How to Remove Soap Scum From Tubs and Showers
Use one of these methods to get rid of that gross, filmy layer coating your tub, shower, and tile, then try out our tips for eliminating it forever!
If you are your household’s designated bathroom cleaner (or if you pay attention to your surroundings when you’re in the shower or bath), you’ve probably seen your fair share of soap scum. It’s a sad irony of housekeeping that a substance that gets your body clean can make your shower or bathtub so grungy.
Soap scum forms when the fatty acids, talc, and other ingredients in bar soap react with the minerals in hard water, and builds up on your bathroom surfaces. Soap scum also contains body oil, dirt, bits of dead skin, and bacteria. When it’s left to harden, the buildup is incredibly difficult to remove from a shower or tub.
When it comes to how to get rid of soap scum, there are many successful methods and products that you can try to get the job done. Read on to find the approach that’s right for you.
Cleaning Soap Scum
Trying to solve the problem of what removes soap scum reveals no shortage of cleaning solutions, including both ready-made formulas and homemade soap scum remover recipes. Some of these substances and materials can be used simultaneously for particularly thick or tough buildup.
Some popular commercial cleaning products have cracked the code on how to clean years of soap scum. These two options are effective, easy-to-use, and readily available.
- Scrubbing Bubbles Mega Shower Foamer is the top pick in our guide to the best shower tile cleaners, and a great choice for bathtub soap scum removal. Simply spray your tub and shower walls with the foam and give it a few minutes to cut through the greasy grime. Rinse and wipe down the surfaces with a sponge, scrub brush, or cloth. Follow up with a clean towel to dry all of the now-tidy surfaces, crevices, and fixtures. (You want to dry your showering space because moisture attracts yucky soap scum buildup, and can also lead to mold and mildew growth.)
- It’s commonly recommended to clean almost any bathroom surface, but can a Magic Eraser remove soap scum? The answer is, somewhat unsurprisingly, yes. Wet a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath or other melamine sponge, squeeze it a few times, and wipe away soap scum from shower door glass, tile grout, and the tub basin. Rinse and dry completely.
Store-bought formulas aren’t the only solutions when considering how to clean soap scum in the bathroom. You may find that the best ways to remove soap scum are also some of the cheapest. Try these recipes and solutions for DIY soap scum removal that use materials you probably already have at home:
- Baking soda and vinegar. Pour a cup of baking soda into a small bowl and add enough white vinegar to make a paste. Once the mixture stops fizzing, use a sponge to apply it to your shower and tub, then let it set for about 15 minutes. Wipe the surfaces down again with a non-scratch sponge, rinse thoroughly with water, and dry with a clean towel.
- Vinegar and dish detergent. Another reliable cleaning mainstay, a soap-and-vinegar mix can also dissolve soap scum. Combine equal amounts of vinegar and water into a spray bottle, then add one tablespoon of dish detergent (or liquid dish soap). Spray the mixture directly onto the soap scum and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. When you return, scrub the area with a soft-bristle scrub brush and rinse it with hot water. Dry thoroughly.
- Pumice stone. When cleaning a porcelain tub—as this method should not be used for acrylic tubs or showers—you can use a wet pumice stone to remove thick soap scum buildup. However, you’ll need to work carefully; applying too much pressure when scrubbing or using a dry stone can scratch glass doors or tile. To give it a try, wet both the pumice stone and the surface you’re working on. Then, very gently rub the wet stone over the soap scum. As soap scum transfers to the pumice stone, use a stiff-bristle brush to clean off the stone before continuing to scrub, repeating this process until the residue is gone.
- Dryer sheets. Similar to the Magic Eraser method for how to clean soap scum from tile, grout, and shower doors, you can also remove soap scum with dryer sheets. Although best known for their fresh scent, dryer sheets typically contain fabric softener and other chemicals that make short work of soap scum. It’s about as simple as using a Magic Eraser, too: Wet a dryer sheet with water (and grab more as needed), scrub problem areas, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean towel.
Preventing Soap Scum
For soap scum, as it is with most cleaning tasks, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These ideas about how to prevent soap scum can help you manage gross buildup in the tub and shower by preventing it from forming in the first place.
- Use liquid soap instead of bar soap. The talc and fatty acids in bar soap is what causes soap scum. While plastic bottles are less environmentally friendly, a switch to liquid body wash or shower gel should result in a significant decrease in the filmy residue that you see in the bathtub.
- Keep your shower and tub dry. Squeegee and/or towel dry your shower and tub after every use. You’ll be wiping away a good portion of the residue left behind each time you bathe, minimizing the level of soap scum that builds up over time.
- Soften your water. Soap scum thrives on hard water. One way to thwart its development is to install a water softener, which will remove the minerals in your tap water that react with soap to make soap scum. If you’re not up for purchasing a water softener, consider adding Epsom salts to bathwater to soften it and keep soap scum under control. As a bonus, the Epsom salts may also soothe your sore muscles.
- Use a daily shower cleaner. Regular cleaning is the best way to prevent soap scum in the shower and bathtub, whether you use a store-bought spray or use one of the aforementioned DIY solutions. Apply the cleaner to high-use surfaces with a cloth or sponge every day that the shower is in use. For optimal results, combine this cleaning regimen with any (or all) of the above advice on how to prevent soap scum.