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How to Clean Soap Scum (DIY Methods)

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Is soap scum ruining the spa-like atmosphere of your bathroom? 

Is soap scum the monster that’s taking over your bathroom? Are you embarrassed when guests come around? Are you struggling to find anything to clean it? Well, we can help bring your bathroom back to a sparkling clean state.

With our best tips on how to clean soap scum, say goodbye to the yucky mess. Whether it’s on stone, the shower, plastic curtains, or basically anywhere else, we’ve got tips! We’ll help you get rid of soap scum and prevent it from occurring again.

How to Clean Soap Scum From Shower Doors

Heat ½ cup of distilled white vinegar in the microwave and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray over the shower door and sliding glass door track and let it sit for 15 minutes. Dip a cloth into some salt and scrub stubborn spots if necessary. Wipe down with a damp cloth and rinse well. Dry completely. Repeat if necessary.


What Is Soap Scum?

Soap scum is a residue that’s left behind when you use soap in hard water areas (1). The calcium and magnesium particles in the water react with the soap and leave a residue behind.

Soap scum can be found on clothes, baths, sinks, shower curtains, tiles, and many more places. Unfortunately, it cannot dissolve in water and therefore, it can be tricky to remove.

What Color Is Soap Scum?

Soap scum is a white or grey color with a chalky filmy texture.

Can Soap Scum Turn Black?

No. If you have black spots in the bathroom, this is mold or mildew. For cleaning mold in bathrooms, we have plenty of tips.

What Soap Does Not Leave Soap Scum?

Bar soap is the number one culprit for soap scum. So if you want to eliminate your soap scum experiences, use liquid or gel soap instead.

Does Hard Water Cause Soap Scum?

If you live in a hard water area, you’re probably used to soap scum. That’s because the minerals in hard water react with the soap to create soap scum. We recommend getting a water softener to ensure your hard water isn’t preventing you or your bathroom from getting clean.

How to Clean Soap Scum From Tile and Grout

Are your ceramic tiles and grout covered in soap scum? Follow our method to restore them back to their original beauty.

  1. Mix together baking soda and white vinegar to make a cleaning solution. Keep in mind this will fizz up so make sure to use a deep bucket so it doesn’t overflow.
  2. Wearing rubber gloves, dip a pumice stone into the solution.
  3. Very gently, rub the wet stone over the soap scum. Make sure to avoid scratching the ceramic.
  4. Once the stone is covered in a bit of soap scum, rinse it off, wet it again and move onto the next area.
  5. Afterwards, use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the ceramic tiles, removing the loosened soap scum.
  6. Dampen a cloth in distilled white vinegar and wipe down the tiles and grout to remove the soap scum residue.
  7. Dry with a separate cloth.

While you can definitely make your own cleaning solution, you may prefer store-bought tile cleaning solutions.

Extra Tip

If you’re struggling, and the soap scum isn’t budging, you can bring out a power washer. This has more force to remove dried-on soap scum.

How to Remove Soap Scum From Natural Stone

What about natural stone tiles? While natural stone is a luxurious choice, it’s definitely much harder to clean. While a few sources may recommend using ammonia, this should be a last resort. If you are at that stage, use ammonia as a once-off and make sure never to mix ammonia with any other cleaning products.

You can remove soap scum from natural stone using ammonia by mixing ½ cup of ammonia with one gallon of water. Apply the solution to the tiles using a soft cloth.

For general cleaning of soap scum from natural stone, follow this method instead:

  1. Using an eraser sponge, such as the Mr Clean Magic Eraser, dampen it and gently scrub the soap scum from the tiles. The micro-scrubber technology penetrates porous surfaces and pulls out soap scum.
  2. Use a squeegee to remove the soap scum and eraser residue from the tiles.
  3. If you need a bit more assistance, get out your steam cleaner. Use this to go over the grout, loosening up dirt and soap scum. Simultaneously, use a cloth or bristled brush to clean out soap scum.
  4. Finally, rinse the tiles with a damp clean cloth.

Top Tip

Don’t use your regular tile cleaning products on natural stone, unless the manufacturer states that it’s okay.

How to Clean Soap Scum From Shower Doors

Are you no longer able to see out your shower door? Time for a good clean!

You can use a commercial soap scum remover, like the Bio Clean Stain Remover. Or, you can make your own solution using your own ingredients. If going down this route, try a lemon or vinegar spray.

For the lemon spray, mix three tablespoons of lemon juice with one cup of water in a spray bottle.

If using the vinegar spray, heat half a cup of distilled white vinegar in the microwave for 30 seconds. Carefully pour it into a glass spray bottle. This solution is more powerful than the lemon, so it’s best for tougher soap scum.

Time to get cleaning:

  1. Spray your cleaning solution, whether homemade or store-bought, all over the shower door. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Reapply if it’s drying too fast.
  2. Wipe down the shower door with a damp microfiber cloth.
  3. Rinse well.
  4. Dry completely using a separate cloth.
  5. If the soap scum remains, repeat the first step.
  6. Dip a damp cloth into a bowl of salt. Scrub the shower door. The salt is abrasive so it can help to cut through the soap scum.
  7. Don’t forget about the sliding glass door track. Use your store-bought or homemade cleaner and an old toothbrush to clean this track.
  8. Rinse with clean water.
  9. Dry completely.

How to Clean Soap Scum From Sink

Sinks can be a really stubborn host of soap scum, but after this method, it’ll be gone!

  1. Create a scrubbing paste by mixing one cup of baking soda with ¼ cup of distilled white vinegar. Remember that it will fizz up so make sure you’re using a large bowl or cup to prevent overflow.
  2. Using a sponge, dip into the paste and apply to the sink. Add more where there is thicker soap scum.
  3. Let it sit for up to 30 minutes.
  4. Use a stiff-bristled brush to scrub the sink in circular motions.
  5. Rinse.
  6. Repeat if necessary.

How to Remove Soap Scum From Metal Fixtures

Depending on the type of metal, you should clean your fixtures differently. If you aren’t sure what type of metal yours is, check with the manufacturer.

For Chrome and Stainless Steel

  1. Fill a plastic bag with distilled white vinegar.
  2. Put the bag over the fixtures.
  3. Let it sit for one hour.
  4. Rinse the fixtures with clean water afterwards. Scrub at stubborn spots.
  5. Dry completely.

For Oil-Rubbed and Brass

  1. Use a soft cloth and water to clean. Scrub in circular motions where soap scum is stubborn. This is all that’s recommended for these fixtures, but if that doesn’t work, move onto the next step, but make sure to test in an inconspicuous area first.
  2. Dilute distilled white vinegar with water and apply to the fixtures with a microfiber cloth.
  3. Let it dry.
  4. Buff with a microfiber cloth.

How to Clean Soap Scum From Plastic Curtains

Plastic curtains can easily get covered in soap scum over time. Follow this method to revive your curtain.

  1. Mix together a 1:1 ratio of distilled white vinegar and water.
  2. Put the shower curtain into a bathtub, basin or washing machine drum with the vinegar water solution.
  3. Soak overnight.
  4. Put the plastic shower curtain into the washing machine with a couple of towels. Wash with a mild detergent on a warm gentle cycle.
  5. Hang to air dry.

How to Prevent Soap Scum

When it comes to removing soap scum, it can be a tough job, especially if you’ve let soap scum build up over many months. Preventing soap scum is an easier task, and leaves you with little work to do on cleaning days. Here are our top tips:

  1. Apply a gel gloss or car wax to surfaces that are prone to soap scum build-up. This makes it hard for the soap scum to build up there at all.
  2. Clean your shower after every use. Use a squeegee or cloth to give it a once over after every use. You can also do this on sinks, tiles, grout and metal fixtures.
  3. Switch out your bar soap for liquid or gel soap.
  4. Sprinkle Epsom Salts into your bath which prevents soap residue from sticking to the tub.
  5. Use a water softener to prevent hard water minerals from reacting with soap.
  6. Place three drops of lemon essential oil onto a clean dry cloth and rub it over the bathroom. It will prevent soap scum build-up and make cleaning days quicker.
  7. Keep the bathroom dry. Dry down your bath, shower, walls, sinks and fixtures with a soft cloth after each use.

See Ya, Scum

Nobody likes soap scum coating every surface in the bathroom. With our top tips, you can say goodbye to soap scum whether it’s on the shower doors, tiles, metal fixtures, sink or plastic curtains. Of course, if you live in a hard water area, you may see soap scum again in the future. But with these tips, you can tackle it quickly.

However, you can prevent soap scum build-up with a few easy hacks. These include installing a water softener, switching out the soap you use and keeping the bathroom clean and dry.

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About the Author

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum is a 20-something freelance writer & book blogger with a degree in creative writing, journalism and English literature. Beth firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that's kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!

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