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Tips for a Lead-Free Bathtub

Aug 24, 2018

 by editorial team and Sophia Ruan Gushée


Lead is a toxic metal commonly found in rocks and soil. It cannot be seen, smelt or tasted. (1) While phased out of some products in the 1970’s, lead is still found in many homes today. Including in glazes on tubs.

Studies pursued by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board found lead glaze on 75% of tubs tested in homes built before 1978 (those enrolled in the lead hazard reduction program). Of those tubs, 40%  tested positive for lead dust. In addition, water samples showed that hotter water, and water remaining in contact with tub glaze for longer times, resulted in more lead leaching into the water. (2)

Infants and young children are most affected by lead because their bodies are still developing, and because children will absorb and retain more lead than adults. (3)

The health effects of lead include neurological impairments, delayed physical and mental development, lower IQ, reduced attention spans, behavioral disorders and, at high levels, can contribute to convulsions, coma, and death. (4) It can affect the organs as well including the:

  • nervous system (including the brain)
  • cardiovascular system
  • gastrointestinal system
  • renal system
  • endocrine system
  • immune system
  • hematological system

For children 0-6 years old, there is no safe level of lead. That’s why it’s important to test that you have a lead-free bathtub, and that the bath you’re giving your child does not have undetected lead in it.

How to test lead in your bathtub

Since lead cannot be detected by sight, smell or taste, your bathtub should be tested for lead, particularly in homes with bathtubs made prior to 1978 when lead was common in paints.

There are three methods for doing this: 

  1. XRF Testing. A certified technician uses an X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer. This method can be used without damaging the tub surface.
  2. Dust Wipe Testing. Tubs that have dust or chalky residue where the glaze finish is deteriorating or damaged may show lead in dust through a dust wipe testing. Tubs in good condition will likely not show lead levels through this method.
  3. Chemical Swabs. Made to detect lead, chemical swabs can be used to detect lead in tubs. However, if the tub has a clear coat or other enamel over them it may not detect the lead levels below. Some types of lead compounds don’t react quickly with chemical testing. It’s recommended that a small area of the tub be roughed up with sandpaper, and then the chemical swab should be applied overnight.

While no method of lead testing is 100% accurate, it may identify an unsuspecting lead tub in your home.

Nontoxic cleaning recipes to remove lead

When cleaning a bathtub, use non-abrasive cleaners to avoid scratching the tub surface that could cause lead to leach into the water. Opt for nonabrasive cleaners that are also nontoxic. Here are a few favorite ingredients and recipes:

  • Baking soda + Soap + Warm Water

Baking soda is a great abrasive that can cut through the grime but doesn’t scratch surfaces or leave a chemical residue behind. Combine baking soda with a few drops of dish soap and warm water to create a natural, gentle, and effective tub scrub. When choosing dish soap, consult the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

  • White Vinegar + Water

White vinegar kills mold and bacteria, dissolves soap scum and mineral buildup. It is an acid, so is best to dilute the vinegar in water before applying. Mix 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water into a spray bottle and spray onto tub surfaces.

  • Castile Soap + Water

Cut through dirt, dust, and grime by adding castile soap to water. You can add baking soda as a mild abrasive that doesn’t scratch the tub surface. A word of caution, do not add vinegar, lemon or other acid ingredients to castile soap. It will turn the soap into oil, making it ineffective. (5)

  • Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide works to kill disease germs and is a natural whitener. Pour household strength, 3% hydrogen peroxide, around the tub drain where water sits. Watch it bubble for a few seconds and wash with soap and water. It’s important to keep in mind that a concentration of hydrogen peroxide 10% and higher can cause serious irritation.


There are no safe levels of lead exposure for children ages 0-6 years. One way children and adults are exposed to lead can be through the bathtub. Since lead is only detected by testing, consider having your tub tested for lead by a certified lead professional. When cleaning your tub, use nonabrasive cleaners, such as baking soda, so that the tub surface won’t be scratched. Consider using ingredients and recipes that are nontoxic as well.


(1)(4) A to Z of D-Toxing, Works Cited Part 1

(2)(3) Community & Economic Development Office

(5) Going Green with a Bronner Mom



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In 2020, we're deconstructing our home, habits, and things to reconstruct a practical nontoxic and healing lifestyle. We're bringing consciousness to unconscious choices.



This article is for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. Views expressed in this article by an expert are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Nontoxic Living or Ruan Living.

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