How to Clean a Tub and Remove Unwanted Stains

Your bathtub — it’s hard to think that the place you go to get clean can get so dirty.

But tubs tend to be a magnet for dirt, stains and soap scum. Knowing how to clean a tub is essential for making sure it does what it’s meant to do — help you clean yourself.

How to clean a tub depends in large part on what it’s made out of and the type of mess you’re dealing with. Here’s everything you need to know about how to clean a dirty tub.

How to Clean a Porcelain Tub

A porcelain tub usually has a porcelain glaze that’s been bonded to a steel or cast-iron frame. While porcelain tubs are one of the more durable options out there, you want to be careful when cleaning them to avoid scratching or cracking the surface.

Another thing to avoid, according to Apartment Therapy, is any cleaners that will wear away the porcelain over time. Put away the vinegar and scouring powders.

Here’s how to clean a cast iron tub or steel tub that’s covered in porcelain.

What you’ll need:

  • Bucket
  • Dish soap
  • Soft sponge or rag
  • Towel
  • Ammonia
  • Baking soda

Everyday Cleaning of Your Porcelain Tub


  • Combine a gallon of hot water with 2 tablespoons of dish soap in a bucket. Use a dish soap that has some grease-fighting action.


    1. Dip the rag or sponge in the water/soap mixture. Wring it out.


  • Wipe the surface of the tub with the sponge or rag. You might have to use some elbow grease, depending on how dirty the bathtub is.


  1. Rinse the tub. Wipe it down with a towel to dry it.

Deep Cleaning a Porcelain Tub

We get it — you’re busy. Sometimes tub cleaning isn’t your top priority, and sometimes things get a lot dirtier than usual.

Here’s how to deep clean your porcelain tub, without damaging the surface.


  • Combine 1 quart of water, 1/4 cup of ammonia and 1/4 cup of baking soda in a bucket. Stir to dissolve the baking soda.


  1. Dip your sponge in the mixture. You want to saturate the sponge or rag with the ammonia/baking soda solution.
  2. Use the sponge to scrub/wipe down the tub. The baking soda is a mild abrasive and should help to remove some stains without scratching while the ammonia works on grease.
  3. Rinse the tub well. Baking soda tends to leave a chalky film if not adequately rinsed away.
  4. Dry the tub.

How to Clean a Fiberglass Tub

Like a porcelain tub, it’s easy to scratch a fiberglass tub if you use the wrong type of cleaner. When figuring out how to clean a tub that’s made from fiberglass, the critical thing to remember is to avoid abrasive cleaners and to avoid metal brushes or scrubbers.

Instead, use soft nylon bristled brushes and gentle cleaners. Here’s how to clean a fiberglass tub that is stained or dirty.

What you’ll need:

  • Bathroom cleaner or dish soap
  • Rag or sponge

How to do it:


  • Spray the tub with the bathroom cleaner. Alternatively, combine a small amount of dish soap with water in a spray bottle and spray on the tub.


  1. Let the cleaner soak in for a few minutes.
  2. Wipe the tub down. If some areas are dirtier than others, use a bit of extra muscle there to get them clean.
  3. Rinse the tub and dry it so that the cleaner doesn’t leave a film or residue.

How to Clean a Dirty Tub – A Creative Option

The above options for how to clean a tub might be effective, but what if you want to have a bit of fun when cleaning your tub? Here’s a somewhat unusual, but effective method of tub cleaning, courtesy of Apartment Therapy.

It’ll work on any tub, porcelain, fiberglass; you name it.

What you’ll need:

  • Dish soap (like Dawn or any brand known for its grease-fighting abilities)
  • A clean broom with plastic bristles (not wood or metal)

How to Clean a Tub With Dish Soap and a Broom


  • Squirt the dish soap all over the surface of an empty, dry tub.
  • Use the broom to scrub the surface of the tub. You want to work the broom so that its bristles and the dish soap cut through built-up dirt and grease in your tub.
  • Rinse the tub. Rinse the tub with clean water to remove the suds and the grime. Dry the surface if you’d like.


How to Clean a Stained Tub

Depending on how diligent you are about cleaning a bathtub or the type of tub you’ve got, stains can be inevitable. Common tub stains include hard water deposits, rings about the tub and rust spots. Here’s how to deal with each one.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Tub

What you’ll need:

  • Borax
  • Lemon
  • Soft rag or sponge

What to do:


  • Sprinkle Borax over the rust spot or stain, covering it completely.
  • Cut the lemon in half. Rub one half of the lemon, cut side down, over the Borax. Gently squeeze the lemon as you rub to release some of its juice and to create a paste with the Borax.


    1. Let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes.
    2. Wipe the paste away with a sponge or rag.


  • Repeat the process if the rust stain remains. Otherwise, rinse the area to remove the paste.


How to Remove Hard Water Stains from Tub

Unless you have a water softener installed in your home, it’s likely you have hard water. Hard water contains minerals that can leave behind deposits every time you use your tub.

Although hard water stains look tricky to take care of, they can be pretty easy to remove.

What you’ll need:

  • Soft dish rags or towels
  • Distilled white vinegar

Here’s what to do:


  • Soak the rags/towels in the vinegar. You want the cloths and towels to be completely soaked.


  1. Drape them over the stains or wrap them around the fixtures that have stains. Let them sit for at least one hour.
  2. Remove the rags. Wipe the area with a clean, damp rag to rinse away any lingering vinegar.

“Wait a second,” you might be thinking. Didn’t you say not to use vinegar on a tub?

If you have a porcelain tub, you do want to be careful about using anything acidic on it, including vinegar. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

If you’re concerned about the vinegar ruining the finish of your tub, dilute it with an equal amount of water.

How Often to Clean a Tub

How often should you clean your tub? If you’re even asking that question, you might not like the answer: Once a week.

That might seem like a lot of effort, but keep in mind that you and other members of your family/household use the tub daily. Giving it a cleaning once a week is the least you can do.

It’s also a good idea to schedule a deep cleaning of the tub every season or every month, depending on how much use the tub gets.

What to Remember When Cleaning a Tub

Use this cheat sheet to help you out when it’s time to clean a tub.

  • Skip the abrasive, harsh cleaners.
  • You can buy special bathroom cleaners, but ingredients that do double duty, such as dish soap, baking soda, and lemon juice, also get the job done.
  • Don’t use any metal brushes or scrubbers to clean your tub.
  • The more frequently you clean your tub, the less annoying of a task it becomes.
  • If you use commercial cleaners, don’t mix them! Combining bleach and ammonia, for example, is a recipe for dangerous fumes.
  • Open a window in the bathroom if the scent of vinegar or other cleaning products bugs you.
  • Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands when cleaning.

Final Thoughts on How to Clean a Tub

Cleaning a tub, no matter what it’s made out of or how dirty is, isn’t on anyone’s list of favorite things to do. But it’s a chore that’s got to be done.

Knowing how to clean your tub demystifies the process and also makes it so that you’re more likely to do the work. ¬†

You might not want to set aside 15 or 30 minutes of your life every week to scrubbing and cleaning your tub. But trust us, making the chore part of your routine is going to save you so much hassle and time in the long run.

Now that you know to clean a tub, the only thing you left to do is get out there and clean it.