What not to use when cleaning these lightweight yet durable bathtubs? Acrylic has a high-gloss nonporous surface that looks amazing when new, but it can easily become scratched, stained, or cracked if the wrong products are used on it. Take it from me, you need to be careful and treat your acrylic tub with gentleness!
When I first had my acrylic tub installed, I was so excited to soak in a nice bubble bath. But that excitement quickly turned to frustration when I started using regular old household cleaners without checking if they were acrylic-safe first. Basically, I learned the hard way that you can’t just use anything on an acrylic surface.
Harsh chemical cleaners and abrasive scrubs will damage that pretty glossy finish faster than you can say “soap scum!” So do yourself a favor and avoid these common yet potentially disastrous mistakes I made as a new acrylic tub owner.
|Type of Cleaner||Why Avoid||Safer Alternatives|
|Abrasive cleaners||Scratch surface, damage gloss||Mild dish soap, non-abrasive all-purpose cleaner|
|Solvent-based products||Can dissolve and permanently damage acrylic||Diluted isopropyl alcohol, non-acetone nail polish remover|
|Alcohol-based cleaners||Cause cracks and crazing over time||Vinegar and water mix, ammonia-free glass cleaner|
|Dyes, oils, residues||Lead to stubborn set-in stains||Immediately rinse and wipe away spills|
Steer Clear of Abrasive Cleaners
Some of the first things I reached for when tackling soap scum and dirt build-up in my new bathtub were scouring powders and creams like Comet, Ajax, and Soft Scrub. Though you know, they work great on most surfaces, the gritty particles in those heavy-duty cleaners did a number on my poor tub!
I scrubbed and scrubbed with a stiff brush trying to remove some stubborn grime, not realizing that I was actually scratching the heck out of the acrylic. Talk about a slippery slope – once the surface becomes scratched and etched, it’s much harder to keep clean.
All those tiny grooves just trap water and dirt in a vicious cycle. Of course, hindsight is 20/20, and had I done a little research first, I would have realized that any abrasive cleaners or scrubbers have no place near a pristine acrylic finish. Pumice stone on a stick? No way! Stay far away from anything even mildly abrasive.
Solvent-Based Products Spell Trouble
Now, I’ll admit I’m no chemist, but through trial and error, I’ve learned that acrylic plastic and solvents do not mix well. That means products like acetone or paint thinner, as useful as they may be on other surfaces, are a huge no-no for acrylic tubs.
I found this out when I used some heavy-duty acetone-based nail polish remover to try and remove a few stubborn spots and discoloration. Well, let’s just say it removed it alright – by dissolving the finish right off! I was left with permanent damage and pitting.
These harsh solvents literally break down acrylic, sometimes to the point of dissolving it completely. Talk about a stark lesson. I should have spotted-tested first, but honestly, those products have no business being used on acrylic period.
If you make the same mistake I did, there’s no going back from the cracking and crazing it causes over time. My advise? Put down the acetone and paint thinner and slowly back away from the bathtub!
Alcohol-Based Cleaners Can Crack the Surface
Given my track record, you’d think I would have learned my lesson about chemistry and acrylic tubs. But nope, I still had some more trial-and-error to go! I eventually tried using some alcohol-based cleaners and sanitizers in the tub, thinking nothing of it.
And at first, it seemed fine, until I started noticing faint little cracks and an overall crazing of the surface. Yup, acrylic is susceptible to stress cracks when exposed to alcohol, which can seep in and weaken the finish. I sure had that “aha” moment too late.
Even seemingly gentle glass cleaners like Windex actually contain alcohol, which can build up over time and take its toll. Of course, a little dilution with water helps, but personally, I’d rather play it safe and stick to non-alcohol cleaners altogether.
Plenty of greener options exist nowadays. No point risking the health of my tub when it’s avoidable. Just a friendly heads up to steer clear of anything alcohol-based near your acrylic!
Don’t Let Stains Set In
Like most novice acrylic owners, my cleaning habits definitely needed some, shall we say, refinement. I’d basically let soap scum, oils, and product residue build up day after day, figuring I could tackle it later with heavy-duty Acrylic tub cleaners. You can consider Mr Magic Cleaner to remove stains.
Boy was I wrong! Acrylic is so prone to staining if you don’t stay on top of cleaning it regularly. And unlike a porcelain or enamel tub, stained acrylic is no easy fix. Trying to scrub out set-in stains with abrasives will likely make it worse in my experience. Read, how I clean an acrylic bathtub without scratching.
What a pain!
Over time I realized prevention is key – rinse the tub after each use, squeeze it dry, and do a quick wipe down. Basically don’t give staining a chance to set in too deeply. But when you do get the inevitable stain, spring into action fast. I’ve had great luck gently soaking stains right away with warm water mixed with a little dish soap or shower spray cleaner. if acrylic bathtub stains won’t come out, check this guide.
Getting at it immediately prevents the need for anything harsh. It may take a little elbow grease, but have patience and let the mild cleaner do its thing before you reach for anything abrasive.
Watch Out For Dyes and Residue
Given how prone acrylic is to stains and discoloration, I also had to change how I handle things like hair dye and other coloring agents in the bathroom. Rinsing hair dye down the drain is pretty much a recipe for tub disaster I learned!
Now I always drape an old towel or shower liner over the edges to protect the tub before starting any coloring process. And I make sure to wipe up spills immediately – no lingering! The same goes for bath bombs, oils, shaving creams, and skin care products.
You’d be amazed how a few innocent splashes can turn into permanent stains over time. I talk from experience. Now I’m super diligent about rinsing and wiping down after any product use in the tub.
For tougher buildup, I do sometimes use a gentle bleach-based cleaner, but I always dilute it and spot test first on an inconspicuous area just to be safe. And I make sure the product says it’s recommended for acrylic. Better safe than sorry!
While acrylic tubs may look pretty and glossy when new, they definitely require a gentle touch and the right cleaning technique. Believe me, I’ve made all the mistakes over my years as an acrylic tub owner! If this all sounds daunting, don’t worry.
Just be sure to keep these precautions in mind, and your tub can maintain its beautiful finish for years. Avoid anything abrasive or harsh chemicals. Handle spills and stains delicately but promptly. And always check product labels for acrylic compatibility. It may be trial-and-error at first, but a little TLC goes a long way.
Treat your tub with care, and it will treat you to countless relaxing, enjoyable baths! What works for you when it comes to safely cleaning and maintaining your acrylic tubs? I’d love to hear your experiences and tips in the comments!
William J. Bullock is a licensed plumber with over 15 years of experience installing and repairing bathtubs. He runs his own plumbing company in Greenville and serves residential and commercial clients. William is dedicated to providing honest, transparent advice to help homeowners make informed decisions about their bathroom renovations.
He has established expertise in selecting bathtubs, planning custom installations, diagnosing issues, and completing repairs. William aims to share practical tips and reliable recommendations based on extensive hands-on work. When he isn’t on a job site, William enjoys spending time with his family and volunteering at local community events. He takes pride in delivering quality service and enjoys helping people upgrade their homes.