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How to Make the Absolute Best Affordable DIY Soap Scum Remover

Removing stubborn soap scum, even years of soap scum, and hard water stains can be a dirty, frustrating job. But the good news is that with some simple tips and tricks, and this homemade soap scum remover, it doesn't have to be!

In this post, you'll learn the best way to remove soap scum buildup from not only your bathtub, but your shower walls, glass shower doors, and other bathroom surfaces using this homemade cleaner. So read on and get ready to have a sparkling clean bathtub in no time.

Distilled vinegar and dawn on countertop - homemade soap scum remover

This simple cleaning solution works better at cleaning soap scum and soap residue than any other bathroom cleaning product I've tried including commercial soap scum removers, shower cleaner, and cleaning products made specifically for this purpose.

It also works much better than a magic eraser which gives less than acceptable results in my experience and can be annoying to clean up especially once it starts to break apart.

Of note, no scrubbing is required, usually, unless you have quite a bit of soap scum build-up to get rid of. In that case you may need to use a bit of elbow grease and I'll give some tips for that later on in this post.

*This post may contain affiliate links and I'll earn a small commission if you shop through them. You can read my full disclosure here

🖇️Supplies

  • Clean Spray Bottle - I use either a good quality plastic spray bottle or this glass spray bottle
  • 4 ounces (½ cup) of White Vinegar
  • 4 ounces (½ cup) of Dawn dish soap or other good quality liquid soap (dish soap)
  • Scrubbing Wand (optional)
  • Microfiber Cloth (optional), clean cloth, or clean towel
  • Rubber Gloves (optional)

*It's important to use equal amounts of vinegar and dish detergent

Bottle of vinegar and blue liquid dish soap and plastic spray bottle on bathroom countertop

⚓Directions

Large bottles of Heinz Cleaning Vinegar and Dawn Dishwashing Soap and a scrubbing wand
  • For use in the empty spray bottle: Measure out 4 ounces of vinegar and heat in a microwave for about 30 seconds. DO NOT OVERHEAT! Keep in mind that the smell of vinegar will be noticeable and can be a bit potent.
  • Once the vinegar is heated carefully pour it into the spray bottle. I like to use a funnel for this task.
  • Add 4 ounces of the dishwashing liquid.
  • If a total of 8 ounces seems like a bit too much or too little, make any amount you think will do the job using equal parts vinegar and dishwashing liquid for the best results.
  • Place the lid on the bottle and shake thoroughly. 
  • Next, spray the surfaces you wish to clean and let the mixture sit for 15 to 30 minutes. Once the time has elapsed scrub (if necessary) or wipe off the cleaning solution and rinse thoroughly focusing on the shower floor.  Next, stand back and enjoy the glow! 

*To maintain your clean shower and bath tub I recommend using a daily shower spray after every shower. The best product I've found for this is this is Method Daily Shower Cleaner. It's a great way to prevent annoying white film from accumulating and will help to cut future cleaning time considerably.

Dirty bathtub with soap scum before using homemade soap scum remover

The disgusting picture above is of my bathtub, shower surfaces, and tub walls.

Smooth and shiny clean bathroom shower wall after using DIY soap scum remover and cleaner

Hideous, I know, but look at the shiny afters!

Picture of inside of bathtub after using DIY soap scum remover

Why It Works

Vinegar is a natural acetic acid and that's what makes it so good for cleaning. The acid counteracts build up, including soap scum, and works to dissolve it away.

Clean soap holder in shower after using homemade soap scum remover

Adding Dawn makes it that much more powerful. The full recipe for Dawn isn't readily available. It is known that Dawn contains chemical compounds that reduce the surface tension of a liquid. When that liquid is dissolved, grease and ickiness are gone!

What Surfaces Can This Mixture Be Used On?

This effective mixture will clean soap scum from the following surfaces:

Shower door (glass doors), tub, shower curtain, shower walls, and other bathroom surfaces with the exception of the below surfaces which are ONLY an example of surfaces this should not be used on. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendation for your particular surfaces.

Because of the acidic nature of vinegar, I would avoid using this cleaning solution on ceramic tile, glazed ceramic tile, granite, marble, and natural stone (just to name a FEW surfaces).

FAQs:

What Causes Soap Scum?

This is the burning question, right? Soap scum happens when you have hard water and the minerals in the tap water combine with soap, primarily bar soap, and dirt to create soap scum. Regular tap water naturally contains harmless minerals, such as calcium and magnesium which interact with the dirt and body oils that the soap is trying to wash away binding together and forming soap scum.

Can you spray this on your shower curtain?

Yes, you can spray the soap and vinegar solution on shower curtains. Once sprayed allow it to work for 15 to 20 minutes and then rinse thoroughly with clean water. I prefer using warm water or hot water for rinsing since it seems to work better than cold water.

Can you add baking soda to this recipe?

No, you cannot. The baking soda and vinegar will combine and form volcano-like chemical reactions. If you need a little extra scrubbing power or are just looking for a baking soda based cleaner you can try this homemade soft scrub cleaner with both baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.

Do I have to use a spray bottle?

I personally think using a spray bottle is much more convenient to use as it's easy to apply the cleaner to the various bathroom surfaces I'm cleaning especially vertical ones. If you just want to clean a small area and not use a spray bottle you can always mix this in a small bowl or container with a lid and then gently pour on the surfaces you wish to clean.

Will a microfiber cloth help to clean my surfaces better?

Once I allow the mixture to set on the surface I'm cleaning I either rinse it off completely or, to add a bit of scrubbing power for areas that could use a little elbow grease, I use a clean microfiber cloth to scrub in a circular motion. You can also use a soft bristle brush or scrub brush for large areas and an old toothbrush comes in handy for corners and in tight spaces.

If using a microfiber cloth should it be wet or dry?

Microfiber works best when it's dry. The microfibers are what do the actual cleaning work so there's no need to wet your cloth first.

If I don't want to use a microfiber cloth will any clean cloth work?

Yes, absolutely! I use microfiber because I prefer the durability of the cloth and the extra scrubbing power that a microfiber cloth provides.

Do I have to use distilled white vinegar?

You don't. I've been in a pinch and used apple cider vinegar and gotten the same great results.

Bottle of Vinegar and Dawn Dish soap on bathroom countertop - the two ingredients needed for homemade soap scum remover

Best DIY Soap Scum Remover

Mary Beth
The best soap scum remover and tub and shower cleaner ever. There are only two ingredients in this Homemade Soap Scum Remover with Vinegar and it works great to not only remove soap scum but to clean your tub, shower, and glass doors. It works!
4.95 from 20 votes
Active Time 2 mins
Active Time 5 mins
Additional Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 7 mins

Instructions
 

  • For use in the spray bottle, measure out 4 ounces of vinegar and heat in a microwave for about 30 seconds. Once the vinegar is heated carefully pour it into the spray bottle.
  • Add 4 ounces of the dishwashing liquid. Place the lid on the bottle and shake thoroughly.  
  • Now, spray the surface you wish to clean and let the gel sit for about 1 hour.  Once the time has lapsed, scrub or wipe off the cleaning solution and rinse thoroughly.  Next,
     stand back and enjoy the glow! 
  • If using the wand, follow the above directions but use 2 ounces of vinegar and 2 ounces of Dawn dishwashing liquid.
Keyword cleaning, soap scum, vinegar
Tried this DIY? Let me know what you think!Mention @TheHowToHome or tag #thehowtohome!
Jump to Instructions

What are some of your favorite ways to use Vinegar (or Dawn)? I'd love to hear your tips.

Bottle of Vinegar and Dawn Dish soap on bathroom countertop - the two ingredients needed for homemade soap scum remover

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24 Comments

  1. That looks fabulously clean. I've seen another tip that uses dampened dryer sheets to wipe off soap scum, and that works pretty well too. I'll have to give this a go and see which I like best. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jelli! I will have to try the dryer sheet tip...p.s. I love your name. : )

  2. Julia Stansel says:

    Thought I would share a cheap easy trick for cleaning the toilet with you since you got the sink and tub covered there. Pour some baking soda in the toilet, a little or alot depending on how bad it needs cleaned. Then pour vinegar into the toilet. It creates a chemical reaction you should remember from elementary school science. As the carbon dioxide is being created it actually cleans the toilet. When it stops fizzing just running the toilet brush around, and everything should come completely clean. If not, add a little more vinegar. Then toilet brush again and flush. So easy!

    1. Thanks for the great tip, Julia! I will have to try this.

    2. Tammy Sides says:

      I use the vinegar and baking soda to clean and deodorize the drains.

      1. I tried the vinegar and dawn, however I guess it was too hot and melted my bottle.

  3. Amber @ Recipes We Love says:

    I have got to try this! I was thinking the other day after i cleaned that shower doors that thye didn't look any better! I have the same Shaklee bottle. Love their products too but have ran out!

    1. Those bottles are awesome...they seem to last so much longer than other spray bottles I've bought. Thanks for stopping by. : )

  4. Debra Kapellakis says:

    I don't have Dawn here. I will use the dish washing liquid I have and hope it will also will work.

    1. I'm wondering if it is just the 'blue' that makes the difference....let me know if it works for you. : )

  5. Will this work on the mineral deposits on glass shower doors? If not, what will? I'm afraid I might have to replace the entire glass in my shower because it looks so bad.

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Sue,

      I'm not sure if it will work or not but the vinegar and the dish soap won't hurt the glass so I would give it a try. If it does work, once the shower doors are clean, I would coat them with a layer of car wax. I used to do that all the time and it kept mine nice and shiny for months.

      I would appreciate it if you could let me know if that works ~ fingers crossed and hoping it does!

      Thank you so much for stopping by.

      Mary Beth

  6. Mary Beth says:

    You're welcome, Anne ~ thanks so much for taking the time to stop by and comment! Have a wonderful day. mb

  7. Years ago, way before we had city water, our shower would get "orange" from the hard water...so hard to clean and we were going to have company...and I was going to let them use our bedroom and bath...well someone said.."clean it with Snowbowl" (toilet bowl cleaner) well yeah worked great but so strong, from then on Ive had the worst time cleaning my shower and shower floor, think the Snowbowl took the finish off...I will try this....its so embarrassing and I dont have money to rip out and retile.....thanks!

  8. Patricia M. says:

    This product sounds great, but does it have to be hot to work?

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Hi Patricia ~ It did cool down as I used it so I'm not sure if perhaps the reason to heat it is that it changes something chemically with the vinegar. I don't know enough about chemistry to figure that out. It may be that it needs to be warmed so that the dishwashing liquid mixes better with the vinegar. I would say to try a smaller amount at room temperature and see what kind of results you get if you don't want to warm up the vinegar.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! mb

  9. regarding Dawn detergent...I know Dawn has safe degreasers that other many dish detergents do not have. (We use it to clean wildlife after oil spills).
    Don't know if it makes a difference cleaning the shower, but maybe if you had to clean a really cruddy one?...

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Hi Anne,

      I had another comment over at Hometalk regarding using an organic dishwashing liquid and the commenter said she had a good result so I think most soaps will work well.

      Have a wonderful weekend! mary beth

    2. Dawn kills fleas and ticks on your pooch as well, Just remember to use a conditioner after...you know those little bottles you get in motel rooms?

  10. This stuff is a miracle!!!! I love it! the best part is that it doesn't give asthma or allergies!!! I can't thank you enough!!

  11. Vinegar is THE BEST! Sometimes I clean apartments between tenants... not a fun job and rarely does anyone leave their tub squeaky clean. What has worked for me is a Dobi scrubby... the one that's thin with a sponge side and a scrubby side and straight vinegar. In a flash, I can get the built-up soap gunk off the shower walls. And because there's already soap on the shower walls just straight vinegar does the job for me. I have had some that had something other than soap... maybe grease of some sort... I really don't want to know... so with those I also use BonAmi another old fashioned cleanser that doesn't scratch. Usually, between the two it makes pretty fast work of some tough jobs and no harmful chemicals. As always... I LOVE your tips, Mary Beth! You're the BEST!!!!

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Thank you so much, Diane, and I love your tips, too! I use BonAmi often and Bar Keepers Friend for scrubbing sometimes if I need a little extra somethin'. <3

  12. Mary Beth,

    I understand that I need to heat the vinegar but if I don't use all of it do I need to heat it up before I use it again or is just to combine the ingredients initially?

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Hi, Vicky. You only need to heat the vinegar once. I think heating it adds a little more "power" (for lack of a better word) to the initial cleaning process but after that, you can use it as is.