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A Science Experiment in Tub Stain Removal

A while ago I brought shame upon my family by publicly admitting we have tub stains, and then showing you a picture of them. SHAMEFUL.

I just did it again.

But the tub stains are NOT our doing, promise. I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse. See, when we bought this house, we gutted and redid this guest bathroom:

but couldn’t justify the cost of replacing the tub, even though it was kinda gross. So we scrubbed it the best we could and lived with it.

After I posted about that, a bunch of you commented and emailed with suggestions for how to remove the stains, and being a very thorough and effective house-cleaner little bit nerdy, I wanted to test which worked best, so I’ll know what to use in the future when we never have any tub stains to clean again, ever.

Super cool experiment to see the best way to clean a tub without toxic cleaners!

The rules: I only wanted to use products that seemed natural and safe to use while pregnant, and I had to have them on hand. So here are…


IN LANE 1: Half a lemon with iodized salt sprinkled on top

IN LANE 2: Shaklee Scour-off Paste

Disclosure: When I posted about my tub stain dilemma, a reader named Erin offered to send me some of this Scour-off paste to test and I said sure! Other than the product she sent me, I’m not being compensated in any way for this post. If you buy it, it’s good for Erin but I don’t make a cent. So this experiment is completely unbiased, promise.

IN LANE 3: Baking soda and hydrogen peroxide

(Just pour a little baking soda in a dish and add tiny bits of hydrogen peroxide until it forms a paste.)

Yep, took these pics on the toilet. Classy.

IN LANE 4: Magic eraser

There were some rumors floating around a while back that magic eraser is toxic and contains formaldehyde, but the research I dug up proved that’s false. (Here’s more on that.) Still, it’s definitely a less “natural” choice than the other contenders, but it had such ringing endorsements that I had to give it a go.


I used painter’s tape to create sections I could compare, then applied all four products and let them sit about half an hour. (The baking soda-peroxide mix is supposed to sit for 30-45 minutes, and it only seemed fair to give them all that long to work too.)

Here they are, just hangin’ out, doin’ their thing to my tub nastiness:


I took off the painters tape and got this:

I hadn’t rinsed the cleaners off yet, but you can tell that there are some dirty stripes where the painter’s tape was, proving that… well, any of these cleaners were already making an improvement.

Here are the stripes of nastiness after I rinsed off all the cleaners:

I was hoping there would be a out-and-out clear winner which dominated the other contenders by MILES – kind of like me, when I play Andy in Boggle – but I couldn’t decide which one won. So I called in the judges. Which was just Andy, with a flashlight.


The way our bathroom is laid out, there’s no natural light and the one overhead light casts shadows in the tub, so Andy grabbed a flashlight and tried to choose a winner.
Here’s another close-up of what he was seeing:


Best for discoloration: Magic Eraser

It’s hard to tell in these pics, but the whitest part of the tub was the section with the Magic Eraser. BUT it still wasn’t an ideal tub-cleaning solution. Where there were spots that needed scrubbing, Magic Eraser and it’s non-existent scrubability failed.

Best for Specks that Need Scrubbing: Scour-Off Paste

Scour-off paste is kinda grainy and pink, like that stuff they use at the dentist to polish your teeth. It’s great at getting specks of things off your tub, but doesn’t have the whitening properties of Magic Eraser. I did love that it’s non-toxic and safe.

Best Budget-Friendly Solution

The baking soda/hydrogen peroxide mix was actually a pretty great combination of the other two winners. It doesn’t scrub as well as Scour-Off, and it doesn’t whiten as well as Magic Eraser, but it does both relatively decently, plus it’s friggin’ cheap. This is probably what I’ll use in the future.

Best for . . . a nice lemony scent?

The lemon/salt thing was a total failure, and I felt like a tool trying to “scrub” with the lemon. It didn’t do anything that I could tell, except maybe smell fresh. Waste of a fruit. Total “lemon.” (Groooan.)


As cool as my new striped tub looked, I did want to actually clean the thing. So I scrubbed it as well as I could with the scour-off paste to remove the specks and make the surface completely smooth, then attacked the discoloration with Magic Eraser. Here’s the before and after with my clean-as-it’ll-ever-be guest bathtub:

Now, please feel welcome to come visit and employ my guest bath facilities. Especially if you love changing diapers.

Super cool experiment to see the best way to clean a tub without toxic cleaners!

Let's connect


  1. adding magic erasers to my shopping list! our guest bath tub has stains not of our doing as well…. i would love to make it look nicer!

  2. Ahhh I love that you tried all these methods side by side! I’m a big fan of baking soda paste for all types of cleaning, and also because it’s green and cheap! My neighbor just had her tub resealed (?) where a company came in and sprayed some kind of enamel over it. Its supposed to last about 15 years and was $500 for the tub and surround. I’m thinking about doing that down the road.
    Hope you had a happy Mother’s Day with your two little cherubs!

  3. Diapers are a no go. I did enjoy your product review though. I need to forward this on to the little brother!

  4. This is such a great post! I love the side by side comparison, too! Very interesting. I will say that I am addicted to my Magic Eraser, though. One time I ran out of them, and I don’t even know how to clean without it anymore. Anyway, thanks for all of the great info!

  5. Great post showing the comparisons. I use Magic Eraser for all sorts of things, but never have on the tub. I’m going to give it a try.

  6. Only you can make cleaning tub stains fun! LOL! Well done!!

  7. I’m so glad that you cleaned it so well before I come to visit next month. I know that was the plan 🙂 Good to know though! I have some stains in our shower that I need to tackle.

  8. Thanks for this! I usually use baking soda and white distilled vinegar. Just throwing it out there! Hope your Mother’s Day was great!

  9. I wonder if these techniques would work for a tile shower with grout? I may have to try because I hate dirty grout!

  10. One warning about baking soda and peroxide: make sure your seotic can handle it. It is great for clogged drains, too. But I asked the septic guy, he said it can damage aerobic septic systems.

    • I have tried a few things on my tub and if you really want your tub clean. I suggest that you dilute 1/4 cup of bleach in a bucket of water and use a sponge and gloves and with the ventilation fan on and scrub. The tub get clean and white again. I do it once every 3 months (my hubby is a miner and my tub and grout get gross looking)

  11. I am in love with magic erasers. the other thing they are awesome at is getting off that baked on brown stuff on casserole dishes. congrats on the newly clean tub!!

  12. hahah i really enjoyed this demonstration and it left me feeling good about the costco-size pack of Magic Erasers i use on our tubs 🙂

  13. I LOVE my magic erasers and the score-off paste! I never even thought of using them on my tub. I’m going to give it a try too, thanks for sharing!

  14. I knew it was going to be the Magic eraser, that thing is my best friend! Now it’s a proven fact, I was right about it all along!

  15. I recedntly saw a post on Pinterest about using Boraxo (20 Mule Team Borax) to clean a really dirty tub. Since I happened to have a dirty tub available, I decided to give it a try. Sprinkle Boraxo in tub and scrub with a stiff brush. It was wonderful! Sparkling clean in just no time.

  16. I’ve never used a Magic Eraser OR a lemon to scrub my tub but now I think I might need to. Use a Magic Eraser, that is. I don’t particularly like feeling a tool, so I think I’ll pass on the lemon, given your advice. Hooray for a clean(er) tub!!

  17. I really liked this post. Was totally into which product was going to win. You saved me some trouble, I’m just gonna toss my lemon as a wedge into a beverage!


  18. Yea, that lemon/salt thing is a sham. I use baking soda/peroxide for a lot of things. White vinegar too.

  19. This was a great post! Saved me some time. I always wonder which of these things actually work. I love how you divided the tub out and did it all so carefully. Awesome! I’m nerdy too. I like clear data. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Too fun! Thanks for taking the time to test them all out. The one thing I find with the magic eraser is that it’s a one time use … Once I use it I can’t store like a sponge and expect the same results again. Like it can only be wettened (so not a word) one time …



  21. Magic eraser is awesome! My mom uses it to scrub the tub and told me about it so now I use it. Another one of my go to’s is bar keepers friend, it does wonders in removing stains. Thanks for sharing this fun experiment!

  22. Is there nothing that bald guy can’t clean?

  23. Where were you last week when I was scrubbing my girls tub!? Of course I put off that fun chore as long as humanly possible but when little things start grabbing at their legs while they are showering – I know it’s time for a good cleaning!

    I pinned something that says to rub lemons on the fixtures to remove water spots. Since it didn’t work on your tub, maybe there is a use for that lemon after all (beside a lemontini)!

  24. Kelly,

    I love this post! I never thought about using magic erasers for the tub? You are a genius! thanks for sharing and I have a tub that could definitely benefit from your science experiment!


  25. You have to try white vinegar mixed with (has to be BLUE) Dawn!! Google it and you will see how great it is!!!

    • I second this suggestion. The entire time I was reading about your experiment, I was screaming Dawn + vinegar. It really is amazing.

    • Yeah, I was disappointed that there was no lane for blue Dawn + white vinegar (microwaved for 2 min.). It really is surprising how well it works. I have used the Magic Eraser on my tub before, and put everything on it to win this race.

  26. Yes, vinegar is what you need to use. I use it with dish soap and water in a spray bottle(everyone says it has to be blue dawn, but I used some gain dish soap and it worked just fine) I also like to use 1/2 and 1/2 water and vinegar and then sprinkel baking soda over the top to make it fizzle ill let it sit and repete the spray and soda .then scrub and I.use that everywhere in my home.

  27. Susan Brown says:

    I once had a bathtub made of a plastic/acrylic type of stuff that NOTHING would clean. Until one day a man (I know….) told me to try half and half vinegar and kerosene. It worked – no scrubbing but smelled awful. I have never used Magic Eraser but wonder if it would work on my all time pet hate – shower tile grout (why hasn’t someone invented grout that can actually be cleaned). I am going to buy Magic Eraser and try it. Then all I will need is someone with the elbow grease to apply it.

  28. Susan Brown says:

    By the way, in my opinion the only good use for a lemon is for dropping in a Gin and Tonic. I would have thought with your experience and wisdom you would have known this and not wasted your time trying to clean with a lemon!

  29. I had worse stains on my shower floor and what got them out was this. Sprinkle baking soda and then spray with a solution of water, a couple talespoons of dawn dishsoap (blue), 1/4 cup of vinegar and 1/4 cup borax. Let it sit for 30 min and wipe it. You will be amazed!

  30. Good old hydrogen peroxide and baking soda! It seems that nearly every “magical” cleaning solution I find on Pinterest includes those two. Now that I know what to clean my bath-tub with…where to I find the motivation to actually get down on my knees and scrub?! (Can’t seem to find that anywhere.) Great tips, Kelly! And loved your round-up on Practically Functional.


  32. I have another amazing budget friendly cleaner that will knock your socks off. Its the only thing I’ll use on my tub. Take 1 cup of white distilled vinegar and heat it up in the microwave for about 45 sec- 1 minute, just to warm it up. Then mix about 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup blue (this is super important that it IS blue) dawn dish soap. Stick it in a spray bottle and hose down your whole shower. Let it sit for about 15mins, then scrub or rinse away. It is so awesome! P.S. I say about because I don’t actually measure…cause that’s how I roll. It works for me every time and I love how it gets those yucky tub stains off! 🙂

    • jackie h says:

      Your fixtures still look new! I love how Dawn and vinegar cleans but my fixtures have an oil rubbed bronze finish and the drain is starting to look copper. Can the hydrogen peroxide and baking soda go directly on the drain without disrupting the dark finish?

      • It didn’t seem to affect our fixtures (which are pretty new — we replaced those when we moved in), but you do have to be careful with ORB. We have ORB knobs on our doors and they’re starting to rub off in some spots.

  33. Lauren H says:

    I just found this post on Pinterest and I can’t tell you how much I needed this! We just moved to a new apartment and the tub is looking just like yours did. This is definitely going to come in handy for us!

  34. Don’t give up on the lemon and salt. It is the only thing I found that turned my black copper windchimes copper color again. It was fast and magical.

  35. It cracked me up the measures you went to while testing each product out. Thanks for the report and the image of you scrubbing your tub with a lemon! ^__^

  36. Oh my Stars! Can I just ask, why are people so gross!?! We just bought a new house, too… HORRIBLE! My bedroom was their kid’s bedroom, so the walls are the most awful color and full of stickers, as are the windows (and one of the windows cracked, which, as we all know, is super safe for kids!). My closet has no lighting and the shelves are holding on by WIRE (again, child safety was obviously a big deal to this people), so there are wires pointing out from everywhere. There’s a hole in the closet wall, don’t even wanna know what’s in there, just wanna close it. Anyways, it’s a nightmare! And don’t even get me started on the bathroom, the bathtub especially… Oh, oh, and to top it all off, they painted the doors in puce! PUCE!!! I mean, who paints a door in puce? WTF? Oh well, it’s good to know I’m not alone! And I will definitely be using this to remove the yuckiness from… everywhere! Cheers from Costa Rica and good luck to you!

  37. Oh, and one more thing, what about cream of tartar, I’ve heard it’s really good, too…

  38. Becky A. says:

    I’ve tried all of them except the scouring paste (although SoftScrub does a pretty good job), however, while not all-natural-I mix in a spray bottle, half Dawn dish liquid and half white vinegar. It stinks horribly, but I promise you can walk away, come back and give it a good wipe down and it’s clean! For the toxic stuff, I use Clorox Clean-up on just about every white surface in my house! It does the job, too, you just need a mask!

  39. Just wanted to pass on a heads up that they usually sell Magic Eraser knockoffs at the Dollar Tree and 99C Only Store. Same as the real thing for a hot buck. Sweet!

  40. Christi Teska says:

    My tubs I could never get the stains out, we bought the house and the tubs were stained. I ended up one day using the blue Lysol toilet cleaner you put it all over you have to make sure you cover the whole tub and not let the stuff run because it is really obvious where the spots that don’t get cleaned are. Then you let it sit and later rinse it and you have to use a wash cloth to get the blue off but it works great.

  41. Your hilarious. Loved this post. I don’t have a grimy bath tub…but if I ever do…I will for sure use these two solutions! HAHA!

  42. I love this!! I have done cleaning comparisons on my blog too (for stove drip pans and removing crayons from walls). I love this type of thing. I think it’s awesome when bloggers show real results and try different things so that others don’t have to! 🙂 Great job! Pinning!

  43. Great guide. And funny pictures too 🙂 Will definitely try it out next time my bathtub needs a thorough cleaning…

  44. I was far too interested in this….I feel so old now, getting excited over new cleaning methods. I’ve used baking soda and vinegar (yeah, like the homemade-science-project volcano deal) to clean out the tub drain a smidge and it also cleans the area around the drain. Fully realize that’s the chemical reaction…and I don’t in particular want to get my hands in there WITH those reactions to scrub…but I wonder what would happen if one scrubbed the tub with a layer of baking soda then misted with vinegar? I may have to try this….just thinking aloud. 🙂 Love the post.

  45. Just came across this post via Pinterest. I just wanted to let you know I often use scour off AND Magic Erasers together. Tub and stove are the places I use them both. I let the scour off sit for a little bit then scrub with the Magic Eraser! Happy Cleaning!

  46. I have used a combination of Comet (powder cheap stuff) and the Magic eraser for years now to sparkle my tubs! Works well on grout too. Best Ive found for grout is the Clorox gel bleach pen!

  47. Jennifer says:

    Quick question- was the tub dry before you used the erasers?

  48. I know this was older, but when I cleaned government housing, you wouldn’t believe the nasty people left in their bathrooms. I know it’s not a natural cleaner, but we used oven spray on plastic tubs to get every part back to clean again. Just spray thoroughly and make sure to hit every spot. Let it sit a bit then rinse really well. After you’ve done this you can go back to the more natural cleaners but they just down have the power for deep down embedded scum and dirt. By the way, run the fan and open windows if possible

    • Latisha Campbell says:

      My son refinishes tubs for a living and by no means is this a safe option if you are pregnant but he uses lacquer thinner to clean the tubs first. It will clean the tub but there are safety steps to consider. This is NOT a natural method, just an option if all else fails.

  49. My husband and I sold out house last fall and I used the cleaner Comet along with the blue Dawn dish detergent to make a paste. AMAZING! tubs were like new shiny. Got rid of calcium and soap scum.

  50. Funny I should stumble on your post. I had the same dilemma about a month ago. Tried all the things mentioned and my hands almost fell off. Then I remembered a product I used when my boys were little. Soft scrub, good old softscrub!! Except this time I bought the kind with bleach and used a green and yellow Scotch brute pad. I’m in heaven now!! Why did I forget about this amazing product?? And yes, I use magic erasers for almost everything else. I noticed yesterday that you can buy a friggin case of the generic version on that big box online company–for cheap. Has anyone tried them??


  1. […] We try to avoid harsh chemical cleaners in our house, especially with two little ones under 3, so I did a little science experiment to test which natural cleaner removed tub stains the best. […]

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