sit for several minutes before scrubbing it away with a scrub brush. Take care to only use soft bristled scrub brushes to clean the toilet as wire brushes can scratch porcelain surfaces.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Toilet Bowl Cleaner – Hydrochloric Acid

Individuals cleaning rust stains from a toilet should also remember to remove any tabs or cakes of freshener that have been placed around the ring of the toilet or in the toilet’s tank. These substances may contain bleach. Not only does bleach set rust stains, but the combination of bleach and hydrochloric acid can produce harmful fumes.

About the author

Michelle Tether

Michelle Tether

I love everything home. I write as a passion for non profit about the things I love.