How to Remove Rust Stains from Toilets & 4 Tips to Keep Them Gone

No matter what you’re scrubbing out of it, the toilet bowl is a gross place to clean. Even if you’ve got a great routine of keeping your bathroom neat and tidy, you might notice a particular issue in your toilet – especially if you live in an older home or area of the country with certain minerals in your water.

That particular issue? Rust. Rust forms more easily on metal than porcelain, but it can absolutely form on toilet bowls if the conditions are right. Removing rust stains from toilets is an essential part of cleaning the bathroom – nobody wants to lift the lid and see weird brown streaks, even if they are from rust (and not something way grosser!).

Below, you’ll find a handy guide for understanding what causes rust stains in toilets, and how to remove them – using both natural and chemical cleaners. We’ve also provided tips on keeping rust stains from forming in your toilet in the first place.

What Causes Rust Stains in Your Toilet Bowl

More than learning how to remove rust stains from toilets, it’s essential to learn why rust forms in your toilet. 

General belief states that rust forms on metal and not on porcelain. So why does rust form in your toilet bowl? Well, it isn’t so much about the material but about the water. Rust forms when iron and oxygen react with water. When you have excessive amounts of iron in your water and this gets exposed to oxygen in your toilet bowl, it leaves rust stains.

Homes located in hard-water areas are prone to having rust stains, not only in their toilet but also on sinks and faucets. In this case, the best way to prevent rust stains from coming back is to install a water softener system.

How to Get Rust Out of your Toilet Bowl

Now that we’ve covered how rust stains form, it’s time to move on to the most efficient ways on how to remove rust stains from toilets. Below you’ll find four proven ways to get rid of those stubborn rust stains. 

Vinegar & Lemon Juice

Ahh, vinegar and lemon. Two of the noblest kitchen ingredients to clean your house and remove nasty odors. First, you’ll use vinegar. Add one to two cups of vinegar to the bowl and let it sit overnight. If the stains are old, you’re better off emptying the toilet bowl of water. The next day, you’ll make a paste with lemon juice and baking soda. Apply it to stubborn stains and let it sit for two hours. Then scrub it off with a sponge.


Whenever you google how to get rust out of toilet, Coca-Cola pops up as an infallible method. Coca-Cola contains carbonic, citric, and phosphoric acids, which are often used as rust removers. All you have to do is empty the toilet bowl and fill it with Coca-Cola. Let it sit overnight. The next day, before flushing, scrub away the stains using a toilet brush and flush.

Gentle Abrasives 

When things get complicated, gentle abrasives are your best allies to remove rust stains without damaging the porcelain. Pumice stones, baking soda, and table salt are great abrasives. You can use them alone or combine them with acid cleaners. Always remember to wet the stained surface before scrubbing it with an abrasive.

Rust Removers

Last but not least, you can always resort to commercial rust removers, like CLR. Rust removers make your job a lot easier. Head to the store and buy the one that adapts to your needs. Remember to read the labels carefully and follow the instructions. 

Tips to Remove Rust Stain from a Toilet

While knowing how to remove rust stains from toilets is fundamental, is better to prevent than cure. Below you’ll find useful tips to prevent a rust stain or any other kind of stain from appearing in your toilet.

1. Clean it Off Early

The moment you notice rust stains in your toilet, clean it using one of the methods mentioned above. This way you’ll avoid them becoming too encrusted, which makes it harder to clean off later.

2. Keep your Toilet Well Maintained

Try to clean your toilet bowl regularly and include it in your weekly bathroom cleaning session. If you need help devising a cleaning routine, you can check out our bathroom cleaning checklist to help you organize the chores you have to tackle daily, weekly, and monthly. 

3. Don’t Scrub with an Abrasive Brush

No matter how stubborn a stain is, don’t use an abrasive brush to remove it – instead use a gentle abrasive cleaner.

You’ll see tons of articles recommending abrasive brushes when explaining how to remove rust from toilet bowl. While you will remove the stain, you’ll also scratch your toilet bowl and end up removing the glazed porcelain surface, too, which makes for worse issues further down the line. (No pun intended!)

4. Get your Pipes and Tank Checked Out

When rust stains start developing is often a sign that something is going on with your plumbing system. It could be your toilet tank or it could be that your pipes are oxidizing. In this case, the best thing to do is to call a plumber to get your pipes checked out. 

While rust is a particular issue that doesn’t occur on every toilet, it is still something you need to stay on top of to keep your house clean and hygienic (especially in a naturally unhygienic room like the bathroom!). You now know how to remove rust stains from toilets, but if you want extra help, a professional cleaner can do this as part of cleaning your bathroom for you.

Ready to get that help?


  • Jacob W. Bailey

    Jacob is the Cleveland-based founder and CEO of Summit Maids, a local cleaning company with a mission to make a mark on its community by providing good jobs to more than 1,000 people.