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How to Remove Oil Stains From a Fibreglass Bathtub

Learn how to correctly remove stains from your fibreglass/acryclic bathtub.

Learn how to correctly remove stains from your fibreglass/acryclic bathtub.

Fibreglass Bathtubs Stain Easily

If fibreglass bathtubs stans so easily, why, then, would you get a bathtub made out of it? I'll tell you: Fibreglass is actually a great material for bathtubs because it's lightweight and can be moulded into any shape. It also has a nice glossy finish that makes it look like ceramic.

However, what manufacturers don't tell you (besides in the fine print) is that fibreglass can stain easily. But don't worry: you can remove the stains yourself. I'll show you how.

Don't Try This at Home

These are all the options I used to try to erase (or at least fade) the oil stains in my acrylic bathtub. These are methods that you should avoid.

  • Bleach: You are literally throwing money down the drain. The bleach will not even make the stains look fainter, so don't waste your time.
  • Hair Colour Stripper: Yes, I tried this too. It doesn't work. The chemicals in hair bleach, in theory, should have enough bleaching power, but because they are intended for use on hair, they are chosen to protect the skin and not cause irritation. Thus they aren't as powerful as they could be.
  • Epoxy Paint: If you fancy breathing in toxic fumes for days, by all means, go ahead and paint over the stains with epoxy paint. Both you and your neighbours will probably need to move out while you wait for the smelly paint to dry. The application can also be tricky—you don't want to have an uneven finish where you can see each brushstroke. Paint rollers are advised for this, but you should use a paint sprayer if you want an even better finish. If you really want to go down this route, get professionals to do this and book yourself into a hotel for a couple of days. A respirator has to be worn during spray painting to prevent inhaling toxic fumes, and the paint takes a minimum of 24 hours to dry. If you think you want to try this solution, you need to prepare the surface first with sandpaper and a coat of primer.
  • Fabric Brightener: I tried this in the hope that it would at least mask the stains. There was no difference whatsoever. That's the price you pay for believing the adverts that the brightener will make fabric whiter than white. Then again, the clue is in the name: “fabric."
  • Peroxide: I was really excited when I read that hydrogen peroxide (strong solution) can literally erase all types of stains. I ran to my local pharmacist and diligently doused my fibreglass bathtub with peroxide. I tried the first time—nothing. Then, I drenched some kitchen towels with peroxide and left them on the stains overnight. Still nothing.
  • Baking Powder Mixed With Vinegar: Does it work? No. But it's quite entertaining to see the fizzing action of the baking powder when you combine it with vinegar. This mixture is also supposed to be good to remove limescale—I found this was not the case for my bathtub and fittings.
  • Magic Eraser Sponge: Have you ever tried those "magic erasers" advertised on TV? They are white sponges that promise to clean stubborn stains like burnt food on cookers. Well, I tried them to clean my bathtub, and nope, they didn't erase the stains. Next! (However, I am quite happy using magic erasers in the kitchen, they work rather well).

Questions From the Floor

People who have read this article asked a few questions about removing stains. For the solution I discuss here, which I have applied to my own bathtub, my recommendation is to ensure that the bathtub is completely empty and dry. A light buffing action is best to get a smooth finish.

Remove Essential Oils Stains From a Fibreglass Tub!

While relaxing in a hot bath with essential oils is lovely, it may not be as relaxing when you're spending time and money trying to erase oil stains. Then, I had an epiphany. Would nail file blocks, which are not as abrasive as normal nail files, remove the stains?

  • If you're careful not to apply too much pressure and are very patient and persistent, you can scrub off even old stains slowly but surely.
  • Nail file blocks are very cheap, and you can get them in any health and beauty store.
  • A word of warning: some of the glossy finish will look scratched in the process. In low lighting, no one will notice the difference. The actual fibreglass will not be damaged, but it will simply become slightly opaque where you have buffed it.

You will need to tackle each stain one by one.

  1. Spend a few minutes buffing the stain.
  2. Move on to the next one when you see that the first stain has faded.
  3. Nail file blocks wear out, so you can trim off the tops with a cutter and use the abrasive surface until you can no longer hold the block because it has become too small.

It will take you days to complete the project, but if you have had these oil stains in your bathtub for years (like I did), what are a few days in comparison?

Let Me Know How It Goes

I'd love to know two things:

  • If you have had any joy removing stains from your bathtub.
  • If you have tried using a nail file block.

Also, if you have any tips or discovered an alternative way of cleaning a bathtub, please add your suggestions in the comments. Thanks!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Can lavender essential oil actually melt or damage an acrylic bathtub?

Answer: Hi, good question. When I accidentally stained my acrylic bathtub with essential oils they didn't damage the finish as such, but they did leave yellowish-brownish stains.

Question: Do you think that essential oils can stain porcelain too? I had my porcelain tub refinished, and after a few months spots began to appear, and every week there were more and more. We do not use hair dye, no chemical spills (no chemicals used). The refinisher returned and got them out, but I don't want them to come back. An essential oil is the only thing I can think of that could have stained the tub.

Answer: Yes, it could be that essential oils could be causing the staining. I definitely wouldn't use anything abrasive for porcelain. Hydrogen peroxide may help.


Dawson on February 28, 2020:

The nail file block totally worked! I’m preparing my home to sell, and was at a loss about these unsightly spots—-this solved the issue! Lots of elbow grease was required for my stain removal, but your article helped me identify the cause of the “droplet stains”, then to remove them. Thank you so much!

Paola Bassanese (author) from Ireland on May 02, 2019:

Hi Yvonne,

I guess it's because it's an oil so it will still sink into the glaze, maybe we should all put cling film around our bath tubs before bathing :)

Yvonne on May 01, 2019:

I found eucalyptus oil removed the obvious stains from my porcelain bath but it hasn’t left it squeaky clean.

Paola Bassanese (author) from Ireland on January 14, 2019:

Hi Anthony, I am not sure but maybe worth asking someone in a bathroom supply store?

Paola Bassanese (author) from Ireland on January 14, 2019:

Hi Francesca, yes, even bath tub need to go to the spa and get an "exfoliation"! Hope you managed to get rid of the stains.

Anthony Zappia on January 12, 2019:

Is there a way of removing essential oil stains from polyurethane bathroom surfaces?

Blacktoe on January 10, 2019:

Hi Paola

I've had the same problem and it took me a while to realise it was the essential oils that were to blame. None of the products you tried worked for me either. I suspect the oil reacts with the acrylic and forms a new permanent compound within the top layer of the acrylic that nothing will dissolve away. On another site someone recommended acetone to remove the stains! Do NOT try this on a plastic bath - you will melt your tub!! In the end, I got my stains out with a pummice stone (before I read your article). A nail block is a much gentler way to do it! Thanks for the tip! Francesca

Paola Bassanese (author) from Ireland on November 16, 2017:

Hi Deanna, very interesting! For some reason baking soda and household cleaning products didn't lift the stains for my bathtub but your suggestion sounds very good. I have never heard of this cleaning product, I wonder if it's available here in the UK. Thank you for your comment

Deanna on November 11, 2017:

I use Thieves householder cleaner from young living mixed with baking soda to make a paste.let it sit scrub it every 10 min. Kept adding a lil.water and baking soda every now and then.Did this for about an hr while i cleaned the rest of bathrm.