If you tried to bleach your tub whiter but it came out looking like a murder scene, DON'T PANIC! You can fix it for about $1.50 and no elbow grease.

I recently moved into an apartment in Berkeley. It's a nice big place, but kind of a fixer-upper, with a fair amount of cleaning to do.

One of the problem areas was the bathtub: it looked a bit dingy, with vague yellow streaks down the sides. So I bought some bleach, rubbed it on thick, and let it sit for a couple of hours.

When I came back, my bathtub looked like a scene from a horror movie. Literally: rusty red-brown streaks all down the sides and bottom like dried bloodstains. Exactly how I imagine it would look if you murdered someone in there.

Naturally, I freaked out, turned on the shower, and started scrubbing- to no avail.

My next recourse, naturally, was the internet. After frantically googling search phrases like "bleach blood bathtub stains" and learning some interesting but ultimately unhelpful factoids regarding the reaction of urine and bleach, I struck gold at this somewhat obscure link. A miracle. You don't even have to scrub. So I thought I'd take some pictures and turn it into an Instructable, surfacing the link more readily for other desperate fools like me.

Step 1: The magic ingredient

Hydrogen peroxide– ideally in a spray bottle.

OR Oxi Clean

OR Clorox 2

(also work, according to various internet testimonials. But the peroxide is cheaper and more ubiquitous.)

The Science (as I understand it– Chem geeks, please correct me)
Why the tub turned red: The bathtub is an old porcelain with a ferrous (iron) component. The chlorine element in a classic chlorine-based bleach oxidizes the iron from the porcelain. Oxidized iron is rust, hence the rusty red color.

Why the tub turns white again: Hydrogen peroxide, Oxi Clean, and Clorox 2 are all chlorine-free cleaning agents (also the reason why they're color-safe) which have oxygen as a base element. I'd originally thought that since the red stains were also oxygen-based, we were seeing simple dissolution. But as ancienthart points out, that should only have loosened the stains and caused them to run down the sides. Since the stains instead disappeared without having to be wiped away, ancienthart suggests that it might be because oxygen is a reducing agent with basic solutions– so the oxidized stains are actually changing their chemical composition– and in this case probably also releasing chlorine gas. Make sure your bathroom is well-ventilated; you don't want to breathe in too much chlorine gas!

<p>Thank you so much!!! Unbelievable, it really works!!</p>
<p>So.....there is a way. Hope it works.</p>
<p>Wow! Glad to see it worked as well for you as it did for me :)</p>
<p>Yes, it worked. For that, I thank you.</p><p>As to the source of iron deposit, mine differs from yours. Mine is from rusty shower riser pipe (left unchanged during repiping) as all other metal items in the shower stall are either plastic or brass. With that, it made me suspect that your stain-streaked tub could also be caused by rusty water and not the cast iron bathtub. Your thought please.</p>
<p>Tried to bleach clean my ceramic shower stall and got a orange-red &quot;carpet&quot; instead. Horrified :-o .....and found this site. Applied Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) as instructed and ..... the white tiles are white again! :-) Thanks a lot for the rescue. I wish there is a way to show you the before and after pics. What a difference!</p>
Thank you! My tub did look like someone was mmurdered and cleaning extra trying to sell the house this made me just panick so bad. The peroxide worked wonderfully. Yes, I did the scrubbing and praying. Thanks again ?
<p>Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I've always cleaned tubs with bleach and this is the first time to see the red stains. It was instant panic. Scrub brushes and sore back to no avail. I used the little bit of peroxide I had and the stains are fading fast. Thank you so much!</p>
<p>Glad this worked for you! It's such a relief to watch the problem just fade away.</p>
<p>The closest thing to a miracle I have ever experienced. Thanks!</p>
<p>This worked out just perfect. Thanks! Hydrogen peroxide is $4-5 cheaper than the other two options. The brown stains were gone in 5 mins.</p>
<p>ive used lemon and course salt on rust stains. </p>
<p>I saw this, and have an area with red stains on a fiberglass tub from a steel basket sitting on the edge of the tub. I've tried oxyclean, vinegar, bleach and hydrogen peroxide, with absolutely no results. Any ideas to help me?</p>
<p>I find if you **open the bathroom window**, scrub the tub with Comet, rinse, take The Works toilet bowl cleaner and a wet rag all scum and stains will wipe right off. It too gives off fumes and if you have a smoke detector within 10 feet of this it will go off. Nothing removes bathtub, sink or toilet stains like this method. Make sure you rinse down all surfaces you cleaned with this very well after.</p>
<p>If the stain truly is caused by the iron oxide in the tub substrate, you have more troubles than stain. Water should not be penetrating the porcelain coating. SInce it is, you will be facing this rust problem until the tub collapses. Healthy porcelain is impervious.</p><p>I understand that there are ways to recover the porcelain, but I haven't tried any.</p>
<p>If you have ever chipped a stovetop, you know that porcelain isn&rsquo;t indestructible. But all you need do is look at the faucet handles on the clean pic, and you can see that this is a matter of the water most likely dripping down from the shower walls. At one point the tile may have been replaced or properly cleaned, but the tub was not.</p><p>.</p><p>And for those of you that love trivia, high power hydrogen peroxide, dripping onto rust (iron oxide is the catalyst) is what caused the Kursk (Russian sub, ~2002) to explode when an old &ldquo;faux&rdquo; torpedo leaked peroxide onto its own rust, then the explosion blew up all the torpedos with warheads directly around it (the 1st was a dummy for fleet exercise) and thus punched the instant hole into the sub and it went down&hellip; with the ~16 guys still alive (those fumes and no O2 killed instantly though someone still SCRAM&rsquo;d the reactors) trapped in the rear, tapping code, until they suffocated.</p>
<p>This was a great &quot;ible&quot;. Very informative and practical.<br>Since there is a lot of &quot;Tub&quot; experience here, I have a question:<br><br>I have a steel tub that is beginning to lose the beige porcelain enamel in spots. I see some shade of green in some of them.<br>I have the idea of painting it with nearly matching automotive spray paint, which should end up being shiny...<br>Can any of you provide some experienced inputs or suggestions about how to do it? Should I use primer too?<br>Much appreciated. ron.dacosta@gmail.c o m </p>
<p>Murder, eh...? The cops are on their way. </p><p>Kidding. Great post. I've never seen peroxide in a spray bottle. </p>
<p>Great explanation! I believe this is the same reason peroxide is able to get blood out of fabrics also! (regardless of how long the stain had been there ex. Pillows w/bloody noses, etc.) </p>
<p>Going to give it a go</p>
<p>This is very interesting, thank you. Back in the 1980's previous owners told me to clean the plastic shower walls and tub with clorox bleach mixed with shaving cream. You mixed it together and lathered the walls and the rust disappeared magically. I imagine the fumes were unhealthy, however.</p>
<p>the shaving cream was just to hold it in place otherwise it runs down the sides because of a thing referred to as &quot;gravity.&rdquo;</p><p>.</p><p>But seriously folks&hellip; you could have just used Comet cleanser as an alternative, if the abrasives were not harmful. Otherwise, simply spraying the right cleaner such as CLR or other rust removers negates having to atomize chlorine bleach through a spray nozzle and suspend some of it in air. </p><p>In addition - just cleaning more often would have likely made rubber gloves and a soapy bleach solution sufficient - something like Joy if not a liquid laundry detergent. Joy does not contain any quaternary ammonias and there would not be any cationic battles to set free chlorine vapor as can be the case with others such as Dawn.</p><p>THESE DAYS, the daily &ldquo;Shower Clean&rdquo; sprays would be sufficient. They are water, rubbing alcohol and a chelating agent (an acid, or possibly dissolved mineral like sodium carbonate that binds to iron) and you spray it on while the water has yet to dry. The spray binds the minerals in the water. The alcohol causes it to become very slippery, and runs down the sides of the shower/door/curtain before the water can dry, and thus the next day, you wash the powdery residue down the drain.</p><p>REPEAT immediately after &ldquo;today&rsquo;s shower&rdquo; - and if you do this daily after an initial, thorough cleaning, you need not do any major scrubbing - but I&rsquo;d still prefer a water softener for cleaning, bathing, rinsing away of detergents and soap residue from places that you didn&rsquo;t spray (such as your own hands!).</p>
<p>This is a great one <a href="http://www.instructables.com/member/SelkeyMoonbeam/" rel="nofollow">SelkeyMoonbeam</a>. And, thanks to <a href="http://www.instructables.com/member/ancienthart/" rel="nofollow">ancienthart</a> for all of the &quot;Mr Science&quot; end of it! :)</p>
Similar happened to my toilet. Am gonna try that. If I would have seen my tub like that I would have freaked!
<p>Hi SelkeyMoonbeam - I am chemistry trained and you've just ruined any chance of me having a normal week this week. :D<br>Your explanation of why the stains appear sounds pretty spot on. Classical oxidation reaction between the iron and the bleach.</p><p>But the fact that the red colour in the stains disappeared over time really rules out simple dissolving of the stains (Unless you saw the peroxide washing red colour down the drain). Some sort of chemical reaction must be occurring.</p><p>However, the thing that is now keeping me up, is that peroxide is a pretty strong oxidiser, so it shouldn't be reducing the rust back to clear iron (II) salts or to metal. So basically, colour me confused. :P</p>
<p>Hah. Found it (I think). Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidising agent in acidic solutions. But in basic solutions, it can be a reducing agent.</p><p>So it might be interesting for someone who has a really stained bath, to try peroxide by itself, and then try peroxide and bicarbonate of soda.</p>
<p>@ancienthart&gt;&gt;Hah. Found it (I think). Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidising agent in acidic solutions</p><p>.</p><p>Let&rsquo;s go right to the chemistry texts and obliterate this usage of terms in this context.</p><p><ul><li><strong>Oxidation</strong> is the <em>loss</em> of electrons or an <em>increase</em> in oxidation state by a molecule, atom or ion.<li><strong>Reduction</strong> is the <em>gain</em> of electrons or a <em>decrease</em> in oxidation state by a molecule, atom, or ion.</ul><p>Although oxidation reactions are commonly associated with the formation of oxides from oxygen molecules, these are only specific examples of a more general concept of reactions involving electron transfer.</p><p>Redox reactions, or oxidation-reduction reactions, have a number of similarities to acid/base reactions. Like acid&ndash;base reactions, redox reactions are a matched set, that is, there cannot be an oxidation reaction without a reduction reaction happening simultaneously. </p><p>Oxidation and reduction properly refer to <em>a change in oxidation state</em> &mdash; the actual transfer of electrons may never occur. Thus, oxidation is better defined as an <em>increase in oxidation state</em>, and reduction as a &lt;u&gt;<em>decrease&lt;/u&gt; in oxidation state</em>. </p></p>
<p>peroxide by itself is a bleach, i believe. i think it's what they use to use to bleach hair. although it takes special bleach to bleach hair because it has to open the scales on the hair to lift the color out. you can soak your head in chlorine bleach and it wont touch your hair color....i have tried. </p>
<p>This is great. Thanks so much for looking into this; dissolution didn't sound quite right to me either. And good note about the chlorine gas!</p>
<p>And the research continues. I told you you were ruining my week. :D<br>Apparently basic peroxide will react with the most common chemical in bleach to produce chlorine gas - ventilation would be recommended.</p>
<p>as noted in my initial posting (to halt the bad chemistry theories being stated here):</p><p>THE ONLY THING you are going to get by reacting hydrogen peroxide and chlorine bleach (or to be more specific, sodium hypochlorite) is nothing more than water, table salt and molecular oxygen (as in O₂ - not just a free atom of oxygen).</p>
<p>Come on people, go learn something before you type something. Don&rsquo;t &ldquo;learn&rdquo; it here, then learn something new, and add/correct so this list is a useless content of incorrect assumptions and comments about sticking your own skull in chlorine bleach. (btw&hellip; clearly that had SOME effect on you, you just don&rsquo;t notice it because you soaked your brain in chlorine!)</p><p>.</p><p>If you have rust on plastic, that is from MINERALS in the water. When have you ever heard of PLASTIC RUSTING? If you rust coming through a porcelain coating, that is iron through an entry point, a scratch, crack in the coating, wear, etc.</p><p>.</p><p>Specify your bleach type when you speak of it. It&rsquo;s not a universal term, and when it comes to peroxide, it is simply an extra oxygen atom bound to another molecule that sets itself free. If it&rsquo;s hydrogen peroxide, H2O2 sets free one oxidizing atom of oxygen and the solution becomes H2O (water). If it is sodium percarbonate, it is an oxygen atom reacted to hang onto sodium carbonate - which releases the oxygen in water with either a catalyst or very VERY hot water or BOTH. This is what OxiClean, Biz, Clorox 2 are. (They are also sometimes sodium perborate - instead of carbonate - it all depends on market fluctuations, the latest fads in washing machines vs. water temperatures (&ldquo;so called HE Washers&rdquo; are horrible at cleaning anything, which is why their use in Europe also includes heavy &ldquo;oxi&rdquo; use, run times of over an hour, and temperatures at or just below boiling.</p><p>.</p><p>If you don&rsquo;t want to react, for whatever reason, peroxide with chlorine bleach, then RINSE THE TUB FIRST! DUH! As for whether it is a reducer or not is indeed a function of acid or base - but when it comes to the combination, in general, with this discussion, you are hardly tipping over a rail car and going to require evacuating the household unless you&rsquo;re rinsing chlorine bleach with 1. Ammonia; 2. Urea; 3. Na2S2O3. If that means nothing to you, don&rsquo;t worry about it then.</p><p>THE ONLY THING you are going to get by reacting hydrogen peroxide and chlorine bleach (or to be more specific, sodium hypochlorite) is nothing more than water, table salt and molecular oxygen (as in O₂ - not just a free atom of oxygen).</p><p>.</p><p>If you want to dissolve away rust from a plumbing surface, use an acid meant for the purpose - sold at Home Depot and every grocery store in every first world town of 3 people or more. That means citric, acetic, a blend such as in CLR or similar products meant to dissolve iron oxides and other mineral stains, regardless of their source of origin - be it your well water or a scratched porcelain tub.</p><p>.</p><p>If you want a permanent solution that will look &ldquo;so-so&rdquo; either buy a kit to resurface the tub with the proper paint for the job - it includes everything needed, or consider a drop-in cover that caulk seals, or tear out the old junk and put in a new one.</p><p>.</p><p>If the stains are the result of rust coming through the iron base of the tub and the tub is very old, unless you can see all sides of it - you never know how deep penetration of the rust could be, and if you&rsquo;re leaking water, even minute amounts, that promote mold growth and rot of the wood (and the floor, which a full tub and YOU in it, could fall through to the next floor under it - which if you&rsquo;re lucky, will also kill your mother-in-law who lives in the basement, and was otherwise in good health and eventually going to leave you $1+ million. Be sure to divorce right after you get your half.</p><p>.</p><p>OTHERWISE - be on the lookout for a water softener. A water softener works by using various &ldquo;salts&rdquo; (typically magnesium and sodium) to bind up calcium and iron - which makes these stains disappear before they ever start, and increases your cleaning power in the detergent (for those of you with cream in your pants, or however you worded that).</p><p>.</p><p>All you ever needed to do for your laundry was wash them in an acidic environment to get the rust out (sodium metabisulfate is another solution - just buy &ldquo;IronOUT&rdquo; powder in the laundry aisle!) of start with clean clothes, and ALWAYS add one of these three items:</p><p>1. Washing Soda (NOT BAKING SODA) by the same company&hellip; Arm &amp; Hammer. It&rsquo;s sodium Carbonate, it will raise your water pH to 11, make your detergent VERY happy, the water will be extremely &ldquo;soft&rdquo; and the rinse water will neutralize itself with what is left in the clothing.</p><p>OR</p><p>2. Borax. Same idea, slightly less harsh (1.5 magnitudes) to a 9.5pH. Even more around the house uses for other things.</p><p>OR</p><p>3. Any Biz/Oxi/Clorox2 type additive (use the powders and HOT water, if needed, and dissolve yourself in &frac12; gallon of water before adding to a cold water wash for ANY of these powders. Liquids may be handier, but aren&rsquo;t as effective, but compared to nothing at all, will be like night and day).</p><p>.</p><p>WHY #3? Because they all contain either sodium carbonate, borax or similar acting zeolite fillers that accomplish the same thing as a water softener - but only inside the washing machine. #3 also has fluorescent boosters and blueing - which are there to make whites look better than ever after treatment with peroxides, causing the whites to look whiter and the blue specks also cause sunlight to reflect more blue-white light, which makes things look whiter.</p><p>.</p><p>Note&hellip; sodium percarbonate is sodium carbonate (washing soda) baked over acids to create washing soda with oxygen. Once the oxygen is released in the water (to whiten things up) - the sodium carbonate is just plain washing soda, doing its thing. Same with perborate - it&rsquo;s effectively borox once the oxygen is released. Regardless of what it says, it requires FS@#%KING HOT WATER!! to dissolve and release the peroxides. There are two main catalysts that are used, manganese complexes and/or TAED, but they, too require HOT water to work. Absolutely nothing less than 150 degrees, and that&rsquo;s pretty weak, so dissolving it in a few cups to a &frac12; gallon ahead of the wash is ideal, then add it.</p><p>.</p><p>FINALLY&hellip; as I have labored in past posts about other chemicals - detergents in particular, PEOPLE, PLEASE&hellip;. JUST BUY TIDE OR GAIN!! REALLY!</p><p>.</p><p>I&rsquo;ve run tests of my own, and the powders are still superior to the liquids, including the little pods - UNLESS you also buy the pods with the powder in them for extra white and brights! Know what&rsquo;s in those Pods? SEE ABOVE #3!</p><p>If you absolutely cannot do the hot water thing because of configuration of your washer and your iron stained clothes, etc., you have options.</p><p>.</p><p>Note&hellip; BAKING SODA has a place, but the laundry really is not it, except for odor. This is because, baking soda is &ldquo;amphoteric.&rdquo; It can raise and/or lower a pH. It is not just a &ldquo;base&rdquo; that neutralizes acids. It&rsquo;s sodium hydrogen hydrogen carbonate. The potential of Hydrogen (pH) goes increases when you have hydrogen present (lowering pH to an acid, for &ldquo;hydrochloric acid&rdquo; for example).</p><p>.</p><p>Baking soda is in a unique class by itself, and this isn&rsquo;t the place to discuss it - except to say, it&rsquo;s wasted on this topic and the other things I&rsquo;ve tossed in as collateral.</p><p>.</p><p>Now GO CLEAN YOUR BATH TUBS, or plan on doing a lot of work, and FOR F#$KS SAKE, USE THE RIGHT CHEMICALS AND KNOW WHY!!!</p>
<p>One added note since I can&rsquo;t correct - don&rsquo;t use boiling water to dissolve a pre-mix like Clorox2 or Biz or Oxi. Those all contain very expensive enzymes in order to remove certain stains, and ultra-hot water will KILL/DESTROY the enzymes.</p><p>175 degreesF is ideal, but if all you are using is straight Borox or Washing Soda, THAT you can dissolve at lava temperatures - because you&rsquo;re just trying to get it to dissolve, nothing more.</p><p>Mixtures with the enzymes are also mixtures with perborates or percarbonates, thus need very hot water as well, but they have catalyst systems included that work ideally around 170-180 degrees F. That lets the oxygen free, but still keeps the enzymes working. The enzymes in those boxes are worth way more than the peroxide.</p><p>Regardless - the goal when you use a percarbonate or perborate (based on the &ldquo;scoop to line # x or y or z&rdquo; is to obtain a peroxide solution of about 2.5 to 3% - which is exactly what the common household peroxide you buy for 89&cent; per pint happens to be.</p><p>At that percentage, it is about as effective as 1 cup of standard chlorine bleach in a washing machine full of water, at killing microbes. Hospitals and other institutions have systems far more complex than you could imagine and also still make use of phosphates as well, for the ultimate in clean - not just clean for the eyes.</p>
<p>Great idea and even an explanation, too!</p><p>But my problem is the copper build up in a slowly leaking and unused shower. Any ideas on how to get the copper oxide (green) out of a fiberglass shower/tub fixture? None of the 'store bought' cleaners for rust or lime will work.</p><p>Thanks anyway,</p><p>Bob jr</p>
<p>Thanks.....I have tried everything else, so I'll give this method a shot..</p>
<p>by the way, you dont have an ible on how to get the house to dust and vacuum itself do ya? ;-)</p>
<p>This is a very interesting ible for me as my water comes from my own well and is full of iron that stains the bath tub, shower, toilet and any white clothes. I now never wear white but cream:) Over the years I have learned that there are two types of enamel - high temperature and low temperature. The high temperature is used on ceramic things like toilets, and the low temperature enamels on things with metal underneath like bath tubs or stove tops. For cleaning the iron stains on high temperature enamels I can safely use acid containing cleaners. But acid eats into the low temperature enamel causing a matt surface that picks up dirt and stains very easily and will never shine like before. So I'll have to try peroxide on my tub and see what happens.</p>
<p>i dont recommend acid on toilets. it will also eat into the enamel. this also happens if you dont flush urine because of the uric acid. i had a great idea of saving water by only flushing once in the morning since i get up to pee several times a night and it ruined my toilet over a few years. i could have bought many flushes for the cost of a new toilet.</p>
<p>i'm guessing the porcelain might be kind of thin if the iron oxidizes through. you can get the iron tubs re-enameled. if you shop around, you should be able to get it done reasonably but if you do, make SURE you get the no slip coating applied (basically sand under the enamel). the tus are VERY VERY slippery when re-enameled. it will look like a brand spankin new tub and the process hsould last a minimum of 10 years. they can also fill chips when they do it.</p>
<p>this was fascinating! i have some rusty stains on my tile counter. I assumed i needed to use CLR. But i will try hydrogen peroxide. wowie so much simpler! thank you. hope it works.</p>
<p>Great tutorial! thanks!</p>
fab ible keep adding to your stock of ibles. you save many of us the dreary ( actually i love it) searching. before the internet guess I was around before the Internet we had to write to &quot;HELPFUL HINTS FROM HELOISE&quot; and then wait to read it in the paper for her book where of course she usually got the credit...lol to the poster SWGRMM Isimply cant believe my fav product in the world &quot;CLR&quot; FAILED YOU. but i believe you.
<p>Wonderful tutorial. Thanks for sharing. :)</p>
<p>Very useful info, thank for sharing it.</p>
Just watched a serial killer movie that had the same problem. Too bad he didn't know about the cleaner
Unaware of this method, I eventually tried oxyclean laundry pre treater in desperation after lime a way , CLR, etc failures. It was amazing! And like this method-no scrubbing.
<p>Very detailed. Thank you. If your next Instructable could be on disposing of the body that would be very useful.</p>
<p>now that is one of the best comments I`ve read in a long time. </p>
<p>I love it. I will try this as I have a few similar stains. Thanks for sharing and light a candle and enjoy your shiny tub.</p><p>sunshine </p>

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Bio: A maker, addicted to sewing, cooking, and crafting. Sometimes an engineer. Spent a summer at Instructables; got a degree in E: Neural Engineering at Olin ... More »
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