Bathroom Cleaning and Maintenance

Solved! How to Remove Soap Scum in 7 Steps

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Soap scum is the result of combining water minerals and soap fat that inevitably happens whenever you take a shower. This is a type of dirt that can make bathroom cleaning an extremely tiresome chore. It’s due to the fact that soap scum has a specific scaly texture that quickly permeates lots of areas in the bathroom. By inspecting the shower doors or the walls of the bathtub, you can easily spot prominent lines of soap scum that accumulate.

Removing soap scum can be made more difficult by the passing of time. That’s because the substance becomes thicker and harder to scrub away. Preventing the formation of soap scum isn’t a realistic option you can take seeing how you can’t just avoid using soap products. The best solution is regular cleaning using some proven methods for getting rid of soap scum.

In this article, we’ll show you the most effective soap scum removal tricks according to specific areas of the bathroom affected by this type of dirt. Keep in mind that some considerable manual labor and commercial products may be required.

1. Cleaning Soap Scum from Shower Doors

Typical shower doors made from glass can be most effectively cleaned with the help of a vinegar and baking soda mixture if you favor a homemade solution. It’s easy to create while it provides a bright new shine to many shower fixtures. For the best cleaning results, we recommend allowing the soap scum remover solution to work before rinsing.

Start by mixing one cup of baking soda with ¼ cup of vinegar until you create a paste with a good level of consistency. The combined substances will have a fizzy reaction that delivers solid cleaning power to remove soap scum. Use a sponge to apply it to the glass shower doors and let it do its magic. This DIY method works quite effectively for most soap scum cleaning jobs but more challenging tasks might require some extra abrasiveness. In that case, we recommend the addition of a tiny amount of table salt to the vinegar mixture.

The shower doors are usually the most vulnerable elements when it comes to the buildup of soap scum. Daily cleaning could be required if the shower in the home is used very often. For that reason, it’s a good idea to create a larger batch of the mixture and use a spray bottle for a more convenient application. Make a more concentrated solution by incorporating equal parts of vinegar, dishwashing liquid, and water.

Those who prefer no DIY work should consider a commercial product that’s specially formulated to eliminate soap scum from glass shower doors. Check out this simple no-scrub soap scum remover found on Amazon. There are lots of options you can try but this one doesn’t make use of harsh chemicals or strong fragrances so you can just focus on a safe and effective cleaning process.

2. Removing Soap Scum from Fiberglass Bathroom Fixtures

Fiberglass is a typical material used for bathtubs and showers due to its low weight and affordable cost. It’s reasonably practical but it can be quite difficult to maintain clean compared to others. In this section, we’ll focus on some techniques that come in handy for removing soap scum from any fiberglass fixtures you have in the bathroom.

Regular maintenance is essential for fiberglass but you should avoid any unpleasant issues like chipping and cracking that can be caused by harsh abrasive cleaners. The bathtub or shower can look as if they require a bit of extra scrubbing power to clean but the risk of damage can often be too high. It’s best to eliminate soap scum with properly designed commercial products or homemade solutions.

Considering the more delicate nature of fiberglass, we recommend sticking to milder cleaners and allowing them a generous amount of time to start loosening the soap residues. DIYers should try a classic vinegar-based mixture with equal parts water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid to enhance the cleaning power. Light duty soap scum cleaning tasks can be easily handled with the help of this method.

When it comes to thicker soap scum accumulations, it may be required to boost the strength of your cleaning solution. Baking soda and vinegar combinations are reasonably effective but we recommend switching the vinegar for hydrogen peroxide so you can tackle more heavy-duty soap scum cleaning projects. Give it plenty of time to work before wiping away the soap scum residues from fiberglass fixtures.

A borax paste can be surprisingly effective if you need to deal with some challenging soap scum stains. Combine borax powder that you might already have laying around in the laundry room with lemon juice to create a potent cleaning combination. Make sure you rinse it well after it dissolves the stain.

3. Eliminate Soap Scum from Tile

Similar to other problematic areas in the bathroom, the tile is also heavily affected by soap scum. It’s not easy to scrub away without putting to use some performant cleansers that can loosen the stubborn residues. As with other bathroom cleaning projects, it’s up to you whether you prefer a homemade cleaning solution or a commercial product. The vinegar-based DIY mixtures that have been previously mentioned can also work well to clean the tile.

If you’re concerned about strong chemicals, it’s good to know that you can opt for a reliable commercial product based on natural ingredients. A notable example is this Better Life tile cleaner that relies on a potent mix of eucalyptus and tea tree ingredients. It’s more than capable to handle soap scum deposits while leaving behind a fresh aroma without artificial fragrances.

You can use other types of commercial cleaner for this purpose but it’s best to stick to sprays that are easier to apply. Follow the instructions on the bottle to get the best soap scum cleaning results. It’s usually required to let the cleaner work for some minutes before rinsing away. Non-abrasive sponges should be used to avoid damaging the surface of the tile. If you allow the cleaner for a proper amount of time, it shouldn’t be necessary to scrub hard. Just some quick wiping motions should do the trick.

Some types of tile such as glazed ceramic finishes are usually able to withstand more abrasive treatments in case you’re facing tough soap scum deposits. The hardest stains can be tackled with more unconventional methods such as using a wet pumice stone that’s intended for bathroom cleaning. This model available on Amazon is a good example. You still need to be careful though and clean as gently as possible. Harsh scrubbing can be damaging and make sure you don’t use this method for fiberglass fixtures.

4. Getting Rid of Soap Scum from Metal Fixtures

Homeowners that have stainless steel, brass, or other types of metal bathroom fixtures can also be seriously affected by unsightly soap scum buildups. Depending on the material, the residues can appear more prominent on the metal shower head or bathroom finishes. Undiluted white vinegar works best to solve your crusty showerhead problems if you have stainless steel fixtures. Try keeping them submerged in vinegar for around 30 minutes or more to maximize cleaning power.

Brass and oil-rubbed fixtures can be more difficult to clean because they’re more delicate compared to other materials. Stick to simple water-only cleaning. Before you attempt using strong homemade mixtures on them, check the care instructions provided by the manufacturer to avoid damage. If that’s not available, you can at least test any cleaning agent on a small portion of the fixture before a full treatment.

To minimize any potential damage that could be created by DIY soap scum cleaning on metal fixtures, it’s recommended to dilute the vinegar solution with more water. Non-abrasive cloths should be used and prevention of future problems needs to be taken into account. Make sure the metal surfaces are nicely dried after rinsing.

5. Dealing with Soap Scum on Shower Curtains

Hard surfaces are fairly straightforward to clean but plastic liners and fabric curtains can be a little more complicated to maintain free of soap scum. A long soak in a vinegar solution with equal parts water should be powerful enough to dissolve all those hard-to-reach soap scum residues. We recommend putting the shower curtains in a container and letting them be submerged overnight in the vinegar mix.

After the soap scum treatment, it’s time to wash the curtain regularly in the washing machine but remember to avoid putting it in the dryer if it’s made from plastic. The most recommended course of action is to follow the care label instructions if you’re not sure how to wash the curtains. You can also add a cup of vinegar at the start of the washing cycle but not directly on the curtains. This is to ensure that any trace of soap scum will disappear.

6. Cleaning Soap Scum from Natural Stone

Although it creates a superb visual effect in the bathroom, the use of natural stone tile isn’t very practical. This type of surface can be quite vulnerable to soap scum accumulation, especially if it’s not properly sealed with a high-quality natural stone sealer. It’s recommended to opt for a super-penetrating sealer for solid long-term durability. You can find this product on Amazon.

When it comes to natural stone soap scum removal, things can get quite complicated. You need to be aware that few commercial cleaners that deal with soap scum can be used on this type of bathroom tile material. Whereas other cleaning products are versatile enough to handle different areas and materials affected by soap scum deposits, natural stone tiles require a specific cleaner such as the StoneTech spray, available on Amazon. It gets rid of soap scum without the risk of damage to the sealed stone surface, whether we’re talking about marble, slate, or limestone.

7. Tips for Preventing Soap Scum Buildup

Although soap scum will probably form regardless of the strictness of the prevention measures used, you can at least reduce the thickness of the deposits and simplify overall bathroom maintenance. Take a look at the following tips to keep soap scum buildup to a minimum:

  • Maintain a Dry Environment

Wiping away the shower and bathtub after each use can be a little inconvenient but it will make a significant difference in terms of soap scum accumulation. There will be fewer wet particles that thicken over time and stain all the bathroom fixtures. Keep a tower or squeegee close by to form a good habit of maintaining a dry bathroom environment. You will avoid a lot of elbow grease in the future.

  • Replace Bar Soap with Liquid Soap

Bar soap contains more fatty acids that encourage the rapid development of soap scum. Try using more liquid soap instead such as shower gel to prevent this from happening.

  • Check the Mineral Content of Your Water

The soap used in the bathroom is just one part of the problem. It’s also important to check the water’s mineral content. Harder water offers a large contribution to soap scum formation. If you think this an issue, it’s recommended to invest in a reliable water softener to keep the mineral content to more acceptable levels.

There are different options when it comes to water softening systems, depending on your budget and more specific preferences. You can either try a whole home filter that will also remove contaminants or just purchase an electronic descaler that’s a more affordable alternative yet still quite effective against scale deposits.

  • Use a Soap Scum Prevention Cleaner

As opposed to letting the soap scum become thick enough to require tedious scrubbing, why not make your life easier by using a special prevention cleaner? Take a look at the aptly named Wet & Forget shower cleaner that’s designed for preventing the formation of tough soap scum, shower grime, and dirty grouts. Think of this kind of product as an automatic cleaner that you apply rarely while it works constantly to provide relief from arduous cleaning chores.

By Stefan Bucur

Stefan is the founder and owner of Rhythm of the Home. He has 6 years of experience in home improvement, interior design, cleaning and organizing.

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