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How do I clean my tub?

general polishing of a bath surface - Joy of St Croix

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a new beautiful finish
A newly restored clawfoot bathtub by

How do I clean my tub?

Please – Don’t use bleach –¬† mixing with the wrong thing creates a deadly gas with possible severe damage to lungs and mucous membranes. Look on the back of the bottle; if the label warns not to mix with bleach, it’s because it will create a gas that can do serious harm to your short term and long term health.

The two rules are:
Don’t mix chemicals
Don’t pretend to be a chemist


1) Cleaning with chemistry:

Soap is Lye, Fat, and Water; its “free” molecule attracts fat molecules. When water in the bath evaporates it leaves behind the not only the soap-fat combination, but the minerals that were in the water… “Soap Scum”.

* Soap, waxes and oils need an emulsifier like D-limonene or T-limonene; “D” comes from citrus oil like oranges, and “T” comes from tree oil like pine… pine solvent…Pine-Sol-Vent. Cheap and easy to find – that’s nice.

* Mineral deposits require an acid or an alkali and water to dissolve them. Some mineral deposits are light enough to be removed with vinegar or lemon juice, which are both mild and safe acids used for general cleaning all around the house. The acids in products bought off the shelf can cause problems with some finishes and are not safe to have around some other household chemicals. An organic salt (an alkali) may be hard to find, but you can narrow it down by noting if the “caution” label warns “do not mix with bleach” – which usually means it’s an acid. Not all alkalis are safe, either, but the ones you typically find in a residential grocery store are non-reactive with other household cleaning chemicals.

Remember, never casually mix chemicals trying to create a “super-cleaner” – toxic gases, fires, and explosions are common-place reactions in chemistry…I know cuz Abby Sciuto¬† says so.

2) Clean in layers:

That impressive wall of white soap scum, dirt, body-stuff, minerals, and shower products was built one daily shower after another, like layers of plastic food-wrap. When you emulsify the top layer of “plastic-wrap” with a cleaning chemical, the chemical cannot get past that emulsified layer – it’s called a “slurry”. Just like the soap molecules attaching to fat molecules, the cleaning chemical bonds to the soap scum and needs to be removed by rinsing.

Rinse it away and repeat. That simple.

3) Clean regularly:

Keep those layers of soap-scum and minerals thin so that your cleaning day isn’t all day. To reduce the amount of cleaning you have to do, reduce the water that will evaporate and leave soap scum. After showering, wipe down the surface with a cloth or bath-chamois; use that to water your plants, they’ll love it. The less water, the quicker your unit dries – the quicker it dries, the less chance for mold or mildew to grow.