Dear Home-Ec 101,
I’m hoping you or your readers can help me with this household problem. Our bathroom has a plastic-inserted bathtub, and it seems as if no matter how much I clean and scrub away at it, the tub still has this scummy ring around it that won’t go away. I’ve tried several commercial bathroom cleaners and scouring powders, all to no avail. Can you or anyone out there let me in on the trick to a white, dingy-free bathtub?
Ring Around Rosie
The phenomenon of which you speak is the dreaded bathtub ring. Every time someone takes a bath, all of the dead skin cells, grease, and oils wash off their body and float in a layer on top of the water. Add soap to the mix and these lovely little particles are trapped in a sticky residue that clings to the side of the tub.
The simplest way to prevent a ring is to rinse the tub after a bath. This is why in some older children’s books you’ll see a reference to a parent nagging a kid to rinse out the tub and wring out the wash cloth. Prevention is the best cure, keep this in mind in the future.
You mention a plastic insert. I’m going to assume you’re referring to an acrylic tub liner. These are quite easy to scratch with abrasive cleaners. Do not use any type of scouring powder. When the acrylic scratched, those sticky bathtub ring bits of goo have even more surfaces and crevices to cling to. This makes the already tenacious bathtub ring extremely difficult to clean. It’s going to take some elbow grease, chemicals, or a combination to tackle your problem.
If you want to take the least toxic route grab a box of baking soda. Use a damp sponge or rag to generously apply it to the ring in a thick paste. Then spray with white vinegar, this acid base reaction will help get to the dirt down in the tiny scratches. Wipe the tub down, rinse it well, and then tackle remaining problem areas with Bar Keepers Friend®. This oxalic acid cleaner is mild, but should never be mixed with bleach or other household chemicals.
A second technique is to grab an old bath pouf and baby shampoo. Load the pouf up with baby shampoo, get it nice and foamy and attack the ring. It may take a few rounds of scrubbing and rinsing, but your ring didn’t get there overnight, either.
An intriguing trick, that I have not tried is using a damp dryer sheet to wipe away the ring. If you have dryer sheets on hand, it can’t hurt to try. If you do try this trick, please report back. I don’t use dryer sheets as the perfumes make me sneeze, but I just might invest in a box if it works as well as the Interwebz claim.
If the bathtub ring has been around a while, it has many layers of dirt and soap. In that case, I may take the chemical route and use a commercial cleaner. I personally like Scrubbing Bubbles, but I live in an area with soft water. If you have hard water, this adds mineral deposits to your mix and something along the lines of CLR may work better. Again, it may take several applications / rinses to notice an effect. Do not use scouring powders on your acrylic tub, it will create new scratches and make your bathtub ring more difficult to remove in the future.
If your water is hard, it’s especially important to wipe down the tub after each use. A weekly wipe with dilute vinegar, lemon juice, or even rubbing alcohol will help keep things looking good.
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