How to Clean Bath Tubs

All water supplies contain colloidal mud that does not get filtered out and which you never see until it sticks to the side of your tub; and let’s face it, who among us has no dirt or oil on their bodies?

Cleaning the Tub

To start, whenever you take a bath or shower, have a window open or use the exhaust fan to remove the airborne moisture you’re creating. Keep the ventilation going even after you’ve finished your daily ablutions. This will keep those airborne droplets from later condensing on walls and ceiling and tub, creating unsightly mineral deposits and mildew.

Upon completing your morning shower or evening bath, rinse the tub; remove any hair from the drain, then dry the tub with a cleaning cloth. Once a week, thoroughly clean the tub, and do it immediately after using it because the steam you created with your shower or filling the tub has loosened the residues on the tub, thus facilitating cleaning. Follow the procedures we list for cleaning fiberglass and porcelain tubs.

Be alert to the problem of bath oils. Many, if not most, leave a thick, oily scum around the tub that must be removed immediately upon completing your soak.

Cleaning Fiberglass Tubs

Because its polished surface can be easily dulled and scratched, a fiberglass tub must be cleaned using a soft cloth, sponge, or soft-bristled brush with liquid laundry or dishwashing detergent, a liquid all-purpose household cleaner, or baking soda mixed with warm water. Avoid all abrasive cleaners – scouring powders, steel wool, abrasive scouring pads, or scrapers. The problem with using even the mildest, least abrasive of scouring powders is that they can leave tiny scratches behind that catch dirt, grease, hard water deposits, and soap residue. Over time, ever more scouring is needed to remove the embedded soils. This only leaves more scratches.

Cleaning Porcelain Tubs

Bathtubs with porcelain enamel surfaces are more resistant to scratching and cannot be dulled easily, either; however, this doesn’t mean that, over the long term, they cannot be damaged by harsh abrasives or strong solutions. It’s therefore safest to use the same materials and procedures used for cleaning fiberglass surfaces.

Whenever you clean any kind of tub, always rinse afterward to ensure no cleaning residue remains.

Tough stains (not including rust) can be removed with hydrogen peroxide. Trisodium phosphate (TSP) is no longer around; however, TSP substitutes like Spic and Span may remove stains and thick deposits of dirt, grease, or soap scum. Chlorine bleach is also effective; however, many people do not realize that it is a major pollutant, and should be avoided. It’s possible the newer oxygen bleaches like Sunlight may work, but we have seen no reference made to its use in this manner. Whatever you use, rinse it off quickly.

Cleaning Rust From a Bath Tub

Rust stains may be attacked first by applying a paste of borax and lemon juice. If that doesn’t work, apply some dry cleaning solution of the type found in spot removers. As a last resort, don rubber gloves and apply acetic or muriatic acid. Use sparingly and carefully, as strong acid slowly disintegrates the enamel, going right down to its metal base. Rinse acid off thoroughly after use.

What if you just inherited a tub that has years of mineral deposits (lime) built up on it?

  • Spray with full-strength vinegar repeatedly until the stuff is gone
  • Apply Mr. Clean Extra Strength, CLR Kitchen & Bath Cleaner, Lime Away, or Bar Keepers Friend
  • Spray on an oven cleaner
  • Rub it with a wet pumice stone.

Of course, there is always the possibility that the stuff has sat so long that you couldn’t get it off with dynamite.


  1. Lois says:

    Any kind of dry laundry soap on a damp cloth will clean the rings and the water stains from the shower and tub.

  2. Min says:

    Spray oven cleaner on the shower stall and tub surface and wait approximately 20 minutes, then take paper towels and wipe it all away… works beautifully!

  3. Pam says:

    The ‘Magic Eraser’ type sponges work very well in removing soap scum or anything else off the surface of a porcelain tub. I am not sure about fiberglass, but it works like a dream on porcelain.

  4. G says:

    Old fashioned borax works great! I also advise the pumice stone for really tough stains from calcified water and rust.

  5. Rachael says:

    Magic Eraser works wonders on the bathtub cheaper and does better job than any cleaner I have used and no fumes. Try it you will be surprised!

  6. Stephanie says:

    I tried toilet bowl cleaner and it worked, and it also makes your bathroom smell nice too.

  7. Terri says:

    I have well water and cleaning the shower can be a lot of work, especially because I have back problems. The easiest way for me to clean the tub is a product I found at the Dollar Store. It is from Smart Solutions and it is called “Best Working.” By the way, it costs about $1.50. Spray the tub, let it set for a couple minutes and you will be surprised how little elbow grease it takes to clean the rust.

  8. Lisa says:

    I didn’t want to have my tub restored because of the quick chipping. I bathe every day. :) Anyway, if you scrub the tub with Bar Keepers Friend, that cleans it well. Then, put on a coat or two of Gel-Gloss. It is a cleaner and polish. It’s kind of like putting a coat of wax on it. My gel coat has been eaten away from prior homeowners who obviously didn’t know how to care for porcelain. Anyway, it doesn’t make my tub look like new, but it does bring some shine back. It really is an amazing product.
    Happy Scrubbing!

  9. Sarah says:

    I just use Tide with bleach. I fill the tub a little with hot water, mix in the laundry soap and clean away. NO SCRUBBING required!! My husband works in a factory, and I have never been able to remove the grease so easily!

  10. Melissa says:

    For porcelain – the tips say that TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) is no longer available – IT IS! It’s at any nearby big-box store; Lowe’s, Home Depot. I just used it to clean my soap scum stained porcelain bathtub from the 1940’s. It looks BEAUTIFUL!

    TSP works to clean all kinds of household stuff.

  11. Kelly says:

    I will have to try the laundry soap idea! I use bleach to clean tubs because it kills mold and mildew, and also foot fungus. In the old tubs, I use Comet cleanser on porcelain, but if it is really dirty, TSP is the way to go. On my own tub which is the newer fiberglass, I use a spray that removes soap scum (like KaBoom Foamtastic or Scrubbing Bubbles), and use the abrasive side of a sponge and scrub the walls after spraying them. I then rinse it off after a few minutes. I always replace the shower head with one that has at least 6 feet of hose going to it. This saves throwing glasses of water at the walls to rinse them, and making myself wet from head to toe. With the shower hose type, you can rinse the entire tub, and it also helps with washing pets. After using the soap scum remover, I put some Soft Scrub with bleach on the abrasive side of a sponge, and rub circularly until a whole wall is done, then spray it off before moving to the next section. This leaves the walls shining, and completely disinfected. Lastly, I scrub the sides and floor of the tub with Soft Scrub with bleach, and after a few minutes, rinse it with hot water. If there is any mold in the creases where the walls fit together, I spray them with Clorox cleanup spray, leave it 10 minutes, rinse, and no more mold! People have commented on how clean and shiny my tub is, and if you clean it bi-weekly this way, it will never get really dirty, and will stay disinfected. It isn’t green, but it is totally clean when you’re done.

  12. Angie says:

    I had a badly lime-scaled bath I inherited. I was told of a remedy, so with nothing to lose I used wet and dry fine sandpaper. it really worked, and the bath is now useable!

  13. Rudolf says:

    Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) crystals on a damp sponge worked very well.

    Muriatic acid (HCl) in various concentrations had little, if any, effect.

  14. Bebe says:

    TSP is also great for cleaning mildew off exterior vinyl siding! Combine 3 qt. hot water, 1 qt bleach, and 1 cup TSP…mix it all in a pump up garden sprayer. Spray it on, let it set for a few minutes (do NOT let it dry on your siding! Best to do this on an overcast day or better still, when it’s misting rain). Rinse it off with the garden hose and a regular spray nozzle. NEVER use a pressure washer on vinyl siding – it can damage the siding and can even rip it off the house! This mix will get mildew off the siding without scrubbing and without damaging the siding.
    I’m not overly fond of chlorine bleach, but getting mildew off the siding was always a labor-intensive chore until I found this homemade cleaner. This stuff literally sprays on AND off!

  15. I use TSP says:

    TSP is still around, it’s just not ‘green’ friendly and thus outlawed in most ‘general application’ cleaners and soaps for household use, so you have to look a little further outside normal cleaners and soaps… TSP is still used quite a bit in the commercial industry and even by professionals for cleaning… Look in the paint area or deck cleaning area of most hardware stores and you can generally find TSP; it’s usually found alongside the TSP Alternatives, so read the label and fine print… Savogran brand TSP is carried at most of the stores in my area; it’s 75-80% pure TSP…

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