We Asked 3 Pro Cleaners for the Best Way to Clean Soap Scum in Bathrooms — Here’s What They Said

published Mar 25, 2024
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There are plenty of reasons why you may have a buildup of soap scum, a thick layer of sludge that can appear white or dirty, and line areas that are exposed to water, in your bathroom, and not all of them have to do with your cleaning habits. According to Robin Murphy, chief nest officer of ChirpChirp Cleaning, soap scum primarily occurs due to a reaction between soap and the minerals in hard water

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t experience the annoying and hard-to-clean buildup if you don’t have hard water. Murphy says there are additional factors that can also contribute to its formation. “Personal care products, such as shampoos, body washes, and shower gels, especially those containing oils and moisturizers, can react with water minerals similar to traditional soap.”

And that’s not all, Murphy says other things, like the frequency and duration of baths and showers, as well as how often you clean your bathroom’s surfaces, can all play a part in accumulation of soap scum. 

Fortunately, there are more than a few ways to beat the unsightly buildup, and according to the three pros I spoke with, you won’t need to hit the stores to test out some of their favorite methods. 

Dish Soap and a Scrubbing Pad

When it comes to solving soap scum situations, the go-to for Delah Gomasi, managing director and CEO of MaidForYou, is applying Dawn dish soap to a scrubbing pad and moving it in a circular motion. 

“If you have really stubborn, heavy soap scum, you can use the same method but incorporate a razor blade before you start scrubbing,” Gomasi says, adding that this process is best used on a wet surface and at an angle to prevent damaging the surface. Just be sure you spot-test in an inconspicuous area before trying out anything new to ensure you won’t damage anything as you clean.

White Vinegar, Water, and Baking Soda

Another tried-and-true method comes from Murphy, who says you can find most of what you’ll need to clean your bathroom in another oft-used room: the kitchen. “A mixture of white vinegar and water, in equal parts, serves as an excellent natural cleaner due to vinegar’s ability to dissolve scum,” she says, adding that you can add some other kitchen staples if the vinegar method isn’t cutting it (pun intended).

“For tougher scum, a paste made from baking soda (or Borax from your laundry room) and water can be quite effective,” Murphy continues. “Another great option is using lemon juice, either applied directly or diluted with water, which utilizes citric acid to break down the soap scum.”

Once you’ve combined your ingredients, Murphy says you’ll want to apply your mixture to the soap scum, letting it sit so that it begins to break down on its own. “Then gently scrub with a nonabrasive sponge or soft brush,” she says, adding that the final step should be to rinse the surface thoroughly with water.

Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Soap

Vinegar gets another shout-out from Rocky Vyong, professional cleaner, organizer, and founder of Calibre Cleaning Limited. He says you can combine a bit of vinegar, soap, and some sodium bicarbonate, aka baking soda, in equal amounts and then let it sit on the scum for around 15 minutes to do its work (you want that chemical reaction of vinegar and baking soda!).

After that, you’ll need to break out the elbow grease and get to scrubbing. Just make sure you’re not using too abrasive of a sponge. Instead, Vyong says you’ll need to find a scrubbing pad that is soft enough that it won’t damage your surface, while still being strong enough to get the job done. Once you’re done scrubbing, Vyong says the finishing touch is to rinse everything down with hot water.

Looking to spring clean? Sign up for Apartment Therapy’s 10-day Spring Cleaning Cure, a free guided program that’ll bring you one step closer to a tidier home.