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How to Make the Absolute Best Affordable DIY Soap Scum Remover

Homemade Soap Scum Remover with Distilled White Vinegar and Dawn Dish Soap

Do you dread cleaning your shower or tub? If you do, this homemade soap scum remover may be just the cleaning solution you’ve been looking for.

One of my personal cleaning hurdles has been finding an effective way to remove the stubborn soap scum buildup from my tub, shower walls, shower curtain, and bathroom surfaces.

This homemade soap scum remover recipe works better at getting rid of stubborn soap scum buildup and grime than any cleaning product I have ever tried including scrubbing bubbles and a magic eraser which give less than acceptable results in my opinion, but I am a tough judge of clean!

Distilled vinegar and dawn on countertop - homemade soap scum remover

This is by far one of my favorites bathroom cleaning products.

No scrubbing is required, usually, unless you have quite a bit of soap scum buildup to get rid of.

Homemade Soap Scum Remover That Really Works!

I was a little skeptical when I kept seeing this homemade shower and bathtub cleaning recipe show up but it was so inexpensive and easy to make I thought I’d give it a try.

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

When I originally posted this cleaning tip over 7 years ago, I used the Aldi brand of blue dishwashing liquid and it worked perfectly fine.

Large bottles of Heinz Cleaning Vinegar and Dawn Dishwashing Soap and a scrubbing wand

I now use Dawn in this recipe as opposed to less expensive dish soap.

I buy the big containers from Sam’s Club to save money. The Dawn does work a noticeable amount better but the less expensive options work as well.

One caveat. There is a fairly strong vinegar smell while doing this and if that scent bothers you, turn on your bathroom fan or open a window. The smell clears up quickly so no worries about any lingering aroma.

Dirty bathtub with soap scum before using homemade soap scum remover

The disgusting picture above is of my bathtub before. 

Hideous, I know, but look at the afters! 

More Cleaning Tips!

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

Homemade Soap Scum Remover Recipe:

The recipe is super simple!


4 ounces (1/2 cup) of Vinegar

4 ounces (1/2 cup) of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid

Spray Bottle

Scrubbing Wand (optional)

Microfiber Cloth (optional)

For use in the spray bottle. Measure out 4 ounces of vinegar and heat in a microwave for about 30 seconds. DO NOT OVERHEAT!

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.

Place the lid on the bottle and shake thoroughly.  

Now, spray the surface you wish to clean and let the mixture sit for about 30 minutes.  Once the time has elapsed scrub or wipe off the cleaning solution and rinse thoroughly.  Next, stand back and enjoy the glow! 

Picture of inside of bathtub after using DIY soap scum remover

Why It Works

Vinegar is naturally acidic 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 (even a glass shower door), 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).


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. We have very hard water where I live and that leads to not only soap scum buildup but hard water stains on just about any surface water touches and stays on.

Can you spray this on your shower curtain?

Yes, you can. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

Can you add baking soda to this recipe?

No, you cannot. The baking soda and vinegar will combine and form a bit of a volcano-like reaction. 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 and apply to the various bathroom surfaces I’m cleaning to have this liquid soap mixture in a spray bottle. If you just want to clean a small area and not use a spray bottle you can always mix this in a 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 I use my favorite microfiber cloth brand to scrub a bit.

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!
4.72 from 21 votes
Active Time 2 mins
Active Time 5 mins
Additional Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 7 mins


  • 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.

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


Saturday 20th of February 2021

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?

Mary Beth

Thursday 25th of February 2021

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.


Thursday 18th of July 2019

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!!!!

Mary Beth

Friday 19th of July 2019

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


Wednesday 20th of March 2013

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!!


Friday 5th of October 2012

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?...


Thursday 20th of February 2014

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

Mary Beth

Saturday 6th of October 2012

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

Patricia M.

Wednesday 3rd of October 2012

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

Mary Beth

Wednesday 3rd of October 2012

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