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How To Clean a Stained Porcelain Sink: Quick and Safe Fixes

Porcelain sink in a bathroom.

Porcelain’s crisp, sleek finish isn’t impervious to damage or stains, making cleaning a key priority during your typical routine. But overestimate its durability, and you may use an overly aggressive solution that will do more harm than good. 

If you want to keep your fixtures glistening and gleaming for years to come, I’ll explain how to clean stained porcelain sinks with safe, straightforward techniques.

Before You Begin: Essential Tips for Whiter Porcelain

  • Start with gentler cleaners. Damaged porcelain becomes easier to stain and harder to clean, making a delicate approach critical when cleaning
  • Be careful with acidic and abrasive cleaners. Although they’re the best solution for many stains, abrasive and acidic agents can scratch or etch porcelain sinks
  • Keep your sink clean. A quick wipe-down with soap and water as a routine cleaning job will prevent stains from accumulating

How To Clean a Stained Porcelain Sink

Before using your solution of choice, you can clean a porcelain sink of minor stains, grime, and debris with soap and warm water. Apply a few drops of dish soap to a sponge, wet it thoroughly, and wipe down the sink. After rinsing, you can assess for any remaining stains that might need a more potent solution.

Top Recommendation: Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide

Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide provide whitening power alongside a gentle abrasive that won’t scratch or dull the glossy porcelain surface. You can avoid harsh chemicals while giving white and colored porcelain a more intense deep cleaning. 

Since baking soda works by itself to safely scrub away stains, I often get great results with this alone if the blemishes are light. But when unsightly marks stick around, hydrogen peroxide oxidizing power finishes the job. 

Tools and Supplies

Step 1: Sprinkle Baking Soda and Scrub

Sprinkle baking soda in the sink. Using a damp sponge or cloth, scrub the baking soda in circular motions to lift the stains. Use as much elbow grease as necessary to dig into tough stains, as the baking soda won’t mar the smooth surface.

Step 2: Apply Hydrogen Peroxide

Apply 3% hydrogen peroxide to your sponge, and wipe down any stubborn stains left from the baking soda.

Alternatively, let the surface soak by lining the sink with paper towels and saturating them with hydrogen peroxide from a spray bottle. Let them sit for 30+ minutes before removing them and wiping down the sink.

Step 3: Rinse the Baking Soda Off

Finish by rinsing any remaining baking soda down the drain and wiping the surface with a microfiber cloth. Repeat the steps as necessary until the stains go away.

Vinegar or Lemon Juice

White vinegar’s acidity is perfect for rust stains, hard water marks, and soap scum. Although acids are one of the primary enemies of porcelain, the mild concentration that makes it so versatile for assorted household surfaces offers a similar touch on kitchen and bathroom sinks. 

If you don’t like vinegar’s smell, fresh lemon juice will similarly take away stains while leaving a fresh scent.

Apply distilled white vinegar or lemon juice to the stain, and let it sit for 30–60 minutes. Saturate a paper towel with the liquid to keep it on the discolored surface for the duration. Wipe the sink when you notice the stain beginning to lift and run. A stiff bristle brush can come in handy to dig out stuck-in particles. Once clean, rinse the sink well to flush the stain and acid down the drain.

Commercial Products

While you generally don’t want or need to use harsh chemicals to clean porcelain sinks, a few products can make a major difference on dingy-looking surfaces. Here are three options worth considering when DIY methods won’t do:

How To Remove Old Stains From Porcelain Sinks

If your other cleaners aren’t cutting it on an old, beat-up sink, it’s time to reach for Bar Keepers Friend. Depending on the type of the stain and the surface condition, you may need several treatments to restore your porcelain sink 100%.

Bar Keepers Friend

Bar Keepers Friend is an oxalic acid-based cleaner with a mild abrasive that can remove stains without scratching your porcelain sink. I keep the liquid cleanser on hand and have had plenty of success on tolerant surfaces, porcelain sink included, but many people swear by the powdered version for the extra scour power.

Pumice Stone

A pumice stone is as practical for porcelain sinks as it is for cleaning toilet bowls. Keep the stone wet as you gently scrub stains away, and the stone will dissolve down the sink drain. You can get them at about the cost of a Magic Eraser, and I prefer them because the natural material won’t release any microplastics as it breaks down. 

Warning! At a 6 on the Mohs hardness scale, a pumice stone is the type of tool that could scratch a porcelain sink’s enamel surface, depending on its composition and construction. Ensure you moisten the stone and keep it wet while using it so it dissolves and glides smoothly across the surface. If you’re unsure of how it will affect your porcelain, spot test it in a small area before use.

Magic Eraser

A Magic Eraser is similar to a pumice stone in that it’s an abrasive material that wears away as you use it. To clean a porcelain sink, wet the Magic Eraser thoroughly and give the stains a soft scrub. Spot test it if possible to see if it will scuff the surface. Since it only consists of melamine foam, you can use a Magic Eraser with Bar Keeper’s Friend or DIY cleaning agents for extra cleaning power on tough stains.

Chlorine Bleach

Although it may stain colored porcelain, bleach can work as a last-ditch effort for a white porcelain kitchen sink or bathroom fixtures. Wear protective gloves, and open windows and doors to avoid the harmful effects of the fumes as you work. Spray the sink with a mixture of bleach and water in a 1:1 ratio. Let it sit for 15–30 minutes before rinsing and wiping down the sink. 

Tips To Keep Your Porcelain Sink Sparkling

  • Rinse the basin frequently. Spray down the sink as needed to remove acidic food bits, coffee grounds, and other materials that might stain 
  • Clean the sink daily. Give the sink a brief scrub with a sponge and dish soap after you load the dishwasher
  • Use a sink protector. Place a soft rubber mat in the bottom of your sink to protect against scuffs
  • Apply a polish. Restore the shine and add extra protection to a worn sink surface with a surface polish

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Do You Get Brown Water Stains Out of a Porcelain Sink?

If you live in an area with hard water, mineral deposits, including rust, will often appear on porcelain sinks and other fixtures, settling into any minor grooves or open pores in the surface. For these, an acidic cleaner like vinegar or Bar Keepers Friend are your best cleaning options. Always test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure it doesn’t damage the porcelain.

How Do I Know if My Sink Is Porcelain or Enamel?

To distinguish between porcelain and enamel, try the “tap test.” Gently tap the surface with a metal object; a high-pitched sound suggests porcelain, while a duller sound indicates enamel. Porcelain is also generally heavier and more durable. When in doubt, consult manufacturer’s information or a professional.

What Should I Avoid Using on a Porcelain Sink?

Avoid using abrasive cleaners like scouring pads or steel wool on a porcelain sink, as they can scratch the surface. Also, steer clear of harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia, which can discolor or damage the finish. Always read the cleaner’s label to ensure it’s porcelain-safe.


Noah Hoit