How to Remove Years of Soap Scum From Your Bathroom

How to Remove Years of Soap Scum From Your Bathroom

Wondering how to remove soap scum from every part of your bathroom? Here’s a list of solutions to clean a year’s worth of this unflattering residue.

Soap scum is a white film that’s a combination of soap, minerals from hard water, and your bodily oils. The unflattering residue makes your bathroom wall, sink, tiles, and glass doors look dirty—especially when it’s deep-seated and built up over the years.

Different from mold, bacteria, and limescale, this layer of dried soap and mineral suds can easily combine with mold and mildew, which becomes hard to remove if left uncleaned. It may also transform in color and smell over months of disregard. But using the right cleaning solutions and steps, you can clean a year’s worth of soap scum from any part of your bathroom.

How to Remove Soap Scum Using Different Cleaners

Removing soap scum can be a challenging task. With these natural ingredients and tools, you can effectively take off these residues and restore the cleanliness of your bathroom surfaces: 

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda is a mildly abrasive substance to scrub away the scum, while white distilled vinegar will help dissolve it as a mild acidic cleaner. You will notice these two ingredients will create a fizz when combined. This helps loosen and dissolve the scum.

  1. To use, sprinkle baking soda directly on the problem areas.
  2. Next, spray or pour white vinegar onto the baking soda and let it fizz.
  3. Let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub the surface using a sponge or a scrub brush.
  4. Rinse with water to finish.

Vinegar and Dish Detergent,

The combination of white distilled vinegar and dishwashing soap is a powerful combination for a year’s worth of scum.

  1. In a spray bottle, add equal parts white vinegar and dish detergent.
  2. Spray on the affected area and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Scrub the surface and then rinse with water.

Pro tip: Use a mild dish soap or an enzymatic dish soap to avoid leaving a soapy residue. It’s useful not just for soap scum in the bathroom but also for the greasy residues in your kitchen sink.

Razor Blade

Yes, you can use a razor blade to carefully scrape off the scum from your bathroom tiles and smooth surfaces like glass.

  1. To clean, hold the blade at an angle against the surface.
  2. Gently and carefully scrape off the soap scum.
  3. Wipe away any residue with a damp cloth and then rinse with water.

Pro tip: Be careful when using the razor to avoid injury. Make sure to hold it at an angle when scraping to avoid scratching the surface.


Ammonia is a strong alkaline cleaner that helps break down and dissolve soap scum effectively, especially those which have been built up for years.

  1. Mix ¼ cup of ammonia with a gallon of water. Place the solution in a spray bottle for an easier spread on the affected areas.
  2. Scrub the surface with a sponge, and make sure to use gloves when dealing with ammonia.
  3. Rinse thoroughly with water after.

Pro tip: Use ammonia in a well-ventilated area to avoid heavily inhaling the fumes. Do not mix ammonia with bleach or other cleaning products because this can produce toxic fumes. It is a potentially harmful chemical.

Old Toothbrush

An old toothbrush is a time and tested tool to scrub away soap scum in hard-to-reach areas and corners. You can use it alongside the vinegar and baking soda mix or the vinegar and dishwashing soap solution. 

  1. Pick an old or a spare toothbrush with firm bristles to make the work easier for you.
  2. Apply your chosen cleaning solution and gently start scrubbing with gentle pressure.
  3. Rinse with water to finish.

Commercial Soap Scum Cleaners

There are commercial cleaners made specifically to remove soap scum. They often contain surfactants and chemicals like Tetrapotassium to dissolve soap films.

  1. Follow the instructions on the product label for proper application. Typically, that means you’ll need to spray the product on the area and let it sit for a specified amount of time.
  2. Scrub the surface before rinsing it with water.

Pro tip: Always wear gloves to safeguard your skin from any harmful effects of the product. They’re effective and are a time-saving way to dissolve residues, but it can include harsh chemicals with strong chemical odor.

How to Remove Soap Scum on Specific Surfaces

It’s important to use the proper cleaning solutions depending on the material you’re cleaning. Different surfaces require specific cleaning methods to avoid damage.

Whether you’re dealing with tiles, glass, fiberglass, or other bathroom surfaces, understanding the proper techniques will help effectively tackle soap scum off your bathroom.

  • Glass and Shower Enclosures

What you’ll need: white vinegar, dishwasher soap, sponge, and squeegee

How to clean:

  1. Mix equal parts water and vinegar in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto the glass and let it sit for about 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Use a sponge or a non-abrasive cloth to scrub the glass gently.
  3. Rinse with water thoroughly.
  4. Use the squeegee to remove water droplets from the glass.

Pro tip: Avoid using abrasive materials on the glass to prevent scratches.

Shower Walls

What you’ll need: white vinegar, baking soda, a sponge, and a scrub brush.

How to clean:

  1. Make a paste using baking soda and water. Apply it to the soap scum-affected areas on the shower walls.
  2. Spray white vinegar onto the baking soda paste and let it foam for a few minutes.
  3. Scrub the walls with a sponge or a scrub brush, focusing on the soap-scum areas.
  4. Rinse thoroughly with water and wipe dry.

Pro tip: Ensure proper ventilation in the bathroom when using vinegar and baking soda.

  • Metal

What you’ll need: Lemon juice, toothpaste, and soft cloth.

How to clean:

  1. Apply the lemon directly on the metal with soap scum, including your faucet, the hanging rods, and racks.
  2. You can rub the surface with the fruit itself or use a sponge.
  3. Alternatively, apply a small amount of non-gel toothpaste to the meta and scrub it gently.
  4. Rinse it with water and wipe it dry with a soft cloth.
  • Tiles

What you’ll need: Tile cleaner, cleaning brush, toothbrush

How to clean:

  1. Spray your tiles with the tile cleaner and use it according to the product label.
  2. Use a cleaning brush to remove tough stains on the walls and floors.
  3. Use the toothbrush to get through the grout, corners, and tough edges.
  4. Rinse afterwards and let dry.
  • Bathtub, Sink, and Basin

What you’ll need: natural surface cleaner, baking soda, white vinegar, cleaning brush, and sponge

How to clean:

  1. Remove all items on the tub or sink so that you can clean every part without hassle.
  2. Remove any visible dirt like hair.
  3. Spray your natural surface cleaner and wipe it down with a cloth.
  4. Alternatively, you can make a paste from adding vinegar and baking soda and use it to all parts of your bathtub and sink. Then rinse and wipe it down with a clean cloth.

For more information, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to properly clean your bathtub→.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do you still have further questions about cleaning soap scums effectively? Find your answers here:

  • What Dissolves Thick Soap Scum?

White vinegar, baking soda, commercial soap scum removers, and dish detergent all have the ability to break down a year’s worth of soap scum.

After letting the ingredient soak into the area that needs to be cleaned, it may need a little scrubbing to properly break down the scum.

  • How Do You Remove Hardened Soap Scum?

A razor and ammonia can remove hardened scum. Ammonia breaks down and dissolves soap scum effectively. The razor, when used properly, can be useful in scraping off hardened materials on tiles and shower enclosures.

  • Why Does Vinegar Remove Soap Scum?

Vinegar is a mild form of acid. It can break down hardened soap scum if you let it sit on the area that needs cleaning for 15 to 30 minutes.

  • Will Rubbing Alcohol Remove Soap Scum?

Rubbing alcohol is well-known for its disinfecting power. It’s usually 70% isopropyl alcohol and water. However, it may not be the best ingredient to effectively remove soap scum or keep it from forming.

  • Why Is Soap Scum Hard to Remove?

Soap scum is hard to remove, especially when it becomes hardened. It is composed of solidified body oils, soap residues, and minerals from your tap water. When combined and left uncleaned for a while, it becomes harder to remove.

Helpful Tips on How to Avoid Soap Scum

Preventing soap scum build-up in your bathroom can save you time and effort in the long run. Minimize the occurrence of soap scum and keep your bathroom surfaces cleaner with these helpful tips:

  • Keep a regular cleaning maintenance
  • Regularly clean your bathroom surfaces to prevent soap scum from building up over the years. Wipe down the surfaces after each use or use a squeegee to remove excess water.

  • Use hot water pre-soak
  • Before cleaning, run hot water in the shower or fill the bathtub with hot water and let it sit for a few minutes. The steam and hot water will help loosen the soap scum, making it easier to remove.

  • Use a toothbrush for tight spots.
  • Use a toothbrush to clean hard-to-reach areas or corners where soap scum may accumulate. The small bristles can help scrub away the scum effectively.

  • Use a liquid soap instead of bar soap.
  • Consider using liquid soap instead of bar soap, as it tends to leave behind less residue. Using a water softener or installing a shower filter can also help reduce mineral build-up and soap scum formation.

    When to See a Cleaning Professional

    See a cleaning professional when dealing with soap scum on the following occasions:

    • when the affected area is extensive
    • if you are dealing with delicate or expensive surfaces
    • if you have no success dealing with an extensive build-up

    Professionals can assess the situation, provide tailored solutions, and ensure proper cleaning techniques to effectively remove years of soap scum while preserving the integrity of your surfaces.