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The Right Way to Clean an Old Porcelain Enamel Bathtub or Sink

Written by  Wilfred Weihe

Dirt, dust, rust, and lime stains can build up on anything porcelain in your bathroom. Whether it’s your bathtub, sink, or even just floor tiles, it can get grimy.

Luxury Freestanding Soaking Bathtub With OverflowAnd with that grime comes germs. An uncleaned bathtub, sink, or floor tiles can harbor millions of micro-bacteria per square inch.

The best way to get rid of these germs is to clean as often as possible and to disinfect or sanitize the surface to the best of your ability.

Even though the bathroom is a place to get cleaned and do your business that doesn’t mean it has to be dirty.

Without proper care, your bathroom can go from sparkly white to dull shades of yellow with specks of rusty brown.

We don’t want that in our home, and odds are, you won’t want it in yours.

When you think about cleaning a bathroom, hundreds of expensive cleaners packed with dangerous chemicals come to mind.

But, there is a way to keep your bathroom crystal and beautiful without the hassle and cost of a cleaner, or the danger of the chemicals in most store-bought cleaning solutions.

In this article, we’ll outline the best way to clean your porcelain bathtub or sink.

What You’ll Need:

  • Liquid Dishwashing Soap
  • Ammonia
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemon Oil
  • Table Salt
  • Lemon
  • A bucket
  • A sponge or nylon cloth (as long as it doesn’t scratch the surface you’re working with)
  • Rag


Before we delve into the steps to cleaning your porcelain bathtubs, sinks, or tiles, it’s important to know there are many ways to avoid all the scrubbing.

For starters, cleaning once or twice a week will make cleaning easier. When you clean your porcelain after each use or as often as you can, you can decrease the risk of many water-caused stains and sanitize the surface of the sink or tub.

5-Minute Solution

For a quick clean, mix 1 gallon of hot water with 2 tablespoons of whatever dishwashing detergent you have on hand. After the mixture becomes frothy, use a microfiber or nylon cloth to scrub away at the basin of your sink or bathtub.

Scrub for one minute and allow to sit for another 30-45 seconds before rinsing all residue off.

Deep Clean

If you’ve gone a little too long without your last clean, or maybe you notice that more grime has built up than usual, it may be time for a deep clean to scrub away the stains.

Start with about a gallon of warm water in a bucket. Add ¼ of a cup of baking soda and ¼ of a cup of ammonia and stir.

Dip another microfiber cloth into the solution and scrub the porcelain surface for 30 seconds. While baking soda isn’t too abrasive, make sure you use just enough pressure to scrub away the residues. Too much pressure and you may end up scratching your sink or bathtub, but not enough and none of the stains will come off.

Just like Goldilocks, find the perfect amount just in between too much and not enough.

If the residue still isn’t gone, you can continue to scrub and repeat until it seems progress has been made.

Just like before, make sure you rinse off the surface and dry with a clean towel to make sure no baking soda or ammonia is left over.

Homemade Disinfectant Solution

As a replacement for some pricey store-bought solutions, you can use this DIY all-in-one cleaner to clean any of your porcelain sinks, tubs, or even floor and shower tiles.

This solution is all natural and includes no chemicals that can be found in many of the store-bought products.

Mix ¼ of a cup of distilled white vinegar into 1 gallon of warm water, add your favorite essential oil scents, and stir.

When you’re ready to clean, dust the surface of your cleaning area with baking soda, dip your cloth or sponge into the solution, and scrub until the stains go away.

Rinse with warm water and wipe with a clean cloth to wipe away any extra residue that may be left behind by the baking soda or cleaning solution.

Preventing Future Stains

Calcium, lime, and rust stains can build up if you don’t have a protective coating on your porcelain.

For a simple, at home solution to seal away your shiny, white porcelain sinks, tubs, and tiles, pour lemon oil onto a microfiber cloth and polish away at your porcelain.  

After drying, the lemon oil will leave a protective sheen that brightens up your porcelain and protects it from grime. It smells great, too!

Last-Minute Rust Remedies

Lime and rust stains can be a real pain to get out without expensive cleaning solutions that are terrible for the environment.

To get rid of these hideous stains, cover them with coarse table salt and squeeze the juice of half of a lemon over the surface. Use a cloth to scrub away with the exfoliating salt to get rid of the crusty stains.

Only use this as a “Hail Mary” plan to get rid of rust stains. The coarseness of the salt can cause small scratches to form in your porcelain if you’re not careful.

There are plenty of ways to clean porcelain you can do at home with everyday supplies.

If you’re pressed for the time, money, or materials, these simple tips can help you transform your bathroom into a place fit for kings and queens.

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