Q: Do you have any advice for whitening a bathtub that has rust stains and other stains from when I stored a blue suitcase in it two years ago?

The tub has also lost its gloss from all of the scouring I have tried over the years. Is there any way to restore the shine if I ever do get it white again?

How about the bathtub refinishing kits from the hardware store? Do they look OK if an ordinary mortal uses them? Do the results ever streak or peel? Also, you should know that it’s not my tub. I’m a renter.

A: We can help you with the stains, but short of refinishing, you’re out of luck trying to restore the shine on your tub.

The tub is stained because the gloss finish has worn away after years of use and cleaning, leaving the porous substrate exposed.

We’d be very leery of the quick-fix kits sold at hardware stores. You risk making a bigger mess than what you have now. We’re sure your landlord would not be pleased and could hold you responsible for any damage. The only surefire way to restore the shine is to refinish. Approach your landlord and ask if he or she would be willing to have the tub refinished.

Your letter indicates that you’re a long-term tenant. Over the years, the rent you’ve paid has contributed significantly to your landlord’s income. Refinishing your tub is an improvement to the property, is a small reward for the loyalty you’ve shown, can be expensed for tax purposes, and just doesn’t cost that much.

Do your homework first and give your landlord a written estimate for the refinishing. We’ve had good luck in the past with Miracle Method (www.miraclemethod.com). These folks will come to your home and refinish the tub in place.

If refinishing is not an option, there are a number of solutions you can try in order to remove the stains. They range from acidic fruits to industrial strength acid.

Try the following solutions in the following order (weakest to strongest):

  • Lemon juice and vinegar. These are two household items often used as degreasers and stain removers. Both are weak acids with stain-removing properties. Cut a lemon in half and rub it vigorously over the stains, or saturate a rag with vinegar and do the same. Wait a minute or two and check for results.

  • Hydrogen peroxide and cream of tartar. Apply the paste to the stains with an old toothbrush and scrub. Rinse and check for progress.

  • Calcium Lime Rust, also called CLR. This is a liquid product specially made to treat calcium and lime buildup and rust stains. Glove-up for this one; it can be tough on your hands.

  • Finally, one of our readers, Michael C. Smith, a self-described ex-contractor, offers the following suggestions to remove rust stains from bathtubs. According to Smith, if one is lucky and only has minor staining, oxalic acid (Barkeeper’s Friend) will do the job. If the rust stains are severe, treat them with either muriatic acid or, more handily, toilet bowl cleaner. Both products are very caustic and will burn the skin. Make sure to wear heavy rubber gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and pants for protection when using this product.


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