How to clean a bathtub – 12 tips to leave it sparkling

Learn how to clean a bathtub along with its drain and make jets hygienic, too

Blue bathroom with white bath and partial curtain
(Image credit: Jane Beiles)

Ensuring good bathroom hygiene means knowing how to clean a bathtub thoroughly. And that‘s not just the tub itself, but the drain that can get clogged up with hair and soap scum, plus the jets if yours is a hydrotherapy tub.

A tub that’s sparkling clean also makes the room look its best and ensures it’s a space in which you really do want to bathe and unwind.

These top cleaning tips will make tackling the tub an efficient process that takes the minimum of time but delivers excellent results, and we’ve asked the experts to reveal their tub-cleaning secrets, too.

How to clean a bathtub

Cleaning the tub is an important element of cleaning a bathroom. While tasks like cleaning a showerhead need attention only from time to time, this is one that should be part of your (probably) weekly routine for good hygiene.

There are general rules for cleaning a tub effectively, but note that it is important to pay attention to what the bathtub is made from when cleaning it, as different materials have different needs. Here’s how to clean a bathtub step by step as well as what you should know about the different tub materials.

1. Empty the tub

Begin by clearing anything from inside the tub and around it. ‘Give everything a good wipe as soap scum can accumulate on anything and everything,’ say the experts at American Home Shield.

2. Work from the top

If there’s tile around the tub, clean this and clean grout, too. You can use a tile cleaning product or pantry ingredients. ‘We recommend a 50:50 vinegar and water combination,’ say the American Home Shield experts. ‘The acidic elements in vinegar will help cut through any pesky soap scum and mildew.’

Then clean inside the tub using a cleaner suitable for the material from which the tub is made (of which more below.) ‘It is important to read and follow label instructions as most cleaners will need to sit for a period of time in order to achieve maximum efficiency,’ the experts say. ‘You’ll want to start on the top and work your way down, rinsing thoroughly upon completion.’

How to clean an acrylic bathtub

It’s important not to use any products or materials that will scratch the surface of an acrylic bathtub. 

You might want to use a microfiber cloth or a sponge designed for tub cleaning that isn’t abrasive – never use steel wool or a scrubbing pad. Use a bathtub cleaning product made for acrylic according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Alternatively, you could use what you already have at home: mild dish soap or shampoo are recommended. 

‘Use warm water and wet the tub before cleaning it,’ suggests commercial plumber Umberto Griccino, consultant at HouseGrail. ‘Pour baby shampoo on a damp rag or cloth, and then rub the tub in circles. Rinse the rag often to remove any accumulated soap. Rinse the tub’s surface, then repeat until the tub is clean.’

How to clean a fiberglass bathtub

A fiberglass tub needs careful cleaning, too. Avoid abrasive cleaners and use non-abrasive cloths or sponges. Use a cleaning product specified for fiberglass, or try a dish soap or laundry detergent solution.

How to clean a porcelain bathtub

Cleaning a bathtub made from porcelain is straightforward. ‘There is a wide range of cleaners available at the store, but if you want to make your own, you can add a few tablespoons of dish soap to a gallon of hot water and then wash your tub with a soft sponge or rag,’ advises Umberto Griccino. 

How to clean a cast iron bathtub

A cast iron bathtub is durable, but it’s still important not to clean it with anything abrasive – steel wool and the rest are out. Use a cleaning product designed for the material, or add dish soap to a bath full of warm water, leave for half an hour, then empty and wipe dry with a microfiber cloth.

How to clean a bathtub drain

Clean a bathtub drain regularly to prevent clogs (but see below if you do end up with one). 

‘Run hot water directly down the drain once a week to help things move along and prevent any buildups from happening,’ recommends experienced plumber and director of Homecure Plumbers Lee Devlin. ‘Turn the water on as hot as you can and let it run for a few minutes, preferably directly into the drain.

‘Second, you can actually install strainers on your drain that can catch hair and other items before they slip down it. This can be extremely useful in preventing clogs, even if it can be somewhat gross and a hassle. They are affordable and easy to use, just make sure you clean the strainers every so often as well.’

How to unclog a bathtub drain

If a bathtub drain becomes clogged, you may be able to remove the offending contents. ‘If you see a hair clog, reach in and pull it out with your fingers,’ says Nadia Chigareva of Home Alliance. ‘Try putting on some kitchen gloves first. Because of the soap and shampoo buildup, it can be slimy.’

If that’s not sufficient, a plumber’s snake can be the answer but, as an alternative, you might want to get yourself a special tool ready to deal with clogged bathtub drains. We like the Omont Drain Clog Remover Tool from Amazon to hook hair and other gunk out of the drain. 

‘You simply jam the pointy end into the drain as far as it will go, wiggle it around, and pull it out,’ explains Jake Romano of John The Plumber of these types of devices. ‘The amount of times these nifty things fix bathtub and shower clogs is truly astounding.

‘Additionally, you may want to consider the old baking soda and vinegar trick,’ he suggests. ‘Dump about a half a cup of each (baking soda first) into the drain, let it fizzle, then flush it down with a generous serving of hot water.

‘Other ideas to consider are enzyme drain cleaners,’ he adds.

How to clean bathtub jets

Bathtub jets can become clogged over time, but cleaning them is straightforward. ‘To clean the jets in a jetted tub, start by filling the tub with hot water so the jets are covered by about 2in (5cm),’ says Jen Rhodes of Tubtopia

‘Add 2 tablespoons of dishwasher detergent and 2 cups of white vinegar, then let the jets run for 15 minutes. The acidity in the vinegar helps to break down any soap scum or dirt that may be stuck in the pipes, so you should see the water start to get murky! 

‘Drain the tub and then use an old toothbrush or other soft brush to scrub any remaining dirt off of the jets. Rinse the tub well with fresh water.’

How to clean a bathtub that is stained

A solution for many home-cleaning tasks, a Magic Eraser (we like Mr Clean MagicEraser Bath from Amazon) can help. ‘Magic Erasers are the best thing I've used to clean bathtubs,’ says professional housekeeper Sara San Angelo, aka The Cleaning Lady. ‘They cut through soap scum easily without using any chemicals or cleaners.’

Porcelain tub? ‘If you have a tub with a porcelain finish, like the old clawfoot tubs, I've found Bar Keeper’s Friend to work great on stains,’ she says.

What is the easiest way to clean a bathtub?

The easiest way to clean a bathtub is with a store-bought tub cleaner plus a microfiber cloth or non-scratch sponge. ‘Always check the cleaner is compatible with the material from which your tub is made,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens.

For the best finish, rinse and then wipe dry with a clean microfiber cloth.

What home remedy can I use to clean my bathtub?

Baking soda is a home remedy that can be used to clean a bathtub – or at least most bathtubs. We wouldn’t advise its use with a stone resin bath – it can leave a film and harm the finish. Make sure you don’t leave it on the tub and work gently if cleaning with baking soda.

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.