…is what my coworker said to me as she cried with laughter when I told her about cleaning our jetted bath tub.
When we got the house, we photographed the jetted bath tub because it was so disgusting. The previous owners had used (and left behind) a rubber mat in the tub. It was stained orange-brown with long hairs wrapped up in its suction cupped bottom. The jets were stained, grimy, and clearly had hair caught up in them too. It needed an exorcism, is what I’m saying. Second best: kill it with fire from space.
Now, I’ve often described hot tubs as “a crockpot of people sweat and genital secretions with a testicle bouquet garni“. I mean, a jetted tub has water lines, and the water lines are full of the water from the last bather, right? Ugh. My house has a stanky “hot tub”, now more like a “cold tub”, which I would probably prefer to call “an infection tub”.
Cleaners were hired to clean out the house, and while they made the bottom of the tub shine, they wouldn’t do anything about the jets. It was left to us. Inexplicably, they scrubbed the rubber mat clean and folded it up. ….I have NO idea.
Our home inspector had suggested that we use one cup of bleach, a full tub of water, and then run the jets for a good long while to clear the system out. Therefore, the night we moved in Mark and I went to WalMart to buy bleach and a new blanket for the dog. We were dead tired, and we stood in front of the racks of bleach in quiet contemplation. Mark reached down and picked out the cheapest, smallest bottle of bleach I’ve ever seen. It said, simply, Extra Strong Bleach. No brand name.
“Mark, don’t you want to get Clorox or Javex or something? A brand name?”
Mark rocked gently on his feet, like a zombie waiting for a thought or impulse to occur.
“There’s a lot of Clorox and stuff, like, I think there’s a reason why. I think that stuff is… better.”
Mark just stood there, turning grey from exhaustion. I caved immediately. He was DONE. I couldn’t explain why people bought Clorox and Javex instead of Extra Strong Bleach, I knew there was a reason, I figured it had to do with scent, none of the Clorox bottles mentioned scent, and my man was dying in front of me. It seemed important to get him home ASAP and just go to bed. The monetary difference wasn’t a huge deal, and there was no evidence that the brand names were better than Extra Strong Mystery Acid.
1) Never cut your boyfriend/fiancé any slack. Never.
2) Trust your gut.
We went home, the dog loved his new blanket, and the next afternoon it was time to take on the tub. I’d be lying if I said I was dismayed. I love really dirty things – I love to clean them. I love to clean complicated VERY dirty things, like children’s toys and hamster mazes and yes, jetted tubs. The weirder the object, the more satisfying the work. During the move we’d found a really old toothbrush and I was elated. I would use it to clean out the jets! YES. So excited! I was already feeling the glowing satisfaction of a pristine white tub with that bleach fresh smell and polished up jets. I could visualize it. I love the smell of Javex. I was SO ready to do this ugly job.
The toothbrush worked wonders. I was so satisfied. Everything was working out.
I plugged up the tub and turned the water on, heat on max. As the steam began to rise, I opened up the bottle of Extra Strong Bleach. I recalled that the home inspector had said to use one cup of the stuff but naawwww. I wanted my tub to be sterilized. I broke the safety seal very carefully and poured until my feelings said I’d reached the right point.
The stench of cat pee blossomed like a nuclear mushroom cloud.
BLEACH IS MADE FROM AMMONIA. Jesus god I think I knew that but like I didn’t understand. Javex and Clorox are probably leading bleach brands because their products are made from ammonia (probably, maybe there are different origins for bleach) but don’t stink of cat piss!
Even worse, I am so allergic to cats that the smell of ammonia was making my skin crawl. CATS ARE NEAR: I CAN SMELL THEM said Paranoid and Allergic!Janine. WE SHOULD BREAK OUT IN HIVES, MAYBE.
The hot water was shunted to cold to reduce the spreading stench, and I closed the bathroom door. I didn’t have any rubber gloves, there wasn’t enough water in the tub to dilute the bleach to the point that it wouldn’t melt the flesh off my hands (because I’d dosed the tub until my feelings said stop!) so I was committed. I worked on priming the bedroom ceiling as I listened to the tub fill, considering the eternal conundrum: can a tub be sterile if it smells like cat piss? It had never occurred to me that the answer to that might be an emphatic yes. Considering there was a third of a bottle of bleach in there…
Eventually, the tub filled to the point that the uppermost jet was covered with three or four centimeters of water. I cannot emphasize enough at this juncture that I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I have no experience with jetted tubs.
The power switch is outside the bathroom. You flip the power to the tub on, I suppose you’re supposed to get in, then you push a water proofed button on the tub to start the jet function. I flipped on the power, I turned on the tub, and an incredibly loud rumble signalled that Things Were Happening. The water in the tub was suddenly moving and then BAM. Like a vision of the water fountains in Versailles being started for the day, the two jets on the back of the tub began to stream water. For one hot second they were contained under the water line, but they rose above the waterline as the motor under the tub revved up to full strength.
At first I thought it was going to be okay but no.
I recall seeing them rise about an inch above the water line, but nothing after that because that’s when I began to react to the instinctual knowledge (by this point I was all about instincts) that I was in shit. I don’t know what I did, it happened so fast, but the ultimate outcome is that those two jets blasted me in the face with heavily bleached water. I was turning away when it happened (instincts!) so my right eye took the brunt of it, but I want to be clear that my entire face was thoroughly soaked. My nostrils were full of cat pissy water, my right EAR was full of it, and worst of all my eyes were saturated.
Oh shit oh shit.
MY EYES. I kinda need those?
But it wasn’t done, the jets weren’t at full strength when they got me. No, at full strength those bastards were hosing down the bathroom vanity and mirror. I was ineffectually batting at the water, trying to deflect it back into the tub with my hands but it was a fools errand. The floor began to run with water when I recalled that I could kill the power to the jets from outside the room.
I did so.
The water foundation died instantly, and the water falling to the floor made a self-amused slap when it hit the puddles on the tile.
My whole world was the stench of cat piss. My eyes were doing alright, so I dried off my face, but as Mark came to ask why I had been screaming, it started. My right eye began to burn.
Oh shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit.
I ran to the other upstairs bathroom, turned on the shower, aimed the shower head at the wall and for the first time in my life EVER, I held my eyes open under running water. Even with the water running over my face, filling my right ear, everything EVERYTHING ALL THE THINGS smelled like cat pee. Everything. My eyeballs were like *scccreeeaammmmmmm* of horror because they knew. They knew. They weren’t damaged by the bleach, my eye sight is fine, but they knew. They were scared. They knew they also smelled of cat piss. They weren’t happy about it.
Mark taught me that a jetted tub needs to be filled up to at least an inch to two inches above the highest jet. Where were you when I needed you BEFORE, O Fount Of Jetted Tub Wisdom That Is Called Fiancé? An inch of water is enough to deflect the strength of the jets. We ran the tub for an hour, and when it was done the jets were glossy white and yeah, cat pissy.
I drained the tub and refilled it with hot water, and an all purpose LAVENDER scented household cleaner to get the cat pissy water out of the lines. I cleaned up the standing water on the floor (cat pissy towels!) but to my surprise, the bathroom mirror dried itself and is SPARKLING.
So…. cat pissy silver lining?