Filthy Bathtub? A Brilliant Idea To Bring It Back To Life

Think your old, grungy bathtub is beyond repair? Then this is the tip is for you! If nothing seems to bring it to a shine, you can try spraying a layer of oven cleaner on the surface.

YardI have an old bottle of Easy-Off in my chemical crate and the back label reads:

…is ideal for barbecue grills, NON-ALUMINUM and NON-CHROME pots, pans, skillets, fryers, drip pans, etc.

Also cleans surfaces of porcelain enamel, stainless steel, undecorated ceramics, and concrete.

  • For white porcelain surfaces that are hopelessly stained and you don’t have the cash for a refinishing job, I found this does do a good job lifting grime. Make sure you open the bathroom window first to ventilate the room as much as possible and wear a face mask if you find the fumes overwhelming.
  • You will see the foam ooze out black and brown grime. Let it work for a few hours before rinsing off.
  • The chemicals are very harsh so I would only use this if nothing else works. I did use this myself once on a 20 year old tub that was deeply stained and it worked like a charm. I can’t say if it damaged the finish at all or if it had any undesirable long term results but as a non-expert, I didn’t notice any ill effects.

I don’t know if this is safe to use on colored porcelain, but you can test a small area if you’d like to find out.

Tip: If it’s a plastic or acrylic bathtub that has hard to remove stains, try soaking laundry detergent in it for a few hours–this can do wonders too!

Update: Here’s a cautionary note sent in from a reader:

I used three fourths of a can (Easy Off) making sure every inch was was covered and it didn’t work at all and it took off all the color on my new brass colored drains on the tub, making them all turn black.

Although none of the hardware discolored when I used this method, it’s something to be aware of (test a small area first just to be sure).

Kickin Soak

Here’s a “miracle paste” you can try plus details for using a laundry detergent soak.

  • Fill the tub with hot water and add 2 to 3 cups of powdered laundry detergent. Soak overnight. Drain then wipe down with a hot, wet sponge.

Laundry detergents that work well for this task:

Tide, Ivory Snow, Cheer or any detergent that has enzymes.

Miracle Paste

If things are particularly grimy, here’s a paste you can try*:

  • Make a paste with baking soda and bleach, then apply to wet sponge to scrub off grime.
  • Rinse well then voila! grime-free and sparkling.
  • To scrub down the shower walls and tiles, use the bleach and baking soda paste with a nylon scrubber, rinse well.

*Don’t use if you’ve applied ammonia or ammonia based solutions to the tub.


Peeling off old decals reveals a sticky mess or dark dried up glue underneath. Here are a few different methods to remove them, get that gunk up and surfaces back to a shine.

  • If the decals don’t pull off easily, fill the tub with very hot water about 1″ deep with a cup of white vinegar poured in, soak for several minutes until the water has cooled enough to comfortably put your hands in (but still very warm). Then take a plastic scraper (or old credit card) and gently try prying an edge of the decal up and then pulling it off completely. Drain the water and dry the surface.
  • You could also try heating each decal with a hair dryer and then pulling it up once the glue has melted underneath. *DO NOT DO THIS* if there is any water in the tub! Gah! I feel silly just typing that–but–you know.

How To Remove The Residue

Method #1

  • Cover each gunk spot with a paper towel, then saturate the towel with vinegar. Press the towel firmly on each spot to make sure the gunk is soaking in the vinegar. Leave alone for a few hours (keep pouring on vinegar if the paper towel starts drying) then remove and rub each spot gently with baking soda and a wet cloth. The gunk should wipe up easily.

Method #2

  • Rub in petroleum jelly and leave it sit for an hour. Then take a hot, wet cloth and work the jelly in and then wipe up.

Method #3

  • Slather mayonnaise on each spot, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for a few hours. Wipe away mayo and if some residue is still stubborn–rub gently with some baking soda.

Method #4

  • Make a thick paste of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide, slather it on decal residue. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for an hour. Then take a wet cloth and work in the paste until residue is gone.

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    • marie

    I use oven cleaner on my porcelain tub every few months to remove built up soap scum. I wipe the cleaner off the chrome with a wet rag right away. It works like a charm. I even spray it on my ceramic tile around the tub. I have done this for years, and the tub and tile are colored, and over 40 years old.

      • andrea

      can i use it on a plastic tub

    • Pam

    WOW – unbelieveable! My husband has dry skin and lathers himself in lotion, oil – you name it, and with 3 boys and as a full-time employed Mom – my porcelain bathtub was the pits. Caked on, baked on stuff that would not come off. I tried every product known to man, plus a high pressure water hose, and elbow grease till I couldn’t move. Even tried the famous white erasers… NOTHING WORKED — until I read the tip on tipster about using Easy-Off oven cleaner. Sprayed it on – waited several hours – turned the shower on hot and the caked on, baked on grundge simply washed down the drain. I really cannot believe it! If you have tried EVERYTHING and NOTHING works – do yourself a favor and try the Easy-Off Oven Cleaner. I wish I had known about this $1000 ago. (Doesn’t smell bad, but open your windows and don’t inhale). THANK YOU TIPSTER!!!

    • Kris

    I bought the dollar store variety of oven cleaner, opened up the bathroom window, sprayed it on thick in the tub, closed the door and let the oven cleaner work for a few hours. I was amazed to see the brown gunk that it brought up to the surface. I then rinsed the tub well with hot water and it worked amazingly well.

    Tub looks great! Thanks so much for this tip.

      • DEBORAH


    • jaxgilmcg

    i used easy off on a tub nothing i tried worked til this i did not wait hours only 45 min then scrubed with a brush amazed is not thew word i am going to try again and wait a few hours i highly recomenfd it works wonders

    • SKE

    Will this work on the grout between the wall tiles too? My tiled shower walls are beyond disgusting.

    • Pink

    The oven cleaner does work! My son’s bathroom had a fiberglass tub that wouldn’t come clean. I tried everything from Comet to bleach to borax. I even filled it up and let it sit overnight with cleaner, but it nothing worked. That is until I tried the oven cleaner and a little extra elbow grease.

      • Lauren Lohr

      I used the blue cap easy off and it was amazing! My tub is original installed 1943. Someone prior to us living here put a mat in the porcelain tub, the stain was embedded so bad nothing would even fade it till I used easy off. I have been using this method every couple of months. May stain is gone! My tub looks new! One thing is do not let it get on your hardware! It takes the finish off.

    • tom | tall clover farm

    This is a great tip for a guy with a 100-year-old tub, but I think I’ll do a little more research to find out if there may be an adverse effect on the septic system.

      • ann beck


      Did it have an adverse effect on the septic system?

    • Sandy

    Borax works with all tubs and tile. Make a thick paste with Borax and water. Wear rubber gloves, like you use in the kitchen. Use your gloved hands to rub and spread the Borax/water paste. You can rub the grime and mess out withour fumes. Then just wash out. Everything will shine,

    • Shirley Grady

    Thanks for the ideas for cleaning an old bathtub…….I have a question…
    I have a light blue carpet in my home and cats and dogs have stained it with
    food, etc, (at times) and when they were newly born, a few hard to get out
    urine stains. Please don’t tell me to use commercial carpet cleaners, as NONE
    of them work – twenty years of trying a lot of things has not budged the stains!
    Help!!! Somebody must have a “solution” that actually works!!! Thank you.

      • Elisa McCrea

      Shirley, There is a product in the baby section of places like Walmart and Kmart it comes in a spray bottle. It’s called Toddler something. It’s made for formula/food stains and cloth diaper stains. I’ve used it on just about everything and it has always worked for me.

      • mommymilestones

      I swear by spot shot. It’s a carpet stain remover and works on clothes. Great on spagettios stains.

      • JEANIE

      MY husband works for an asphalt Co. Our poor New carpet has fallen victim to him not taking his shoes off. I got an idea from pinterest and it worked. I have tried everything and this was cheap.
      Equal parts of Ammonia and Very hot water. Put into a spray bottle. A hot iron with steam and white towels. spray place towel over and iron. Not sure what the white towel is for other than trying to disgust you. I had all this at home and with some sore knees this was the best.

        • Willow

        The white towel is to keep any dyes from soaking into your carpet.

        • Chris

        Always use a white towel, preferably one that has been washed in bleach. I used a grey towel and the stain did come out but the area that was wet and ironed turned a little grey.

        • Chrissy Patton

        I would say the white towel is specified because, unless I am mistaken, ammonia will bleach cotton so by using a white towel you won’t end up with a big white spot like you would with a colored towel. Plus, though carpet stands up well to bleach and such, I don’t think I have to explain that it can easily take on stains; which could very well happen if using a colorful towel with ammonia.

      • Jean D.

      For pet stains, I use stain cleaner that you can get at pet stores or in the petfood section of groc stores. Be sure to get cleaners with enzymes. Don’t know if it works on old stains, but on recent stains will remove stain and odor. Also works on baby stains.

      • gail

      I would try Napisan this is a nappy cleaner that we have in NZ. My boy when he was a baby tipped tumeric onto the new carpet in the lounge. I tried everything but nothing worked. So i mixed up a bucket of Napisan with hot water and tipped half a bucket onto the stain ( it was quite big especially after he got a wet cloth and tried to clean it up before i saw) left it overnight to dry and next morning it was just as new you couldn’t see any stain at all. I would do a test piece first as all carpet is different.

      • Candy

      50/50 mix of pine sol and water. Let it sit a few minutes and scrub with scrub brush, rinse with warm water. My boys tracked cherry pits all over my light beige carpet. Grandma told me of mixture, tried it and it worked.

      • Surely

      Spray stain with plain water till wet but not soaked pour Borax on sprayed areal & lighty rub into spot allow to dry completly then vacume works quite well

      • Sandy

      Shirly We had an old carpet that my daughter took out of her house that dogs had stained and then her two sons were not any help either, well we brought it home and cleaned it with a paste of Oxyclean and a lot of elbow grease and it cam nice and clean and it was a hunter green and it did not even take out the color..

      • Guage

      After 20 years – remove the carpet – it’s not meant for a bathroom. You’ll be able to have clean tile floors. I can’t imagine the awful odors 20 yrs have accumulated in the carpet.

    • Stephanie Ingraham

    I have used oven cleaner to remove scorched pot marks off lamitiate kitchen counters. HOWEVER it can take out the gold flakes inbeded in the design. Will try it on my tub, and get back to you.

    • sally jacques

    does anyone know how to remove built-up lime from hard water?

      • TipNut

      Sally I find vinegar is really good to remove those types of stains, just soak a cloth thru with vinegar and apply it to the lime buildup. After a few hours soaking, the mineral buildup is easy to remove.

        • Kathy

        I have a spray bottle of vinegar that I use for EVERYTHING from my bathroom, to spots in carpet, to pretreat stains in clothing, works like a charm! Spray it in your shower. Let soak for ten to fifteen minutes, wipe off. Stinks badly, but I can promise you, it WILL remove the tough stains on ANY surface! For future reference, you might put “Iron Out” in your water softener. You can purchase that at walmart, and even some dollar stores! It will prevent the rust in all of your clothing, or anywhere else water touches. (Too include your hair if you have a problem with rust in the shower on your hair) Safe to put in water softener, and on septics! Ive used it for years!!

          • Vicky

          Kathy is this safe for drinking(our water went to softner then to rest of house)?

      • Jo

      We have had well water at our house for more years than I can count. Over the years, I scrubbed myself silly trying to get those awful hard water stains out of the tub and sink.

      One day I was reading the newspapaer and I happened upon the column “Hints from Heloise”. I had never heard of using white vinegar to clean anything other than windows. Well, I followed her instructions and filled a spray bottle with it and proceeded to spray down the tile in the shower, the sink, and the bathtub. I let it soak for a while, re-sprayed everything and then wiped it all down with a rag. (I hate sponges!) I was amazed!!! I rinsed everything off after wiping it all down and it absolutely gleamed!!!

      I wish I had learned this trick years before! Our water is so hard that for several years I was replacing the showerhead every few months because of the build-up. White vinegar is much less expensive than a new showerhead!

      Now, I keep a spray bottle of the vinegar in the bathroom. As soon as I get out of the shower I spray everything down. When I finish drying off and am ready to leave the room, I just rinse it all down and I NEVER and I’m done!!!!

    • Megan

    This tip works as the oven cleaner is stongly alkaline so it hydrolyses the fats and oils (ick!). Instead, try using washing soda (as it is known in australia) chemical name is sodium carbonate. This is the VERY alkaline relative of baking soda – it is roughly as alkaline as the sodium hydroxide on which oven cleaner is made. Use the same cautionary measures as you would for oven cleaner, but of course you have the option of trying a weaker solution. As an earlier tip nut has already discovered, this stuff can react with some metals (ie. Reactive metals – aluminium is mentioned specifically, but stainless steel is fine) and you also need to apply some logic – this hydrolyses fats and oils, so it will also strip wax, oilbased paints, and possibly painted finishes off tapware…..of course this is dose-related though!

    I recommend dissolving the soda in very hot water and using a hot water rinse afterwards for best results as it is not so soluble in cold water. I would then finish off with a splash of cheap white vinegar which will neutralise any remaining alkaline. This product is a water softener, so it will also help
    with insoluble mineral deposits from hard water. See for more about this oldfashined product – you should find it in the laundry aisle, but you may have to look as it is oldfashioned and cheap….it wont get prime location!

    BTW, Tom, There should be no problems with your septic system provided you use a concentration appropriate to the application so that the alkaline is used up in the hydrolysis reaction- a splash of white vinegar for good measure couldnt hurt either – the only danger to your septic would be real extremes of pH which could kill the happy bacteria, HOWEVER, if you consider how dilute any remaining alkaline would be when it hits the septic tank, i cant foresee any problems

    • Omeghan

    I use alot of AVON Bubble bath for cleaning… from ring around the collar
    (pre treat with spray before wash),to fingerprints etc instead of a Fantastik spray, I use it every where. From jewellery to pet baths and tile n tub!..its awesome!

    You can get different fragrances and its its prolly easier on the world that some harsher chemicals.

    One cap to a litre of water and voila….You have a cleaner!
    I love the lilac fragrance for a cleaner!

    Google Avon Bubble bath uses… you will be surprised.

    And I am Just a consumer….not an Avon Lady.

    • Grannie Annie

    You can keep your tub cleaner….after cleaning your bath tub….use car wax on it.

      • Kathy

      Another tip to keep your tub cleaner, is use a cup of Vinegar in the bath whenever you bathe in it. Will not make you stink, promise! Keeps tub clean as well. I suggest using a moisturizer afterwards as it will dry your skin faster than without it. However, I have 7 ppl and 3 dogs in my house that bathe on a regular basis, and I clean my tub in half the time !! I use vinegar for EVERYTHING in my home, from clothing, to cleaning windows! Never fails me!! Stinks, but gets the job done, quaranteed!! 🙂

    • C.K.

    I have used this for years on the bathtub and it works great !!!

    • Jae

    After a year of trying to scrub an older acrylic tub clean in our new home, I tried the oven cleaner technique. I used a generic oven cleaner and let it sit for 3 hours. It definitely removed alot of the tough stains I hadn’t been able to clean with elbow grease and almost every name brand tub cleaner. However, It didn’t take it all off and I had to scrub alot harder than I thought I would have. I think I’ll start using oven cleaner every 2-3 months to keep it up. And I’ll go for the name brand Easy-Off cleaner next time.

    • Tracey

    I used the Easy-Off FUME FREE Oven Cleaner (in a blue can) on a tub that was beyond grungey! I sprayed a thin layer, waited about 45 minutes, went back and the sponge turned grey after 2 seconds because tons of GRIME can floating off! I was SO EXCITED to see a WHITE TUB again!!! LOVE THIS IDEA! And the fume-free made it extra easy-peasy!

    • Steve

    What will this do on a non-porcelain blue tub?

    • Sharrygranny

    I NEVER HAVE TO SCRUB MY TUB. We have a cheap bottle of shampoo designated “Tub Shampoo” and when we finish bathing, we squirt the tub shampoo on a washcloth, and gently wipe the waterline only as the water goes down, and we never have to scrub. It works for both fiberglass, and porcelain. I do it while I am still in the tub, then rinse off.

    If we get in trouble, like lots of company, we use a paste of Barkeepers Friend and Elbow Grease

    I really would not use oven cleaner on anything but an oven!!!

    • jackie

    I have found Clorox toliet bowl cleaner with bleach works like a charm on my fiberglass tub & shower. Just squirt it around & with gloves on lightly wipe it around the surfaces with a wet sponge. Come back 15-30 minutes later & rinse! No scrubbing! Super easy! Use it on my porcelain kitchen sink, too. Won’t harm your septic either. 🙂

    • Suzanne

    I hate to admit it because it is very caustic, but my BF uses Sno Bowl toilet cleaner on our acrylic shower stall and soaks the shower head in it also. It really disolves the rust and lime better than LimeAway! I make him do it though…lol

      • doris

      I used to use this to, but they no longer carry it. why, i think it worked to well lol

    • Marcia K

    Stationed in Germany and living in military family housing with old porcelain tube. Go to motor pool or any garage repair shop. Ask for a bottle, pan, etc. of battery acid. Brush it on porcelain, let it dry and rinse. Lots like new. Caution, rubber gloves, face mask, and common sense needed to do this.

    • Don

    I tried the oven cleaner and it didn’t seem to do much about the stains. But then I scrubbed baking soda over the oven cleaner. As soon as the soda was applied the stains just melted away. I couldn’t believe how effective this was and I was still alive at the end of the procedure.

    • Bebe

    Holy cow! I used bleach on what I thought was a porcelain tub and got horrible brown stains. I tried to use various cleaners but nothing was working, so I applied a paste of baking soda and vinegar (the only thing I had left) and left it to sit while I looked for other remedies on the internet. I realized my tub was enamel after reading about rust-like stains left behind by bleach. The recommendation was to use peroxide and I just so happened to have a bottle of 6% on hand. I splashed some over the baking soda, rubbed with a magic eraser and the stains just disappeared!!!

    • cris

    I tried this a few years ago… I spayed it on and left it a few hours.. it completely damaged the finish. It is ten times worse and now a real drag to keep clean. As a matter of fact this is why I am online looking.. I may try what Bebe says and use baking soda, peroxide and elbow grease!

    • Cathy

    Vinegar is a great cleaner and deodorizer. A bowl of vinegar left in a warm over overnight will loosen up all the grease and grime baked on the racks and oven walls and floor so that you can use warm soapy water to just wash it off the next morning or at the very least, make any oven cleaner you use work even faster and more effectively. Also, vinegar and salt will clean copper bottoms of pots and pans so that they shine like new. Vinegar and baking soda will clean your drains almost as well as commercial drain cleaner and make them smell better too. And lastly, a bowl of vinegar left on the counter overnight or longer will not only clean the air in your home from all the old cooking smells, it will actually disinfect the air by killing bacteria and other foul odor causing things. Just be sure to place the bowl in an area that it won’t easily get tipped over, like maybe the top of the refrigerator or the top of the kitchen stove if there is room for it. I’m impressed with the answers others have left here. I plan to try the oven cleaner on my old cast iron porcelain tub that I’ve been fighting for years with and also use the vinegar spray for pet stains and laundry stain pretreatment. Thanks everyone. Cathy

    • Comet

    I have tried for 23 years to actually get my weird “plastic” tub and surround to LOOK clean. I know—it is clean from CLEANING but–it is stained. I have no idea WHAT the former owners did here but it never got any worse–it just has never been “clean”. I tried the oven cleaner as a last resort and it does work–I do think I need to leave it on a bunch longer than I did. But even with one short use I saw a big improvement. I suspect that the “dimpled” surface of the weird substance it is made out of holds and traps the hard water and soap gunk.

    And of course it is an odd size so cannot easily be replaced–and yes I have checked everywhere–hubs works for a Big Box Home Improve place and nada.

    Do be VERY CAREFUL with using any sorts of lotions–oils– powders etc in the bath or shower and thinking–“Oh! It will wash right down the drain the NEXT time some one uses the tub!” This is how people SLIP and FALL–ask me how I know this! RINSE this stuff OUT every time! (And get it OFF the floor too!)

    • Mona

    I have been using Easy Off oven cleaner on my tub and showers for years. Never had any problems. I thought I was the only one doing this… 😉

    • Kim

    I have to say I tried your suggestions for cleaning my fiber glass tub with the oven cleaner and it worked beautifully and I also had nasty old appliqués to remove some had all ready come off and that nasty colored black adhesive made our tub look hideous but I used your suggestions for them and the remaining appliqués and the adhesive and it makes out bath tub shine! Don’t get me wrong if was some work and time consuming but I am very proud of the results. Thanks for helping me save my bath tub and a ton of money to remodel, I love this site!!!!

    • Stacie

    I just took a very old crusty filthy shower door off what I think is a porcelain cast iron tub. What I found lurking under that baby was disgusting and disheartening but – first I cleared all the debri and gunk (with my eyes closed and nose plugged). Next, I used a dull razor blade to scrape off all the old grout and caked on dirt. Fearing I had scratched the surface turned out to just be old hard water deposits that had whitened and dulled the surface. I took cook-top magic (used for the flat top stoves) and a green scour pad and its shining and beautiful! I saved the day and lots of money. The brand is Magic Cooktop Magic – says right on the bottle good for porcelain! Yay!!

    • Frannie

    I used Walmart’s equivalent (Great Value, fume free, blue can) since they were out of EasyOff. I sprayed a light mist, let it sit for 3 hours, and the soap scum easily brushed off my fiberglass tub and ceramic tiles with no muscle! Wish I had this tip years ago before I bought every fancy cleaner on the market that didn’t work. My tub sparkles like new. “Fume free” still gets airborne since it is an aerosol, but it was much less irritating than commercial brand cleaners.

    • K

    I used the vinegar in an inch of hot water to get the decals in my tub to peel off, and the really tough ones I used the vinegar soaked paper towels method described above.

    Thank you so much!

    • Kathy M

    This is going to sound nuts…I can’t tell (neither can my husband) if the nubs on the bottom of our acrylic tub are left over glue of some kind, or if they are imbedded in the tub for a non-slip surface. We have not lived in the house long and the other people were not clean freaks, for sure. So how can you tell without using a razor blade to cut through. We tried cleaning and it is hard as a rock on the tub. I read about the oven cleaner and although I tried everything else, I have not tried that. I am kind of worried to make it worse than it already is.

    • Carla

    what about Acrylic tubs? I need a good cleaner. I have tried Vinegar, a paste of vinegar and baking soda,
    Store bought cleaners, soft scrub, comet ( which I’m not supposed to use) and it’s always surface clean, just CLEAN from tub rings and now streaks and runs from different cleaners!! At a loss here! Need help!

      • PatN

      I just did my acrylic tub that had like a hard dirty scum about 2″ wide. I had tried everything you can buy at home depot or online. Nothing worked. I figured that boat owners clean river scum off all the time, so I tried something called FSR (fiberglass stain remover) and it worked in 5 minutes! Done. I do still have light stains that look like they’re now part of the acrylic, but the hard dirty scum wiped right off.

    • PatN

    Use FSR from your local boat store. Fiberglass Stain Remover is a blue jelly. Paint it on with an old paint brush, wait 5 minutes and rub a little with an old rag. Then rinse. This takes the ocean/river/lake scum off boat hulls and does not damage the boat hull. Worked like a charm on my Acrylic tub where nothing else would touch the stain.
    I tried all the store cleaners, mr bubbles, that orange stuff, scrubbing bubbles,rejuvenate, zep, eliminate, vinegar, wd40, peanut butter oil, dish soap, baking soda, bleach, shampoo, stuff you use to clean sink drains-like liquid plumber – about a half gallon into a tub full of hot h20. I have soaked sponges with these cleaners and secured them up against the stains to keep it soaked. I have tried different combinations. The only thing I didn’t try was anything abrasive – mr clean eraser, comet, etc. I have been pursuing this tub issue for years! My tub is finally clean. I’m not referring to mildew, or soap scum. This stuff was more like hard water stains mixed with bathing body oils. I don’t know. I don’t care anymore either. Clean tub.

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