My tub! It cannot be cleaned!
December 27, 2013 2:06 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I are moving into a house soon (woo-hoo!) and want to leave our apartment spotless. This isn't an issue for any part of the place except for the bath tub!

Somehow, at some point, the tub ended up dirty/stained, despite the fact that we clean it regularly. I had thought that it was just in need of some bleach, instead of the typical diluted Awesome that we use, but liberal applications of Chlorox aren't helping either.

So far, I've tried ammonia, bleach (with many showers in between the two), vinegar, vinegar + water, some oxy-clean type product, and dish soap. I'm not sure what else I can try. I was thinking Mr. Clean Magic Eraser next, though wanted to query the hive mind before I went on a cleaning product shopping spree.

Any advice will help... please help me save our security deposit!

(sorry for no pictures, I can't find the USB cord for my camera!)
posted by Verdandi to Home & Garden (27 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
What material is the tub? Is it the tub, tile, grout, or caulking that's stained?
posted by peep at 2:08 PM on December 27, 2013

Yes, what you need is a melamine sponge (also called Magic Eraser). In my area you can get them at a substantial savings at the dollar store. You might need a few. I cleaned a tub once that we despaired over with some of those and an hour (!) or two.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:10 PM on December 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Gosh, bleach is the exact wrong thing to use on old enamel bathtubs. It will stain them orange.

I tend to use Barkeeper's Friend for soap scum and dirt stains. It's also fabulous in the kitchen.
posted by janey47 at 2:11 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

I was just going to recommend the magic eraser. What that actually is, is a super-mega-fine sandpaper that can get the stain molecules off without scratching things.*

*This is not scientifically-accurate language as such.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:11 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

N-thing Magic Eraser, but test it on an small spot first.

Also, keep them away from kids who might be tempted to rub their faces with them to see what happens. Bad abrasive burns are what happens. :(
posted by jquinby at 2:12 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hard to say without knowing exactly what the problem is, but this vinegar + Dawn concoction has worked REALLY well for me in the past (I know you say you've tried that combo, but I think something magical must happen when you heat the vinegar up). If the issue is soap scum, it should melt right off.

Seconding Barkeeper's Friend--it has gotten some pretty stubborn stains out of my enamel sink with little to no scrubbing. And definitely give the Magic Eraser a shot, it's amazing.
posted by lovableiago at 2:12 PM on December 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Magic Eraser/melamine sponge will actually dull the finish on some materials (some plastics, polished metal), so definitely test first. (A dull finish may be preferable to staining, though.)

I agree that we need to know what kind of material the tub is.

Also, what color is the staining? If it's orange, then as janey47 notes, it may actually be bleach staining. I've had success removing bleach staining from a laminate countertop with Tarn-X.
posted by pie ninja at 2:16 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Disregard all other advice, i'm writing this as a former apartment managers kid who cleaned a LOT of nasty vacant apartments, and also as someone who's heard other landlords mention this.

Oven cleaner. The spray on, nasty, chemically foam-up kind?

DOUSE the mofo in that shit, let it sit on there until it's completely de-foamed and running down the tub and you feel like you've waited too long. Then you wipe it down with a sponge and hose it down with hot water and make sure you really rinse it all off.

Still some stains? Wipe it down so it's mostly dry and hose it down with oven cleaner again.

This will work, and requires little to no actual labor. It works faster and better than any other solution here. This will also work on hard water stains on sinks, etc.
posted by emptythought at 2:22 PM on December 27, 2013 [16 favorites]

Seconding Barkeeper's Friend. It removed what I thought were permanent stains on our white enamel sink.
posted by Frowner at 2:23 PM on December 27, 2013

I used toilet bowl cleaner in a similar situation once and it worked.
posted by mareli at 2:23 PM on December 27, 2013

I've cleaned tubs after tenants with underwhelming housekeeping skills. When it's beyond the scope of normal tub/tile cleaners, these usually work for me:

- Javelin lime & scale remover, or rust stain remover. Impressive stuff. I'm not sure if it's available in the US.

- Magic Erasers work well on soap scum, but you'll go through a lot of them if it's really dirty.

- Razor scraper and patience.
posted by CKmtl at 2:27 PM on December 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it might be lime too, you could try lime-a-way. If you have hard water, I'd give it a try. We moved into this place and told the previous tenants we'd clean it and it really worked.
posted by katinka-katinka at 2:33 PM on December 27, 2013

Barkeeps friend, Ajax also make a similar product that has bleach in I think.
posted by wwax at 2:36 PM on December 27, 2013

I've used lye in small quantities and it worked awesome. But I wouldn't use it regularly because I imagine it would etch the tub. Lye is sold as drain cleaner.
posted by aniola at 2:56 PM on December 27, 2013

Best answer: Oven Cleaner. The trick is to let it do the work. VENTILATE WELL!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:45 PM on December 27, 2013

Toilet boil cleaner is the most effective solution, and the fastest.
posted by michaelh at 3:50 PM on December 27, 2013

If your tub is enamel I would try a pumice stick. I know, it sounds crazy, but they really, really work on appropriate materials. I keep some for toilet bowls and for oven cleaning (separate ones, obviously) and they don't even take much elbow grease. My local 99-cent store has stocked them for years, but they're only $3-4 dollars at the supermarket. Test it on a small spot first!
posted by Room 641-A at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

For soap scum and griminess, Magic Eraser is in fact completely magic. For enamel, barkeeper's friend took out pinkish stains that seemed permanent. Both take virtually no effort and work in places where hard scrubbing with the wrong tool does almost nothing.
posted by lorimt at 4:09 PM on December 27, 2013

Straight up baking soda and elbow grease - won't scratch the surface the way magic erasers do, and it's way cheaper. You can spray some cleaning solution or dish soap, sprinkle some baking soda, let it sit for a minute or two and then get to work. You might need to do a few passes to get all the gunk, but I swear it works.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:21 PM on December 27, 2013

hands down the product that works the best AND is eco-friendly is a pumice stick, often called a pumi stick. it will clean your tub amazingly well without killing all the fish in the nearest body of water or your brain cells. just don't rub too hard as these things really do work. i use it on my fiberglass tub just fine too. you can probably get one at your grocery store or hardware store. please don't use oven cleaner. that stuff is ridiculously toxic.
posted by wildflower at 4:24 PM on December 27, 2013

Barkeeper's Friend and Zud are both good choices, they contain oxalic acid (what makes your teeth squeak when eating swiss chard, and also what makes rhubarb leaves poisonous). Even though is is an organic acid, it is one of the few acids that can etch glass (eventually). It is also an excellent binder (chelator) of metals, so it does double duty.
posted by 445supermag at 4:32 PM on December 27, 2013

Response by poster: To answer a question above, my husband thinks the tub is porcelain with some sort of sealant over it, but he's not 100% positive (he used to be a contractor). I'll give some of the ideas above a shot--oven cleaner, who knew?

The tub itself is what's stained, the tile and grout are fine.

Thanks all, still welcoming any and all ideas... I want this thing CLEAN!
posted by Verdandi at 4:44 PM on December 27, 2013

It's not the detergent you need, it's an abrasive. Make a paste with baking soda and just a little bit of water and scrub. (Soap + body grease makes it stick to the tub.)
posted by St. Peepsburg at 4:57 PM on December 27, 2013

An alternative approach is to use an oxygen bleach (Oxyclean or no name equivalent). Let it sit for as long as possible. You do not need abrasive.
posted by ssg at 5:34 PM on December 27, 2013

The vinegar+Dawn always works for me and bonus! It's nontoxic. (But does still involve some little bit of elbow grease).

I spray it on at night, then wait until morning to start scrubbing.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:02 PM on December 27, 2013

N'thing Barkeeper's Friend. That stuff was a miracle on my nasty 1955 porcelain apartment tub.
posted by Sayuri. at 7:04 PM on December 27, 2013

Response by poster: Holy crap, oven cleaner worked! Easy-Off was the first stuff I came across so we used it... Sprayed generously on the tub, left it on for ~3h and wiped it down with a wet rag. I can't believe it--it's a darn miracle.

Haven't tried Barkeeper's Friend (didn't find it in the store I found the Easy-Off in), but will keep in in mind for the future. Thank you, everyone!!
posted by Verdandi at 10:24 AM on January 18, 2014

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