It was so awful, I dyed.
June 15, 2017 5:52 AM   Subscribe

I color my hair black using home boxed color kits. I just moved into a new condo, and realized, as I was rinsing my hair color, that my bathtub is PLASTIC. The dye soaked right in and now I'm left with a stained, muddy-looking tub. Please help me with really specific cleaning suggestions.

Until now, when I would dye my hair, I'd bring a Magic Eraser into the shower with me (I KNOW, GENIUS) and just wipe down any dye splashes or stains with the magic eraser.

Unfortunately, the tub is too porous - and no matter how much I scrubbed with the eraser, the dye wouldn't come off.

1. How can I get these stains out? What are your foolproof stain-removal tips? I was going to try to let bleach sit on the stains and then rinse, and wipe down... will this work? I've never worked with "raw" bleach before - do I dilute it?

2. And do you have any suggestions for how to avoid this mess in the future? It's not financially feasable for me to get my roots dyed at a salon once a month, so I need a plan for how to keep the mess to a minimum.
posted by Dressed to Kill to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't an immediate fix, but IME dye stains from rinsing work their way out of porous tubs over months. I have stained counters and tubs over the years - including at college, where they put up with me far more than I deserved - and over multiple cleanings, it fades.

You should dilute bleach. Why not try some kind of bleachy product like Scrubbing Bubbles, spray thickly and let that sit?

For rinsing, would some combination of a big plastic tub and a detachable spray head work? It would be a huge nuisance, but also cheap - attach the sprayer to your sink and rinse your head into the tub, which should produce rinse water that is diluted enough that you can pour it down the tub drain without staining. Or what about doing this in the kitchen? Can you use a spray attachment at the kitchen sink? Again, not as convenient as the shower but not impossible.
posted by Frowner at 6:26 AM on June 15, 2017

Soft Scrub with bleach has been my tool of choice for getting (semipermanent) hair dye off surfaces for years. I can report that it worked on a plastic shower surround in a previous apartment.

Isopropyl alcohol has also worked on relatively fresh stains on surfaces as well as skin.
posted by fifthpocket at 6:28 AM on June 15, 2017 [6 favorites]

I have heard that toilet bowl cleaner with bleach will get pretty much any stain out of a tub (and it sticks well to the walls so it has time to do its work), but it might have unfortunate consequences if used frequently/long-term.

As for long-term "let's not mess up the tub again" solutions, what's your kitchen sink like? If it's stainless steel could you do the initial rinse-out/first shampoo or two in there? Alternately, rinse your hair into a bucket/tub (using a handheld showerhead - if you don't have one already this is a really easy thing to take care of yourself, you basically just unscrew the old showerhead and screw on the new one) and then dispose of the greywater (ha!) down the toilet.
posted by mskyle at 6:45 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Magic erasers are just very fine sandpaper. If the dye has soaked in deeply, you'd have to essentially sand down through enough layers to remove it. I think you'll be better off with chemical treatments (like bleach) that can also soak in. UV light might also be helpful, which can break the bonds of many dyes.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

It will wash out over time. No worries.

Bleach will just break down the plastic in the tub, ditto anything abrasive, so don't do that. Rubbing alcohol or peroxide soaking on a paper towel over the spot is as harsh as you should go chemical-wise.

Later, if the tub is new, you might report that the tub is cheap quality and is not sealed properly? Especially if regular cleaning degrades the surface over time. That's such bullshit.
posted by jbenben at 6:59 AM on June 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Seconding Soft Scrub with bleach. It's the only thing that's worked for me in similar situations.
posted by okayokayigive at 7:10 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

This how-to about refinishing a fiberglass tub talks about a gel coat sealant. Maybe call up a local home improvement place or specialty bath supply type place and ask if they sell products to refinish a fiberglass tub.
posted by aimedwander at 7:45 AM on June 15, 2017

You know those circle tablets you use to clean dentures? Put some water in the tub, add like ten tablets, and let it soak an hour. Their whole job is getting set in stains out of porous thingies.
posted by spunweb at 7:54 AM on June 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hi, professional independent residential/commercial cleaner here, 30 years experience:

Thirding the Soft Scrub with bleach suggestions, with the caveat to use the blue/green gel kind. Gel soaks into porous materials better, with none of the residual 'grit' of the white paste-style sort after rinsing. Spread an even layer over the affected areas, and let the layer sit for at least an hour, absolute minimum. If the gel has dried too much after said hour, liberally wet down a stiff scrub brush (plastic bristles work best, I use this one), and scour the hell out of the tub while keeping the brush moistened to re-activate the gel as you go. Lather, rinse, maim, repeat as necessary.


I cannot recommend strongly enough using lemon gel automatic dishwasher detergent, such as Cascade Complete, instead. The large plastic jug size, not gel packs. Employ the exact same process mentioned above, again repeating if necessary. Works miracles for me, with far less elbow grease involved.

Hope this helps. Best luck!
posted by Amor Bellator at 8:34 AM on June 15, 2017 [48 favorites]

On the off-chance Amor Bellator's remedy doesn't work for you, I read something just a couple days ago about white non-gel toothpaste taking a persistent stain out of a plastic bathtub.
posted by lakeroon at 9:21 AM on June 15, 2017

Response by poster: Amor Bellator's experience led me to try their method first, and I picked up Cascade Lemon with Bleach, and I popped home to try some on the ol' tub.

It started working IMMEDIATELY--so fast that I audibly gasped.

But it was still a bit of I let it sit for 10 min while I puttered around, checked back, and within 10 my test spot was totally clean. It's incredible.

So Amor Bellator - is this a regime I can repeat on a every-six-week basis for when I dye my roots? Or will it eventually degrade the tub?

Thanks, all!! And Thanks Metafilter for allowing 2 questions in a week! You saved my housewarming party!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 10:03 AM on June 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

Oh, man, awesome, thank you so much. I have a wet post-it stain I'm going to try the cascade on. (You know when you have a light-colored table and a bright pink post-it note gets wet and puts a neon square of pink on your table before anybody notices?)
posted by Don Pepino at 12:39 PM on June 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Aw, thrilled to learn it all worked out for you, Dressed to Kill! The follow-up post was quite a pleasant surprise, and very appreciated. To address your additional question:

Given the inability to visually or manually inspect the current condition of your tub in person, I would offer a qualified "yes" that it's a regimen that could be repeated on an every-six-weeks basis. If you keep a baseline in your mind of the current state the material is in starting from now, any eventual degradation will be more noticeable to you. The odds are realistically very slim that the automatic dishwasher detergent could cause significant wear over time, honestly. I have had occasion to repeat the method semi-regularly for certain of my cleaning clients, to no ill effect.

Should you not wish to risk anything, but still prefer to rinse the hair dye out in your tub that often, prevention would be your first line of defense. I'm thinking lining the tub and surround with some sort of barrier... say, cheap opaque PEVA/EVA shower curtain liners - tack them securely with tape, cut a hole for the drain, and lay a thick bath towel or mat on the tub floor to prevent slipping. I tend to file most of my ideas under "It's so crazy, it just might work!!", but YMMV. ;)

Thanks again, Dressed to Kill. Also, thanks go to the Mods, for graciously fixing the smegged link in my original answer! :)
posted by Amor Bellator at 11:48 AM on June 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older If the system can tell you your password, run away   |   How best to see the Chicago Bulls in Action next... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.