We don’t like to talk about it, but the toilet is probably the most used item in your home. It’s important that they work correctly, but you also want them to look good. Given the nature of toilets and how they interact with water so regularly, rust can become an issue.
Even the best modern toilets can develop rust stains which are difficult to remove. Our guide, on how to remove rust stains from toilet, will take you through what rust stains are and give you all the tricks and tips for preventing them.
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What Causes Rust Stains In Toilets? (Where Do They Come From?)
Rust happens when steel is corroded. Corrosion occurs when the iron is exposed to air and moisture and can happen naturally. Rust can occur in any toilet, and it isn’t limited to one particular brand or type of toilet. Understanding why rust stains occur is essential and can help you prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some of the most common causes of rust stains:
Rusty pipes are very common, especially in smaller towns where the pipes may be replaced less frequently. The rust that builds up over time will eventually cause the orange, rusty tint to develop in the water. This can spread into your tank and will cause the toilet to stain.
The majority of modern toilets use plastic components or rust-resistant metals. Older models may not have this, and the parts inside the toilet mechanism can start to rust. This can spread within the toilet and stain the sides.
Some water supplies have higher amounts of iron in the water. This is generally caused by the environment the water is coming from and the soil it travels through. In small doses, it won’t be harmful; however, this iron water can build up and attract bacteria over time. This can lead to a film of brown sludge building up, which can stain your toilet.
Water filters or heaters
Water filters or heating units can also cause rust stains. Components within these devices can, over time, become corroded. This will impact the water flowing through them and can lead to staining in the water bowl. It’s important to clean these regularly to avoid this.
What Removes Rust Stains In Your Toilet?
Rust stains can look awful and be quite stubborn to clean. Thankfully there are a few products that can be proven to be very effective at removing rust stains in your toilet:
Household Products (Non-Chemical Natural Solutions)
When you’re trying to deal with a problem in your home, then ideally, you will turn to a home remedy. These are often gentler than store-bought products, so there’s less risk of damaging your porcelain:
Shaw’s pads are specialist cleaners that work wonders on porcelain. The pads just need to be dipped in water, and then you can scrub at the stain to leave it looking clean. The advantage of this method is that there’s no risk of scraping or damaging your porcelain.
Bar Keepers Friend
Bar Keepers Friend is one of the most popular products on the market for removing stains from surfaces. The powder can be used on the rust stains and will make it easy to rub them off from the toilet bowl.
Pumice is a light and porous volcanic rock which is great at removing stains. The stone isn’t as hard as the porcelain but is harder than the rust stain, so it should remove one without damaging the other. Pumice sticks will erode down over time and need to be replaced fairly frequently, and there is a small risk of them scratching the toilet bowl.
Coca Cola is often cited as an effective toilet cleaner, but I know a lot of people struggle to believe it. The fact is that it does work because of the carbonated nature of the drink and the acidity. By pouring it into the toilet bowl and leaving it to soak, the stains should come right off.
Best Ways For Cleaning Rusty Toilets
Now you know the effective products against rust stains, you need to know the method to apply them and remove brown rust stains from the toilet bowl. The steps below will show you how to deal with heavy rust stains, but you might not need to take all these steps if you only have light rust. If you are looking to get rid of a toilet ring, see our guide here.
1. Get the equipment
Whatever products you’re using, you need to have the right safety equipment. Make sure you have strong rubber gloves, something to cover your clothes to prevent rust staining, and eye coverings.
2. Empty the toilet bowl
To clean the toilet properly, you’ll need to empty the bowl. There should be a valve on the back of the toilet which shuts off the water supply. You can then flush it, so the water drains away, allowing you to deal with the stain directly.
3. Create a paste or cleaning solution
Use baking soda and some water to create a paste which you can rub over the stains (you can also buy a specialist paste or jelly for this). Leave this on for 15-30 minutes, and then rinse clean with warm water.
4. Clean the toilet bowl
To remove the rust stains from the porcelain toilet bowl, I suggest leaving a clean solution to soak overnight or for a few hours. Applying a mixture of vinegar and water (or Coca Cola) will help to make the stains on the bottom and side of the toilet bowl easier to remove.
5. Scrub it clean
Use a vinegar spray on the stains and a brush to scrub the stains from the toilet bowl. By moving the brush in circles, you can start to remove the rust stains from the toilet bowl. Use plenty of warm water as you go.
6. Use a pumice stone
Use a pumice stone or pad to complete the cleaning of the toilet bowl. This will remove any remaining brown rust stains from the bottom of the porcelain bowl and the sides.
7. Clean the tank
Now the bowl is cleaned, you need to make sure the water tank is clean, too; otherwise, rust stains can just spread again. Ensure the tank is fully drained and remove the lid from the back of the toilet/then spray vinegar on the stains in the tank. Use a brush to clean this off, and your tank should be clean.
8. Check the system
Replace the toilet lid on the back of the toilet and turn the water back on. Perform a test flush and make sure it’s all still working.A full guide to removing rust stains from your toilet bowl can be found here:
Preventing Future Rust Stains In Your Toilet Bowl
1. Clean Regularly
Cleaning your toilet regularly will prevent the build-up of any rust. By fully emptying your tank and using specialist products, you can remove rust early and stop staining in your toilet.
2. Drying your bathroom
By drying your bathroom properly, you can prevent any iron residue from building up and reduce the risk of rust in your home.
3. Look for metal contaminants
Metal containers, old deodorant cans, and shaving foam tubes can all cause rust if they’re left in the bathroom. Make sure these are all disposed of and stored properly and not left on surfaces to stain the porcelain.
4. Add a filter
Adding an iron filter to your water supply can help prevent any rust deposits building up by limiting the amount of iron in the water. If you live in an area that suffers from higher iron levels in the water, then a softener can be used to solve the issue. These will remove the metal and mineral deposits from the water and prevent rust stains in your toilet.
5. Check your pipes
Rust almost always originates in your pipes. By checking them regularly for a brown, rust tint, you can see early if there’s a problem and prevent it from going any further by taking corrective action.
It’s much easier to prevent rust from occurring rather than cleaning off rust stains from the bowl, so it's good to get into the habit of checking regularly.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Does WD 40 remove rust stains from toilets?
Yes, WD 40 can weaken soften rust deposits on your toilet, making them easier to wipe away.
Can you leave bleach in the toilet overnight?
Yes, but generally you want to use a weaker solution. Check the specific instructions for the bleach to ensure you don’t damage your toilet.
How often should you clean the toilet?
You should aim to clean your toilet once a week to keep it looking and working like it should. You may need to clean it more frequently if it’s used more.
Rust stains in your toilet can ruin the look of your bathroom and can be a nightmare to remove from the porcelain. Hopefully this guide has helped explain how rust stains happen and how to prevent them from occurring. If you do have rust stains, then this guide will help you get your porcelain clean again and looking like it should.
Holly Curell is the editor extraordinaire for Plumbing Lab. Having grown up in Michigan, Holly has spent time living in New York, Virginia, & currently North Carolina, where she lives with her husband & family. Holly loves DIY & has years of experience with at-home plumbing problems that arise from having 3 kids & living in colder climates. When she’s not writing about her plumbing knowledge, Holly enjoys reading, hiking & relaxing with family.