Water Problems and Solutions: Rust around Drains

Many water problems can lead to rust around drains. Learn more below about the causes of rust stains around drains and taps, and how to solve them permanently.

Symptoms of Water Problems

Rust buildup at the base of the sink or bathtub under the faucet is one of the first symptoms of water problems. Rust can also start to eat away around the taps of the sink or tub. You might also notice rust stains in your toilet bowl or on the floor near the toilet bolts.

Causes of Water Problems Leading to Rust

You may live in an area with very hard water. You will become aware of this from other signs such as dry skin after baths or showers, dry hair after shampooing, and sticky deposits of laundry detergent back on your laundered clothes even after a second rinse cycle. This hard water contains various minerals, many in the form of salts, that can corrode metal plumbing pipes and cause rusting of all the metal fixtures in your plumbing system. As well, your water may be fine, but your plumbing system may be old, with areas of corrosion just at pipe joints. The rust in the water can travel throughout your home, causing more damage to appliances and the porcelain finish of your sinks and bathtubs.

Solutions for Rust Around Drains

Try these solutions in order before spending money to replace pipes or plumbing fixtures unnecessarily: clean the porcelain or stainless steel fixtures with a cleaner designed for calcium, lime and rust; test your water's hardness; inspect your home's plumbing for corroded pipes; and replace any brass or lead fixtures with stainless steel hardware.

Clean Your Fixtures With a Rust Cleaner

Try cleaning the rust-stained fixtures with a cleaner made to remove rust, calcium buildup and lime flaking. If you live in an old home, perhaps the previous owner did not have access to these new types of cleaners. Use the cleaner according to the container directions, and work in a well-ventilated space, with windows open and the ceiling fan on.

Test Your Water for Hardness

Take a sample of your water to your municipal public works office to have it tested for hardness. If your water is very hard, you may need to install a brine-based water softening system. An average water softening system costs less than $500 to install.

Check Your Pipes

If your home is over 50 years old, there will certainly be metal pipes, either cast iron or cast steel, connected at locations throughout your plumbing system. Have them inspected by a licensed plumber to determine if they need replacing.

Check Your Plumbing Hardware

Examine all the shower hardware, taps, spigots, faucets and drain rims to find out if they are stainless steel or made of other metal that is subject to corrosion. Replace these only if your home already has PVC vinyl pipes and has soft water. If you are unable to remove rust stains from porcelain fixtures, replace these too.


To solve rust problems around drains, start by trying to clean the existing stains, check your water supply, check and replace old plumbing pipes, and then replace fixtures.