How to Remove Rust from Your Shower and Surfaces

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When your shower has rust stains, it can be a frustrating sight. There are a few different methods that can teach you how to remove rust from a shower or bathtub.

Prepare Your Cleaning Space

​​Whether you choose a chemical cleaner or a natural cleaner, you will still want to protect yourself when you are removing rust stains from a shower. Some of the cleaning methods may be safe, but the rust you are cleaning can still harm your skin and airways.

Before you begin cleaning in the bathroom, make sure you are wearing gloves. You can also put on a small face mask or tie a scarf around your mouth and nose area. This will help with harsh chemical smells.

Finally, you will want to make sure the bathroom is well ventilated. Turn on the bathroom fan or open a widow. Ventilating the room is as simple as giving it an air flow to push moving air through the room, so a strong smell doesn’t sit and linger.

Shower suffering from rust

How to Remove Rust from the Shower

​​​​These methods are each great in their own way for removing rust from the shower. You may prefer the smell of lemons to vinegar. Or, you may not have baking soda on hand and need to use salt instead.

No matter which store bought or​ natural cleaners​​​ you choose, each works well when it comes to removing rust from a shower.

​Using Natural Cleaners

​Natural chemicals are better for you, your family, and the environment. A lot of people think that natural products and cleaners don’t do as good of a job, but you’d be very surprised how effective they can be. 

Natural Cleaners for Rust
  • Baking Soda & Vinegar: Strongest of options
  • ​Vinegar & Salt: Not as powerful, but the salt will boost the vinegar’s effect
  • ​Lemon & Salt: Most natural but weakest option, leaves a great smell

Baking Soda and Vinegar

​​​Do you remember the cool volcano eruptions you used to make in grade school? Baking soda combined with vinegar creates a fun and bubbling chemical reaction. While it is fun to watch, it is even more exciting to use as a cleaning agent when you are removing iron or rust stains from the shower.

Make sure you wear gloves, so your skin does not come into contact with the two products. While these are safer than most chemicals, the reaction they give off can irritate your skin if it comes into contact with them.

If you are on a flat surface of your shower or tub, sprinkle the baking soda on the rusted areas. Have a sponge ready as you pour the white vinegar on the baking soda.

The two chemicals will begin to react. You will want to lightly scrub the shower area. Gently scrub the area in a circular motion and then rinse. If you can see the rust has faded but is still there, you will want to repeat the process. This time let it sit for a few minutes before you begin to scrub again. This would be the same process when working with wool and baking soda.

If you need to know how to get rid of rust stains in the shower on a vertical surface, you can still use these two components. You will just apply them in a different way.

For vertical surface cleaning, first sprinkle the baking soda on your sponge. Then pour the vinegar on your sponge. The two products will begin to react on the sponge. It can get messy, so don’t hold it close to your body.

Place the fizzing sponge over the rust and hold it for a few seconds before you begin to gently scrub the area. If the rust is being stubborn, you can hold the freshly fizzing sponge against the rust for a minute or two before you begin to scrub.

Rinse off all the surfaces when you are done. This is one of the areas a handheld shower head comes in handy – you can pull the unit off the wall and quickly rinse off the shower. Once done, ​dispose of your gloves and the sponge. 

Baking Soda / Vinegar Review
  • ​Sprinkle the baking soda onto the surface
  • ​Pour vinegar onto the baking soda
  • ​Gently scrub in a circular motion
  • Rinse and repeat as needed

Vinegar and Salt

​​​Vinegar is a naturally acidic product that is great at clearing rust. To give your vinegar an instant boost, add salt to it. The salt will increase vinegar’s acidity levels while also being an abrasive element in this cleaning combination.

To use this combination, sprinkle a good amount of salt on the surface of the rust. Pour on the undiluted vinegar. The salt will act as a little bit of a barrier to keep the vinegar on the rust spot. Consider this combo when cleaning carpet as it can do the job as well.

If you are dealing with a vertical surface, you will want to use a sponge. Pour salt and vinegar on the sponge and hold it against the rust spot for a minute. Begin to move the sponge in gentle circles to agitate the mixture and remove the rust.

​Vinegar /Salt Review
  • ​Sprinkle the ​salt onto the surface
  • ​Pour vinegar onto the ​salt
  • ​Gently scrub in a circular motion
  • Rinse and repeat as needed

Lemon and Salt

​​You can use a few fresh lemons or bottled lemon juice. It is better to use what you have on hand because there is no difference in the outcome of either option. You will also need some table salt.

The lemon acts as the acidic base which will eat away at the rust. The salt is there to absorb some of the rust and also be abrasive when you begin to scrub the surface.

Squeeze or pour the lemon juice over the spot to get it wet. You will want to make sure the entire area has been coated with the lemon juice. Next sprinkle a good amount of salt over the entire surface area.

Let the mixture sit for about three or four hours. You don’t want to use a scour or steel wool as that is too abrasive and can scratch your surface. Instead, use a microfiber cloth to gently scrape away the rust.

Rinse the area with water and repeat the lemon and salt treatment if needed.

These natural cleaning methods are a great and safe way to clean your shower.

Lemon / Salt Review
  • ​​Pour the lemon juice onto the surface
  • ​Pour ​salt onto the lemon juice
  • ​Let sit for several hours
  • ​Gently scrub ​with a soft cloth
  • Rinse and repeat as needed
Lemon cut in half

Using Store Bought Chemicals

​​​​While the above pantry cleaners are great for removing rust, some individuals prefer the powerful smell of a chemical cleaner hard at work. Or, maybe your rust isn’t responding to the above treatments.

Chemicals, while a harsher substance, are still a good option when you are removing rust stains from the shower.

​Calcium Lime Rust

The ​Calcium, Lime, and Rust Remover (CLR) is an effective and fast acting chemical you can use to obliterate rust. Since it is so fast acting, the instructions state you shouldn’t let it sit or submerge anything in it for more than 2 minutes.

When you are ready to clean your shower, dilute the CLR with 50% water in a spray bottle. Give it a good shake to make sure its evenly mixed. Thoroughly spray the area with the rust or stains.

Make sure you are wearing gloves when you handle this chemical. Use a strictly-for-home cleaning toothbrush to gently agitate the rust and CLR treatment to help it work better.

After letting the solution sit for two minutes rinse the area with cool water. For stubborn rust you may need to repeat the process without diluting the CLR with water.

​Bull Frog Rust Remover

​​A vast majority of rust removers work best when you use then in a soaking setting. But not all things that require rust removal are small enough to fit in a bowl for soaking.

Enter the Bull Frog Rust Remover Liquid Spray. This no-bowl-needed spray has the thick consistency of honey and easily clings to vertical surfaces without running. The spray needs to sit for about twenty minutes. Then, all you do is wipe it away.

A concentrated no scrub formula will stay moist for two hours. You can spray and not worry about a bigger mess when you leave it sitting on stains. This spray also prevents flash rusting, which is what can happen if you clean a rusty surface that is very porous without priming or resealing it.

There are many different chemicals you can purchase from the store. While most of them work about the same way, you will want to choose a brand that will cater to what you need the product for.

Wrapping Up

​Whatever cleaning method you opt for, make sure you tidy up once you’re done. During the scrubbing process, rust can get moved around. In other words, rust doesn’t always dissolve and disappear – sometimes it can just get moved from spot in your shower to another. 

As odd as it may sounds, grab your lightweight stick vacuum or something easy to use, and give your shower a quick vacuum. You should be able to pick any stray remaining bits of rust. 

​If there is a lot of rust, use a tile floor mop to clean up the rest. Don’t let the rust sit there for long, as it can stain your flooring.

Rust can stain your towels if they come into contact, so make sure to follow this step to ensure you’ve removed everything.

​What Causes Rust?

​​​Now that you know how to clean up the rust and iron stains, let’s take a look at what causes this problem, so you can get rid of the rust for good.

Rust happens when metal and oxygen come into contact with water for prolonged periods of time. This happens to old tools which have been left out in the rain for a week or metal bathroom fixtures that aren’t allowed to dry properly between uses.

Rust stains on your shower and around your bathtub can occur because of your pipes. If there is any rusting on your water pipes, that residue will come through your shower head. It will then come into contact with your shower area.

Woman cleaning her shower

How to ​Remove ​Rust Stains

While cleaning it with one of the methods below will take care of the rust stains, you will want to seek an additional step to keep the rust from happening again.

​Water Softener

​​To help soften and eliminate any buildup in your pipes, you should add a water softener to your water tank. A water softener will eliminate rust, limescale, and other hard mineral buildup while also preserving the efficiency of your water heater.

To install a water softener in your water heater you may need to consult a specialist at your local home store, before you start working on this DIY project. You may also opt to contact a plumber. It will depend on your type of water heater and how easy it is to access and install one.

​Clean Your Shower Head

​Even the ​top rated rain shower head ​is made from metal and ​is prone to rust and buildup. You can easily remove your shower head and submerge it in one of the following solutions to clean it and remove any rust buildup.

Rinse the shower head with water and reinstall it. You can also rinse it again by letting the shower run for a few minutes to help get rid of any loosened buildup. You can repeat this step if you notice an improvement, but the shower head is still dirty.


​​Depending on what you have on hand, each of these methods will be an effective option when you are figuring out how to remove rust from a shower. Make sure you are choosing a method or chemical product that will fit the job that you need to do.

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.