Using salvaged fixtures in a bathroom remodel can be a great way to save money. Older fixtures such as sinks and tubs are about a tenth of the price of new ones and a great way to recycle perfectly good building materials.
One of the downsides of using recycled bathtubs and sinks is having to deal with deep stains and heavy buildups of soap scum. While sinks and tubs can be stripped and re-enameled, the cost can be very expensive. A great temporary solution is to clean the fixtures as thoroughly as possible and use them “as is” until you can afford to have them re-enameled. Here’s how I managed to clean a badly stained, recycled bathtub that we installed in our remodeled bathroom 15 years ago.
Cleaning deep stains from a salvaged tub will require the following supplies:
Old clothes, work apron, goggles, latex gloves, Barkeeper’s Friend (or other heavy duty scouring powder), liquid bleach, old rags, spray bottle, and a package of 0000 extra fine steel wool.
How to clean your tub
1. Spray down the inside of the tub with warm water, using the spray bottle if you don’t have a handheld shower attachment.
2. Working in small areas, sprinkle the scouring powder on the wall or base of the tub, let sit 5 minutes. Use the rags to scrub away at the stain.
3. Rinse then repeat in another area of the tub, rinsing after each scrubbing.
4. The scouring powder should remove the bulk of the stains and scum. What’s left can be removed gently using the extra fine steel wool pads. In most cases, the steel wool will remove buildup without leaving visible scratch marks — do test an area of your tub first before using the steel wool.
5. At this point, your bathtub should be looking much more cleaner than before. If you have deep stains that weren’t removed with the scrubbing and the scouring powder, a final step is to treat the stained areas with Clorox bleach. To clean with bleach, rinse the tub thoroughly of remaining scoring powder, set the drain plug, and fill with 2-3 inches of water. Pour two cups of bleach in the water, use one of your rags to gently wash the sides of the tub with the bleach solution until the stains lift. Once the stains are gone, drain the water and rinse the tub thoroughly.
A few precautions: Bleach is highly caustic which is why protective goggles, old clothes, and gloves are recommended. Do not mix bleach with ammonia and always use this product in a well ventilated room.
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