The Dreaded Shower Cleaning

messy shower

Your best bet for a clean shower is to remove the soap and turn off the water.  Unfortunately, your family, friends, and coworkers may not be a fan of this bathroom cleaning system.  Cleaning the shower can feel like a daunting task for many and sometimes gets left without a thorough cleaning a little longer than perhaps it should.  Stains, nooks, crannies, and a variety of different surfaces can make the job more of a challenge than simply spraying and wiping.

Soap Scum

Soap scum forms when fats in your soap meet with minerals in your water to produce the chalky residue we are all familiar with.  These deposits of residue provide a home for bacteria to form biofilms that may be harmful to your health.  Though elbow grease will work to remove mineral deposits and bacteria, you can save your self a lot of energy by using the right cleaning product.  Soap scum removing products are a mix of surfactants (a detergent that reduces surface tension) and acids. When applied, the acids work to neutralize mineral deposits while the surfactants bind to the scum to be washed away.  There are many products available that will help to make short work of soap scum deposits, but if you like to try new things you can make your own cleaning solution too.

To mix up your own soap scum remover solution at home you will need vinegar, to supply the acidity and dish soap to act as a surfactant.  Simply mix equal parts vinegar and dish soap in a spray bottle, give it a shake and spray it on.  This powerful but gentle mix can be sprayed on and left to work for as long as overnight to dislodge stubborn soap scum. Once the cleaning solution has done the hard work, give it a quick scrub and rinse everything clean. 


Hair Color Stains

Anybody in a home where someone is coloring their hair is familiar with the cartoonish murder scene that is left behind after the first few washes.  Choosing the wrong product to remove these stains will seem to get you nowhere.  Like most stains, promptly addressing the problem will make for a much easier cleanup.  If the cleanup is tackled quickly, simply using a bleach based cleaner may do the job.  Scrubbing Bubbles or Clorox Clean-up spray are quite effective bleaching options that can be sprayed, left to work, and wiped down later. This no sweat method may need to be repeated a few times before all the color is removed, depending on how stuck the stain is.

For those that want the shine now, get a Magic Eraser and start scrubbing.  Though very effective for removing dye stains from the tub or shower, the cost may be more than you want to pay.  Luckily the Magic Eraser isn’t as magical as you might think.  The “magic” isn’t due to millions of dollars in research and development or cutting edge cleaning discoveries. The truth is, it’s just a melamine sponge.  Melamine sponges are much like your normal sponges but are more dense and have far more and far smaller pores.  All these tiny pores act as a light abrasive but wont damage most surfaces.  Melamine sponges can be purchased at a fraction of the price of Magic Erasers and will provide the same scrubbing power when combined with cleaners in your home.

Need a Melamine Sponges? 


Rust Stains

Rust stains simply look awful.  Even a completely sterilized bathroom won’t look clean if there are orange rust stains.  Once again there are commercial chemical options, but many are quite potent making dwell time (the time the cleaner soaks before you wipe it off) on metal parts a concern.  Though strong acids will remove rust stains from fiber glass and vinyl, they can not be left to soak on metals for long.  Powerful bathroom cleaners need to be used carefully and tested on inconspicuous spots when unsure of possible damage, but the simple solution is a mild acid and allowing more time to let it sit.

bathtub rust

Start the removal process by completely covering stains on the floor with lemon juice or vinegar, and letting it sit for a couple hours. Upon returning, drain and rinse the area then scrub it with a sponge to dislodge any deposits that have come loose. If any stains are still present, get that lemon juice or vinegar and mix it with baking soda to form a thick paste. Spread this paste over trouble spots and let it sit for a couple hours again, before returning to give it a thorough scrubbing. This will remove any remaining rust stains and leave your shower refreshed.


Tiles Grout

Grout line can be some of the toughest spots to clean in your bathroom. Traditional grout mixtures are a blend of sand and cement that create the porous lines between tile where germs and mold find a home.  Modern options include latex and other polymers to help boost stain resistance in these notoriously difficult to clean spots, but scrubbing will unfortunately still be required.

The best start for whitening that grout is to spray it down with hot water, wait 5 minutes and get scrubbing with a stiff bristle brush.  If you have a steam cleaner or those melamine sponges, this is the time to put them to work.  This will help to remove any surface dirt and grime revealing the porous surface below. If it has been a while since the last good scrubbing, your grout will likely not be bright and clean yet, so its time to tackle the trouble spots that remain.

There are many grout cleaning products out there and as always choosing the right one is key.  The best option is a peroxide based “oxi” cleaner because of its natural bleaching properties to lift stains and its gentle cleaning power that won't cause damage to tile or grout.  Spray this on and leave it to sit for about 10 minutes and start scrubbing again before rinsing everything down once more.

For the DIYers out there, you can make your own super grout cleaner at home.  1 cup of baking soda, ½ cup peroxide, and 2 teaspoons of dish soap will provide plenty of safe cleaning power to get in and make that grout white again.  Spread your homemade grout cleaning paste over the grout lines and let it sit for 10 or more minutes.  This is again a great time to get your melamine sponge out for some “magic erasing” along the grout.  The sponges work great, but the cost of brand name Magic Erasers will add up quickly as the sponges don’t last long on the rough surface.  Once your trouble spots are scrubbed clean, one last rinse and your tile and grout look new.

 Need some oxy-cleaner?

Shower Curtain

Your shower curtain receives the brunt of the soap scum and mildew in your bathroom.  It's not something that can be scrubbed on easily and drives some to just go get a new one when they are tired of looking at it.  Forget the scrubbing though because this one is easy! 

Check the care label. Many shower curtains are machine washable and can be run through with warm water and normal laundry detergent.  To get the most out of the machine wash you will want to add a couple of towels in the mix to provide some scrubbing surface to the slippery plastic load.  You may also want to add ¾ cup of baking soda to the load once its full of water and then add vinegar to the rinse cycle.  Particularly soiled shower curtains may even benefit from a cup of bleach in the wash cycle to remove stubborn mold or mildew build up.  Finally hang the curtain to dry back in your shower or outside if the weather is right.

If your shower curtain is not machine washable, it may just be better to find a new one in the long run.  You can certainly lay it out and scrub by hand with a cleaner to remove the soap scum and mold but this is much more time consuming and it may be worth going shopping to save the time.



The best way to keep your bathroom clean is to stay on top of it.  This doesn’t mean cleaning constantly but there are some small actions that might make your Saturday bathroom cleaning a little more manageable.  When it comes to stains like dye or rust, time is of the essence. Getting to these stubborn stains quickly will make for less scrubbing and soaking and save lots of time.

Shower walls and your shower curtain are sprayed with soapy water every time you use your shower making them a seemingly perpetual home for soap scum.  Simply rinsing off these surfaces at the end of your shower will help wash away residues before they get a chance to dry and harden, providing homes for germs.  Furthermore, a small shower squeegee is a great way to remove water from shower walls. This will get the soapy water off before it has a chance to dry into soapy water spots.  You may even choose to switch to a liquid body soap instead of a bar of soap to help reduce soap scum build up.  Bar soap is less diluted than a body wash and will leave more soap scum.  To really make cleaning the shower easy you can prepare a spray bottle with half vinegar and half water to be left near the shower and sprayed over your shower curtain and vinyl tub surround before squeegeeing.  This will keep soap mineral deposits moving toward the drain and keep them from staying where you don’t want them.

As for keeping your tile grout looking fresh, it’s a matter of sealing its porous surface.  Once scrubbed clean and looking great, it is time to seal the grout. This will block molds and grime from settling in these hard to clean spots and make the next clean up a breeze.  Sealing should be done annually on dry grout but depending on how much traffic the tiles see, twice a year may be a good goal.

The bulk of what is cleaned from your shower is the result of soap and water. Clearing these from resting on trouble surfaces will help keep the sparkle in your bathroom and will make the next thorough cleaning go more smoothly.  Opening windows, turning on fans, and opening the door after using the shower, will help remove mold causing humidity, making for less cleaning later. 

PPE cleaning gloves

Knowing what cleaning solution to use where, whether its purchased or mixed up at home, will help take the work out of cleaning the shower.  Be sure to wear appropriate personal protection while using any type of cleaning solution.  Cleaners purchased from a store should be read to understand the dangers that may be present with their use.  Ventilations, gloves, and eye protection are all common precautions to take to keep your self safe.  Even homemade DIY solutions should be used with care, though not as strong, they may cause chemical burns over time if gloves are not used while scrubbing.  So get your gloves, your old house-cleaning shirt and that shower will be sparkling clean in no time.

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