How to Clean Soap Scum From Shower Doors

Get tips on how to get your glass shower door looking as good as new.

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There are plenty of good and bad things about glass shower doors and managing soap scum can deter homeowners from wanting them. My glass shower is the original of my 1951 home, so it is coffin-like compared to modern all-glass shower doors (swoon), and I'm not too crazy about the etched swan. All that aside, I’ve managed to keep soap scum at bay.

Contemporary Gray Master Bathroom With Glass Shower

Contemporary Gray Master Bathroom With Glass Shower

This contemporary gray master bathroom features a glass shower with multiple jets, dark gray striated cabinetry with white marble countertop, and a toilet room with sliding barn door.

Photo by: Lars Remodeling & Design

Lars Remodeling & Design

You noticed how I said "keep soap scum at bay" and not "keep soap scum away," right? Soap scum is a natural part of life. Learning how to maintain it is as important as learning how to clean it.

What Causes Soap Scum?

The scum we’ve all grown to know and hate is caused by paraffin wax in soap reacting to hard water. Our experiences with soap scum may vary depending on water quality and bathing preferences, but in some degree, it’s something you battle on glass shower doors, tile, vinyl shower curtains and in the bathtub. It’s most visible on glass.

Remove Soap Scum

How to Clean Soap Scum From Shower Doors

How to Clean Soap Scum From Shower Doors

Soap scum on a glass shower door.

Photo by: Emily Fazio

Emily Fazio

How to Clean Soap Scum With Vinegar

In a spray bottle, mix 1 part white vinegar with 1 part grease-fighting dish soap. Spray glass door, and close to allow the solution to set and drip back into the shower. Use a cloth to scrub the surface by hand after about 20-30 minutes, and completely dry it.

How to Clean Soap Scum With Ammonia

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Wear rubber gloves and ventilate the bathroom. In a spray bottle, mix 1 part ammonia with 3 parts water, and mist the soap scum surface. While still wet, use a coarse scrub brush to agitate and loosen the soap scum. Rinse the surface clean, allowing all of the ammonia solution to go down the drain. Dry it completely.

How to Clean Soap Scum With Borax or Baking Soda

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Photo by: Emily Fazio ©2015

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You can mix both borax and baking soda with water to form a paste. Both are naturally abrasive, making them great cleaners. Use a damp sponge to apply the paste over the surface of the glass to loosen the soap scum, then rinse. Dry the surface completely.

Note: Avoid cleaning the bathroom with vinegar or ammonia at the same time as a chlorine-based bleach. The fumes from ammonia or vinegar and bleach create a toxic environment.

How to Keep Your Shower Soap Scum-Free

Elegant Marble Tile Shower

Elegant Marble Tile Shower

Marble tile pairs with brass fixtures for a luxurious shower experience. The glass door and wall creates an airy, light-filled atmosphere.

Photo by: Amy Bartlam

Amy Bartlam

Try these few simple tips:

  • Keep the spray bottle in the stall of the shower, and give the glass a quick scrub after every use. Use the already-running water to rinse the glass, and completely dry it.
  • Opt for a liquid soap or body wash rather than a bar of soap. Liquid soap is more diluted, making it easier to rinse, and its reaction with hard water is different than solid soap.
  • Avoid oily products such as special conditioners. If you must use them, be more diligent about cleaning the shower.
  • Make it a habit to dry the shower after each use. A squeegee makes drying much easier. It’s also helpful to keep an old towel handy to wipe over the shower walls to prevent build-up.
  • Leave the door open to encourage airflow.
  • Look into ways you can soften your hard water.

10 Pro Tips to Get Cleaning Done Fast

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Make a Schedule and Stick to It

Set aside a specific time to get your chores done. "Nobody hires a cleaning service that promises to arrive some random Saturday when nothing else is happening," Cynthia Townley Ewer, author ofHouseworks, says, "Take a tip from the pros and set up a regular cleaning schedule. Pros don’t quit until the job is done. Schedule the job and stick to it to get the work done in record time."

Photo By: Ljupco Smokovski

Find a Motivator

Cynthia suggests using motivators to prevent distraction and head off boredom. "Play your favorite upbeat music. Listen to a book on tape so you'll feel as if you're accomplishing two tasks at once."

Photo By: Yuri Arcurs

Dress for Success

Professional cleaners dress in comfortable, washable clothing designed for work. Supportive shoes and kneepads spare their bodies. Goggles and gloves protect against chemicals. Throw out the bleach-stained sweatshirts, and create a cleaning uniform that includes shoes, gloves and eye protection.

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Invest in Proper Tools

"Professional cleaners don’t use gadgets. You’ll never find them toting specialized one-time-use tools or the latest gimmick hawked on a TV infomercial," according to Cynthia. "Buy good tools — once — and use them, and you’ll be finished in record time."

Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/Tatomm

Simplify Supplies

"There's a reason the pros can tote all the products they need in one tray," Cynthia explains "They've simplified their cleaning products down to four basic supplies:

  • Powdered abrasive cleanser
  • Tile and bathroom cleaner
  • Heavy-duty degreasing cleaner
  • Light-duty evaporating cleaner (glass cleaner or multi-surface cleaner)

That's it! No soap scum remover, no special counter spray, no single-use products designed to clean only blinds or fans or walls. The professionals know that with these four simple products they'll be able to handle any ordinary cleaning chore."

Photo By: Aimee Lane

Tote Your Tools

For efficiency sake, professional cleaners tote all their tools with them. All their tools — cleansers, brushes and rags — are right there in the tote tray. Vacuum, mop and mini-vac wait in the doorway. A plastic bag for trash is tucked into a pocket, next to the waving lamb's wool duster. That’s why the pro has finished the entire bathroom before our amateur makes it back up the stairs with the powdered cleanser.

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Minimize Your Movement

"Professional cleaners don’t circle a room more than once. Taking their place before the bathroom sink, they’ll spray and wipe the mirror, scrub the sink, wipe down counters and polish fixtures before they move one inch to the right or left," says Cynthia.

"Don’t get physical with your cleaning sessions; make every movement count. Stand fast and clean everything in your path before you move on."

Photo By: Lise Gagné

Pick It Up Before You Clean

"Professional cleaners come to clean, not to tidy counters, furniture, appliances and floors. They can’t do the job if each horizontal surface in the home is covered with papers, toys, dirty dishes and just plain clutter," Cynthia explains. "Pretend that you’ve hired a high-priced cleaning crew. You wouldn’t make them relocate the clutter just to be able to do their job. Give yourself the same head start — pick up before you clean."

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Two Hands Are Better Than One

"The pros don’t work as if one arm is in a sling and neither should you. Get in the habit of using both hands to attack cleaning tasks," advises Cynthia.

"Spray a mirror with one hand; wipe it down with the other. Scrub counters with two sponges or cleaning cloths. Dusting goes twice as fast when a lamb's wool duster in one hand cleans nooks and crannies while the cleaning cloth in the other skims flat surfaces."

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Teamwork

Two people make a bed four times faster than one. Two or three can make short work of an average home. Make cleaning a group effort. Family members are more reluctant to mess up a clean house when they have been part of the cleaning effort!

Photo By: Zing Images/Getty Images

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