A simple homemade soap scum remover to tackle stubborn buildup plus the best ways to keep it off of your bathroom surfaces.
What Is Soap Scum?
Soap scum is a white, chalky film similar to hard water stains. At first, it’s a thin crust that most bathroom cleaning products can easily remove. But, without regular cleaning, more layers will form every time you bathe. These layers can become very hard, almost like cement, so you need a stronger cleaner to power through them. Fortunately, you can make an effective soap scum remover at home.
What Causes Soap Scum?
Soap scum results from calcium and magnesium particles in water combining with the oils and other ingredients in soap. So, the easiest way to prevent soap scum is to stop using soap! But not every “soap” is actually soap: liquid body washes, body gels, and most shampoos don’t cause soap scum because they contain detergents. Those detergents break the surface tension that leads to soap scum formation.
It’s the more natural or gentle soaps and shampoos that lead to soap scum, including Castile and goat milk soaps. These soaps contain fatty ingredients, which make them better for your skin but harder to rinse off bathroom surfaces. And the harder your water is, the more likely soap scum will occur.
The harder your water is, the more likely soap scum will occur. That’s because hard water contains minerals that bind with the fatty ingredients in soap and help them stick to your shower or tub’s surfaces. (They can build up on your skin and hair, too!) Not sure if you have hard water? If you have soap scum, you probably do since soft water contains salts that prevent buildup.
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 a bacterial biofilm. That bacteria includes staph and others, which can cause skin and breathing problems. Then, when you’re taking a nice hot shower, the bacteria become airborne in steam and bounces onto your skin. So, yes, soap scum can cause health problems.
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.
How Do You Get Rid of Soap Scum?
To remove soap scum from shower curtains, 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. Put it back in place once you’ve tackled soap scum on the rest of your shower’s surfaces.
To get soap scum off of your tub or shower walls, use one of these homemade spray recipes. Be careful if you’re climbing into the shower to clean it, though, since the sprays are very slippery. If your shower doesn’t have grab bars, consider using a long-handled mop to wipe the walls.
Removing Spots on Glass Shower Doors
If you still see spots on your glass shower doors after using the homemade soap scum remover, it’s probably from hard mineral buildup, not soap. To fix the problem, make a paste of baking soda and water and rub it on with a damp sponge. Then, spray the surface with heated vinegar and wait 5 minutes to dissolve the mineral bonds. Wipe with a Magic Eraser or heavy microfiber cloth and rinse well.
More Tips to Prevent Soap Scum
Switch to body wash. Synthetic soaps like body wash don’t contain the organic fats that bar soap does. So, they’re less likely to create soap scum.
Soften your water. Adding Epsom salts to your bath softens the water and keeps soap scum from forming in your tub. Or consider adding a whole-home water softener system to remove the calcium and magnesium ions in your home’s water that contribute to soap scum and water spots.
Dry your shower after you dry off. Wiping your shower walls and doors with your towel after you’ve dried off will remove a lot of soapy water, so you’ll see less soap scum. A squeegee works, too. Neither method completely removes the soapy layer, though, so you’ll still need to clean your shower weekly to prevent soap scum buildup.
Or use homemade shower spray daily. You can keep soap scum, mold, and mildew from forming at all with this daily homemade shower cleaner spray. Spritz it on glass shower doors, walls, and even the tub. No rinsing, wiping, or squeegee required.