How to remove stains from a porcelain sink

Porcelain sinks are a popular choice for bathrooms because of their elegant look, durability, and ease of cleaning. However, over time porcelain sinks can develop stubborn stains that are frustratingly difficult to remove. Stains on a porcelain sink can be caused by hard water deposits, rust, mold and mildew buildup, and residue from personal care products and cleaning agents.

While porcelain is resistant to stains, it is still porous enough that stains can set in if left untreated. The good news is that with a little bit of effort, you can get your stained porcelain sink looking like new again. This article will provide tips and step-by-step instructions for removing all types of stains from a porcelain sink using common household products.

remove stains from a porcelain sink

Causes of Stains on a Porcelain Sink

  • Hard Water Stains – Hard water contains high amounts of minerals like calcium and magnesium. Over time these minerals can leave behind white/chalky deposits on your sink.
  • Rust Stains – Small metal particles from pipes and faucets can cause orange/brown rust stains. Rust stains are particularly common around drain areas.
  • Mold and Mildew – Moist, humid environments allow mold and mildew growth. These stubborn black stains thrive in the crevices of porcelain.
  • Product Residue – Cleaning products, soap scum, hair products and toothpaste can leave behind residue that leads to stains.
  • Oil and Grease Stains – Cooking oils and grease can stain a porcelain sink yellowish-brown if left to sit. Fats congeal and bond to the porous sink.
  • Dye Stains – Hair dyes, fabric dyes on clothes, and strong colored products can lead to stained porcelain if spilled.

Removing Hard Water Stains

Hard water stains on a sink are the result of mineral deposits left each time the sink drains or you turn off the faucet. The minerals cling to the porcelain and build up over time. Here’s how to remove them:

Supplies Needed

  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Bowl or plug to cover drain
  • Soft scrub brush or sponge

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Plug or cover the sink drain to allow vinegar to soak on the stains. Pour undiluted white vinegar liberally over the stained area.
  2. Allow the vinegar to sit for at least an hour, but preferably overnight if the stains are stubborn. The acidic vinegar will help break down the mineral deposits.
  3. Scrub the stains gently with a soft scrub brush or sponge. The stains should start lifting after scrubbing.
  4. Rinse the sink thoroughly with warm water when finished scrubbing. Run the water for a few minutes to wash away any remaining vinegar and debris.
  5. Repeat as needed for tough stains. You may need to let the vinegar soak again and scrub a second time. The stains will eventually lift with some elbow grease and vinegar soak time.

Tips for Removing Hard Water Stains

  • For extra tough hard water stains, make a paste with equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Apply the paste to the stains and let sit for 15-20 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.
  • Use lemon juice instead of vinegar to naturally dissolve mineral deposits. Let lemon juice soak on stains overnight before scrubbing.
  • Try a pumice stone to scrub off stubborn mineral stains. The rough texture helps lift hard water deposits.
  • Use a hard water stain remover ($10.28 for 2 bottles) for severe hard water stain buildup. Apply and let sit before scrubbing.

Removing Rust Stains

Rust stains occur when small bits of metal oxidize and bond to the porcelain surface. Rust stains are characterized by orange-brown discoloration. Here are the steps to remove them:

Supplies Needed

  • Oxalic acid-based rust remover (such as Bar Keeper’s Friend or Zud Cleanser)
  • Scouring pad
  • Gloves

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Put on gloves for protection, as oxalic acid can irritate skin. Apply a generous amount of the rust remover directly to the rust stained area.
  2. Allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes. This allows time for the active ingredient oxalic acid to break down the rust bonds.
  3. Scour the area in a circular motion using the scouring pad. Apply moderate pressure as you scour. The stain should lift as you scour.
  4. Rinse the sink thoroughly when finished scouring. Run warm water over the area for a couple of minutes to remove all remnants of the cleaner.
  5. Reapply more rust remover and scour again if needed for stubborn rust stains. With consistent scouring, the rust stain should disappear.

Tips for Removing Rust Stains

  • For light rust stains, try using lemon juice or white vinegar first before an oxalic acid rust remover. The acidity in the lemon or vinegar may lift the stain without harsh chemicals.
  • Create a paste with cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide to naturally dissolve rust stains. Apply the paste and let sit for 30 minutes before scrubbing.
  • Try a rust stain remover like Whink Rust Stain Remover ($8.99 for 6 oz) for severe rust stains. Follow product instructions for use.
  • Avoid using abrasive scouring pads during the first application of rust remover. Start with a soft sponge and increase scrubbing abrasiveness if needed.

Removing Mold and Mildew Stains

Mold and mildew grow rapidly in the damp, humid environment of sinks. These black fungal stains are both unsightly and unhygienic. To remove them:

Supplies Needed

  • Chlorine bleach
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush
  • Protective eyewear and gloves

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Put on gloves and eyewear. Fill the spray bottle with undiluted chlorine bleach. Liberally spray the moldy areas until fully saturated.
  2. Allow the bleach to sit for at least 15 minutes. This gives the bleach time to kill the mold/mildew and begin breaking down the stains.
  3. Scrub the stained area thoroughly using a stiff scrub brush. Apply pressure as you scrub to lift the stains.
  4. Rinse the sink for a few minutes until bleach smell dissipates. Make sure to run both hot and cold water to rinse.
  5. Repeat process if needed for stubborn mold stains. Bleach may need to sit for longer before scrubbing again.
  6. Give the area a final wipe down with hydrogen peroxide to remove any bleach residue. Allow to air dry completely.

Tips for Removing Mold and Mildew

  • For mold in hard to reach places like around the drain or faucet, use a mold killing gel like Microban Mold Control Bathroom Cleaner ($6.97 for 28 oz) that adheres directly to the mold. Let it sit overnight before rinsing.
  • Tea tree oil is a natural mold killing antiseptic. Add 20 drops of tea tree oil to 1 cup of water in a spray bottle. Mist on mold and let sit before scrubbing.
  • Improve ventilation and air circulation to prevent future mold growth. Install an exhaust fan if your bathroom lacks windows.

Removing Oil and Grease Stains

Oil and grease that is left to pool and dry on a porcelain sink can stain it yellowish-brown. Here is how to tackle these oily stains:

Supplies Needed

  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Soft sponge or scrub pad

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Sprinkle a generous layer of baking soda directly onto the oily stained area. Baking soda will help degrease and absorb the oil.
  2. Pour undiluted white vinegar over the baking soda. Let the fizzing mixture sit for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Scrub the area in a circular motion with a soft sponge or scrub pad. Apply light pressure.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with warm water to remove the cleaning solution.
  5. If needed, make a paste with dish soap and baking soda. Apply the abrasive paste onto the stain and let sit briefly before scrubbing.
  6. Repeat process if needed for tough oil stains. It may take a few applications and scrubbing sessions.

Tips for Removing Oil and Grease Stains

  • Clean oil stains immediately before they can set into the porcelain. The quicker you act, the easier the stain will be to remove.
  • Use degreasing cleaners like oven cleaner or all-purpose degreaser sprays to break up tough oil stains. Rinse thoroughly after use.
  • Try hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol if dish soap doesn’t cut through the oily grime.

Removing Dye Stains

Spills from clothing dye, hair dye, or other strongly colored products can stain a porcelain sink. Here’s how to remove dye stains:

Supplies Needed

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Toothpaste
  • Baking soda
  • Soft scrub sponge or brush

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Apply rubbing alcohol directly onto the dyed area of the sink. Let it sit for a few minutes to break up the stain pigments.
  2. Make a paste with baking soda and water. Generously spread the paste onto the stain.
  3. Allow the paste to sit for 10-15 minutes before scrubbing.
  4. Scrub the stained area in a circular motion using a soft brush or scrub sponge.
  5. Rinse thoroughly when finished scrubbing to remove the paste.
  6. If needed, apply non-gel toothpaste onto the stain and let sit for 5 minutes. Scrub the toothpaste with a scrub brush before rinsing clean.
  7. Check stain and repeat process if needed until dye is fully removed.

Tips for Removing Dye Stains

  • Act quickly when dye is spilled to prevent permanent staining. Immediately blot with paper towels.
  • For tough stains, try a stain remover like Whink Rust Stain Remover ($8.99 for 6 oz) after scrubbing attempts.
  • Test rubbing alcohol or stain remover on inconspicuous area first to check for discoloration.
  • Avoid harsh abrasives like steel wool that could scratch the porcelain. Use soft scrub sponges.

Tips for Preventing Stains on a Porcelain Sink

Once you’ve succeeded in removing stains from your porcelain sink, keep these tips in mind to prevent future stains:

  • Wipe the sink dry after each use to prevent mineral and soap buildup.
  • Frequently disinfect your sink with a bleach-based cleaner to inhibit mold growth.
  • Use a sink-specific cleaner like Clorox Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner ($3.97 for 22 oz) designed to fight stains.
  • Consider installing a water filtration system like Culligan Under Sink Filter ($47.94) to reduce mineral content in hard water.
  • Apply a sink protector sealant like Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator ($26.03 for 32 oz) 1-2 times per year.
  • Avoid leaving hair products and toothpaste sitting directly on the sink. Rinse immediately after use.
  • Be diligent about cleaning under the sink rim using a small brush like OXO Good Grips Sink Brush ($5.99).


Although porcelain sink stains can be difficult to remove, with the right supplies and techniques, you can get them looking like new again. Give white vinegar, rust removers, chlorine bleach, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide a try on stained areas. Be gentle yet thorough when scrubbing to lift stains. Consistent cleaning and maintenance will help prevent recurrence of stains. With some patience and elbow grease, you can restore the pristine look of your porcelain sink.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.

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