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How to Remove Rust Stains in a Tub (Without Chemicals)

Water produces rust on many surfaces, including your bathtub. Because your tub is always subjected to being wet, rust can develop pretty quickly. Here are the ten best ways for how to remove rust stains in a tub without using harsh chemicals.

Mold fungus and rust growing in tile joints in damp poorly ventilated bathroom with high humidity, wtness, moisture and dampness problem in bath areas concept.

How to Choose a DIY Rust Stain Remover Cleaner

Not all bathtubs are made with the same materials. Your bathtub could be made out of:

  • Enamel
  • Porcelain
  • Acrylic
  • Ceramic
  • Fiberglass

Because of the differences in tubs, not every cleaning technique is appropriate for your bathtub. You should always do a spot test with a cleaning solution before applying it to your entire tub.

For instance, the acid in vinegar cleaning solutions could dull enamel tubs.

You would not want to use bleach on an acrylic tub, even hydrogen peroxide bleach.

Best Rust Remover Ingredients

Not all cleaning solutions are appropriate for removing rust stains. You will need a cleaner with an acid, salt or an abrasive.

Acids, such as vinegar, will dissolve and loosen the rust. Salts will work the same way.

An abrasive tool, such as a pumice stone or cleaning screen, uses the physical scrubbing to lift off the stain, rather than dissolving it.

Vinegar To Clean Rust

The acid in vinegar will dissolve rust. In fact, vinegar makes a great rust remover for tools, bathtubs, and so many other items.

There are many different types of vinegars. Here’s how to determine which is the best vinegar for cleaning.

How to Use

  • Spray white vinegar on the stain. Or soak a rag with white vinegar and apply to a flat surface.
  • Allow to soak for about 2 hours.
  • Wipe away with a microfiber cloth.
  • Rinse completely with water.

Lemon and Salt

Combining this fruit and spice actually has remarkable results in cleaning not only rust on bathtubs, but also other surfaces throughout your house. Lemon is acidic, and salt has abrasive properties, which can both lift rust stains away.

How to Use

  1. Combine lemon juice and salt to form a paste. You can squeeze juice out of a lemon half or use bottled lemon juice. Plain table salt will work well. Mix these together until you have a soft paste that is not too runny and is not too dry.
  2. Apply the paste to the stain.
  3. Allow to sit and work for at least 20 minutes, up to 4 hours.
  4. Use a gentle cloth, such as a microfiber cleaning cloth, to buff and scrub the mixture on the surface.
  5. Rinse completely with water to remove any residue.

Citric Acid

Lemons, limes and other citrus fruits have great cleaning powder because of the naturally occurring citric acid. You can purchase citric acid powder, too, to use as a cleaner which is perfect for getting rid of rust, lime and calcium deposits.

How to Use

  1. Make a paste of citric acid and water.
  2. Apply to the stain.
  3. Allow to soak for at least 20 minutes.
  4. Use a soft cloth to wipe away.
  5. Rinse completely with water.

Using Baking Soda to Remove Rust Stains

Another food-based cleaner that is highly effective at removing rust stains is baking soda. That is because the small granules of baking soda actually work like an abrasive scrub.

How to Use

  1. Combine baking soda and water to make a paste. It just takes a little bit of water to soften the baking soda. You want a slightly thick paste that is not too runny or too dry. It needs to be a cream consistency that will stick on the stain and soak in.
  2. Apply the baking soda paste to the stain. Let sit several hours or overnight.
  3. Gently buff away the paste with a microfiber cloth.
  4. Rinse completely with water.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

If plain baking soda won’t remove the stain, you can try combining it with vinegar for a stronger cleaner.

How to Use

  • Combine vinegar with baking soda. Use one part vinegar to three parts baking soda. However, if you find that this makes a mixture that is too runny, you can increase the amount of baking soda.
  • Apply the paste to the stain.
  • Allow to soak into the rust stain for 1-2 hours.
  • Use a scrub brush or microfiber cloth to wipe away the paste.
  • Rinse completely with water.


Borax is a tough cleaning ingredient that is more natural in nature, but can be harsh to your skin if not used properly. Using borax to clean rust is a preferable method for acrylic bathtubs.

When applying and removing the borax, be sure to wear gloves and don’t inhale the powder.

How to Use

  1. Combine borax and water to make a paste. The paste needs to be thick enough to stick to the stain, while also liquid enough to soak in.
  2. Apply the paste to the rust stain.
  3. Allow to soak for about 20 minutes.
  4. Rub the paste into the stain with a scrub brush or microfiber cleaning cloth.
  5. Rinse completely with water.

Cream of Tartar

Just like vinegar, cream of tartar is a pantry ingredient that has acidic properties for cleaning. Surprisingly, the powdered cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) is actually tartaric acid.

Cream of tartar is more expensive than baking soda or vinegar. However, if you have some at home already, or find that the other ingredients are not working, it can be worth a try.

How to Use

  • Make a paste of cream of tartar and water. The paste should be thick enough to stick to the stain, but not too runny to fall off.
  • Apply to the stain.
  • Allow to soak in for at least 20 minutes.
  • Use a soft cloth to wipe away.
  • Rinse well with water afterwards.

Pumice Stone

Sometimes you have to use some elbow grease and actually scrub the stain away. But be very careful what you use as a cleaning abrasive. Not every scrub brush is okay for a bathtub’s finish.

Pumice stones are the same types of stones that are used for foot calluses, dead skin, etc. They are gentle, yet effective. Pumice is made from volcanic rock. You can purchase a pumice stone, or pumice powder.

Using pumice is ideal for porcelain, fiberglass and enamel tubs.

How to Use

  1. Wet a pumice stone or combine pumice powder and water to make a paste.
  2. Dampen the rust stain with water.
  3. Gently rub the pumice on the stain to remove.
  4. Rinse with water.

Cleaning Screen

I had never heard of a cleaning screen until I was looking for the best ways to remove stains in the tub. So you might not have heard of them, either!

Cleaning screens are flexible scouring mesh pads. They are different than the scouring pad on a sponge that you might already be using. They kind of look like a window screen, but are highly abrasive. You kind of have to see it to understand what it is.

Use a cleaning screen either wet or dry. The screens contain no active chemicals. Instead, they simply use the power of scrubbing to remove the stains.

You can combine the screen with soapy water for a more effective cleaner.

Shaw’s Pads

While Shaw’s Pads are among the most expensive rust remover options on this list, they are highly effective and are often the only thing that works on tough rust stains.

The chemical-free cleaning pads can be used by hand or you can attach to a handle, which is great for hard-to-reach areas or if you have difficulty kneeling on the floor to clean the tub.

Shaw’s Pads state they are safe enough for porcelain sinks and toilets.

Why Does My Tub Have Rust Stains?

Having rust in your bathtub can come from a variety of reasons that you might not have much control over. Rust can be brought into your tub from rusty pipes made with galvanized metal. Rusty water heaters can also contribute to the problem.

Hard water can also cause rust because it leaves a residue of dissolved iron and other minerals on the surface of your tub. When the iron oxidizes, which means when iron combines with oxygen, it causes that orange-red stain.

All-purpose bathroom cleaners that you have been using might not be effective enough to remove rust and keep it away.

To keep rust stains away, you need to clean frequently before the stains start to develop. Using these methods to remove rust stains from a tub will get them out of the bathtub, and then you can use a routine cleaning schedule to keep them away permanently.

More Chemical-Free Cleaning Hacks


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