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How to clean an old bathtub.

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Sep 08, 2011, 04:25 PM
How to clean an old bathtub.
I have a very old bathtub. It has rust stains and the walls just look dingy. Any suggestions? I've tried all the cleaners on the market and even some that are sold only in hardware stores, with little success. I've even filled it up and added bleach and let it soak overnight.
Sep 08, 2011, 10:49 PM
Someone posted here about using oven cleaner. Do a search to see the directions.
Sep 09, 2011, 03:24 AM
"How to clean" depends entirely on what you're cleaning off of what. Otherwise the whole subject could be summed up by advising someone to use a damp sponge and a rotating motion.

Oven cleaner is the most effective thing you can use to remove soap scum that I know of. Phosphoric acid is also commonly used as a bathroom cleaner because it cuts through soap scum like a hot knife through butter, but it won't attack chrome, even at high concentrations. Most toilet bowl cleaners will contain EITHER phosphoric acid OR hydrochloric acid as their active ingredient and every janitorial supply store will sell both (if you can't find them in the cleaning aisle of your local home center).

However, if your bathroom walls look "dingy", is it because there's mildew growing on the ceramic tile of those walls? If so, that can be cleaned off, too. The way I've found is to first clean the grout lines with phosphoric acid to remove the soap scum from the porous surface of the grout, and then apply bleach to the grout lines to kill the mildew. This process takes time, and you have to keep applying the bleach over a period of a day or two. If mildew still remains on the grout after that time then it's because the grout isn't wicking the bleach in, and another shot of phosphoric acid is in order. If that doesn't help, then you need to replace the grout. In my building, which has 21 bathrooms, I've replaced no more than 2 linear feet of grout over the past 25 years. However, I also use a grout sealer on my grout after cleaning it, and that prevents mildew growth in the first place.

If the mildew is growing on the silicone caulk, that can be cleaned off as well. Simply make a paste out of bleach mixed with Borax (available in the laundry detergent aisle of your local supermarket). Scoop the paste out of the mixing container with a large spoon and use a small plastic spoon to spread that paste over your silicone caulk. Then, cover with Saran Wrap to prevent the bleach from drying out, and the next day your silicone will be white as Manitoba snow. I usually leave my bleach on for more than 12 hours, often several days.

Because I do this kind of work often, I buy a special 6 inch wide tape (called "pre-mask") from a tape supplier here in Winnipeg, and it's easier to put on than Saran Wrap, but Saran Wrap will work equally well.

"Any suggestions?" you ask.

YES! One thing you can do is open your yellow pages phone directory to "Janitorial Equipment & Supplies". Not only will every place listed there sell directly to you (cuz they sell to companies, schools, hospitals and cleaning contractors, and so there's no such thing as a cleaning products retail store to bark at them for stealing their customers. Hardware stores and supermarkets buy from other sources, so they have no influence over your local janitorial supply stores.

Most people buy their cleaning supplies at the supermarket where the only sources of advice they can turn to are the 19 year old stocking the shelves and the 1-800 Customer Service phone number found on the cleaning product itself. Lemme tell ya, the people that answer those 1-800 phone numbers are given a 2 day course on how to use the company's products. They simply don't have the experience to know what can cause the product not to work, or what can happen if things don't go exactly as their usage directions state. It's precisely that kind of knowledge and experience that real people need in real situations.

By buying your cleaning supplies from a janitorial supply store you get all the free technical support thrown in free of charge. That is, the people running the place will have regular contact with manufacturer's representatives and cleaning contractors and other customers and will have encountered cleaning problems and found out what works best to remove what from what. It's that acquired knowledge over a career's time in the cleaning business that you get free of charge and which a customer service 1-800 number simply can't compare to.

But, be careful. Lots of janitorial supply stores eek out a living by selling toilet paper and light bulbs to community centers and bingo halls where no one gives a crap about doing a good job or understanding the science and chemistry of cleaning. Try to find a family run business where the operators realize that the more they learn about cleaning, the more valuable they are to their customers, and you'll have an excellent source of reliable information to turn to.

Another few places to learn about cleaning and cleaning chemistry are:

The Soap and Detergent Manufacturer's Association Website, which now calls itself "The American Cleaning Institute" at:

which is the web site operated by a trade publication that caters to the janitorial service sector of the economy.

Using a paint made specifically for bathrooms also helps in keeping the walls of bathrooms free of mildew and peeling paint.

Post again if you want to know exactly what soap scum is and why oven cleaner is so effective in removing it.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Nestor,
Sep 09, 2011, 06:33 PM
WOW. Try a Brillo pad and a soap scum cleaner. Eek

Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Sep 10, 2011, 11:05 PM
Try something natural like baking soda and salt. It's a lot safer than chemicals and has worked well for me on an old cheap tub that accumulated more scum and mold than any other tub I've encountered.
Nov 12, 2011, 06:19 PM
Since you mentioned there's also rust it may be just to far gone to just clean. If the old finish is cleaned so much with abrasive cleaners or scrub pads over the years it wears off the finish and the steel or cast iron becomes explosed. It can still be refinished by a pro and last many more years.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: joecaption,

Nov 13, 2011, 06:24 PM
dont use any steel wool product coarser than #0000. anything coarser thn that will scratch the porcelain on the tub and the ceramic on the tile
The phosphoric acid will kill the rust but leave a black coating on it.( it will convert the rust to feric phosphate which is black in color ) Try instead T.S.P. (tri sodium phosphate ) and water in a paste and scrub the tub and tile with the steel wool. Make sure to rinse the tub and tile well to get rid of all the tiny steel particles. After you clean the tub, you will probably have to refinish it anyway. They do sell kits to do this but it's only a temporary fix until the tub can be replaced. As far as the tile goes, after you clean it you should seal the grout lines
Incidentally, bleach will not touch rust. I know it will set it on concrete. Bleach is only good on organic stuff. Possibly oxalic acid might work , but I'd stick to the T.S.P., easier to use and more ecologically friendly

This message has been edited. Last edited by: nona,
Nov 13, 2011, 07:11 PM
I'd would never use any form of steel wool. Any specks left behind will leave
Nov 13, 2011, 07:16 PM
I'd never use steel wool, it will leave behind tiny specks of rust, bronze wool or a Scotch brite pad instead. And only as a last resort. A rag and something like Scrubbing bubbles before that so there's no scratches.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: joecaption,

Nov 13, 2011, 09:51 PM
Joes right, just that you have to make certain that the bronze wool or the scotch brite pad is not any more abrasive than #0000 steel wool. Not wanting to spend a lot of time finding bronze wool or a fine scotch brite pad, I've used the steel wool sucessfully on a tile shower, I just made absolutely sure that I rinsed the shower off thoroughly then washed it down with soap and water and rinsed again, so far I've had no problems, repeat, clean it thoroughly

This message has been edited. Last edited by: nona,
Nov 16, 2011, 02:43 AM
Please help me and give advice how to clean pool water and maintain its hygiene.Recently I came to my know Geothermal pools containing warm water may lead to amoeba meningitis which is a fatal disease caused by amoeba.these organism can be found in natural outdoor pools, and in commercial pools such as public swimming pools,health centres and gyms. Some geothermal pools can be found in private homes.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: A_simon,
Nov 16, 2011, 04:39 PM
Wow, thats bad stuff, I did a search on it and they said to make sure to keep your head, nose and mouth out of the water and to be certain to chlorinate the pool. also to make certain that there is no run-off going into the pool.I'd add one more thing "don't let any part of your skin get wet ",
Don't take any advice from anyone telling you haw to protect yourself, I don't think any one here is qualified to advise you.If it were me, I'd check with the local board of health to find out what you need to do and if your still not satisfied, eliminate the source of the water and use regular house water instead. If your still not sure of yourself, get rid of the pool
since writing the above, I did a further search, and found that it's really rare in the U.S. and not to be too concerned, but I would still check with the board of health

This message has been edited. Last edited by: nona,
Nov 16, 2011, 05:27 PM
A_Simon, I also think you might want to check with a local public health board, or even contact the CDC (Center for Disease Control).

I did find some articles on geothermal pools and the hazards of amoeba meningitis which might be helpful: See the sections on General Safety Requirements, Circulation Requirements, Filtration, Disinfectant, Water Quality and the sections following those.

After reading this, I'm wondering if your state has standards of use and cleanliness for geothermal pools. Also, is the geothermal pool in question one which you intend to use on your property for yourself and family. or open to the public? If the latter, it seems you might be exposing yourself to some liability if you're not able to comply completely with any requirements.

Are you planning to use these pools for therapeutic use for patients? If so, then I think the company for which you work would be responsible for the maintenance and safety, and would be well advised to discuss this with its legal counsel to ensure compliance as well as safety for patients.

California may have a state regulation and/or department governing this issue. You might want to try California's environmental protection department if you're not able to get the information you need from your local health board.

Just out of curiosity, with the attendant risk of amoebic meningitis, what is your reason for using the geothermal pool?

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
Dec 02, 2011, 04:09 PM
piggybacked questions: not excellent. folks will miss the information.

pool hygiene is easily handled by talking to a pool specialist. like as in the guys who sell pools and supplies. if you maintain pH and chlorine levels where their guidelines say, only the roughest and toughest organisms will survive, even as spores.

where the amoebic meningitis is most common is in stagnant natural waters (and it's not a very common illness, but frequently fatal when it arises.) this amoeba is rather tough to kill as it forms spores readily. like all these sorts of things, the answer is regular drain, clean, and fill cycles of the pool, and periodic shock treatments with higher concentrations of chlorine or bromine disinfectants.

as an example, at least 3 times a year, our health club drains the big pool (weekly for the whirlpool spa) and they shock the big pool weekly. but these guys test and adjust several times a day.

talk about natural warm water and bugs: they're still finding new species of bacteria in the warm springs at Yellowstone. still!

This message has been edited. Last edited by: swschrad,

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Jan 26, 2012, 09:14 PM
I know this is an old post, but use a Magic Eraser. I cleaned a rental property of my mothers and I tried all kinds of stuff on the filthy old tub, I even used a scrubby with Ajax and it wouldnt come off.. then I tried out the Magic Eraser... Holy Cow... it came off immediately and so easy! Just thought I would share incase you are still having issues!

Originally posted by Briggs:
I have a very old bathtub. It has rust stains and the walls just look dingy. Any suggestions? I've tried all the cleaners on the market and even some that are sold only in hardware stores, with little success. I've even filled it up and added bleach and let it soak overnight.

Jan 28, 2012, 06:44 PM
the MAGIC ERASER has been the Only product that has worked in my sinks and bathtub and shower and even my floor tiles. it truely is magic.
Originally posted by Briggs:
I have a very old bathtub. It has rust stains and the walls just look dingy. Any suggestions? I've tried all the cleaners on the market and even some that are sold only in hardware stores, with little success. I've even filled it up and added bleach and let it soak overnight.

Feb 08, 2012, 07:26 PM
Weeks & FunnyBunny:

Next time, put on a pair of rubber gloves and use your Magic Eraser to clean your bathtub with oven cleaner. Try not to let any oven cleaner go down your tub's drain, tho.

You see, if you look at a Magic Eraser (whose formal name is "Basotect Foam" and is made by the BASF Company of Germany) under an electron microscope, it looks like this:

Note the scale on the bottom right hand corner of that micrograph. A micron is one million'th of a meter, or 1/1000 of a millimeter. Your typical caucasian hair is 100 microns in diameter, so the tiny fibers that make up Basotect foam are typically about 1/10th the diameter of a hair. That makes them small enough to get into tiny crevices that the very much thicker bristles of brushes can't get into. So, Basotect foam cleans well because it's "bristles" are very much smaller and can get into tinier crevices.

Chemically, soap is nothing more than a sodium ion attached to a long hydrocarbon chain, like this:

In fact, the only reason soap is soluble in water is because that sodium ion on the end of the soap molecule is attracted to polar water molecules.

When you have "hard" water, your water contains calcium, magnesium and iron ions, and often two or three soap molecules will lose interest in their respective sodium ions and become attracted to those calcium, magnesium and iron ions to form molecules that look like this:



These three molecules are soap scum molecules. Soap scum is simply soap that has a very low solubility in wanter.

Soap scum molecules consist of a hardness ion that is surrounded by hydrocarbon chains which have no affinity for water at all, and the result is that the resulting molecule has very low solubility in water. As a result, soap scum preciptiates out of water to form a ring around your bath tub.

Oven cleaner is sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which when dissolved in water breaks up into sodium ions (Na+) and hydroxide ions (OH-). When you clean your bathtub with oven cleaner, you vastly increase the number of sodium ions, which drives the chemical reaction that produced the soap scum in the opposite direction.

With an abundance of sodium ions available, soap scum molecules break down to form soap molecules again, which are easy to remove because they're soluble in water.

So, the Magic Eraser cleans the soap scum out of the tiny scratches and crevices in the enamel of your tub, and the oven cleaner converts that soap scum back into soap, which dissolves in the water component of the oven cleaner.

So, next time use a Magic Eraser wet with oven cleaner for better results that come faster and easier than you could get with a Magic Eraser or with oven cleaner alone.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Nestor,
Jun 13, 2012, 04:55 AM
Why don't you go for the professional cleaners advice? I think it will be more helpful for you to getting the best cleaning services with products.
chandelier installation

This message has been edited. Last edited by: NelsonJohn,
Jun 14, 2012, 02:51 AM
Professional cleaner? Landlord?
What's the difference?
Jun 14, 2012, 02:25 PM
what you really need is a nelsonjohn chandelier