How To Remove Brown Stains In An Enamel Bath (8 Ways)


A stained bathtub feels unclean and looks unsightly. Soaking in a stained bath doesn’t feel indulgent or luxurious.

So, to enjoy a nice soak in the tub again, brown stains can be effectively removed using a variety of strategies.

To remove brown stains in an enamel bath, you can try one or more of the following solutions:

  • Vinegar, water, baking soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide, baking soda
  • Borax, dish detergent, water
  • Castile soap, baking soda, essential oils
  • Lemon juice, salt
  • Calcium-Lime-Rust remover
  • Other commercial products
  • Diluted bleach

Causes Of Brown Stains In An Enamel Bath

Brown stains can be the result of soap scum, hard water, mildew, tannins, abrasive cleaners, and dirt residue.

Here is a brief description of each cause:

  • Soap scum: Soap pulls dirt and residue off of your skin, yet can build up on the surfaces of tubs.
  • Hard water: Hard water leaves limescale and other mineral deposits that stick to the surfaces of areas that use water. Hard water may have a higher iron content that leaves brown rust deposits.
  • Mildew: Mildew builds up in moist and damp areas, giving a brown or black appearance as it grows on surfaces.
  • Tannins: Tannins are an organic material more often found in shallow well water. It can cause water to have a faint, brown, or yellow appearance, which can also stain surfaces and fabrics.
  • Abrasive cleaners: Corrosive cleaners can break down enamel surfaces exposing the metal underneath that can rust, oxidize, or appear brown.
  • Dirt residue: If you are dirty from yard work and rinse off in the tub, the dirt may leave a ring of brown in the tub.

8 Methods For Removing Brown Stains From An Enamel Bath

To eliminate brown stains in a bath, try natural solutions using products commonly found at home. These cleaning solutions can also be used on other surfaces, such as the interior of your refrigerator

If natural cleaners don’t get the job done, then opt for enamel-safe commercial cleaners. 

When cleaning, do the following:

  • Ventilate the bathroom. 
  • Wear eye protection and gloves.
  • Use cleaning solutions that are formulated for use on enamel.
  • Test solutions in an inconspicuous spot first.
  • Do not use abrasive cleaning tools on enamel.
  • Apply solutions with soft cleaning tools such as sponges or cloths.
  • Rinse solutions thoroughly away when finished to prevent slippery surfaces or discolored residue.
  • Buff dry with a clean, soft towel.

1. Vinegar, Water, Baking Soda

Vinegar is an acid that can help to break down stains and eliminate odors. Lemon juice can be used as a substitute.

Baking soda combined with vinegar makes a chemical reaction to further break down stains, yet leave the enamel surface intact.

You can also try a spray of only vinegar and water.

What to do:

  1. Make a paste-like consistency of baking soda and water.
  2. Use a sponge to apply the paste and thoroughly cover the stains, rubbing in a circular motion.
  3. Prepare a solution of equal parts of vinegar and water in a spray bottle.  
  4. Apply to the areas with baking soda, causing a fuzzy reaction.
  5. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  6. Scrub stains with a soft cloth or sponge.
  7. Rinse clean.

To eliminate the vinegar odor, rinse the tub with soapy water, then rinse again with water only.

2. Hydrogen Peroxide, Baking Soda Paste

Hydrogen peroxide can remove stains and disinfect surfaces. It can be mixed with baking soda to form a paste for scrubbing.

Cream of tartar can be substituted for baking soda.

What to do:

  1. Make a mixture of 1-part hydrogen peroxide with 2-parts baking soda.
  2. Apply the mixture to stains, rubbing it into the surface.
  3. Let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
  4. Scrub the areas with a soft cleaning tool.
  5. Rinse clean. 

3. Borax, Dish Detergent, Water

Borax is a type of salt that mixed with water creates hydrogen peroxide. Combining it with dish detergent can help to break up stains for a bright and clean bathtub appearance.

As a substitution for water, use lemon juice or vinegar with borax for more acidic cleaning action.

What to do:

  1. Mix 1-cup of borax with ¼-cup of water, forming a paste.
  2. Add about 1 teaspoon of dish detergent to the mixture.
  3. Apply to the stained areas with a soft cleaning tool, scrubbing in a circular motion.
  4. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  5. Rinse clean. 

4. Castile Soap, Baking Soda, Lemon And Peppermint Essential Oils

This solution is similar to the above-mentioned ones.

However, it uses the disinfectant power of plants by adding essential oils.

What to do:

  1. Make a paste of baking soda and water.
  2. Use a sponge to apply the paste to thoroughly cover stains, rubbing in a circular motion.
  3. Prepare a ratio of 1-part castile soap with 3-parts water in a spray bottle.  
  4. Add in a few drops of the essential oils. 
  5. Shake to mix.
  6. Spray the mixture onto the baking soda.
  7. Scrub the areas with a soft cleaning tool.
  8. Rinse clean. 

5. Lemon Juice, Salt

Lemon juice has acidic properties to break down stains, while salt works as a mild abrasive to lift stains off of surfaces without corroding the bathtub.

What to do:

  1. Generously cover the stains with salt.
  2. Squeeze a cut lemon or pour lemon juice over the salt.
  3. Use a soft cleaning tool to scrub the mixture.
  4. Let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
  5. Scrub again.
  6. Rinse clean. 

6. Calcium-Lime-Rust (CLR) Remover

CLR is a commercially made product that effectively removes brown rust stains and other buildups from soap and water. Follow the labels instructions for use, using a soft cleaning tool when scrubbing.

This video demonstrates the use of CLR on a dirty bathtub:

7. Other Commercial Cleaners

Choose a tub cleaner that works on enamel surfaces. 

Keep in mind that these should not be mixed with other natural or commercial cleaners. 

Wear gloves to protect your skin. Follow instructional use information on the product’s label. 

8. Diluted Bleach

Bleach should be reserved as a last resort since it can wear away enamel with excessive use. 

Use bleach in a well-ventilated area, and never mix it with any other cleaners, natural or commercial.

What to do: 

  1. Mix 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water.
  2. Use a sponge to apply the solution to the stains.
  3. Wait 15 minutes.
  4. Scrub lightly with a soft sponge.
  5. Rinse clean.

Corrosive cleaners can chip away at the enamel, leaving a permanent, unsightly appearance. 

If bleach or other cleaners have damaged the enamel surface, it cannot be fixed with more cleaning. Typically, the tub will need to be resurfaced or replaced.


Preventing Brown Stains

Now that the tub is clean again, take a few steps to maintain the bathtub and prevent future buildups.

Do the following: 

  • Clean your tub regularly, using dish detergent and warm water. 
    • Do this at least once a week. 
    • Conversely, use a spray bottle of equal parts of vinegar and dish detergent for frequent cleaning.
  • Buff the surface dry after every use.
  • Never use corrosive cleaners.
  • Turn on a fan or open a window when bathing. 
    • Use a dehumidifier in the bathroom to keep humidity down. 
  • If you have hard water, add a water softener to the water system.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
  • Clean out the drain to remove clogs.
  • Use a whole-house water filter system to keep mineral deposits and tannins out of your water supply.

In Conclusion

Enamel tubs are durable and shiny, but must be cleaned regularly to prevent build-up and brown stains.

Most cleaning solutions can be made at home using things such as vinegar and baking soda, dish detergent, hydrogen peroxide, or lemon juice and salt. 

Bleach should only be used in a diluted form if nothing else works. Commercial products are also available but should be formulated for use on enamel surfaces.

Soft cleaning tools are essential for use on enamel baths to ensure that damage is not done to the surface.

Lisa Burlison

Lisa is a freelance blogger, literacy specialist, teacher, and self-published author with a vast DIY experience. When she’s not writing for PlumbJoe, Lisa enjoys testing homemade cleaners and doing repairs around her home. Her other hobbies include birding and bicycling.

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