How To Clean A Bathtub In 7 Easy Steps
Plus how to get rid of mold, rust and hard water stains.
What’s more glorious than a hot bath? Very few things are as satisfying as sinking into a steaming, bubbly—and freshly scrubbed—bathtub. That’s right, we said it. The bath will feel better, both physically and emotionally, if it’s just been cleaned. Or at least, if it’s been cleaned in recent memory. So stop ignoring the mildewy grout lines, hard water splotches on the fixtures and soap scum film around the drain. Do yourself a favor and clean the dang tub. Then reap the benefits of having a fresh (perhaps citrus-scented?!) bathtub to relax in.
Why it’s important to clean your bathtub
We feel like this is a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t you want to clean your bathtub? Especially if you’re prone to taking baths. This is like asking why clean your sheets? But, like, if they were more susceptible to mildew. Anyway, sure, we’ll take the bait.
It’s important to clean your bathtub because you’re cleaning your dirty body in it. Therefore, all of the grime and germs your rinsing off cascade from your armpits and elsewhere into the tub, where they ideally make their way down the drain. But not all of them do. Bathtubs build up bacteria, soap scum and mold, too. And this can make you sick.
Just check out the bottom of your shower curtain. (Or the area around the drain!) It’s likely a different color than the rest of the shower curtain, eh? Time for a cleaning.
How often to clean your bathtub
We know you’re busy, but make time for a weekly bathtub cleaning. At least hit it all around with some disinfectant. And definitely consider deep cleaning your tub monthly. That includes the tile, walls, drain, shower curtain, showerhead and grout, too.
- Dish soap, such as Dawn
- Scrub brush or sponge
- Clean rag
- Baking soda
- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath
- Microban 24 Bathroom Cleaner or spray bottle with diluted bleach solution (to disinfect/spot treat mold and/or mildew)
How to clean your bathtub in 7 easy steps
Like most things, bathtubs come in all shapes, sizes and materials. Some are much more luxurious than others. Some you can barely squeeze into. Some tubs have impressive, sweeping scenic views overlooking tropical jungles or waterfalls (Hey, we can dream, can’t we?). Anyway, depending on the material of your tub, you’ve got options for how to go about cleaning it. Read on to learn about our basic 7-step bathtub cleaning technique, plus more specific tips for cleaning various types of tubs.
7-step bathtub cleaning guide
- Rinse. Give your tub a quick overall rinse with hot water to wet it and also to dislodge any obvious dirt or grime, rinsing it down the drain.
- Add baking soda. Liberally sprinkle baking soda all over your bathtub, including the drain area and faucet hardware.
- If your tub is super dirty, substitute a store-bought tub-and-tile cleaner for baking soda, and follow the directions on the label.
- Soap. Fill the bucket with about a half gallon of hot water and several drops of a gentle but effective dish soap (we love Dawn).
- Scrub. Using your scrub brush or sponge (again, depending how dirty your tub is), use the soapy water mixture to give your bathtub an all-over sponge (or scrub!) bath.
- Re-up the soapy water on your cleaning implement regularly, and be sure to frequently rinse it off in the bucket as you go.
- If your tub is super gross, you can sprinkle baking soda directly onto your sponge or brush and scrub your bathtub with some serious elbow grease. The soapy water combined with the baking soda will turn into a sort of gooey paste and work its magic.
- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath also works wonders on bathtubs and their fixtures, removing up to three times more soap scum than the leading all-purpose spray cleaner. It’s our favorite bathroom cleaning all-purpose tool.
- Simply wet the Magic Eraser, wring it out and use it to scrub the surfaces. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser eliminates hard water on shower glass, soap scum on bathtubs, grime on tile and grout and even hairspray and toothpaste residue on counters and sinks.
- Rinse again. Does your tub look cleaner? Like, way cleaner? Good. Give the tub a thorough rinse with more hot water.
- Sanitize. Using either a spray bottle with a DIY diluted bleach solution or a ready-made product such as Microban 24 Bathroom Cleaner, disinfect your tub and the surrounding areas to get rid of any creeping mildew, mold or lingering bacteria. (Make sure your bathroom is well-ventilated during this step by opening any windows and turning on all fans!)
- Be sure to follow instructions on any store-bought cleaning products, as you often have to let them sit and then wipe them clean.
- Microban 24 Bathroom Cleaner can actually prevent the growth of mold and mildew on hard surfaces for about a week after use, plus it will definitely finish off any remaining soap scum in your bathtub.*
- Polish. Lastly, hit the tub’s hardware (we’re talking the faucet, drain and handles) with a clean, dry rag to polish them up a bit.
For acrylic bathtubs
- Acrylic is a soft, sensitive material.
- Nonabrasive cleaning products work best on acrylic bathtubs.
- Our 7-step bathtub cleaning guide will work well for acrylic tubs, since baking soda and Dawn Dish Soap are considered to be gentle cleaning solutions.
- For tougher stains on your acrylic tub, you can fill the tub with hot water and mix in a few cups of white vinegar. Let the solution soak for about 20 minutes, then drain the tub and continue scrubbing with your baking soda and soapy water.
- Use a soft sponge or rag to clean your acrylic tub, versus a scrub brush.
- Continue to rinse the tub with clean, hot water to finish, and wipe clean. (The vinegar smell will quickly dissipate. Try running the bathroom fan and cracking the windows to speed up the process.)
- Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath is safe to use on acrylic tubs, but definitely skip the bleach. If you’re going to use a ready-made cleaner on your acrylic tub, carefully read the label to make sure it won’t damage the tub’s surface.
For fiberglass bathtubs
- Fiberglass is one of the most commonly used bathtub materials.
- It’s super easy to clean, but be careful not to scratch its surface by scrubbing too hard.
- Once again, our 7-step bathtub cleaning process should do the trick. You can also incorporate the vinegar bath technique (mentioned above) to treat tough stains.
- Furthermore, you can even apply a paste made of 2 parts baking soda and 1 part hydrogen peroxide to spot treat any mildew or mold spots, letting it sit for up to an hour.
For porcelain or enamel bathtubs
- Porcelain bathtubs are sleek and dreamy. Best to treat them with care. They appreciate a gentle touch (who doesn’t?!).
- For porcelain tubs, you can make a DIY cleaning mixture of equal parts warm water and baking soda in your bucket and scrub with a microfiber rag or soft sponge.
- You can also exfoliate your porcelain or enamel bathtub with a salt and lemon juice solution. Allow it to sit for about an hour ,and then scrub it off with a clean, damp rag or sponge.
- Continue to rinse thoroughly with hot water, as normal.
- You can even polish up the porcelain or enamel with a few drops of lemon essential oil on a soft microfiber rag, if you’re really digging that citrus vibe.
- Avoid using vinegar in your porcelain or enamel bathtub because its acidic properties may damage the surface.
For stone resin bathtubs
- Man-made stone resin is crazy durable and nearly impossible to stain or scratch.
- Our 7-step bathtub cleaning guide is fine for stone resin tubs.
- Sometimes you’ve got to give stone resin tubs an extra rinse to make sure all the soap or cleaner has come clean.
Bathtub cleaning pro tips
- Don’t forget the bathtub when doing your daily bathroom wipe down—we like to spray all the surfaces that get wet throughout the day with a multipurpose cleaner (like 9 Elements Bathroom Cleaner) and wipe dry. It keeps the bathroom fresh and tidy and makes your weekly deep cleaning that much easier.
- When cleaning your shower and bathtub, go from top to bottom. (The same rule of thumb goes for cleaning nearly anything, and especially dusting.)
- Clean the wall tiles first, then the shower curtain and save the tub for last. (Because that grime from the walls and the curtain will end up in the tub. Thanks, gravity.)
- Don’t destroy your body to clean your tub. If you’ve got kneepads, bust them out. Or you can create DIY kneepads by folding up a towel multiple times and kneeling on it while cleaning the tub.
- Is your drain not draining? Try pouring about 4–5 tablespoons of baking soda down the drain and flushing it with 2 cups of white vinegar. It’s going to bubble like a science experiment, don’t worry. Then add several cups of boiling water down your drain to rinse the mixture down, which should clear out any gross blockages.
- Consider keeping your bathtub drain clean with a mesh drain catcher, so all those soapy hair balls don’t make a nest down there in the future.
How to remove bathtub stains
Even if you keep up a solid routine of bathtub cleaning, stains happen. There are all sorts of minerals in your water that could cause your tub’s surface to become discolored. There’s no shame in that. We’ve got your solutions to bathtub stains.
How to remove bathtub mold stains
Before using abrasive cleaning solutions like bleach or vinegar on your tub, see our notes from earlier regarding various bathtub materials. For example, acrylic tubs generally don’t pair well with bleach. And enamel hates vinegar. In some cases, you may want to substitute hydrogen peroxide, which is equally as effective but less abrasive. And hey, always be sure your bathroom is well ventilated when using bleach products so you’re not inhaling too much of the stuff.
- Make a solution of hot water with about 3–4 tablespoons of bleach in your spray bottle.
- Spray it directly onto any moldy spots or areas, and allow it to soak in for several minutes.
- While the bleach is soaking, sprinkle baking soda throughout your bathtub.
- Soak a soft bristle scrub brush into a soapy solution of hot water with a few drops of a gentle dish soap, like Dawn, and scrub the baking soda into the bleach-soaked tub.
- Rinse everything thoroughly with hot water.
- If mold persists, try a store-bought antifungal surface cleaner, and follow the directions on the label.
- Finish by sanitizing the tub with Microban 24.
- Wiping your tub dry between uses sounds like a silly amount of work, but it will also help with preventing the growth of future mold and mildew.
How to remove bathtub hard water stains
Hard water is when your water contains higher-than-usual mineral content, typically in the form of calcium and magnesium. When hard water evaporates, it often leaves minerally stains and residue in your sink, shower or bathtub and on the showerhead. From glass and porcelain to tile or metal, hard water sticks to all of it. Sometimes you’ll even see hard water marks on your clothes or dishes after washing them. Hard water isn’t bad for you, it’s just sort of annoying. Especially if you’re a neat freak.
Warm water + white vinegar
- Combine equal parts warm water and white vinegar into your spray bottle.
- Spray the solution in your tub and shower, and let it sit for about 5–10 minutes.
- Wipe the bathtub and fixtures clean with a damp rag.
Baking soda + vinegar paste
- A baking soda and vinegar paste will also eliminate hard water spots from your bathtub and its fixtures. Just apply the paste to the offending spots, let it sit for about 15 minutes, then wipe clean.
- If you’re bathtub is porcelain or enamel, you can substitute the vinegar for water to make the paste.
- Another option to remove hard water stains is lemon juice, especially on areas around the fixtures and faucets. Just spray the lemon juice directly onto the spots, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then wipe the area clean with a damp rag and dry cloth.
Note: The thing about hard water is that you’re probably still using that water to clean the hard water spots, so … if you really want to enjoy a moment without them, be sure to then wipe your tub and fixtures dry after cleaning so the water doesn’t have time to air dry and leave more hard water spots.
How to remove bathtub rust stains
Now for a quick science lesson: rust occurs during oxidation, when iron reacts with water and oxygen to form hydrated iron. Sometimes bathtubs get rusty. There are several ways to remove bathtub rust.
Lemon + salt
- Squeeze the lemon juice over any rusty stains until they’re saturated.
- Sprinkle salt over the dampened rust spots.
- Let this solution sit for 3–4 hours.
- Using a damp microfiber cloth, gently scrub the mixture away.
- Rinse the entire tub thoroughly with hot water until all residual rust, salt and lemon juice wash down the drain.
- Make a paste with baking soda and a few drops of water (it should be thick, like cake batter).
- Spread the solution directly onto the rust stains.
- Let the paste sit overnight in your bathtub.
- Scrub the paste (and rust!) away with a damp microfiber cloth.
- Rinse the entire tub thoroughly with hot water until all residual rust and dried baking soda wash down the drain.
Okay, by now your tub should be sparkling. Now bust out the bath bombs and your favorite book, and settle in for the kind of true relaxation only a clean home can provide.
*Effective against Aspergillus niger.