How To Clean A Disgusting Bathtub: 16 Easy Ways (Do This!)


Cleaning an old and stained bathtub may seem impossible, but it can be easily done with the right cleaner and a little elbow grease. 

If you want to get your bathtub white and pristine again, try the DIY methods or commercial cleaners below to deep clean your bathtub without scrubbing too much. 

How To Clean A Disgusting Bathtub

A tub can get very dirty because of poor cleaning and maintenance. The sewer or septic lines may also be blocked, bringing disgusting residue up into the bathtub.  

Plumbing and drain issues should be addressed immediately. The bathtub should be rinsed after use and cleaned once or twice a week to avoid buildup.

What You’ll Need 

  • Cleaning solution (choose from below)
  • Bowl or bucket for mixing
  • Spray bottle(s)
  • Scrub brush or scouring sponge
  • Soft toothbrush
  • Microfiber towels
  • Water 
  • Rubber gloves that extend up your forearm
  • Rolled towel or foam cushion for your knees
  • Wet/Dry vacuum or paper towels
  • Razor blade/Wire coat hanger/Plumbing snake
  • Garbage bag or small garbage can

Prepare The Tub For Cleaning

To do a deep cleaning, you need to get rid of any plumbing clogs first and prepare the tub’s surface. 

Address Blockages

Any blocked pipe should be addressed before cleaning to prevent continued buildup. 

You need the drain and connected plumbing to work so that you can rinse away the cleaning solution, debris, and gunk

Contact a plumbing professional if you can’t fix the issue on your own.  

If you have a slow-moving drain due to hair buildup, carefully use a plumbing snake, razor blade, or bent wire coat hanger to dislodge and remove the blockage. 

You can also try flushing the drain with baking soda and vinegar:

  1. Put ½-cup of baking soda into the drain. 
  2. Pour one-cup vinegar into it. 
  3. Let it sit for 30-60 minutes. 
  4. Rinse with hot water.

Vacuum Up Loose Debris

Once the tub is empty, use a wet/dry vacuum plugged into a GFCI outlet to clean up any loose debris, dust, hair, and excess liquid. 

If you do not have a wet/dry vacuum, you can use a paper towel to scoop or wipe up larger pieces of debris. 

Steam And Heat The Bathtub

Once the plumbing and drain are clean, close the bathroom door and any windows. 

Then, close the shower curtain and turn on the water at the hottest temperature. Close the bathtub’s plug, allowing hot water to fill it. Supervise the water level to avoid flooding. 

Let the hot water sit for at least 15 minutes. Hot water will create steam and loosen the grime on the tub. 

Wear long rubber gloves and use caution when reaching in to unplug the drain.

You can use a steam cleaner instead if you wish. However, use caution in wet areas and make sure it is plugged into a GFCI outlet.

Clean The Bathtub

Choose a cleaning solution to get rid of the disgusting grime and stains in the bathtub. Many of the solutions here are naturally based and will work with all bathtub types.

Check commercially made product labels for further information. Some of these cleaners may not be suitable for the material your bathtub is made of.  

Remove all soap bottles, washcloths, toys, and other items from the bathtub. Plastic shower liners can be cleaned or thrown away and replaced. Linen shower curtains should be washed in the washing machine.

When applying a cleaning solution to the bottom of the bathtub, close the drain to keep it in place. Many of the cleaning solutions in this article will work on tiles and other bathroom fixtures, such as showerheads.

After cleaning, wipe the tub dry with soft microfiber towels and inspect if surfaces need additional cleaning.

DIY Remedies For Cleaning A Dirty Bathtub

1. Vinegar And Dish Detergent

Vinegar and dish detergent offer the easiest way to clean your dirty bathtub fast. Vinegar’s acidic composition breaks down mineral deposits and grime while eliminating odors. 

The dish detergent consists of surfactants that cut through oils and grease. Combined, these two will cut through the grime on your tub.

What to do:

  1. Heat the vinegar in the microwave for two minutes. 
  2. Mix equal parts of vinegar and dish detergent in a spray bottle.
  3. Spray the mixture onto the tub’s surface and scrub, moving from the top and down in circular motions. 
    • Rinse your cleaning tool or sponge frequently during this process to remove grime from it.
  4. Rinse with warm water and repeat as needed until the brown patches are gone and the cleaned surface feels smooth to the touch.

If this method does not remove everything, use it in conjunction with any of the following cleaners. Use care not to mix solutions, by rinsing the tub after using each one.

2. Vinegar And Towels

For this solution, you will need a lot of white vinegar and towels. You will use the acidic properties of vinegar to break down the grime. Vinegar will also kill any mold or mildew.

What to do:

  1. Soak the towels with vinegar and place them all over the bathtub’s surface. You can either spray them or pour vinegar on them while they are placed in the tub.
  2. Use small, but heavy objects to hold the towels up on the walls. 
    • You could use small plastic storage containers filled with stones or rice that rest on the bathtub’s edge holding the towels in place. 
    • Avoid using glass objects for the purpose, as they can slip and break. If you have to use a glass object, pay attention when placing and removing it.
  3. Let the wet vinegar-soaked towels sit on the surfaces for three to six hours, or even overnight. 
    • If the towels dry before the time is up, add more vinegar.
  4. Scrub the surfaces with a scrub brush or scouring sponge.
  5. Rinse and repeat as needed.

3. Bleach And Water

Bleach disinfects and removes stains. However, it does not effectively remove rust stains. A rust remover product will need to be used instead. 

Color test an inconspicuous surface to ensure the bleach mixture does not alter the original color of your tub. Generally, bleach is safe to use on fiberglass, acrylic, or white porcelain. 

Ventilate the work area and wear a mask and gloves when working with bleach.

What to do:

  1. Mix ½-cup of bleach with one gallon of water. Mix this directly inside the tub to avoid spilling it on your bathroom floors.
  2. Dip a sponge into the mixture and apply it to the tub’s surfaces. Alternatively, pour it into a spray bottle and spray it onto the surfaces.
  3. Let it sit for 15 to 30 minutes.
  4. Scrub with the sponge.
  5. Rinse and repeat as needed. 

4. Pumice Stone

A pumice stone can only be used on a porcelain tub. It will scratch acrylic tubs and other surfaces. Pumice stone is an excellent tool for removing rust stains.  

What to do:

  1. Wet the pumice stone.
  2. Pour water over the stains.
  3. Gently rub the stone over the stain.
  4. Wipe with a towel and rinse clean.
  5. Repeat as needed.

5. Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda dissolves organic compounds such as soap scum and grease. It is a gentle abrasive that cleans without scratching.

What to do:

  1. Mix a few tablespoons of water with two cups of baking soda. 
    • Adjust the water as needed to make a paste. 
    • If you add too much water, add more baking soda until you get a paste-like consistency.
  2. Using a sponge or scrub brush, apply the paste to the tub’s stains and work it in a circular motion.
  3. Let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes.
    • For extra cleaning action, spray vinegar or a bleach and water mixture (½-cup bleach to one-gallon water) onto the paste and let it sit for an additional ten minutes.
  4. Rinse and wipe clean, repeating as necessary.

6. Borax

Borax is an all-natural detergent cleaner, made from sodium borate. It is used in washing machines and also works to remove mineral deposits, mold, mildew, and stains.

What to do:

  1. Wet the surfaces that need to be cleaned.
  2. Sprinkle borax onto a damp sponge, and apply it to the surfaces in a scrubbing circular motion.
  3. Rinse and repeat as needed.

Alternatively, you can use powdered dishwasher detergent.

7. Castile Soap, Baking Soda, And Tea Tree Oil

Castile soap works with water to remove dirt and insoluble particles. Baking soda will lift stains, while tea tree oil will disinfect the surface. 

In place of castile soap, you can use liquid dishwasher detergent.

What to do:

  1. Mix one cup of castile soap with a few tablespoons of water.
  2. Add ten to 15 drops of tea tree oil.
  3. Add enough baking soda to form a paste.
  4. Apply the paste to the bathtub’s surface, scrubbing in a circular motion.
  5. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
  6. Rinse clean and repeat as necessary.

8. Hydrogen Peroxide, Baking Soda, And Dish Detergent

According to the CDC, hydrogen peroxide is an efficient cleaner in removing bacteria, viruses, fungi, and more. 

Combined with the grime and grease removing actions of baking soda and dish detergent, this makes for an excellent cleaning option.

What to do:

  1. Mix water, hydrogen peroxide, and dish detergent in a 2:1:1 ratio (water:hydrogen peroxide:dish detergent) in a spray bottle.
  2. Spray the mixture onto the dirty surfaces.
  3. Dip a damp sponge into a bowl of baking soda.
  4. Rub the baking soda onto the sprayed surfaces in a circular scrubbing motion.
  5. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
  6. Rinse the tiles clean with warm water.

9. Grapefruit And Salt

Grapefruit is acidic, like vinegar, and it can break up grime and grease. This is a simple hack using easily found natural ingredients. 

Combined with common table salt, grapefruit can scrub away hard to remove buildup and soap scum. 

What to do:

  1. Slice a grapefruit in half. Remove the seeds.
  2. Dip the flat face of the halved grapefruit into a bowl of salt.
  3. Scrub the combination on the tub’s surfaces. Use a gentle motion to avoid scratching the surface with the salt.
  4. Let it sit for five to ten minutes.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

Alternatively, lemon juice or Coca-Cola can serve as an acidic cleaner. Spray lemon juice or the soda on surfaces. Spray a sponge with lemon juice or soda. Dip the sponge into salt and scrub, sit, rinse, and repeat.

10. Clarifying Shampoo

Clarifying shampoo is formulated to remove oil and other buildups on hair. It can do the same for your bathtub surfaces. 

What to do:

  1. Squeeze shampoo right from the bottle onto a damp sponge and apply it to the wet surfaces. 
  2. Scrub and work in the shampoo in circular motions.
  3. Rinse clean and repeat as needed.

11. Power Drill

You can add scrub attachments, such as brushes or abrasive sponges, to your power drill or use an electric scrubber to clean your tub. 

Use caution and GFCI outlets when using power tools around water sources. The harsh scrubbing of a tool like this can also cause damage to the tub’s surface. 

Consider using this option as a last resort.

What to do:

  1. Rinse the tub’s surfaces with hot water, if not already done so.
  2. Prepare your preferred cleaning solution from above.
  3. Use a soft brush or sponge scrubber attachment, guiding the tool carefully and slowly with light pressure.
  4. Rinse with hot water and inspect for areas that still need cleaning.

Commercial Bathroom And Tub Cleaners

If you choose to use commercially made products, the following are good options for cleaning a dirty bathtub.

12. Bar Keeper’s Friend

This product is a bleach-free cleaner you can use to remove mineral deposits, rust, soap scum, and other stains. It is widely considered one of the best cleaners for really dirty bathtubs. 

Bar Keeper’s Friend can be used on many surfaces including ceramic, tile, stainless steel, fiberglass, chrome, Formica, and porcelain. It contains oxalic acid, which can be harmful if ingested or inhaled. 

Wear gloves and a mask, and ventilate the bathroom when using it.

What to do:

  1. Wet all tub surfaces that need to be cleaned.
  2. Generously sprinkle Bar Keepers’ Friend onto the wet surfaces.
  3. Scrub the surfaces.
  4. Rinse with water and dry. Repeat as needed.

13. Use CLR Remover

CLR (Calcium-Lime-Rust) remover is a non-toxic product. It is great at removing limescale and mineral deposits on surfaces that are constantly exposed to water such as dishwashers, toilets, showers, and bathtubs.

As a special note, rust stains are difficult to remove. They cannot be removed with chlorine bleach. Therefore, CLR is an excellent option if you have rust stains in your bathtub.

What to do:

  1. Generously spray CLR onto the bathtub’s surface. 
  2. Let it for two minutes.
  3. Scrub the surface.
  4. Rinse clean and repeat as needed.

You may be able to clean with CLR without bending over to scrub. The stains in your tub may dissolve on their own and rinse away with warm water.

CLR is an excellent choice for other household cleaning chores, too. You can use it to get rid of mineral deposits on other fixtures, tiles, or even in the dishwasher or washing machine.

14. Shaw’s Pads

Shaw’s pads are a non-toxic product used to remove mineral deposits and discoloration, from ceramic and porcelain surfaces.

What to do:

  1. Dip the pad into warm, clean water.
  2. Scrub in circular motions over the stains.
  3. Rinse and repeat as needed.

15. Soft Scrub

Soft scrub is a mildly abrasive product that contains bleach and promotes a scratch-free shine. It can be used on tiles, toilets, sinks, and porcelain to remove mold, mildew, and soap scum. 

This comes in a variety of options including powder or liquid forms, so check the product labels. For example, Soft Scrub All Purpose Bath and Kitchen Cleanser can be used with porcelain or acrylic tubs.

What to do:

  • Wear gloves and ventilate the area. Use a sponge to apply Soft Scrub to the stains.
  • Let the product sit on the surface as per the informational label.
  • Scrub the surface.
  • Rinse clean and repeat as needed.

Scrubbing Bubbles, Comet, or Ajax are similar products that can be used in this way as well. Oven cleaner can be used on white porcelain tubs.

16. Magic Eraser

Magic Eraser is a product made out of melamine foam. It is a gentle abrasive sponge-like foam that removes soap scum and mineral deposits. 

What to do:

  1. Dampen the Magic Eraser and tub walls with water.
  2. Wipe across the wet surfaces, squeezing excess water out of the foam as needed. Use light pressure with this product to avoid scratching your bathtub.
  3. Rinse clean with warm water, and repeat.

In Summary

Cleaning what seems to be the dirtiest bathtub in the world can feel like a daunting task. 

However, it is not as difficult as you may think if you use a cleaning solution that does the hard work for you. 

Follow the methods above to scrub your bathtub sparkling clean, then deep-clean it once or twice a week to keep it in great shape for the long-term.

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