When metal and water come in contact with each other as they do in a plumbing system it is almost inevitable that rust will eventually appear. Over time, pipes, fixtures, and even water heaters can develop rust which can leave you with unsightly brown stains that are not only unattractive but stubborn to get rid of.

What is Causing These Stains?

While rust is a natural reaction that we don’t have a lot of control over, the appearance of rust can indicate a deeper problem.

Rust, however, isn’t the only cause of these stains. If you live in an area with high concentrations of iron in the water, you may experience the staining as a result of the contact with the iron over time. No matter what the cause of these stains, the common thread is that they are near impossible to remove—at least with traditional bathroom cleaning methods.

Checking With Your Plumber

While many of the causes of rust stains are natural, they can still be an indicator that something deeper may be wrong. If it is being caused by rusty pipes or an aging water heater, you will need to call a plumber to replace these items and control the flow of damaging rusty water. If you do have a high concentration of iron in your water you can also have your plumber install a water softener to help manage the situation.

Cleaning The Stains

Over time these stains can really settle into porcelain making your cleaning job that much more difficult. We aren’t going to lie, cleaning these stains isn’t always easy—but the important thing is that it’s not impossible.

Abrasive Scrubbing Pads

There is a variety of scrubbing pads out there—from a two-sided kitchen sponge to steel wool. Porcelain will scratch, so be careful when choosing the higher-duty abrasive pads. Abrasive pads are a good first place to start not only do they loosen up the stain, but they also do so without heavy chemicals.

Natural Cleaners

If you are trying to avoid those heavy chemicals you may consider making your own homemade cleanser. Lemon juice and salt are particularly good for battling rust and stubborn stains. Simply combine lemon juice with salt to make a paste. Make sure you cover any potential cuts on your hands with gloves, while these are safe substances, we all know they can certainly hurt an already open wound—so be careful.  This paste isn’t as effective on the toilet, because it doesn’t grip to the stain, but lemon juice and salt can work wonders on sinks and tub drains. Leave the paste to settle into the stain for 20 minutes or more and scrub away with a brush.

Pumice Stone

Another natural substance that can help with your cleaning efforts is pumice. Pumice is a naturally occurring volcanic rock that has been used in everything from cleaning to self-hygiene. They have specially designed pumice stones for porcelain and tile that can be reused over and over again. It takes some scrubbing, but if you are dedicated to keeping things chemical free it’s worth the extra effort.


If you must, you can opt to use a chemical cleaner. However, you everyday surface cleaners are not going to have the punch you need to send the rust stains packing. Some people try to use bleach too, but it generally doesn’t have much effect on the stain. What you are looking for is a cleaner that contains hydrochloric acid. This sounds more dangerous than it is, but these cleaners are safe for tub and tile cleaner, though you will want to follow directions for safe handling purposes.

If you still can’t get these stains to budge, it might be time to consider a replacement. Before you decided to replace your tub and sinks, make sure the source of the problem has been properly managed so that the problem doesn’t reappear. At any point, feel free to call the experts at Knight Plumbing and we’ll help get your bathroom and kitchen in the condition you are hoping for.

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