How to Remove Rust Stains From Tiles (Porcelain, Ceramic, Etc.)

Dealing with rust stains on tiles often seems like a mission impossible. No matter how much elbow grease you put in and what cleaning solutions you use, the marks hardly fade.

Although there are various rust removal products available nowadays, their aggressive formulas often do more harm than good. Even the many DIY tips available online are not helpful as they barely achieve any results. So, does this mean you should not try to remove rust stains from tiles?

Don’t lose hope just yet! This article will prove that rust eradication is not a tough task. I will offer you tried-and-true rust removal methods. With them, you will be able to get rid of almost any rust mark on your tiled floor, wall, or countertop.

Cleaning rust stains from tiles.

When Do Tiles Get Stained by Rust?

Rust is formed when iron comes into contact with oxygen in a moist environment. The chemical term for this process is oxidation. Still, most types of tiles are not made of metal. So, how does rust get to them in the first place?

While tiles cannot become rusty per se, they can be stained by a rusty item that is touching their surface. For example, the rusty legs of a towel cabinet can leave reddish-brown marks on your bathroom floor tiles. The same can happen if you have an old metal soap holder on your tiled wall.

Sometimes, the cause of the problem is hard to find because it is hidden underneath the tiles. For instance, rusty screws and pipes under the tiles can bleed through the tiled surface and create quite the eyesore. What’s more, even tap water can lead to rust because it contains a certain amount of iron.

Consider the Tile Material

If you’ve been trying and failing to clean rust stains from your tiles, you may have been using the wrong products. For example, it’s a misconception that Coke can remove rust from any surface. In reality, this trick works mainly on rusty metal surfaces.

Before you start trying to remove rust marks, consider the material of the surface you are about to clean. Today, tiles are made of anything from ceramic to marble. As such, some types are more prone to etching and discoloring than others.

To solve your problem, I’ll list the best rust removal techniques for four key tile materials:

  • Ceramic and porcelain
  • Vinyl
  • Marble
  • Travertine

Ways to Remove Rust Stains From Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles

Ceramic and porcelain are popular tile materials because they are much more affordable than alternatives such as granite and marble. Unfortunately, despite their high water absorption standards, ceramic and porcelain tiles are prone to rust stains.

The good news is that these materials are resilient, and most acidic products will not damage them. Therefore, you have the freedom to choose from a long list of DIY rust removal methods. Here are some of the most effective of them:


Since tomatoes are highly acidic, they can clean mild rust marks from porcelain and ceramic surfaces. Simply rub a slice of the fruit over the stain and then sprinkle some rock salt on top of it. Use a toothbrush to remove the rust.

Limes and Lemons

Pour some lime or lemon juice over the stains and let it sit for five minutes. Then, try scrubbing off the rust marks with a toothbrush. If the stains don’t come off, pour a mix of citrus juice and salt on them. Let it sit for at least three hours and then use a pumice stone on the marks.

Borax and Lemon

Make a paste of lemon or lime juice and borax. Spread the paste over the rust marks with a spatula. When it dries completely, clean it off with warm water and a sponge. However, make sure you wear gloves when you are handling borax because it can irritate your skin.

Vinegar and Salt

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and salt and apply the paste on the stains. Allow it to sit for up to five hours and then rinse off the tiles with hot water. If the marks are stubborn, try rubbing them with a sponge.

How to Get Rust Off Vinyl Tiles

The tiles that are most susceptible to rust stains are those made of vinyl. Unfortunately, they are also really difficult to clean. So, get ready to use some elbow grease even when you rely on the following homemade rust removal solutions:

Vinegar and Baking Soda

Vinegar is acidic, and baking soda is mildly abrasive. This combination will help you clean the stains without damaging the vinyl. Just sprinkle some baking soda on the target area. Dip a cloth in a bowl of vinegar and rub it onto the stain until it’s gone.

Salt and Lemon

Put some salt on the rust marks and pour lemon juice over it. Leave it for a few hours. When the paste starts to remove the rust, it will turn orange. Finally, wipe it with a dry cloth.

Tartar Cream and Water

Mix the two ingredients until you get a paste. Spread everything over the stain and let it sit for one hour. Scrub the tiles clean using warm water. Finish off by wiping the area with a damp cloth.

Although you can buy ready-made rust removers, homemade solutions are more suitable for vinyl because they don’t contain chlorine. Due to its composition, this material is prone to discoloration.Even household bleach can ruin vinyl.

Removing Rust Stains From Marble Tiles

Rust stains on marble tiles are even harder to clean than those on vinyl. What’s more, you must not use ingredients that are even slightly acidic because they will damage their surface. Since marble is not a cheap material, the tiniest mistake could cost you a lot.

Luckily, I have two cleaning solutions that might help you get rid of rust marks without destroying your marble tiles. Start with the first one, and if it fails, move on to the second one as it is slightly more aggressive.

Baking Soda and Water

Make a paste from these ingredients and apply it on the rust stains. Use plastic wrap to cover the area and allow it to stand. After a day or two, remove the wrap and scrub off the paste with a plastic scraper or a spatula.

Rust Remover and Distilled Water

Mix the rust remover with distilled water until you get a paste. Apply it on the marks and cover the rust marks with a plastic wrap. After a day, scrape off the dry paste and wash the tiles with some water.

Note that, when you pick a rust remover for marble tiles, you need to opt for one that is acid-free. Also, make sure it comes in a powder form. Otherwise, you won’t be able to make a paste. Liquid rust removers may quickly remove the stains since they are more acidic, but they may also damage your tiles.

Removing Rust From Travertine Tiles

Travertine is a limestone that has a rough surface. The small dents and pits that cover it have slip-resistant qualities. As a result, the tiles made of this material are often used in bathrooms and around swimming pools. Unfortunately, tile surfaces exposed to such wet environments are more susceptible to rust marks.

Travertine is rich in calcium, and that makes it prone to etching. Therefore, you must avoid DIY cleaning ingredients and acidic solutions. Instead of using acid-based rust removers, go for alkaline products. Alternatively, you can also rely on ready-made solutions in a powder form. As I mentioned, they are less acidic than liquid options.

Consider using a sealer to prevent water and other liquids from penetrating travertine’s pits. By doing so, you will also make the surface easy to clean and maintain. Still, apply the sealer after you’ve removed the rust marks. Reapply the product now and then to reduce the risk of new rust stains.

When Should You Replace a Stained Tile?

Tiles have two main layers — a top one called wax surface, and a second layer known as tile pores. If the rust stains are on the wax layer, they can be removed. However, once the marks make their way to the pores, you will need to change the tiles.

Before you remove the stained tiles, try using a heavy-duty rust remover. Sometimes, a more potent product can clean marks that have reached the tile pores. Yet, even if this solution works, it may still discolor the surface of the material. So, rely on aggressive rust removers only as a last resort.

How Can You Prevent Rust Stains on Tiles?

Usually, the formation of rust marks on tiles can be prevented. To keep the reddish-brown eyesore at bay, you just need to remember the following tile maintenance rules:

  • Keep the tiles dry
  • Don’t use metal fittings and nails near the tiled surfaces
  • Never place rusty items on the tiles
  • Avoid bringing wet shoes or clothes into the room

Final Thoughts and Takeaways

As you can see, removing rust stains from tiles can be tricky. If you use the wrong ingredients and products, you risk damaging the tile material. What’s worse, rust removers tend to be too aggressive for delicate surfaces like travertine.

To avoid unpleasant scenarios, such as etching, identify the tile material with which you are dealing. Knowing its vulnerabilities will help you choose the best DIY or ready-made rust eradication solution. Even better, you can take a shortcut by sticking to the tips presented in this article.

Leave a Comment