How to Clean a Bathtub

Updated: Jan. 11, 2023

Find out how to clean a bathtub—including the toughest spots and scum, plus the best cleaning products to give your elbow grease extra oomph.

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Before you can take a relaxing bubble bath, you need to clean the bathtub! Here’s a handy step-by-step guide to routine cleaning, plus tricks for dealing with more stubborn stains. With a little elbow grease and some help from our favorite products, your tub will sparkle—no matter how long you’ve neglected it!

How to Clean a Bathtub

  • Step 1: Squirt Barkeepers Friend Soft Cleanser in bathtub. Use a microfiber cloth to spread the cleanser all over the interior of the tub. Make sure to get the ledge as well as the walls and floor.
  • Step 2: Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Step 3: Use a damp, soft sponge or microfiber cloth to scrub the tub, faucet and drain. Wipe the outside of the tub, too. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Step 4: Wipe down the outside of the tub with a dry cloth to avoid drip marks.
  • Step 5: Polish the faucet and drain with Windex.

How to Clean Bathtub Stains

The gentle abrasive cleaning power in Barkeeper’s Friend Soft Cleanser will get rid of the everyday dirt and grime in your bathtub. But here’s how to tackle some of those lingering stains that are a little more stubborn.

Hard Water Stains

Old rusty bathtub with a metal drain hole. Dirty cracked unclean surface of the bath or sink with red rust stain, close-up. Corrosion, unsanitary.Ksenia Valyavina/Getty Images

The best way to fight hard water stains is, luckily, with an inexpensive pantry staple — vinegar! (Not too surprising, since vinegar can clean almost everything.) In this case, the acidity in vinegar eats away at the mineral deposits from hard water. Grab a spray bottle and mix equal parts water and vinegar. Spray the solution on the bathtub stains, let sit for at least 15 minutes, then wipe clean.

Soap Scum

Wet fat, hair loss, waste accumulating, clogging shower bath drainsasimoto/Getty Images

Soap scum, unfortunately, can also be blamed on hard water. Minerals commonly found in hard water, like calcium and magnesium, combine with the fatty acids in soap to create a sticky layer that bonds to the bathtub. The other bad news? Soap scum can contain some truly gross ingredients like dirt, dead skin cells and bacteria.

To get rid of it, combine one cup of baking soda and 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Once the mixture is done bubbling, you’ll be left with a paste. Apply the paste to the soap scum areas and let sit for about 20 minutes. Scrub clean with a sponge, then rinse. The transformation from scummy to sparkling is so satisfying.

By the way, here are more ways to clean with baking soda.

Pink Mildew

Mould in a bathroomMarcus Krauss/Getty Images

Pink mildew is formed when a type of airborne bacteria clings to soap scum, creating a pink or orange color. If you see it in your bathtub, create a cleaning paste with 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Using a soft bristle brush, apply paste to the bacteria and scrub away the pink film. Rinse well. (Did you know you can also clean your tub with a broom?) Once the pink is gone, you’ll need to disinfect the area. Fill a spray bottle with a 1:1 ratio of bleach and water, and spray the contaminated area. Let sit for 10 minutes, then rinse.

The Cleaning Tools Pros Use

Inspired to scrub? Here’s our complete bathroom-cleaning guide.