One of my goals with having this site is to help people have their dream home. And let’s face it, a tub full of grime (or dye- read to the bottom for that) is not something dreams are made of. Sure, you can close the shower curtain. But a house is better when there aren’t dirty secrets ;). If your tub is a mess too, here is how to clean a dirty bathtub.
how to clean a dirty bathtub
This is the “before” photo of my dirty bathtub from 2017. How embarrassing! It was covered in stains and dirt. I have tried SO many times to get the tub clean that I was planning on resurfacing it since I just couldn’t get it looking at all clean.
I figured that I would try one more time to clean it since I was redoing my bathroom and needed a pretty tub to go with the rest of the re-finished space.
why I didn’t want to resurface or paint
I didn’t want to resurface for a few reasons.
The first reason is the cost- it costs around $300 to resurface a tub.
I figured if I could clean it for $5 worth of cleaning supplies that’s a huge price difference!
The second reason is that you can’t use your tub for 24 hours after reglazing it. With this being our only bathroom and already not being able to use it while we redo the wall tile, we wanted to avoid those extra days.
And guess what?! Cleaning the tub worked! At first, I tried using Lime away and that got a small portion of the grime off, enough for me to have hope.
What really made the difference was spraying the tub down with a mixture of 1/2 warm water and 1/2 white vinegar.
I then sprinkled baking soda over the tub. Next, I let that sit a few minutes and then made a paste out of the water/vinegar and baking soda. Then, I let that sit for 15 minutes.
It took some major elbow grease to get the rest of the grime off (and probably 1 hour of scrubbing- I used a sponge and a cleaning toothbrush).
At first, it didn’t seem to be working that well, but soon pretty every little stain came off! I was thrilled! If you have super stubborn stains, you can soak a paper towel in white vinegar and let it sit on the stain for 1-2 hours and then make the baking soda paste.
There are all of the instructions for all of your Pinterest needs ;). And here is a before and after gif for your enjoyment. This is before the wall tiles were redone.
After the bathroom tile was finished, the whole space looked shiny and pretty!
how to get dye out of a bathtub
If you saw my post a few days ago, you saw I made the huge mistake of dyeing my drapes in the bathtub. When the water drained out- it was SO pink! Cat in the Hat pink ring in the tub pink. What was I thinking pink!
But I’d cleaned my tub before with vinegar, hot water, and baking so I’d try it again. I did and it was a fail. It cleaned the grime off, but didn’t touch the pink- sob!
I asked my readers on Instagram for help with cleaning the tub. Here’s what they suggested-
- Magic eraser
- @gocleanco hot water/ bleach / powdered tide
Scrubbing drill attachment
- Coca Cola
- Gel bleach
- White ox
- Bon ami powder
- Whitening toothpaste
- RIT color remover
- Denture cleaning tablet
- Dishwasher tablets
- Dye absorbing cloth
- Boat hull cleaner
- Rust remover spray
- Dawn dishsoap
- Paint the tub
- Pink stuff paste
- Mr. Green
- Lime away
- Lemon essential oil
- Dr. Brommers Castile soap
- Oven cleaner
- Norwex paste
- Pomice stone for cleaning
- Bleach and hot water
- Barkeepers Friend
- Toilet bowl cleaner
- Vinegar and Baking Soda
- Rubbing Alcohol
One thing that made cleaning my tub tricky is that my vintage 1950’s cast iron tub had been painted white by the previous owner. It used to be blue! But I think the white paint held onto the dye and was harder to clean that porcelain.
what worked and what didn’t work with cleaning the tub
bleach and water
The first thing that I tried that worked great was mixing 1 gallon hot water and 1/2 cup bleach and letting that soak in the tub overnight. I made sure to open the window and turn on the fan to try and keep the fumes down.
Note, when cleaning a bathtub, make sure to use hot water. It warms up the tub and will actually make the cleaning products more effective!
bar keeper’s friend
The second thing that worked was using Bar Keeper’s friend. I rinsed the tub with hot water and then sprinkled the powder on. I used a dish brush to cover the pink dye and then kept scrubbing. Soon the white powder mixture turned pink! It works!
I left the Bar Keeper’s Friend powder mixture on the tub and then about once an hour, came back, added a little more hot water and scrubbed some more. At the back of the tub the pink started to disappear! Again, more signs it was working!
This is the first time I’ve used Bar Keeper’s Friend and now I’m wondering what took so long?! I’m so glad to now have this affordable cleaner as a great option around my house!
Note, if you try different methods like this, MAKE SURE TO RINSE THE TUB between tries! Mixing bleach with other cleaners can create toxic fumes that could send you to the hospital. Don’t do it!
Second note, I wish I would have invested in a drill scrub brush attachment! They are super affordable and would have made all the hours of scrubbing go by quicker.
toilet bowl cleaner
Next, I tried squirting toilet bowl cleaner onto the tub. I covered the dye stained parts with the toilet bowl cleaner (make sure to use a cleaner with bleach in it). Then I let it sit.
This worked very well! My husband helped me with this project because he was sure he’d be better at it (spoiler alert- he was). He used a TON of toilet bowl cleaner and it worked like a charm!
Note- do not put the toilet bowl cleaner on grout or on tub hardware. It can ruin the grout and the finish on the hardware.
what didn’t work
At this point, I knew that bleach, toilet bowl cleaner, and bar keeper’s friend worked great! But I was having fun trying methods!
I used a magic eraser and soaked it with hot water. I scrubbed and scrubbed with it, but it didn’t touch the dye.
Another thing that didn’t work for the dye was using rubbing alcohol to try and get it out. I pour rubbing alcohol on a sponge and tried scrubbing the tub, but it also didn’t remove any dye.
Go Clean Co’s bleach, tide, water mix
Probably the number one suggestion I received was to use Go Clean Co’s mixture of 1/3 cup bleach, 1 gallon hot water, 1 teaspoon of powdered tide. So I bought the powdered tide and tried it out! I was SO hopeful! Probably 100 people wrote to me suggesting to try it.
And do you know what, it got the soap scum off the tiles like a dream, but it didn’t remove the dye very well. It really didn’t work for this purpose. But for cleaning a tub, I think this is a winning combination!
Note- Clorox’s website says that mixing Tide and Clorox is fine. But don’t mix it with anything else! Again, any mixing of cleaning products with bleach can cause toxic fumes and it’s just not worth the risk!
getting the tub white
After trying a bunch of different methods, we continued using a bleach soak overnight, the toilet bowl cleaner, and Bar Keeper’s friend to get the tub white again. Those were the winners for getting the dye out!
It’s not quite perfect, but I’m sure with a few more scrubs it’ll be back to pearly white. To be honest, this is the cleanest this tub has been in awhile!
Note, the paint on the tub came off in a few spots from the extreme chemicals and cleaning. We’ll have to touch those up. If you’re cleaning a painted tub, know that the paint coming up may be an adverse side effect.
And there you go, how to clean a dyed tub! I just showed my husband this and he said- “should have bought some drapes.” And he’s not wrong- lol! But it came clean and now I’m a professional tub cleaner ;). Hopefully this is helpful if you have a dirty tub too.
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Toilet Seat Guru says
Soak that tub for 2-3 hours in the Vinegar and Backing soda mix and you’ll be able to get the built-in anti-slip spots on the tub looking brand new. As well as the vinegar and baking soda work, there’s no replacement for patience and good old-fashioned elbow grease.
I admire your perseverance! I think after the first several rounds of scrubbing I would have just repainted 😂 But all’s well that ends well 🙂 As always I love following the process of your projects.
April Blake says
LOL oh no about the dyed tub! I recently “discovered” Barkeepers Friend too and can’t believe I never knew about it! AMAZING!
Love the bathtub photos. Looks like a murder mystery book cover!