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How to Remove Soap Scum

Soap scum is the inevitable result of using your bathtub or shower, but it doesn’t have to be a pain to remove. Check out our tips on how to remove soap scum and prevent it from forming in the first place.

Author Image Written by Brenda Woods Updated 04/08/2024

Soap scum is a potentially unpleasant substance that tends to form on bathtubs and showers as we use them. The bulk of it is formed by minerals in water meeting the fatty acids in soap, but it can also contain dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria.

While there are some general cleaning methods that will work on most surfaces, soap scum is often difficult to remove, and using the wrong products could damage bathroom fixtures and appliances. Follow our guide on how to remove soap scum safely from a variety of surfaces.

How to Remove Soap Scum from a Fiberglass Bathtub or Shower

Fiberglass shells for bathtubs and showers are lightweight and inexpensive, but they do require some care when it comes to cleaning. Fiberglass can chip and crack if you scour it too hard, so don’t rely on harsh abrasives and simple elbow grease to remove soap scum.

Of course, there are many bathroom cleaners that are specially formulated to tackle soap scum, so if you want to use those, make sure you follow all directions on the packaging. You may need to apply them and let them sit for a few minutes to allow the cleaner to soak in and loosen the residue. Everyone has a different opinion on the best soap scum remover, so you may need to try a few before you find one that works.

Here’s how to remove soap scum using a homemade cleaner that’s gentle enough for fiberglass:

  • Step one: Mixing equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle.
  • Step two: Add a tablespoon of dish detergent.
  • Step three: Spray down your tub or shower with the mixture and allow it to soak in for 15 minutes before scrubbing with a stiff-bristled brush and rinsing.

This will likely work best if you’re good at keeping up with weekly tub cleanings and have only a light soap scum problem. If the scum is too thick for the spray to be effective, follow these steps:

  • Step one: Put 1 cup of baking soda in a bowl and add in 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar.
  • Step two: Wait until the reaction dies down and mix the two substances to form a paste.
  • Step three: Apply the paste to any areas with soap scum, and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.
  • Step four: Scrub the paste away with a non-scratch sponge and rinse with water.

You can use a similar method to clean dirty grout. In the video below, This Old House general contractor Tom Silva explains how to clean dirty tile grout using household supplies.

How to Remove Soap Scum from Ceramic Tiles and Bathtubs

If your tub or shower enclosure is made of porcelain, you may have an easier time removing soap scum. Ceramic can stand up to quite a bit of scrubbing, so you might not even need a cleaning product at all. For this method, invest in a pumice stone. Always make sure to get the stone thoroughly wet before using it, and then carefully scrub away the layer of soap scum. Never use a pumice stone on fiberglass, as it will ruin the tub’s finish.

How to Remove Soap Scum from a Shower Door

You can use the same mixtures that you’d use on fiberglass on glass shower doors. Glass can stand up to a little more abrasiveness, too, so if the vinegar and baking soda paste isn’t getting the job done, you can dip your sponge in the paste and then in a bit of table salt for extra scrubbing power.

Glass shower doors collect the most easily visible evidence of soap scum, so prevention is especially important here. Scrape down the shower door with a squeegee every time you bathe, which will remove most of the soap deposits and water to prevent them from drying into residue. In addition, there are plenty of spray-on products that promise to keep soap scum from forming if you use them after every shower. The vinegar and dish soap mixture, sprayed and rinsed away after every shower, will also help a great deal.

How to Remove Soap Scum from Metal Fixtures

Faucets, handles, and shower heads can all show evidence of soap scum deposits. If your fixtures have a protected metal finish like chrome or stainless steel, undiluted white vinegar is your best bet. You can even clean a shower head without needing to remove it. Simply fill a plastic bag with vinegar and place it so that the shower head is submerged in the vinegar. Secure the plastic bag with a rubber band and leave it there for about an hour. After that, take the bag off and rinse.

Oil-finished bronze or brass fixtures may require specialty cleaning, so consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for these products. Always test cleaning products on a small, less-visible area of the fixture before cleaning the whole thing.

How to Prevent Soap Scum from Forming

While you won’t be able to completely prevent soap scum from forming in your bathroom, you can cut it down to a manageable level that will make it easier to keep up with. In addition to the prevention methods listed above, you can also consider switching from a bar soap to a liquid soap or body wash. These products don’t contain the same fatty acids that cause soap scum to stick to the tub or sink. Additionally, if hard water is a problem in your home, you might consider investing in a water softener.

If these DIY soap scum removal methods just aren’t working, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals. The Cleaning Authority is a nationwide professional cleaning company that offers its services in 45 states. We recommend getting a free estimate from the company’s website and considering a service that can remove soap scum and keep it away.

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Our Conclusion

Removing soap scum in the bathroom can be challenging. The best soap scum remover depends on whether your bathtub or shower is made of fiberglass or ceramic. You may also need to try out a few to find one that works for you.

FAQ About Removing Soap Scum

What dissolves soap scum quickly?

Mixing equal parts distilled white vinegar and water can dissolve soap scum quickly. Spray the solution onto the soap scum and allow it to sit for 15–20 minutes before scrubbing with a brush or sponge. If the scum is too thick, combine baking soda and white vinegar instead.

Will straight vinegar remove soap scum?

Straight vinegar can remove soap scum. However, it may be too harsh depending on the material that you’re cleaning.

What is the best homemade soap scum remover?

The best homemade soap scum remover combines vinegar and water or vinegar and baking soda. Let the solution sit on the soap scum for up to 20 minutes and scrub with a brush or sponge.