Does ugly soap scum mar the beauty and freshness of your bathroom? That hideous layer of white or gray gunk on your tiles, faucets, and floor can damage these surfaces if left unattended. Plus, cleaning soap scum is one of those never-ending, thankless chores nobody likes to do. That’s because whatever you do, the nasty muck returns! Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or go out to work, cleaning bathrooms is essential to keeping your home fresh and hygienic. The health, comfort, and well-being of your loved ones depend on this. Visitors and guests won’t go back with horror stories of how dirty your bathrooms are. Using commercial cleaners is bad for the environment, so here are some great DIY Methods to Remove Soap Scum Build-Up. Keep your bathrooms sparkling clean and spotless with these simple cleaning hacks.
What Is Soap Scum?
It’s called by many names: soap scale, lime soap, and more. It is different from the limescale that forms due to hard water. Limescale is a thin layer of white deposit on the surface of your floors, walls, and fixtures. Soap scum is a thick, hard, grayish layer that coats these surfaces. Whatever you call it, it’s a nuisance. To understand the composition of soap scum, it’s good to know how soap is made. It consists of oils and fats mixed with lye (a mixture of sodium or potassium hydroxide and water). Colors and fragrances can be added according to taste. This process is called saponification, a chemical reaction where the fatty components react to the lye and become solid either by cooling or heating.
When you use soap in the shower or elsewhere in the bathroom, it combines with minerals and salts in the water, body oils, dirt, grease, hair, and dead skin to form a hard layer on smooth surfaces. It coats your sinks, tubs, faucets, floor, walls, shower curtains, and doors. Apart from the bathroom, you will get soap scum inside your washing machine and laundry room.
This is the scum that annoys you and creates a bad impression. Glass cubicles in the shower are particularly prone to scum attacks, but perhaps this is also more obvious because of the transparent glass.
What’s the problem with Commercial Cleaners?
Now you know what that icky, gray-white stuff is. It’s easier to attack it. The key to maintaining a scum-free bathroom is regular cleaning. The longer you leave it on, the thicker and more difficult to remove it becomes.
You’ll find any number of commercial cleaners on your supermarket shelves. All of them promise miracles. But until you try, you wouldn’t know if they are too harsh on your fixtures and tiles or so gentle that they’re no use.
If you read the fine print, you may find alarming side effects. Some of them cause severe skin burns and eye damage, and breathing the spray mist could result in respiratory difficulties and allergies. Most of them contain soap and high pH-level products such as ammonia. They may contain chemicals that blend with the existing salts and fatty acids to dissolve the sum. Some contain strong alkalis that attack glass, porcelain, or stone, leaving them pitted and permanently damaged.
Some products are so watery that they don’t stay long enough on vertical surfaces such as walls and glass shower cubicles. After you spray them on, they simply drip down without enough time to dissolve the scum.
DIY Methods to Remove Soap Scum Build-Up
You need a cleaner that doesn’t damage the surface of your bathroom walls, floors, tiles, or metal fittings. It should also be gentle on the environment, affordable, and easy to make.
You will find quite a few DIY methods that tick all the right boxes.
1. No Scrubbing Needed: Heat (but don’t boil) ½ cup of white vinegar, and mix with ½ cup of liquid dishwashing soap in a spray bottle. Swirl this mixture gently till it’s well mixed. Spray onto the affected surfaces. Leave on for 30 minutes or longer, depending on the amount and thickness of the scum. Rinse well with hot water and wipe dry completely with a microfiber cloth. This is an effective method for a mild build-up of soap scum.
2. Stubborn Scum: If the scum has been in place for years together, you need to be tough on it. Mix 2 cups of baking soda with 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide. Apply it thickly on the affected parts with a soft brush or cloth. Make sure you wear protective gloves, eyewear, and a mask. Leave it on for at least one hour. Spray a light mist of plain water. Use a stiff brush to scrub each area in a circular motion. If the scum is very stubborn, dip the brush in dry baking soda and continue scrubbing. Rinse off with cold water and dry thoroughly.
3. Citric Acid Crystals: You can buy citric acid crystals in most supermarkets. It is highly effective in removing soap scum and has anti-bacterial and anti-grease properties. Make sure you don’t use it on natural stone or marble, as it can be quite corrosive. Wear gloves, as they can be harsh on your hands. It comes in powder form or the form of small crystals, like sugar. Ensure that you store it away from your grocery cupboard or larder because it can easily be mistaken for sugar or salt. Wet the area with hot water and sprinkle the citric acid crystals. Leave for a while and use a scrubber to scrub off the scum. Rinse off with very hot water. Repeat if necessary.
4. Salt and Lemon Juice: Squeeze the juice of 3 or 4 lemons. Take a cup full of table salt in a separate bowl. Wear gloves and dip a soft cloth in lemon juice. Rub on the affected area. This method works well for thinner layers of soap scum. Leave it on for a few minutes till it is semi-dry. Sprinkle the salt generously on the half-dried lemon juice. Leave it on for 15 or 20 minutes. Scrub vigorously with a stiff brush and rinse off with hot water. You can use Epsom salt instead of table salt.
5. Steam Cleaning: You can invest in a modern steam pressure appliance to remove soap scum from tiles, walls, and floors. It also works well on your faucets without damaging the chrome coating. However, it’s a no-no for enameled or anodized surfaces and silicone joints. The hot, damp steam easily loosens stubborn soap scum. Make sure you follow all the safety precautions prescribed by the manufacturer. Once thoroughly steam cleaned the area, use a damp mop or cloth to wipe it clean. The advantage of this method is that you don’t need any other ingredients besides plain tap water. It is pet friendly and simple to use.
While soap scum is not something anyone would wish to see in their bathrooms, the key to dealing with it is regular cleaning. Prevent the scum from forming in the first place. Another solution is to use body wash products rather than bathing bars. These products don’t contain animal or vegetable fats which cause scum to form. Wipe your bathroom tiles, tub, and floor daily after use. It helps in a small way to prevent scum build-up.