Instructables

How to turn your bleach-stained-red bathtub white again

Featured
Picture of How to turn your bleach-stained-red bathtub white again

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.

 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up
yyjfan26 days ago

ive used lemon and course salt on rust stains.

thinkpadt301 month ago

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?

Vampyra652 months ago

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.

chuckyd2 months ago

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.

I understand that there are ways to recover the porcelain, but I haven't tried any.

realguy chuckyd2 months ago

If you have ever chipped a stovetop, you know that porcelain isn’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.

.

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 “faux” 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… with the ~16 guys still alive (those fumes and no O2 killed instantly though someone still SCRAM’d the reactors) trapped in the rear, tapping code, until they suffocated.

rondacosta2 months ago

This was a great "ible". Very informative and practical.
Since there is a lot of "Tub" experience here, I have a question:

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.
I have the idea of painting it with nearly matching automotive spray paint, which should end up being shiny...
Can any of you provide some experienced inputs or suggestions about how to do it? Should I use primer too?
Much appreciated. ron.dacosta@gmail.c o m

Eh Lie Us!2 months ago

Murder, eh...? The cops are on their way.

Kidding. Great post. I've never seen peroxide in a spray bottle.

tbresler2 months ago

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.)

doo da do2 months ago

Going to give it a go

katerlyn2 months ago

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.

realguy katerlyn2 months ago

the shaving cream was just to hold it in place otherwise it runs down the sides because of a thing referred to as "gravity.”

.

But seriously folks… 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.

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.

THESE DAYS, the daily “Shower Clean” 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.

REPEAT immediately after “today’s shower” - and if you do this daily after an initial, thorough cleaning, you need not do any major scrubbing - but I’d still prefer a water softener for cleaning, bathing, rinsing away of detergents and soap residue from places that you didn’t spray (such as your own hands!).

jjardine2 months ago

This is a great one SelkeyMoonbeam. And, thanks to ancienthart for all of the "Mr Science" end of it! :)

csanchez212 months ago
Similar happened to my toilet. Am gonna try that. If I would have seen my tub like that I would have freaked!
ancienthart2 months ago

Hi SelkeyMoonbeam - I am chemistry trained and you've just ruined any chance of me having a normal week this week. :D
Your explanation of why the stains appear sounds pretty spot on. Classical oxidation reaction between the iron and the bleach.

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.

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

Hah. Found it (I think). Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidising agent in acidic solutions. But in basic solutions, it can be a reducing agent.

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.

@ancienthart>>Hah. Found it (I think). Hydrogen peroxide is an oxidising agent in acidic solutions

.

Let’s go right to the chemistry texts and obliterate this usage of terms in this context.

  • Oxidation is the loss of electrons or an increase in oxidation state by a molecule, atom or ion.
  • Reduction is the gain of electrons or a decrease in oxidation state by a molecule, atom, or ion.

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.

Redox reactions, or oxidation-reduction reactions, have a number of similarities to acid/base reactions. Like acid–base reactions, redox reactions are a matched set, that is, there cannot be an oxidation reaction without a reduction reaction happening simultaneously.

Oxidation and reduction properly refer to a change in oxidation state — the actual transfer of electrons may never occur. Thus, oxidation is better defined as an increase in oxidation state, and reduction as a <u>decrease</u> in oxidation state.

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.

SelkeyMoonbeam (author)  ancienthart2 months ago

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!

And the research continues. I told you you were ruining my week. :D
Apparently basic peroxide will react with the most common chemical in bleach to produce chlorine gas - ventilation would be recommended.

bobjacksonjr2 months ago

Great idea and even an explanation, too!

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.

Thanks anyway,

Bob jr

lithelady2 months ago

Thanks.....I have tried everything else, so I'll give this method a shot..

fixfireleo2 months ago

by the way, you dont have an ible on how to get the house to dust and vacuum itself do ya? ;-)

Beekeeper2 months ago

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.

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.

fixfireleo2 months ago

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.

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.

Hechicera19732 months ago

Great tutorial! thanks!

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 "HELPFUL HINTS FROM HELOISE" 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 "CLR" FAILED YOU. but i believe you.

Wonderful tutorial. Thanks for sharing. :)

rimar20002 months ago

Very useful info, thank for sharing it.

aspirer2 months ago
Just watched a serial killer movie that had the same problem. Too bad he didn't know about the cleaner
swgrmn2 months ago
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.
fred272 months ago

Very detailed. Thank you. If your next Instructable could be on disposing of the body that would be very useful.

lugnutt73 fred272 months ago

now that is one of the best comments I`ve read in a long time.

sunshiine2 months ago

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.

sunshine