When Beauty Attacks: Bathtub Triage

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Last week, this very site ran a great piece on all the ways in which you can incorporate the use of olive oil into your beauty routine. But because I’m me, i.e. a Clean Person who sees potential messes everywhere I look, my immediate response was, Well, obviously we need to talk about how to clean up that olive oil after you’ve, like, washed your hair with it.

The thing is, our beauty routines can often lead to bathtub disasters: I colored my hair at home for years, so I know from personal experience what that can do to a tub! Speaking of personal experience, here’s another one I’ve been unfortunate to have: LUSH Bath Bombs stain like the damn dickens. Someone bought me a gift box of those suckers and I nearly went into orbit the first time I used one and ended up scrubbing away an orange ring-around-the-tub after my relaxing bath. Sort of defeats the purpose of the relaxing bath, ya know?

As ticked off as I was about those bath bombs, at least I knew exactly what to do about the mess they left behind. And after reading this week’s column, you will, too. So let’s get to it!

Understanding Your Tub

Before we can talk about how to clean a tub after an industrial beauty accident, you need to know what kind of tub you have because, especially in the case of stain removal, the material of which your bathtub is constructed will dictate what you use to safely clean it.

The three primary types of tubs are enameled metal (the metal is usually either steel or cast iron), porcelain and acrylic. But how to tell the difference!?! Acrylic is pretty easy: If it looks plasticky, it’s an acrylic tub. If not, a simple test can help you to determine whether your tub is made of enamel or porcelain: put a magnet on it. If it sticks, the tub is enameled metal; if not, it’s porcelain.

Removing Stains From Porcelain Tubs

If you have a porcelain tub, there’s a little $5 product you’ll be so glad you know about: A pumice scouring stick. You can find these babies at any hardware or home improvement store. To use it, wet the stick and scour any staining. Pretty easy stuff! And well worth keeping a pumice stick around if you’re a person who regularly colors your hair at home.

If you’re feeling like you want a hands-off approach (and who wouldn’t) to cleaning your bathtub here’s an idea for you: Begin filling the tub up with very hot water. When it’s about a quarter of the way filled, add a scoop of OxiClean and allow the tub to continue filling up almost to the top before shutting the water. Let the Oxi solution hang around for about 30-60 minutes, then drain the water and give the tub a quick once-over with a sponge or rag. The Oxi will have done most of the work for you!

Removing Stains From Enameled Tubs

If your tub is an enameled metal dealie, it will need gentler handling because enamel is more sensitive than porcelain, the poor dear. That means no pumice sticks, no highly acidic cleaners like lemon juice or vinegar. Abrasive powders or cream cleansers, like Comet or Soft Scrub, can be used but you should, #1 test them out on a small area of the tub to ensure they won’t cause scratching and #2 not overuse them. Cream cleansers will be gentler than powdered ones, so when in doubt stick with those.

So that’s what to avoid, but what should you employ in service of cleaning your enameled tub? Hydrogen peroxide! It will be safe on the enamel, and is a great (and cheap!) stain remover. You can also use that quick and easy OxiClean method I described for cleaning porcelain tubs.

Removing Stains From Acrylic Tubs

Acrylic tubs are the most sensitive of the bunch, in that they’re highly susceptible to scratching, fading and cracking. Because of that, you should avoid abrasive powders and scouring pads. Cream cleansers should be fine, and for really tough stains you should feel free to apply a product like Soft Scrub and allow it to sit for about a half an hour before giving it a good scrub and rinsing.

Simple Green is a great product that is safe and super effective for general cleaning and stain removal. Plus, it really is ‘green’! Magic Erasers are another good choice for removing stubborn stains from acrylic tubs.

What To Do About Greasy, Oily Build-up

I mentioned that the impetus for this tub triage instructional was a post about using olive oil as part of your beauty routine. Which you should go ahead and do! Especially because I’m gonna tell you how to clean up after your gorgeous self. To state the utterly obvious, the use of olive oil in your shower will result in an oily build-up in your tub. To combat that, ammonia is a great choice. Dish soap is another one.

There are a few things to know before you work with ammonia. The first is that you must always wear gloves and work in a well-ventilated area. The second is that a little bit goes a long way—dilute a tablespoon up to a quarter cup in two liters of water, for best results. The third, and most important, thing to know about ammonia is that you must never, ever mix it with bleach or any products that contain bleach.

Given all that, you may decide that ammonia isn’t the right choice for you and that is fine! Dish soap will work to cut through grease in your bathtub in the same way it works to remove grease from your dishes. Stick with a brand like Dawn or Palmolive for the best results.

Okay! Now that your tubs are cleaner than they’ve ever been, by all means treat yourself to a bubblebath! Just be careful with those bath bombs.

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