How to Clean a Reglazed or Refinished Bathtub

Avoid abrasives on your renewed tub surface

Young woman cleaning bathroom with green cleaning products
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Congratulations, you have a newly refinished bathtub. The pitted, ugly Martian landscape that once confronted you every morning is buried under layers of sleek, shiny paint or commercial coating. But a week or two later, you're confronted with one uncomfortable issue facing owners of reglazed tubs: How do you clean the thing? The short answer is frequently, with mild cleaners and soft sponges.

Not the Toughest Coating

Whether you're the owner of a DIY-finished or professionally finished tub, you've probably heard the same advice: Use only soft cleaners, such as Formula 409 or Fantastik. The reason is that most bathtub refinishing is not the dip type of glazing, where the tub is removed, taken to a shop, and dipped. Unless you paid thousands for that type of reglazing, your bathtub was left in place, sanded down, cleaned, spot-repaired, masked off, and sprayed with a paint gun or, if you did it yourself, a roller and brush. 

Since this is basically a paint job, the advice to stick to non-abrasives is well founded. The only problem is that, in order for non-abrasive cleaners to work, you have to clean the tub frequently, before soap scum or hard water deposits develop. But if you stick to a strict cleaning schedule based on tub use, you should have no trouble with the non-abrasive rule.

Cleaning Methods to Avoid

Steam Cleaning

A household steam cleaner seems like it would get rid of all that dirt and soap gunk, and without using abrasives. Unfortunately, steam doesn't get the job done, and it could damage the finish if it gets underneath it, through cracks or other damage. For this reason, it's also not advisable to try cleaning the tub with a scrubbing attachment.

Power Washing

Power washing, or pressure washing, is simply too powerful to attempt on painted surfaces. It's possible to wash tub and shower tile with a pressure washer if you do it right, but this not okay for refinished tubs of any kind; it could easily lead to a peeling or otherwise damaged coating and would certainly void any warranty from a professional refinisher.

Abrasives

Abrasives include harsh or gritty cleaners as well as rough sponges, like Scotch-Brite pads or sponges with an abrasive layer on one side. Most tub refinishers and tub coating manufacturers also warn against any products containing bleach or ammonia. Common cleaners you should avoid include, but are not limited to:

  • Powdered cleanser, like Comet
  • Bar Keeper's Friend
  • Any cleaners containing ammonia
  • Household bleach or cleaners boosted with bleach
  • Abrasive cream cleansers, even if they claim to be "soft"

Cleaners Safe for Refinished Surfaces

Most refinishing companies and DIY tub coating manufacturers seem to agree on a few commercial cleaners that are safe to use on refinished tubs:

  • Scrubbing Bubbles
  • Formula 409 (without bleach)
  • Lysol Tub and Tile Cleaner
  • Liquid Ajax

In addition, you can safely use good old-fashioned dish soap, like Dawn or Palmolive.

Tools and Supplies You Will Need

  • Non-abrasive cleaner
  • Sponge, microfiber cloth, or soft-bristle nylon brush
  • Bucket or container for rinse water
  • Soft towel or rag

Instructions

Rinse the Tub

Rinse the tub with warm water to remove hair and excess soap residue.

Apply the Cleaner

Liberally apply the cleaner of your choice to all surfaces of the tub. Don't just spray our pour it in one area with the intention of spreading it around because the cleaner must be given time to work. If you're using dish soap, you can pour some onto the surface and spread it with a sponge.

Let the Cleaner Sit

Leave the cleaner in place for about 5 minutes. This helps to cut through soap residue and oils and also gives disinfectant cleaners time to disinfect (if you wipe them off right away they don't disinfect properly).

Scrub Without Abrasives

Scrub the entire tub surface with a standard cellulose sponge or a microfiber cloth. If the tub has a non-slip surface on the bottom, you can scrub this area with a soft, nylon-bristle brush.

Rinse Again

Thoroughly rinse the tub, leaving no traces of cleaner. This is especially important when using dish soap, which can be dangerously slippery on a tub surface. Also, any cleaner can damage a tub's finish if it's allowed to dry on the surface.

Dry the Tub

Wipe the tub dry with a soft towel or cloth to remove water droplets and buff the finish to a like-new shine. You obviously won't do this after every use, but it's an easy way to restore the shine after a good cleaning.