How to repair tub finish damaged from toilet bowl cleaner
July 18, 2018 2:48 AM   Subscribe

I thought it would be a great idea to use toilet bowl cleaner on the tub. Turns out, not so much. Now my tub finish appears to be etched in the places where the tub cleaner was applied. And the other areas look grosser than ever in comparison. I need help.

I applied the toilet bowl cleaner to the sides of the tub just like you would in a toilet, and let it sit for a few minutes. The tub was dry at the time. After a few minutes I scrubbed it off with a scrubbing sponge, as you would do with a toilet. Rinsed with water. Where the cleaner made contact with the tub, there are lines / drip marks that have the appearance of being cleaner in those areas. I applied the cleaner liberally, so there are many lines.

In between those lines the tub surface looks filthy. It is not, however, because after all of the toilet cleaner was very well rinsed, I filled the tub with (cold) water and added bleach and let it sit for a few minutes.

So. The tub now has what appear to be dirt streaks (but are not actually dirt, I get that, but you as a guest would think twice about getting into my "filthy" tub); my question is how to minimize the appearance discrepancy between the "clean" streaks and the "dirty" streaks, and my second question is have I irreparably damaged the finish of my tub, and/or how can I repair it?
posted by vignettist to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
What do the 'cleaner' lines / drip marks look like when dry? Matted or glossy?
If the way it looks is in itself okay, you might consider 'etching' the whole tub like that, so you'd at least get an even appearance all over... but probably best to do this only after you know for sure that what happened before cannot be reversed.

It might also be useful to know what the tub is made from.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:53 AM on July 18, 2018

Depends on the brand, but toilet bowl cleaner is usually some type of acid...I have seen citric and hydrochloric.

Since you rinsed in between it should be okay but you never want to mix them with bleach since there can be a very unpleasant reaction which (again depending on the specific formulation of the two products ) can produce a reaction that includes chlorine gas...which is not fun.

As for the tub it sounds like the cleaner was a stronger acid and it etched/dissolved part of the glaze or sealing on the outside of the tubs inner surface. If so there probably isn't much you can do. I know they make a paint like material you can use to touch up spots on tubs and sinks but again it will depend on exactly what kind of surface it is.
posted by Captain_Science at 2:59 AM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think you have removed some built-up soap scum in the areas where the cleaner had direct contact with the tub (the drips). Without cleaners that cover completely, you won't remove the scum without a lot of elbow grease. Filling the tub with water and bleach will do next to nothing to remove soam scum.

Go buy a foam cleaner designed for tubs. Get a good scrubby sponge or brush and reclean the tub. It'll look completely different than it does now.
posted by quince at 3:42 AM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Do you know what your tub is made from? I think this will make a big difference in what people suggest.

For what it's worth, when I got this effect with toilet cleaner on my tub it was, in fact, because the rest of it had a coating of soap scum. Applying the cleaner with a sponge so it coats the whole surface, letting it sit and then scrubbing again solved the problem.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:45 AM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

A Magic Sponge (or two or four on a tub) will remove built up soap scum, when used with some elbow grease.
posted by sarajane at 3:49 AM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

If it is just soap scum it can be removed with a paste of baking soda and a bit of elbow grease. Baking soda is non-abrasive so you won't scratch the tub. I just sprinkle a layer all over the tub and then start scrubbing with a wet sponge. The tub will be slippery after doing this so be sure to rinse the sponge and wipe down the tub again after washing away the soda.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:13 AM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

It's more effective to clean the tub when it's quite wet, do it after a shower.
posted by theora55 at 7:09 AM on July 18, 2018

The tub is original to the house (so, roughly 75 years old); it's porcelain over metal.
posted by vignettist at 7:56 AM on July 18, 2018

Just wanted to mention that if worst comes to worst, there are companies that can reglaze the tub without removing it. If you do this you can either have the color restored or they can do something completely different.
posted by azpenguin at 8:17 AM on July 18, 2018

I agree with other posters who suggest you're probably seeing clean spots rather than damaged spots. You could try Soft Scrub and a sponge, or a Magic Eraser, to get the rest of the tub clean.
posted by adiabatic at 8:47 AM on July 18, 2018

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