How to Clean a Bathtub in 7 Simple Steps

There’s nothing like a long, leisurely soak in a hot bath to soothe away the stresses of the day—that is, unless the condition of your bathtub is what’s stressing you out.
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Young women's feet crossed at the edge of a white freestanding bathtub


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There’s nothing like a long, leisurely soak in a hot bath to soothe away the stresses of the day—that is, unless the condition of your bathtub is what’s stressing you out.

Bathtubs are magnets for soap scum, mildew, and grime, not to mention stubborn stains caused by hard water and rust, so knowing how to clean a bathtub can maximize your enjoyment of this soothing space. This guide takes you through the best way to clean a bathtub from beginning to end so you can start enjoying stress-free soaks in your sparkling clean tub.

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Project Overview

Working Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Skill Level: Beginner
Estimated Cost: $10 to $50

Before You Begin

Bucket with chemical products on table over blurred bathroom background

Before you start scrubbing, make sure you have all of your materials and supplies at the ready, including scrub brushes, a rag, and cleaning solutions. If you opt for a cleaning solution that contains bleach or other harsh chemicals, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends opening your windows and turning on a fan to ventilate the area and release any potentially harmful fumes. It’s also a good idea to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from harsh chemicals.

How to Clean a Bathtub

Cleaning a bathtub doesn’t have to be a headache. These simple steps are a breeze to follow and will have your bathtub looking like new.

Step 1: Remove clutter from the bathtub.

Bath toys in a bath organizer

First, remove everything from the tub so you can easily access each area that requires cleaning. If there are any products inside of it or along the edges, set them aside. This is also a good time to remove any children’s toys and toss them in the dishwasher for a cleaning.

Once you remove all clutter from the tub, grab a rag, soak it in warm water, and wipe down the bathtub’s surfaces. Don’t worry about putting too much elbow grease into at this stage; you’ll tackle tougher stains and grime in later steps.

Step 2: Clean the tiles around the tub.

Grout between tiles tends to collect dirt and grime more than other areas of a bathtub, so it’s a great place to start scrubbing. For this step, you’ll need a grout brush or an old toothbrush and some grout cleaner. You can create homemade grout cleaner by mixing 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide, followed by a teaspoon of liquid dish soap. Or you can purchase a premade grout cleaner, such as Grout-Eez Professional Strength Tile & Grout Cleaner.

Once you have your brush and cleaner, dip the brush into the cleaning solution and use it to scrub the grout, working from top to bottom. After scrubbing the grout, use a damp rag or a spray bottle of warm water to rinse away residual cleaner. Then spray the surrounding tile with a bathtub cleaner, like Zep Shower, Tub & Tile Cleaner, or a homemade vinegar cleaning solution of one part vinegar and one part water. Let the solution sit for 15 minutes before rinsing it with warm, clean water.

RELATED: The Great Debate: Does Every Home Need a Bathtub?

Step 3: Spray tub cleaner in the tub.

Hands in rubber protective gloves holding white spray bottle and rag. Detergent for different surfaces in kitchen, bathroom and other rooms. Closeup. Light pastel blue background. Point of view shot.

Now that the tile and grout is in good shape, it’s time to tackle the tub. Start by spraying the bathtub cleaner you used in step two on all surfaces in and around the tub. Let it sit on the surface of the tub for at least 15 minutes. This will give the solution time to work its magic by breaking up grime and dirt, making it easier to wipe away.

Step 4: Wipe down and rinse the tub.

After letting your cleaning solution sit for 15 minutes, use a scrub brush or sponge and wipe away any remaining dirt. This is a good time to put a little elbow grease into it, but if stubborn stains remain, don’t worry, we’ll tackle them in the next steps. Finally, use a rag or spray bottle full of warm water and rinse the cleaning solution off.

RELATED: What’s the Best Bathtub Size?

Step 5: Use an old toothbrush to get rid of soap scum.

toothbrush in hand on an isolated background

When soap combines with minerals in water, it can create a filmy residue called soap scum. Soap scum is notoriously difficult to clean, so you’ll need a scrub brush or an old toothbrush to help you scrub it away. First, spray scummy areas with your cleaning solution. Pay close attention to the bathtub’s corners and areas around the faucet and drain, as these tend to collect soap scum the most. Let the solution sit for at least 15 minutes.

With your toothbrush or scrub brush, begin scrubbing away the soap scum. Keep scrubbing until the residue is gone. Rinse the affected areas with warm water to get rid of any residue from the cleaner.

Step 6: Remove any remaining stains.

Baking soda with vinegar, natural mix for effective house cleaning

If you still have some stains in the tub, sprinkle some baking soda on them, then spray on a solution of one part vinegar and one part water. Let the mixture bubble for a few minutes, then scrub with a rag or sponge until a paste forms. Let the paste sit for 15 minutes before wiping it away.

If any stains remain, make another bathtub cleaner paste of one part hydrogen peroxide to two parts baking soda (or cream of tartar). Rub the paste on the stain and let stand for 30 minutes to one hour, then wipe and rinse. If necessary, repeat this process until the stain is gone.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Bathtubs of the Year

Step 7: Wipe the tub down with a clean towel or rag.

A mid-adult caucasian woman wearing protective yellow gloves is cleaning the bathtub with soap and water in her bathroom at her home in Hartlepool.

Now that you’ve tackled the stains, all you need to do is wipe down the tub with a rag or towel and some warm water. This step will get rid of any remaining residue from your cleaning solutions and ensure your tub is sparkling clean and ready for your relaxing soak sessions.


Q: How often should you clean your bathtub?

The appropriate frequency of cleaning a bathtub depends on how often you and those in your household use the tub, as well as your personal tolerance for dirt, grime, and soap scum. If you take frequent soaks, a good rule of thumb is to wipe it down after each use, then give it a good deep cleaning once every month or so.

Q: How do you remove rust stains?

The wet nature of bathtubs can lead to rust stains around the tub. Follow these steps to remove rust stains:

  • Sprinkle the rust stains with borax.
  • Use half of a lemon to rub each stain until a paste forms.
  • Let the paste stand for 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Wipe and rinse.

Q: How do you remove hard water stains?

Mineral deposits look like they might never come off, but in reality, they are relatively easy to remove. Here’s how to remove hard water stains:

  • Dip paper towels in full-strength white vinegar.
  • Apply the soaked paper towels directly to the stained areas.
  • Let stand for one to two hours.
  • Finally, scrub with baking soda and vinegar paste (discussed in step 6), then rinse clean.

Q: How do you clean a bathtub with jets?

You can clean a bathtub with jets in the same way you’d clean any other bathtub, but with one extra step. The final step involves filling the bathtub with warm water until the water line is above the jets, then add a cup of white vinegar to the water and let the jets run for 15 minutes. Finally, drain the tub, then use an old toothbrush to scrub around the jets to remove any residue before rinsing with warm, clean water.

Q: How do you clean a bathtub drain?

A simple way to clean a drain is by pouring 1/2 cup of baking soda down it and following it up with a 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Let the solution sit for a few minutes before flushing it clean with hot water. You can also use a toothbrush and your preferred cleaning solution to scrub away any grime around the drain before rinsing it again with water.

Final Thoughts

Little toddler boy with young mother washing and cleaning tile walls in bathroom while doing housework and home cleanup.

This process is a simple way to give your bathtub a deep cleaning. But if you want to make it even easier, then each time you bathe, or as often as possible, rinse the tub surface with clean, warm water before wiping off the excess moisture with a squeegee, microfiber cloth, or sponge. Doing so goes a long way to prevent soap scum, mildew, and grime, which will make your deep cleanings a lot easier. Once your tub is clean, you can focus on cleaning the rest of the bathroom in 20 minutes or less.