cleaning bathroom sink

Tips to Rescue Rust-Stained Sinks, Pitted Chrome, and Slow Running Drains

Isn’t it ironic that the places in our homes that should be the cleanest—the washing machine, kitchen sink, bathroom tub, shower, sinks—are often the most troubled? Harsh chemicals, soap deposits, food stains, rust, hard water minerals, and water spots, when allowed to build up, will eventually not only look bad but can cause permanent and irreversible damage.

The good news is that you can halt—even reverse—much if not all of this kind of damage.

cleaning bathroom sink

Lime deposits

The stubborn white spots on and around the faucets are lime deposits from mineral-rich hard water. They’re easy to remove with good old white vinegar. Soak a paper towel in vinegar, then wrap the towel around the spotted area. Wait 10 minutes or so then remove the paper towel and buff with a dry paper towel or soft clean cloth.

CAUTION: This works well on all types of fixtures except brass or colored fixtures, which may become discolored when treated with vinegar. Again, test first in an inconspicuous place.

Pitted chrome

Chrome fixtures are beautiful because they are so shiny. But chrome is also quite susceptible to an ugly condition known as pitting—the result of being introduced to bleach, harsh chemicals, and hard water minerals over an extended period of time. Small white bumps on the chrome or areas where the texture has become uneven and rusty—these are all signs of pitting. Good news! It’s possible to arrest that deteriorating process and even reverse the damage.

Step 1

Using an old rag plus dishwashing soap like Blue Dawn, scrub the fixture vigorously to remove any loose bits of rust and debris.

Step 2

Tear off a piece of aluminum foil and crumple it a bit. Now dip the dull side into white vinegar and use it to scrub the pitted fixture. The reaction between the foil and the acidic vinegar will help to remove the pitting.

Step 3

If pitting is still visible, sand the area with a high-quality, super fine-grit wet/dry sandpaper and water (3M Wetordry 1500 Grit is ideal). Rinse with clear water, then wipe dry with a soft cloth. CAUTION: Always wear eye protection to avoid getting fine sanding dust in your eyes.

Step 4

Apply a generous layer of chrome polish (Simichrome All Metal Polish is the best; I use it to clean and polish all kinds of metal including fine silver) and allow it to sit for at least an hour. Gently buff away the polish residue with a clean soft rag, using the same circular motion you used in Step 3.

Step 5

Carefully examine to see if there are any areas that need a repeat of this process.

A close up of a sink

Rust-stained surfaces

Erase those orange and brown streaks and spots on sinks and tubs, porcelain and fiberglass. Rust stains are the result of iron-rich hard water.

Make a paste with 1/2 cup powdered borax and the juice of one-half lemon (or the amount needed to make a thick paste). Dab a clean sponge in the mixture, rub over the rust stain.

Once you see the stain fade, rinse with running water. This works like magic on sinks and tubs made of porcelain enamel, stainless steel, or any other material.

An old, stubborn stain may require multiple treatments, allowing the mixture to sit on the stain for a few minutes before rinsing. Remember that it’s always a good idea to test any treatment like this in an inconspicuous place, first.

Clog-free drains

Mix together 1 cup baking soda with 1 cup table salt and 1/4 cup cream of tartar. Keep it in an airtight, childproof container. To perform routine maintenance on all household drains: Every few weeks, pour 1/2 cup of this mixture into each drain, followed by a quart of boiling water. This process should keep you clog-free. As a regular practice, do your best to keep hair, grease, food, and other debris out of your sink drains in the first place.


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7 replies
  1. Linda D Radosevich says:

    Another caution about using vinegar on lime deposits: I used vinegar around my brushed chrome faucet an it left marks.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Sorry to hear about that, Linda. Always (always) test in an inconspicuous place the first time you try a new cleaning method or an old cleaning method on a new item. Your brushed chrome could have a coating on it or be specially treated in some other way. The owner manual should give you cleaning and maintenance information.

  2. Priscilla Khirfan says:

    My number one go to for any rust stain is always Iron Out. It is quick and never disappoints. Follow the directions on the container. ❤️

    • Michelle says:

      I agree. It’s fast acting and easy to use. It’s very strong though. NEVER EVER mix with any other cleaners and be sure to ventilate and wear a mask. We all have plenty of those don’t we?

  3. Michelle Vansickle says:

    My mom has a white cast iron sink. She has well water, and the facet and sink have turned blue. Your rust pic looks like her sink only it is blue. The facet is a standard metal. This is the second set that I know of. I assume it is the well water doing this but I don’t know how to fix it, stop it, or clean it, or reverse it. She is about to get ready to put the house on the market and I’d live to be able to clean it instead of replacing. Any ideas??? Help!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Blue water stains are due to corrosion and are directly related to the home’s copper water lines. The blue stain is a sign of water with a low pH. Installing a calcite filter will correct the problem. You can find these filters online or at home improvement centers like Home Depot and Lowes. Or, you might be well advised to call a company in your area that specializes in home water and filtration to do a test on the home’s water and then make a recommendation. Hope that helps!


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