Soap scum is an inevitable consequence in a bathroom. This filmy layer hangs onto shower doors, tiles, and faucets, and should be tackled quickly to remove it entirely. Soap scum happens when the fatty ingredients in bar soap react with minerals in water and cling to surfaces. If you must rely on a hard water source, there will be more soap scum; and when it is allowed to build up and harden, removing it can be difficult.
Whether using a commercial cleaner or homemade cleaners, we show you how to remove soap scum from any bathroom surface, from glass shower doors to fiberglass tubs/showers.
What Is Soap Scum?
Similar to hard water stains, soap scum (or lime soap) is the white chalky residue composed of calcium stearate and magnesium stearate (among other materials). When they mix with hard water, soap scum can form.
How Often to Remove Soap Scum From Bathroom Surfaces
Ideally, a little attention to bathroom surfaces every day will help keep soap scum from accumulating. However, weekly cleaning is sufficient. It is much easier to remove thin layers of soap scum than to wait for months to tackle thicker layers.
Equipment / Tools
- 1 Nonabrasive sponge
- 1 Squeegee
- 1 Old toothbrush
- 1 Spray bottle
- 1 to 2 Microfiber towels
- 1 Stiff-bristled nylon scrub brush
- 1 Pumice stone
- 1 Large sink or washing machine
- 1 container Baking soda
- 1 bottle Distilled white vinegar
- 1 container Table salt
- 1 container Commercial bathroom cleaner
- 1 container Commercial natural stone cleaner
- 1 container Dishwashing liquid
- 1 roll Paper towels
- 1 bottle Hydrogen peroxide
- 1 container Borax
- 1 bottle Lemon juice
- 1 Plastic food bag
- 1 Rubber band
- 1 container Laundry detergent
How to Remove Soap Scum from Glass Shower Doors
There are plenty of commercial cleaners that promise to remove soap scum from glass shower enclosures. Most of them do a good job if used weekly or more often. The key is to follow product directions and give the cleaner time to work before wiping or rinsing away. If you would prefer to make your cleaner, all you need is baking soda and distilled white vinegar.
Mix a Daily Cleaning Solution
Add one cup of distilled white vinegar, one cup of water, and one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid to a spray bottle. After every shower, spray the solution on the glass and allow it to work for several minutes, then rinse with hot water. Use a squeegee to remove water or dry the glass completely with a microfiber towel.
Make Scum-Buster Cleaning Solutions
Pour one cup of baking soda into a small plastic bowl and add about one-fourth cup of distilled white vinegar, or just enough to form a thick paste. The mixture will fizz and when it stops, dip a microfiber cloth or sponge into the paste and apply it to the glass doors. Let the paste remain on the glass for at least 15 minutes. Then wipe down the surfaces with a microfiber cloth and plain water. Rinse very well and dry completely to prevent spotting.
If the soap scum is particularly heavy, make the baking soda and vinegar paste as directed. In a separate bowl, pour one-half to one cup of table salt. After dipping your sponge or cloth into the baking soda mixture, dip it in the table salt and begin cleaning. The table salt will add a bit more abrasiveness to the mixture, which will help to cut through the build-up.
Be sure to keep the salt away from any natural stone surfaces: These are soft enough that salt could easily scratch them, particularly during scrubbing.
Clean Shower Door Tracks
Use a commercial cleaner or your homemade mixture and an old toothbrush to reach all the tight spaces. Again, give the cleaner plenty of time to work, rinse with plain water, and dry well with a cloth or paper towel wrapped around the toothbrush to absorb all the moisture.
How to Remove Soap Scum from Fiberglass Showers
Fiberglass tubs and showers are a durable and cost-effective addition to bathrooms. However, fiberglass finishes can quickly become dull due to soap scum, and fiberglass cannot stand up to harsh cleaners and abrasive scouring pads. There are commercial cleaners made specifically for fiberglass enclosures, or you can make your own.
Make a paste of one cup baking soda and one-fourth cup white distilled vinegar. When it stops foaming, spread the paste on the floor and walls of the enclosure with a non-abrasive sponge or microfiber cloth. Allow it to work for ten minutes and then rinse away. Dry the surfaces completely with a soft towel.
Remove Heavy Soap Scum
If you have missed a few cleanings and the soap scum is heavy, substitute a tablespoon or more of hydrogen peroxide instead of vinegar in the baking soda paste. Spread the mixture on the fiberglass enclosure and let it work for 15-30 minutes. Rinse well and dry.
Tackle Stains on Fiberglass
For tough stains left by bath products sitting on a shelf or floor, grab some borax from the laundry room and add a bit of lemon juice to form a paste. Spread the mixture on the stain and allow it to work for 15 minutes before wiping away with a microfiber cloth. Rinse well and buff dry.
How to Remove Soap Scum from Metal
Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning metal fixtures, but here are some tips on how to remove soap scum and mineral build-up.
Clean Chrome and Stainless Steel Fixtures
Use a 50/50 mix of vinegar and water for chrome surfaces to avoid damaging them. Use undiluted vinegar to wipe down stainless steel surfaces. Always rinse fixture surfaces well after cleaning and dry with a soft cloth.
Remove Scum From Showerheads
For crusty showerheads, fill a plastic bag with vinegar (or vinegar and water solution) and attach the bag over the fixture using a rubber band with the showerhead completely submerged. Allow the vinegar (or vinegar and water solution) to work for at least one hour and then remove the bag. Rinse the surfaces with plain water and dry with a soft cloth or towel.
Clean Bronze and Brass Fixtures
For fixtures with oil-rubbed bronze or brass finishes, it is recommended that you use only water for cleaning. This is especially true of fixtures with "living finishes" that are intended to change over time. Refer to the manufacturer's care instructions since cleansers can damage a specialty surface. If in doubt, always test a cleaning product on an inconspicuous part of the fixture so that any damage to the finish is hard to spot.
If you choose to tackle soap scum with a home mixture, dilute the distilled vinegar with an equal amount of water. To remove tough spots, mix a paste of baking soda and distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. Use a non-abrasive cloth or sponge to apply the mixture. Let it dry and then rinse and buff with a soft, dry cloth.
How to Remove Soap Scum from Ceramic Tile
Glazed ceramic tile and porcelain tubs are hard finishes that make removing soap scum easier than other finishes. You can use commercial soap scum removers or a homemade version of baking soda and distilled white vinegar.
Use Baking Soda and Vinegar
Create a paste by mixing one cup of baking soda and one-fourth cup of distilled white vinegar in a small bowl. When the fizzing stops, dip a sponge into the paste and apply it to the tile. Let the paste remain on the tile for at least 15 minutes. Then wipe down the surfaces with a microfiber cloth and plain water. Rinse very well and dry completely to prevent spotting.
If the soap scum is particularly heavy, apply the paste and then dip your sponge into a small bowl of table salt and scrub away the scum with some extra abrasive action.
Use a Pumice Stone
For heavy soap scum build-up, use a wet pumice stone to carefully remove the buildup. Wet both the pumice stone and the tile or porcelain surface. NEVER use the stone when it is dry because excessive scratching can occur. Gently–very gently–rub the wet stone over the soap scum. Work in a small area and as the scum is transferred to the stone, rinse the stone in plain water and scrub the stone with a stiff-bristled brush. Move to the next area. Finish by wiping down the tub with distilled white vinegar to remove the final traces of soap scum, rinse with plain water, and dry with a soft cloth.
Be sure that your tub is ceramic or porcelain and not enameled. An enameled finish can be permanently scratched by a pumice stone. If your tub is enameled, use baking soda and vinegar paste instead. NEVER use a pumice stone on fiberglass tubs or shower enclosures.
How to Remove Soap Scum from Natural Stone Tile
Most commercial soap scum removers should not be used on natural stone. They can be abrasive, damage finishes, and leave the stone looking dull and chalky. Instead, opt for a natural stone cleaner. Follow product instructions for dilution and cleaning. You will have the most success if the cleaner is used weekly to prevent excessive buildup of soap scum.
How to Remove Soap Scum from Fabric and Plastic Shower Curtains
Plastic Shower Curtains and Liners
In a bathtub, large plastic container, or washing machine drum, mix enough equal amounts of distilled white vinegar and water to completely cover the submerged plastic curtain. Allow it to soak for at least eight hours (overnight is better). To machine wash, toss the curtain into the washer with a few towels and wash with regular detergent on a warm water cycle. Hang to drip dry. NEVER place a plastic shower curtain in a clothes dryer.
Fabric Shower Curtains
Follow the washing instructions on the care tag but add one cup of distilled white vinegar to the washer drum at the beginning of the cycle. This will help cut through any soap scum build-up. Hang to drip dry or toss in a tumble dryer for a few minutes to remove wrinkles. Remove while still slightly damp and hang to dry.