Soap scum can be an unsightly and stubborn build up that accumulates over time on bathroom surfaces like shower walls, tubs, and sinks.
If left unchecked, soap scum can become difficult to remove and lead to mould and mildew growth.
What is Soap Scum?
Soap scum is a white, grey, or yellowish build up that forms on bathroom surfaces when soap reacts with hard water minerals like calcium and magnesium.
As the soap breaks down, it leaves behind a residue that can bond with dirt, oil, and dead skin cells to create a sticky and often difficult-to-remove build up.
It can form on various surfaces, but soap scum is most commonly found on shower walls, bathtub rims, sink faucets, and shower doors.
It can be especially stubborn on textured or porous surfaces, like tile or stone, where it can settle into crevices and pores.
Why Do I Need to Clean Soap Scum?
Untreated soap scum can have some serious consequences other than being unsightly.
It can create a breeding ground for mould and mildew, which can harm your health and cause further damage to your bathroom.
Bathroom surfaces can also become slippery and dangerous with soap scum, increasing the risk of slips and falls.
Plus, it can cause discolouration and surface damage over time, especially if left untreated for extended periods.
How Often to Remove Soap Scum From Bathroom Surfaces
It’s generally recommended to clean bathroom surfaces at least once a week to prevent the build up of soap scum.
However, if you have a busy household with many people using the bathroom, you may need to clean more often than once a week to prevent soap scum build up.
Similarly, if you use a lot of bath products that contain oils, you may need to clean more frequently.
Using the right cleaning products can also help minimise soap scum build up and reduce the frequency of cleaning.
For example, a daily shower spray can help prevent soap scum from accumulating on shower tiles and doors.
Also, using a squeegee to remove excess water from your shower surfaces after each use can help prevent soap scum from building up.
What Supplies Do I Need to Remove Soap Scum?
If you’re looking to remove soap scum from surfaces in your bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room, the supplies you need to get the job done are already in your home.
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- Dish soap
- Rubber gloves
- Scrub brush or sponge
- Microfiber cloth or another soft cloth
- Plastic spray bottle
- Plastic bowl
- Razor blade or scraper – If you have stubborn soap scum build up on glass surfaces, a razor blade or scraper can be useful for scraping it away.
- Protective eyewear – If you are using a scraper or razor blade, it’s essential to wear protective eyewear to prevent any debris from getting into your eyes.
How to Remove Stubborn Soap Scum
Trying to clean years of soap scum can be difficult, but there are several cleaning solutions you can try.
Baking soda and white vinegar
Make a paste by mixing baking soda and water, and apply it to the soap scum. Let it sit for 15-30 minutes, then spray the area with white vinegar.
The reaction between the baking soda and vinegar can help break down the soap scum, making it easier to remove.
Commercial soap scum removers
There are many commercial soap scum removers that can effectively remove stubborn buildup.
Look for products containing citric acid or other acids that can break down soap scum.
Bleach or hydrogen peroxide can effectively remove stubborn soap scum, but it can be dangerous to work with.
Always wear gloves and a mask when working with this chemical, and make sure the room is well-ventilated.
Mix equal parts bleach and water in a spray bottle, spray the affected area, and let it sit for 15-30 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing with water.
Keep in mind that some of these cleaning solutions may only be suitable for some surfaces. Always test a small, inconspicuous area before using any cleaning product or process to ensure that it won’t cause damage to your home.
How to Clean Soap Scum Build up from Different Surfaces
How to remove soap scum from shower walls, bathtubs, and sinks
- Gather your cleaning supplies. You’ll need rubber gloves, a scrub brush, a bucket, a spray bottle, white vinegar, baking soda, and a microfiber cloth.
- Ventilate the area. Make sure the room is well-ventilated to avoid inhaling any fumes from the cleaning products.
- Remove any loose dirt. Use a dry cloth or vacuum cleaner to remove loose dirt and debris.
- Mix and use a cleaning solution. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution on the soap scum and let it sit for at least 15-20 minutes to break down the soap build up.
- Scrub the area. Use a scrub brush to scrub the soap scum vigorously and apply more vinegar solution as needed.
- Use baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda over the area and use the scrub brush to work it into the soap scum.
- Rinse and wipe. Rinse the area with warm water and dry it with a microfiber cloth.
- Repeat as necessary. If the soap scum is particularly stubborn, you may need to repeat these steps several times to remove it completely.
How to remove soap scum from glass doors
- Gather your cleaning supplies. You’ll need rubber gloves, a spray bottle, white vinegar, baking soda, a scrub brush or sponge, and a squeegee.
- Use white vinegar. Spray undiluted white vinegar on the glass shower doors, focusing on the areas with soap scum build up. Let the vinegar sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Apply baking soda. Sprinkle baking soda on the glass shower doors and use a scrub brush or sponge to work it into the soap scum.
- Rinse and squeegee. Rinse the glass shower doors with warm water and use a squeegee to remove the excess water and any remaining soap scum.
- Repeat as necessary. Repeat these steps several times if the soap scum is tough to remove.
How to clean years of soap scum off metal bathroom fixtures
- Prepare your cleaning supplies. You can use household items like warm water, white vinegar, baking soda, a soft sponge, or some microfiber cloths. You’ll also need rubber gloves and a small plastic bowl.
- Mix your cleaning solution. Mix two parts white vinegar with one part baking soda in the plastic bowl.
- Apply the paste and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. When the mixture stops fizzing, dip the sponge or cloth into the cleaning solution and wipe it onto the soap scum.
- Scrub the metal fixtures. Use a soft sponge or cloth to gently scrub away the soap scum.
- Rinse and dry the fixtures. Pour warm water to rinse the cleaning solution and use a clean microfiber cloth to wipe it dry.
- Optional: Use a metal polish. If your metal fixtures still look dull, apply the metal polish to a clean microfiber cloth and rub it onto the fixtures in a circular motion.
How to remove soap scum from a shower head
- Remove the shower head. You may need a wrench, screwdriver or pliers to remove your shower head. Place a cloth over it to prevent scratching, and use your chosen tool to loosen the nut that attaches the shower head to the water supply line.
- Soak the shower head in white vinegar. Fill a small plastic bag with undiluted vinegar and soak the shower head for 30 minutes or overnight.
- Rinse and scrub the shower head. After soaking, remove the shower head from the plastic bag and use a soft bristled brush or sponge to clean the remaining soap scum. Rinse any excess vinegar away with hot water. Most of the soap scum should have been removed by now.
- Deep clean with baking soda and vinegar if necessary. If there is remaining soap scum, mix equal parts vinegar and baking soda until it forms a paste. Spread the paste onto the affected area using a clean old toothbrush or scrub brush and let it sit for a few minutes.
- Reinstall the showerhead. After rinsing, use your hands to screw the showerhead back onto the water supply line and tighten it with a wrench or pliers.
How to remove soap scum from toilet bowls
- Prepare your cleaning supplies. You’ll need rubber gloves, a clean toilet brush, a bucket, a spray bottle, white vinegar, baking soda, and a toilet bowl cleaner.
- Turn off the water. Turn off the water supply to the toilet and flush the toilet to remove as much water as possible.
- Apply white vinegar. Spray undiluted white vinegar on the inside of the toilet bowl, focusing on the areas with soap scum build up. Let the vinegar sit for at least 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle baking soda and scrub the bowl. Sprinkle baking soda on the inside of the bowl and use the toilet brush to work it into the soap scum.
- Rinse the toilet bowl. Pour clean warm water into the bowl to rinse the cleaning product and check if the toilet needs a deep cleaning.
- Deep clean the toilet bowl with a cleanser. Pour some toilet bowl cleaner into the inside of the bowl and let it sit for the recommended time.
- Scrub again. Use the toilet brush to scrub the inside of the bowl again, scrubbing the areas with soap scum thoroughly.
- Flush and rinse. Turn the water supply back on and flush the toilet several times to rinse away any remaining cleaning products.
How to remove soap scum from shower tiles
- Make a cleaning solution. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. If the soap scum build up is particularly stubborn, you can increase the concentration of vinegar to a two parts vinegar to one part water ratio.
- Apply the cleaning solution. Spray the cleaning solution onto the shower tiles and let it sit for 15-30 minutes.
- Scrub the tiles with a soft brush. After the cleaning solution has had time to work, use a soft bristled brush or sponge to scrub the tiles. Be sure to scrub in a circular motion, paying extra attention to areas with heavy buildup. If the soap scum is difficult to remove, you can add a small amount of baking soda to the cleaning solution to make a paste. Apply the paste to the tiles and scrub gently.
- Rinse with warm water. After you have scrubbed the tiles, rinse them thoroughly with warm water. Be sure to remove all traces of the cleaning solution to prevent it from leaving a residue.
- Dry the tiles. After rinsing, dry the tiles with a clean, soft cloth to prevent water spots.
- Repeat if necessary. If the soap scum buildup is particularly stubborn, you may need to repeat this process several times to remove the buildup completely.
FAQs about Removing Soap Scum
What is the best soap scum remover?
The best soap scum remover is a combination of two simple ingredients: distilled white vinegar and baking soda.
This concoction not only eliminates all residue problems, but it’s also environmentally friendly and relatively inexpensive.
You don’t need fancy products or toxic chemicals to improve your bathroom cleaning experience — these two kitchen staples and some elbow grease should do the trick.
Does vinegar melt soap scum?
According to cleaning experts and experienced DIY-ers, white vinegar can effectively dissolve soap scum on various surfaces, including tiles, fibreglass, and glass.
The liquid’s acetic acid breaks down proteins and fat in the soap, which dries out in hard lathery deposits.
How do you dissolve thick soap scum?
Many people try a variety of chemical solutions, but if you’re looking for an eco-friendly and inexpensive solution, a great way to start is by using undiluted white vinegar.
If this doesn’t get the job done, you could also create a paste of two parts baking soda and one part hydrogen peroxide.
Spread it onto the affected bathroom surface, leave it on for 15 minutes, and then give everything a good scrub and rinse with clean water.
What do Professionals Use to Clean Soap Scum?
Our house cleaning professionals like to use eco-friendly or natural cleaning solutions depending on the severity of the build up and the type of surface they’re cleaning.
That can include natural dish detergent, baking soda paste and distilled white vinegar.
With a bit of elbow grease and time, you can clean years of built-up soap scum and restore your bathroom to a sparkling clean state.