Homemade Soap Scum Remover: No Scrubbing Required

Clean

If it weren’t for my homemade soap scum remover, we’d have to remodel the bathroom. I mean it.

Like many homes built in the last thirty years, the shower in our master en suite bathroom is a glass enclosure. Those walls and sliding doors act like magnets for soap scum. If I’m not diligent about keeping them spotless, they make the entire bathroom look awful.

Fortunately, this easy homemade soap scum remover powers through the grime without scrubbing. It also costs just pennies to make.

Homemade Soap Scum Remover

Hand in rubber glove holding a sponge using homemade no-scrub soap scum remover

Why Does Soap Scum Build Up?

Soap scum is the result of calcium and magnesium particles in water combining with the oils and other ingredients in soap. The harder your water is, the more likely soap scum will occur.

Not sure if you have hard water? If you have soap scum, you probably do have it, since soft water contains salts that prevent buildup.

Unfortunately, most cleaning products don’t completely remove soap scum from glass doors, tubs and showers. Over time, that can lead to tough stains that make bathing an unpleasant experience.

Is Soap Scum Harmful?

Every time you use soap and water, a new layer of soap scum forms over the existing one. These layers trap skin flakes and other organic substances, producing microbial biofilm that includes harmful bacteria.

When water hits the soap scum on your shower walls, this bacteria bounces onto your skin and becomes airborne in steam.

So, yes, it can be harmful. Fortunately, this homemade soap scum remover easily gets rid of it and treats the bacteria, too.

Homemade Soap Scum Remover Recipe

Be careful if you’re climbing into the shower to do this. Liquid dish soap is slippery! If your shower doesn’t have safety handles, you might want to use a long-handled floor mop to wipe the walls.

You will need:

  • Dawn Original liquid dish soap
  • White vinegar heated until VERY hot
  • An empty spray bottle (I use these.)

Steps:

  1. Add equal parts VERY hot vinegar and Dawn dish soap to the spray bottle. To do my shower, I need 1 cup of each.
  2. Heavily spray the shower door or surface that you want to clean. The solution will cling. That’s good.
  3. Let sit at least 30 minutes. Overnight is even better.
  4. Rinse well while wiping with a microfiber cloth.

This soap scum remover is not for use on granite, marble, or other natural stone surfaces. (Related: Homemade Granite Cleaner Recipe.)

Still Seeing Spots?

If your glass shower enclosure looks etched with hard water spots, the problem is most likely mineral deposits, not soap scum.

To get cloudy shower walls clean, scrub them with a damp stainless steel pad and baking soda. (Related: Homemade Soft Scrub.) Rinse well afterward. Once it’s dry, use this Homemade Soap Scum Remover for a sparkling shower that looks like new.

How to Prevent Soap Scum

Use a homemade shower cleaner daily. Keep soap scum, mold, and mildew away with this daily homemade shower spray. Spritz it on glass shower doors, walls, and even the tub. You don’t even need to use a squeegee.

Switch to body wash. Synthetic soaps like body wash don’t contain the organic fats that bar soap does. As a result, they’re less likely to create soap scum.

Soften your water. A water softener system removes the calcium and magnesium ions in water. Softened water cleans more effectively, and produces less buildup and limescale.

Wash shower curtains monthly. Soap scum builds up on shower curtains, too. Wash them using your machine’s delicate cycle using a cup of baking soda but no laundry detergent. Add a clean towel to the load to act as a scrubber.

46 Comments

  1. I shall give this a try.  I’ve got some on our shower door that I keep looking at… Luckily it’s just a film and the door doesn’t have a metal surround where black gook builds up.  When I work up the energy to do it, I’ll let ya know how it goes 😉

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Please, do! Mine does have that metal surround, so I sprayed this stuff in the nooks and crannies then got out an old “spin brush” toothbrush and whirled it clean.

    2. I don’t have a microwave how else can I warm the mixture.

    3. Katie Berry says:

      You can heat the vinegar in the stove in a non-reactive pot until it’s very warm but not yet simmering. Be careful when pouring it into the spray bottle, and then add the liquid dish detergent.

  2. Definitely going to have to try this- we have a curtain, not doors, but we get lots of soap scum on the tiles in the shower itself. Thanks!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Shell, it should work just as well on tiles, but be careful about it getting on the floor of the tub. It’ll be slippery as all get out when you climb in to wipe those tiles!

  3. Katie Berry says:

    LOL, you lady of leisure!

  4. Katie Berry says:

    I really need to get better about using the squeegee. My husband refuses to use it, but since my showers follow his it doesn’t really matter. The question is always: have I had my coffee yet? If not, then my brain just can’t wrap around cleaning.

  5. Katie Berry says:

    What, actually exercise?! *sigh* Yes, I definitely need to start doing that. Thanks for letting me know Ivory worked just as well. I love that stuff, too!

  6. Katie Berry says:

    Hi Sandra! I’m glad you’ve discovered my site.
    As far as the soap scum cleaner, yes, it needs to be applied when the vinegar is hot. That helps break down the soap scum so the rest of the ingredients can do their work.

  7. Thank you for this!! I tried it today on my shower doors and was amazed at how easy it cleaned them!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Glad to have helped, Amy!

  8. This was a miracle for my shower…I thought the staining (dirt and black mildew) in there was permanent, I’ve tried all types of cleaners on it. We are in a rental and the bathtub surround is super cheapo. The walls and tub are now white again. Thanks so much for providing such great tips on your site. I also used the hydrogen peroxide mix for the mildew and that helped a lot too. Planning to mix up the daily shower spray too 🙂

  9. Katie Berry says:

    I’m sorry, Pam, but I don’t have an easy one to remove soap scum from natural stone showers. The granite-safe version of my DIY Cleaning Spray will help, but you’ll most likely have to do a bit of scrubbing.

  10. I forgot to heat the vinegar…..I hope it still works….I’m desperate…..it’s disgusting and nothing works….sure hope it works cold…lol

  11. My shower head doesn’t reach the glass enough to spray it clean. Will it matter if I just towel it off or wipe with a wet cloth or something?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Mine doesn’t reach, either. I wipe with a wet cloth and rinse it repeatedly while I work. 🙂

    2. Cynthia Wyman says:

      I usually use either a plastic cup or a plastic pitcher to rinse the very top. I also lay down an old towel (folded double) so the run-off doesn’t flood my bathroom (yes, even with the door closed!)

    3. Katie Berry says:

      That’s smart, Cynthia!

  12. Wow amazing result. Only issue is it’s so cleanbi really don’t want to use it and make a mess of it.
    Note to self… if you get the mixture on the floor use boiling water to wipe it up otherwise it’s A over T.

  13. Obviously years after you originally posted this. But I came across this recipe today and tried it immediately! I have tried SO many things before and I can honestly say this stuff is the BOMB!!! It worked so well! I left in on for around an hour.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I’m glad you found the recipe — no more scrubbing for you!

  14. Katie Berry says:

    Sounds like it’s probably not soap scum that’s causing the problem. Maybe hard water spots or mineral deposits?

  15. Katie Berry says:

    Mark, it can’t NOT work on soap scum. The hot vinegar dissolves the bond between the surface and the soap. The soap helps dissolve the soap scum based on the principle of “like dissolves like.” And, as you can see in previous comments as well as elsewhere via social shares, it’s worked for many, many other people.

    So, I’m calling your comment rude and suggesting that what you’re looking at is probably hard water spots, not soap scum.

  16. Why Dawn? Can other dish soaps be used?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I recommend Dawn because it’s the best grease-cutting dish soap I’ve ever used. You’re welcome to try whatever brand you prefer, but if you’re disappointed in the results you might want to give Dawn a try before deciding the recipe doesn’t work for you.

  17. I have used your vinegar + dawn mix for my shower doors only and it is a wonderful cleaner! However, the rest of the shower is natural stone. I don’t spray any of the mix on the natural stone, but of course, it washes over the floor as it goes down the drain. What are your thoughts about this? Would you use something else on my shower doors to avoid the vinegar washing over the stone floor?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Well, since the solution is supposed to remain in place overnight and there’s no way to prevent it from running onto the natural stone floor, I don’t think this is a good cleaner for your shower. Sorry!

  18. Will this work on tub surrounds?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Tracey! It works on any kind of tile and fiberglass but you don’t want to get it on wood because the dish detergent might leave a stain.

  19. This is amazing!!!!! Moved into a rental home, and nasty, nasty, nasty. Oh, can I say that one more time, NASTY! This recipe took it right off. I used a majic eraser to scrub. The results where, simply amazing.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Mary,
      I’m so glad you found the Soap Scum Remover recipe helpful!

  20. Katie Berry says:

    Hi Satta,

    Sorry, but as I’d noted in the blog entry, it’s not safe for natural stone or granite. Try this recipe instead.

  21. I just used this to clean my shower curtains—perfect—no scrubbing!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Cindy,
      So glad you liked it!

  22. Debra R Mox says:

    Katie, Thank you thank you thank you! I just finished rinsing my glass shower doors. No scrubbing needed thanks to your DIY. Not only is my shower sparkling clean again, this also worked on the scum build up on the porous floor to the shower. My 20yr old nephew uses all types of body washes and doesnt have the “time” to squeege the door or the tile walls etc. I did have to scrub the floor but I used a teflon safe sponge scrubby and used my feet to scrub! At 65 yrs old I don’t bend over in Any shower lol.
    Debbie

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Debra,
      I’m glad to hear about your success! Enjoy your sparkling shower.

  23. Katie Berry says:

    I can’t think of any reason that wouldn’t work, but I’d recommend pouring it into a bowl to reheat.

  24. Katy Warwick says:

    Any idea what I can use if I can’t get my hands on Dawn, only able to get it online and it takes ages for it to be delivered

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Katy,
      In the U.K., Fairy works in place of Dawn. It’s very similar, aside from the color. (Colour? ?)

  25. Jenn Arnett says:

    Is this safe for porcelain tile? Will the vinegar leave glazed tile dull?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Jenn! Yes, it works on porcelain tile. It shouldn’t harm the finish, but if you’re concerned then do a spot test with a bit using a Q-tip.

  26. Hi Katie,

    If using cleaning vinegar (10% acetic acid), should it be diluted first? or should I reduce the amount of vinegar vs Dawn?

    Thanks,
    Sally

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Sally,

      Since cleaning vinegar is twice as acidic, I’d dilute it.

      Best,
      Katie

  27. Barb Chamberlain says:

    I read somewhere in a similar recipe that it needs to be heated when you make the mixture so the soap and vinegar can combine chemically, but after that it isn’t necessary to reheat. I haven’t fully tested this yet.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      I have not read that, but my recipe does recommend heating the vinegar.

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