Cleaning Plumbing Fixtures (cleanplumbing)

Cleaning Plumbing Fixtures
submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator

A challenge common to all home dwellers is cleaning plumbing fixtures. Problems vary according to the age of fixtures to the type of water (hard or soft). Routine cleaning of sinks, tubs, showers and toilets will help keep them from getting to the stage when getting them clean is almost impossible.

Some tips to remember when using household cleaners are:

  1. Have a healthy respect for household cleaners. Many of the chemicals used for cleaning plumbing fixtures are potentially dangerous. Always read the labels carefully before using and always follow directions.

  2. Never mix household cleaners unless the label instructions specifically say to do so. Never mix products containing ammonia or chlorine bleach. Mixing household cleaners can result in toxic fumes.

  3. Always store household cleaners in their original containers with the original labels that include use instructions, safety precautions and first aid or antidote information.

  4. Protect skin and eyes from household cleaners. Some household cleaners can cause serious injury.

  5. Use household cleaners only for those cleaning tasks and materials for which they are made.

  6. Store household cleaners out of the reach of children and pets, and never store them near food.

An all-purpose cleaner, powdered, liquid or full-strength spray, is an effective cleaner safe for most plumbing fixtures. Using warm or hot water will increase cleaning power. A non-abrasive cleaner is generally preferred for routine cleaning. Even fine or mild abrasive cleaners will eventually scratch and dull the surface, increasing the possibility of stains and cleaning problems. Some non-abrasive cleaners are:

  • baking soda - dilute in warm water or sprinkle on damp sponge.

  • automatic dishwasher detergent - use 2 tablespoons in l gallon hot water; particularly good for mildew or hard water deposits. Be careful not to get this on your clothing as it contains bleach.

  • washing soda - can be used as baking soda, although it is more harsh (alkaline); good for mildew.

  • powdered all-purpose cleaner - sprinkle on a damp sponge and use as you would a scouring cleaner.

  • trisodium phosphate (TSP) - sprinkle on a damp sponge as a scouring cleanser; use l tablespoon in l gallon hot water (protect skin as this is highly alkaline).

These non-abrasive cleaners are safe for most plumbing fixtures except stainless steel.

On stainless steel use mild acid cleaners, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Commercial cleaners for stainless steel are available in powder form.

When cleaning fiberglass and plastics follow the manufacturer's directions when available. Use a non-abrasive cleaner. Vinegar (l part vinegar to 4 parts water) can be used as a spray on, wipe off cleaner.

Rust stains present a specific problem on plumbing fixtures. Oxalic acid is the most effective rust remover. Commercial rust removers contain oxalic acid. Dilute oxalic acid with ten parts water. Follow all instructions as this is a highly toxic product. For fixtures not acid resistant, use trisodium phosphate. Another alternative to oxalic acid is a paste of cream of tarter and hydrogen peroxide. This a mildly acidic mixture.

Cleaning plumbing fixtures is a ongoing job, but it can be made easier if done routinely and with the right products.

(This resource was updated June 15, 2006 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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