How to Remove Stains from Tile Without Damaging the Surface

Keep your floors, countertops, and backsplash in top shape with our easy techniques for removing stains from tile.

Because of its durability, tile makes a great material for high-traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. Often used for backsplashes, flooring, and showers, this long-lasting material is generally easy to maintain with regular cleaning. When spills and other accidents happen, however, tile stains can quickly set in and become difficult to remove. Especially in tiled showers, stubborn stains from hard water and rust can also build up over time and might require a deeper cleaning. Use these tips on how to remove stains from tiles to keep your floor or backsplash spotless.

Kitchen wall with white tile and wooden shelving
Stacy Zarin Goldberg

Tile Stain Removal Tips for Ceramic, Porcelain, Slate, and More

Tile can be made from a range of different materials, including ceramic, porcelain, marble, slate, and other varieties of natural stone. Each one has its own guidelines for cleaning and care that are important to consider when removing tile stains. If you're unsure about the best stain removal method, check with the manufacturer for specific recommendations.

Glazed ceramic and porcelain tile is typically very durable and will stand up well to most tile stain removal techniques. However, stains on natural stone, such as limestone, travertine, or marble tiles, should be treated with extra care. Traditional cleaners often contain chemicals that can damage the surface, so it's important to use non-abrasive cleaners that are made specifically for natural stone. Avoid using cleaners with acidic ingredients, such as lemon or vinegar, on natural stone, and do not scrub with stiff-bristled brushes that could scratch the surface.

white shower
Anthony Masterson

How to Remove Stains from Tiles

Although tile might look and feel impervious to harm, it can be damaged without the proper care. Test your stain-removal technique on an inconspicuous spot of both tile and grout before cleaning. A nonabrasive all-purpose cleaner ($4, Target) or a tub-tile-sink cleaning product will usually remove most tile stains. To clean stubborn stains on tile, try the following techniques.

Blood: Dab the stain with a soft cloth dipped in hydrogen peroxide or diluted bleach.

Coffee, tea, or juice: Wash the stain with a mild detergent and hot water, then blot with hydrogen peroxide or diluted bleach.

Gum, wax, or tar: Place ice cubes in a resealable plastic bag and lay the bag over the material you want to remove from the tile. Once the material solidifies, remove as much of it as possible with a crafts stick. Remove any remaining residue with nonflammable paint thinner.

Grease or fat-based stains: Wash the stain with club soda and water or with a non-abrasive floor cleaner.

Ink or dye: Soak a clean cloth with diluted bleach and lay it over the stain. Let the cloth stay in place until the stain disappears. Rinse well.

Iodine: Scrub the iodine stain with diluted ammonia and rinse well.

Nail polish: Dissolve the nail polish stain with nail polish remover. If the stain remains, dab it with hydrogen peroxide or diluted bleach.

bathroom with white subway tiles and green shower curtain
Alise O'Brien

How to Remove Hard Water Stains from Tile

In tiled areas in showers and around faucets or sinks, hard water stains can build up with use, creating a filmy residue on the surface. To protect the tile's finish, do not use abrasive cleaners or scouring powders, which could scratch or scuff the surface. Instead, use vinegar to dissolve the mineral buildup so you can easily wipe it away. (Note: This method should only be used on acid-safe tile surfaces, such as glazed ceramic or glass. It's not intended for natural stone tile.) Soak a cloth or sponge with vinegar and wipe to wet the surface. After allowing the vinegar to soak on the tile for a few minutes, wipe the area to wet it again. Sprinkle a small amount of baking soda onto the tile (it should fizz slightly as it reacts with the vinegar), then gently scrub the surface with a sponge dampened with water. Rinse the area with water to wash away the vinegar and baking soda, and dry the tile immediately with a soft cloth to prevent more water spots from forming.

To remove hard water stains on natural stone tile, use a cleaner specifically made for natural stone surfaces, such as Granite Gold Shower Cleaner ($11, The Home Depot).

blue-gray bathroom with red flowers
Anthony Masterson

How to Remove Rust Stains from Tile

Common in tile showers or on tile floors, rust stains result when metal items on tile surfaces come in contact with moisture for long periods of time. To get rid of these dark orange stains, you can use a combination of simple household ingredients. Mix equal parts lemon juice and borax ($6, Walmart) and apply the paste to the rust stain, gently rubbing it in. Allow the paste to dry, then rinse with water and dry with a clean cloth. If the stain persists, repeat the process until the rust is gone.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles