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My wife had a brainstorm and we tried cleaning the tub with a dilute bleach solution, letting it soak overnight, and it worked very well. The tub still needs a cleaning, but the bleach loosened the worst of the dirt.

I'm viewing this is a pre-step to a proper scrubbing, but one that will make the actual cleaning easier.

If we were to do this regularly, say every few weeks, could this be bad for the pipes?

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    If you are on a septic system, I'd avoid this. (putting this in a comment since it isn't a direct answer to the plumbing question).
    – JohnFx
    Oct 3 '10 at 19:08
  • What kind of pipes do you have?
    – Niall C.
    Oct 3 '10 at 19:08
  • @Niall - Metal, not copper. The house was built ca 1900-1910. @JonFx - I don't think we're on a septic system, this is a fairly built-up area. Oct 3 '10 at 21:22
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Bleach is really tough on surfaces and over time may damage the tub. If its diluted, I don't think that it will affect pipes, but then again, just about anything is bad for 100 year old iron pipe.

After you get the tub clean enough, I'd recommend using one of those daily spray tub/shower cleaners or a steam cleaner like a Haan. The bad thing is that you need to use these products more often, but the good thing is that it takes minutes and little work vs. scrubbing and burning your lungs.

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If you use oxygen bleach, its safe for the septic. I like a product called Stain Solver (stainsolver.com). In fact, they recommend putting some in periodically to clean the septic tank.

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