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5 Pro Tips for Cleaning Plastic Bathtub Stains

Cleaning Advice / February 28, 2024

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Plastic bathtubs can be a great, affordable and low-maintenance option for your bathroom. However, over time even the hardest plastics can accumulate stubborn stains from soap scum, mildew, and hard water deposits. Getting these stains out can seem daunting, but with the right techniques plastic tubs can be restored to a like-new shine.

Follow these 5 pro tips to make plastic bathtub cleaning as simple and effective as possible. With minimal effort you can have that dingy tub looking fresh and clean.

1. Prevent Stains with Regular Cleaning

The first step in keeping your bathtub stain-free is to clean it regularly. Setting aside just 10-15 minutes a week to wipe down the tub after use can prevent stains from setting in and becoming more difficult to remove.

After each bath or shower, use a squeegee to wipe excess water from the tub walls and floor. This prevents soap scum and mineral deposits from the water from accumulating. Follow up with a non-abrasive cleanser designed specifically for plastic bathtubs. Spray the cleanser onto surfaces and let it set for a minute or two before rinsing – this gives the active agents time to work on buildup.

For deeper periodic cleaning, use a soft scrub brush and baking soda. The gentle abrasion will lift soap scum and germs without scratching the plastic surface. Rinse thoroughly and follow up by wiping plastic surfaces with white vinegar – the mild acid helps dissolve the residue.

Staying on top of regular maintenance cleans means you won’t have to deal with major stained bathtub disasters down the road.

2. Address Stains Promptly

Even with the best preventative cleaning, bathtub stains can still occur. Plastic tubs can be stained by:

  • Soap scum – Residue from soap and body oils builds up on tub surfaces.
  • Hard water – Minerals in tap water leave lime and calcium deposits.
  • Mildew and mold – Rubber mats and wet conditions lead to mildew growth.
  • Hair dye and cosmetics – Pigments stain tub surfaces.
  • Rust – Metal tubs, pipes, and fixtures can oxidize.
  • Dirt and grime – Oils, dust and dead skin cells accumulate.

To make stain removal easier, address any spots as soon as they appear. Don’t let them sit and oxidize. The longer the stain has to set in, the more difficult it will be to get the tub back to like-new.

Check plastic surfaces after each use for any small stains and wipe them away promptly with a damp microfiber cloth. For more stubborn spots, break out targeted stain removers right away to get the tub gleaming again.

3. Use the Right Cleaning Products

Having the proper cleaning tools and products can make the difference between bathtub stain frustration and easy removal. Stock your supply kit with these plastic tub cleaning essentials:

Abrasive-Free Cleaners

Harsh abrasives found in some cleansers can actually scratch plastic bathtub surfaces, leaving them looking dull and swirled. Use a gentle cleaner without abrasives designed specifically for plastic. Check the label to be sure.

Baking Soda

The mildly abrasive and alkaline properties of baking soda make it ideal for busting soap scum and grease. For normal cleaning, sprinkle some baking soda on a damp sponge or cloth. For stubborn stains, make a thick paste with water. Let it set before rinsing.

White Vinegar

The acetic acid in white vinegar dissolves mineral deposits, soap residue and hard water stains. Use undiluted or mixed with a little water and rinse thoroughly after application. (Avoid coloured vinegars, which can stain.)

Hydrogen Peroxide

The bubbling reaction of hydrogen peroxide can help lift stains. Use it on its own or mix it with baking soda or vinegar. Rinse well after use.

Soft Scrub Brushes

For stuck-on stains, use a gentle scrub brush to provide light abrasion without scratching. Look for soft nylon or microfiber bristles.

Grout Brushes

For hard-to-reach corners and crevices, skinny grout brushes are ideal. Use with care to avoid scratching.

Spray Bottles

Use spray bottles to evenly apply cleaners and get into tight spots. Avoid over-spraying.

4. Know Your Stain Removal Techniques

With the right products in hand, it’s time to tackle those tub stains head-on. Follow these techniques for dealing with common plastic bathtub stains:

Soap Scum

  • Spray with undiluted white vinegar and let sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Scrub gently with a baking soda paste.
  • Use a plastic-safe cleaner with citric acid to dissolve residue.
  • Wipe with rubbing alcohol or vodka for shine.

Hard Water Stains

  • Soak stains overnight in white vinegar.
  • Apply lemon juice and let sit before scrubbing.
  • Use a CLR (calcium-lime-rust) cleaner per directions.
  • Make a paste of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide.

Mildew Stains

  • Spray hydrogen peroxide on the stain and let bubble.
  • Make a baking soda paste with just enough water to scrub.
  • Use oxygen bleach cleaners to lift stains without harsh fumes.
  • For tough stains, apply undiluted chlorine bleach carefully with a grout brush. Rinse thoroughly.

Rust Stains

  • Soak a cloth in white vinegar and place over the stain overnight.
  • Use oxalic acid-based cleaners like Bar Keeper’s Friend.
  • Apply rust remover gels formulated for plastic. Let sit before rinsing.
  • Use fine steel wool to gently rub the stain. Avoid scratching plastic.

Hair Dye/Cosmetic Stains

  • Dab with rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover.
  • Make a paste from baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.
  • Use non-acetone hair dye remover.
  • If all else fails, carefully use bleach on stubborn organic stains.

Dirt and Grime

  • Apply bathroom cleaner and let soak for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing.
  • Use hot water and an all-purpose cleaner.
  • Sprinkle on baking soda and spray with vinegar for a bubbly cleaning action.
  • Use a plastic-safe soft scrub product and a non-abrasive sponge.

No matter the stain – from soap scum to mildew, rust to hair dye – don’t fear! With the right products and techniques, even the most stubborn plastic bathtub stains can be banished.

5. Protect Against Future Stains

Once you get that tub gleaming again, take steps to prevent a repeat staining situation in the future:

  • Wipe down the tub after every use to prevent buildup.
  • Squeeze water from tub walls and floors to minimize soap film.
  • Hang up towels and bath mats to dry between uses to inhibit mildew growth.
  • Open shower curtains or doors after use to allow moisture to escape and deter mold.
  • Consider installing a bathroom vent fan if the room is prone to humidity.
  • Attach slip-resistant stickers to the tub floor to prevent falls, which can lead to rusty metal fixtures.
  • Avoid placing shampoos, cosmetics and hair dyes directly on the ledges of the tub. Store in shower caddies.
  • Use a shower liner inside the curtain to protect the tub from splashes of hair and body products.
  • Install a shower filter to reduce minerals and metals in the water supply.

With vigilant daily and weekly cleaning, you can keep that plastic bathtub looking like new for years. But even plastic isn’t impervious to stains forever. Follow these pro tips to get back that factory-fresh shine when stains do occur. Just a little regular effort will have you soaking in a tub you can really relax in.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prevent soap scum buildup in my plastic tub?

Prevent soap scum by squeezing water from the walls after bathing, cleaning the tub weekly with a plastic-safe cleaner, and wiping up spills immediately. Avoid bar soaps, which create more residue than liquid soaps.

What is the fastest way to get rid of mildew stains?

Spray hydrogen peroxide directly on the mildew stain. Let it bubble for 5-10 minutes to lift the stain, then scrub with a baking soda paste. For tough stains, carefully apply bleach. Rinse thoroughly after treatment.

What homemade solutions can I use to clean my plastic tub?

Great homemade cleaners for plastic tubs are baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide. Make pastes or sprays to scrub away stains. Always do a spot test first and rinse thoroughly after cleaning.

How do I remove rust stains from my plastic bathtub fixtures?

For plastic fixtures, soak the stain overnight with white vinegar. For tougher stains, use a rust remover gel or apply an oxalic acid-based cleaner. Gently rub with fine steel wool. Avoid abrasives that could scratch the plastic.

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