Tub and Shower Soap Scum Buster

I have found some pretty amazing homemade cleaning products over the last year….and just when I think there can’t possibly be any more that I haven’t already heard of…I find something new! But more than finding something NEW…finding something that works as good or BETTER than any of the expensive name brand products is the icing on the cake!

Well Pinterest…you’ve done it again. Like I said, I see a LOT of homemade cleaning solutions in my online travels, but few make me stand up and take notice like this one did. My friend Julia (a recent Pinterest inductee/addict) posted it a few days ago and pretty much raved about it! And then today I’ve seen it pinned at least 2 or 3 more times!



So today I decided to mix up a batch (which is to say I added equal parts of two ingredients to an empty bottle…very tricky stuff!) and decided to give it a test drive.

It hadn’t occurred to me until today that I really didn’t have anything like it in my cleaning bag of tricks. I’ve used my “Miracle Cleaner” in the bathroom before, but it’s more effective on localized grime and gunk. Can’t really spray it on the whole tub or shower. I’ve also used my new AMAZING microfiber cleaning cloths to wipe down counter tops, sinks and mirrors with great success! But I really hadn’t found a spray that I could use on soap scum in my shower and bath.

I guess I really hadn’t thought much about it because we don’t have a big problem with it in my shower (since *I* use it, I’m more conscientious about wiping it down between showers.) But my boys bathtub/shower combo is another story! It had this dull layer of soap scum that nothing I tried got through.

Fortunately, soap scum on an off-white bathtub/shower enclosure isn’t very noticeable. UNfortunately, that is the same reason it’s hard to show in a photo. So here are a few “before” pictures that don’t really do the problem justice. Although the hardware does look pretty bad. If I had to explain it I would have to say it was lacking the shine or brightness that it originally had, and when you ran your fingers over it…it wasn’t smooth like is should be. There was scum, even if it was hard to see.

So I decided to give “Tub and Shower Magic” by Bobbin at Food.com a try:

You will need:

  • a 24 oz spray bottle
  • 12 ounces of Dawn dishwashing liquid
  • 12 ounces of white vinegar

That’s it!  Heat the vinegar in microwave until hot and pour into squirt bottle. Then add the Dawn soap. Put the lid on and gently shake to mix.

Easy enough. Now time to get to work.  I might have got a little carried away…because I ended up using the whole bottle! lol.  That’s my addictive personality at work….”Oh, a little works??  Then a whole LOT must work even BETTER!”  Doesn’t usually work out that way….BUT luckily in this case it turned out just fine.  (Even though it did look like some sort of nuclear accident had taken place!)

I ended up letting it sit for about an hour while I finished up some stuff…then I decided just to combine my morning shower with the scrubbing portion of this experiment. Sorry. No pictures are available. lol.

A few thoughts about this “magical” stuff:  it works! It definitely “ate through” the stubborn soap scum that was pretty much all over the enclosure. NOW when I rub my fingers over the surface, it’s once again smoooooth and clean feeling. And in these “after” pictures…you can actually see the restored SHINE.

tub and shower magic

A couple of words of caution however.  It is STRONG smelling!! Since I was using it in a fairly confined space with no window….and I used A LOT of it….I had to actually leave the bathroom a couple of times to get some “fresh air” (in the hallway).  Once I was done with the SPRAYING…I was fine. I even took a shower in the stuff and had no ill effects. I think it’s just when it was airborne that it got to me.

Also, it is VERY soapy/sudsy!! I think next time I find the need to mix up a batch I will cut back on the soap and replace with vinegar.  Maybe a 2 to 1 ratio rather than a 1 to 1 ratio. The extra soapiness wasn’t really a problem except that it took a good deal of rinsing to get it all off.

So, there you go. My LONG-WINDED review of the homemade tub and shower soap scum buster that seems to have lots of people talking (at least on Pinterest) lately. Hopefully someone will find something helpful in all of that! ;-)


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  1. Anonymous says

    Wow! Have I ever enjoyed your blog today! I will be stopping to pick up some spray bottles on my way home from work, and will be trying most of your cleaner recipes this week. I can hardly wait! Thanks so much. Not only do you provide a go-to place for home made cleaners that really work (I hope), but it is so entertaining to read through your posts! Who would have thought blogs about cleaning could make a person laugh?? Thanks for such good and fun info!!

  2. Anonymous says

    Does anyone know any natural ways to get rust stains out of the bathtub, sink and white clothes? I have tried "Iron Out", but it doesn't take it all out and I am too sensitive to the smell.

    • Anna says

      Have you ever tried using a combo of vinegar and baking soda? Watch out for the volcano, but if you put whatever it is in the sink, or outside where it won’t make a mess, sprinkle baking soda over it and then use a squirt bottle filled with vinegar, then scrub with a toothbrush, rust should come out.

    • Jai says

      A mixture of cream of tartar powder & lemon juice will take out iron stains off of bathroom fixtures. With the lemon, it makes your bathroom smell great! Buying cream of tartar online in bulk & using bottled lemon concentrate is the most cost-effective way to make it. Those little containers from the grocery store get expensive. But if that’s what you have in the house, they’re good for experimenting with at first.

      Just mix a little lemon juice into the cream of tartar to make a paste. Apply to the stain, let it sit for a bit & scrub off with a scrubby sponge. I haven’t used it on laundry.

      A stronger, but *extremely* effective, commercial product is “Whink” liquid rust remover. It’s basic ingredient is hydrofluoric acid, so do follow label precautions – plenty of ventilation, avoid getting it on your skin, etc. It will remove rust stains in toilets, bathtubs & sinks like nobody’s business, virtually immediately! You can find it at Ace Hardware, along with many other local grocery or hardware stores, depending on your area.

      • Natalie says

        I’ve heard A LOT of people swearing by Coke! Coca cola seems to be the ‘go to’ when it comes to rust. I myself have not tried it, but know people who have used it with wonderful results. (and to think, people actually drink that stuff!)

        • Kathy Brooks says

          We used to use Coke (Coca Cola) for taking the rust off ice skate blades, so I would give it a try on rust stains. The only thing I wonder about is the caramel color they add–so test it first on the cloth to see if it stains.

    • Sherry says

      If you have not tried it and you can find some – BAR KEEPERS FRIEND is awesome for removing rust stains on everything!! On white clothes you make a paste and rub it on the spot and then rinse it out. If the stain is set you might have to do this several times. We bought a new house that someone else had planned to purchase and did not, and they had turned the water on and left it in pipes. I did not know this and put all of my husbands white shirts in the wash only to have them come out with rust all over them. I inquired at the local supermarket where I lived at the time and one of the employees told me about this. I bought it and sprinkled it all over the shirts and rewashed them and they came out white as ever. My dishwasher was also rusty from the water so I sprinkled this inside and ran the dishwasher – took all of the stains out. I always use this to clean tubs and sinks. You can usually find it at Food Lion stores.

      Hope this helps …

    • Maria says

      To remove rust from tub, sink, toilet: Place the peels of 2 large oranges or 2 small grapefruits in a mason jar. Cover with white vinegar and cap tightly. Leave for 1 week. Use this solution to clean away rust marks.

    • mar9449 says

      Hello! I think a good way to get rust stains out of white clothes is to use a mix of lemon juice and salt, cover the stain and put the cloth under the sunlight (excuse my English, please) for a while and them wash it in the usual way. I hope this will help you.

      • Marce says

        Just did our pontoon boat seats…Get a bottle of “Awesome” from The Dollar Tree spray it on and rub it with Magic Eraser, comes right off ( notice I didn’t say scrub, yep it comes off that easy, in fact it is so addictive & exciting, you’ll be done in NO TIME) No kidding! I’ve been cleaning our boats for 30 years and this IS the truly the BEST combo.

  3. Anonymous says

    Thank you! I love your blog – please keep finding up great, non-toxic, cheap solutions for everything. You are a gem!
    I used mostly vinegar and a small amount of Dawn and it worked perfectly. And I had a lot of thick soap scum and it is all gone. So we can back way off the dish detergent, not much is needed.

  4. Anonymous says

    I live in a house that is twice my age and still has the original bathtub. While its great for its size, its not sealed and very pourus (sp) which never really comes clean. Magic erasers, bleach like toilet bowl cleaner, Shark steam cleaner…… u name it I have tried it. The toilet bowl cleaner has actually given my bathtub a zebra stripe effect. Relaxing baths just dont happen in my house! I am so excited to try this concoction that I will be headed to get more vinegar and Dawn now! I will keep ya posted on the results!
    ****For the record I am not a dirty person, I just dont have 2+ hours to spend solely on my bathtub every week!

    • Tan B. says

      If this didn’t work, I wanted to tell you that I had an old cast iron sink once and I would fill both sides to the rim with hot or cold water and bleach and let sit for awhile. It would get the stains right out. It was very porous as well. Hope this helps if you need help still

    • kate says

      If you used “The Works” or other “blue” toilet bowl cleaners on your tub, it probably etched it. That stuff is strong, and I have to use it in the toilet and NOT let it sit. Very quick to work!!!!

  5. Jill Nystul says

    carol….so far a "cure" for mildew has eluded me. I will redouble my efforts!! I know there has to be a non-toxic answer out there! (I'm pretty sure one of the amazing readers of this blog will know as well!)

    • Jenn says

      We’ve had good success with vinegar and sunlight for midew on a rug that got totally drenched when our basement flooded and then sat for 3 days (yuck!). We didn’t even have to throw it out!

  6. Anonymous says

    Hey Jill! We have a lot of calcium in our water, and therefore it has built up in our toilet. It looks nasty and is very emberasing!! Have you came up with or know of a recipe to help remove this. I have tried a pumice stone, but it doesn't work (too much build up I suppose) thanks!! Tanika

  7. Anonymous says

    I also had tried this mixture and it was very sudsey, and like you I also used the whole bottle first try (lol) so the next time i cut the dawn down to 6 oz and it was way better . I also use it to clean sink and toilet and it works great. Keep up the awesome work.

  8. Erinn says

    I've tried this – it really works. My shower is just like Jill's, one of those fiberglass molded ones – but mine was WAY dirtier than hers. We live in a high mold area…I don't even want to go into it. Let's just say, I won't be posting photographic evidence of this recipe's efficacy.

    Anyway – try it, you won't be disappointed.

  9. Anonymous says

    I've used the white vinegar by itself to clean my showers for years. What is the benefit of adding dawn, other than the blue hue and bubbles it provides? And yes, the smell is quiet strong.

  10. Anonymous says

    Thanks, everyone…. for the idea and comments…. I feel inspired…this is how I am gonna spend my afternoon. Maybe it won't take as long as I had thought, Last weekend I used the expensive store bought stuff, that didn't get the job done. Appears I need to get familiar with Pinterest. Thanks

  11. Deanna says

    Just a heads up. I just used this on my new ceramic tile shower. While it devoured the soap scum that was built up, it also turned my white grout a blueish shade. Not sure if less Dawn would remedy that or not, but I'm a little bummed…

    • JD Durrant says


      Darlin if You soke your grout with straight vinegar over nite a couple of nite’s(say the weekend) it should return back to normal ! Hope that helped out my friend!

  12. Anonymous says

    Has anyone tried this w/o Dawn brand? I try to only use eco-friendly products and was wondering if you could do this with and eco-friendly dish soap? I might try just a small amount to test.

  13. Melissa Coffman says

    I tried this today and all I can say is "OMG this works wonderful". I have an old bath tub and it has always been so hard to clean. My husband is a welder and all that oil off him sticks to the tub like glue. I sprayed this on the shower walls and the tub, sprayed pretty heavy. Let it set for 30 to 45 minutes then rinsed. I couldn't believe the difference!! I didn't realise how bad the shower walls were. Everything didn't come off so I sprayed it again. Let set for another 30 minutes. Rinsed. I was so shocked!! Even using Comet and scrubbing like crazy NEVER got my tub this clean. And I didn't even have to scrub. As soon as I was finished I called my Mom to pass on this wonderful concoction. Thanks so much!!

  14. Melissa Coffman says

    I forgot to add that I used 8 oz of Dawn and 16 oz of vinegar. But the smell was just too strong. Next time I will do 1/2 and 1/2. I did not have the problem with all the suds like some of the comments.

  15. Jill Nystul says

    Deanna…I'm sorry…I would be bummed too. :-( Have you considered trying a Bleach pen on the bluish grout?

    Melissa….it's hard to argue with results like that! some people don't like all the soap…but it sure did the trick on the soap scum I knew was there…and even the stuff I didn't know was there! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Deborah says

    Can't wait to try this! Have been wanting something easy, frugle, and effective for my shower. Thanks to everyone who has already tried this and left comments. So many options to try I just know I have found the right recipe.

  17. Billie says

    I was another skeptical person but I just tried it on what I thought were clean shower walls. Now they are clean.

    We've also had an orangish stain on the textured floor of the shower that NOTHING has taken off. I had tried 2-3 different shower cleaners, bleach, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. Guess what? This simple cleaner took it right off.

    Thank you so much Jillee for another great product replacement. I'll never buy commercial tub/shower cleaner again.

  18. Lauren says

    This is soaking in my shower/tub right now. Can't wait to scrub it off and see if my results are as stellar as everyone claims… a little worried about my white grout, but I've found that comet leaves it slightly green if not rinsed well, so I'm sure that it can be remedied.

  19. Anonymous says

    I used this on my clear shower curtain and it worked beautifully! No more taking the curtain down to wash with bleach in the washing machine! I also used it on the shower and shower fixtures. I didn't realize we had soap scum in there (duh) until I used this stuff on it. Wow!

  20. Megan P says

    One reason the Dawn may make it work so well is that many soaps contain an element of fat/oil. In more conventional soap there are petroleum products (usually with fancy chemical names). Castille soap is made with olive oil and many organic/natural soaps contain shea butter, cocoa butter or olive oil. Orginally soap was made with lard. Soooo…Dawn breaks up grease (as does vinegar).

  21. Megan P says

    And to the people who are having problems with toilet bowl staining, I have heard that denture tablets are what the professional house cleaners use. I know a person with really, really hard water and she uses "The Works." I believe that this is acid so be careful. :)

  22. Anonymous says

    Dawn is used to wash wildlife after an oil spill. So I wouldn't consider it a toxic product. If you rinse well I see no issues. I am going to be using this on my circa-1950's shower and tub today. Nothing ever gets it clean so I really hope this works as well for me as it has for everyone else.

  23. Chris says

    I have been using mostly “green” cleaning products for years, but was yet to find one for the soap scum. I have to say this really works. I used 3/4 parts vinegar to 1/4 part Dawn. I also use this in combination with baking soda for my glass top stove. Spray on the mixture, then sprinkle with baking soda. Let it bubble for a few minutes,(the longer it sits the less work you have to do) and then spills, grease, and even cooked on messes come off with very little effort. I do use the little scrub pad on my kitchen sponge along with the mixture. It does require several trips to the sink, to rinse out the rag or sponge, and leave the stove sparkling clean! I like to spray on a combo of vinegar and water as a final shining process.

  24. Elizabeth says

    Tried this, this morning in my shower and I can’t say enough how much I love it, I need to get a bigger bottle of dawn and a better spray bottle so I can tackle my tub, toilet and the kids bathroom :)

  25. Tessa says

    Used this yesterday in my shower and I loved it. I only left it on for 10 minutes because I am REALLY bad at waiting. Now that I know how well it works I’ll do it again this weekend and let it sit longer. Thank you so much for sharing, this is just wonderful!

  26. momof3 says

    OMG!!!! I LOVE YOU. We have three bathrooms. My son has his own. He had this build up of lord knows what. I sprayed and some errands came back and scrubbed. That bath tub looks amazing! I had been trying for months to clean that. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU

  27. Mrs B says

    I made your soap scum blaster this morning made it with 1 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup of Dawn. Sprayed one panel of the shower walls and the section of tub under it. Left it for a few hours. Gave it a blast with hot water, a little swish with a sponge and I am now a convert. Have used a sponge and baking soda for years, never again. I love your site.

  28. says

    I made this today and did 3/4 c. vinegar to 1/4 c. generic no name soap and I did not warm it first. It was amazing. We are missionaries staying in a very old house that many many people have been in before us. The tub was grossly covered in soap scum and mildew. This got rid of it all! My husband could not believe it clean the caulk also!

  29. Amanda says

    Hmm will this work with a septic tank?? I read above about being acidic dont want it to kill my good bacteria!

    ALSO TO the BLUE GROUT PERSON… your grout isnt sealed.. you need to seal your grout with a good grout sealer at least once a year.. I always use the trick if water beads up on your grout your sealed if it dosnt add another layer!! Ps I work in a flooring store thats what we always tell people.

  30. Kelly Leonard says

    I am officially addicted to your website! I tried this shower cleaner and it worked perfectly! I only let it sit for about ten minutes but my shower still came out sparkling clean! I have been trying for months to get the grime out of my shower. I’ve tried bleach, scrubbing bubbles, foaming cleaner and all sorts of other store bought cleaners. Your home made recipe is the only thing that got my shower clean! Thank you so much.

  31. lauren says

    Just found your blog via, what else, Pinterest. ;) Love, love, L O V E it!! You have already solved like a trillion of my household cleaning and money problems. :)

    Ok, tried this today AND IT WORKED!!! our shower doors are FINALLY clear!!! yay!! I had tried every store product out there for soap scum and nothing worked. I am so excited I may need to call a friend, ot maybe take a pict and facebook it. lol!!

  32. Theresa Stouder says

    We have lived in my house for almost 4 years now. We all share one bathroom (eww), my husband, my two stepsons (6,10 eww again), my daughter (22 mos) and myself. Well when we bought the house the bathroom was gross but the worst was the bathtub. Its the old green tubs that were so popular back in the day. I have been scrubbing that dang thing for years and could never get it as clean as I want it. FINALLY my bathtub actually is CLEAN. I am super excited. My only issue is the vinegar smell. My husband hates the smell. What could I do to help the smell?

    • householdmanager says

      Besides cracking a window and turning on the fan,Nothing can be done for the smell. Just tell him to deal and it’s only once a week. I’ll put up with vinegar smell for a clean house. I know men don’t see it that way but clean house for the little boys will soon = the smell of Dawn and vinegar. The rest of the week I wipe everything down with the disinfectant wipe recipe on here.

  33. Anne W. says

    I love basically everything about your blog! I’m going to try this today with my Peruvian brand dish soap since Dawn isn’t available down here! Hopefully it works well and it can’t possibly have a more overpowering smell than the bathroom cleaner I used to use before I started making my own.

  34. MamaBree says

    Thank you so much Jillee! I must say I have NEVER made my own products of ANY kind! My first DIY was “febreeze”. My family uses a lot of body wash, so I thought I would try your recipe since it was the first recipe with “down to earth” instructions I found! I’ve got a batch cooling now :) I’ve been navigating around your page and after reading this, I’m going now to mix up some of this soap scum buster to clean my shower! I can’t believe I’m going to deliberately clean my shower to see how this works! Love LoVE LOVE your page! Thank you so much for your “down to earth” explanations and directions. Reading your blogs is like talking to a good girlfriend, and with all of the awesome recipes and ideas you’ve posted, I’ll be sharing this with my good girlfriends! Thanks again!

  35. Anonymous says

    Just used this – amazing!! I scrubbed because that’s just what I do and the nasty grey stuff on the scrubber proved the results! Didn’t think my shower was that dirty…..
    Also, I forgot to warm the vinegar first – it still worked great – and I only used a small amount of Dawn to maybe 2 cups of vinegar.
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful tips!!

  36. Jessica says

    wow I dindt use nearly teh amount that you did since i dindt really think ide ever use it i just remembered from the first time i ever came to your site and read this that you mix dawn and vinegar.. well my husband had the flu this past weekend and i wanted to clean because im a complete germophobe! so i just filled up a spar bottle to teh neck with hot water added the rest APPLE cider vinegar and just two squirts of dawn. Ive used it everday on anything i can think of . it was miraculous on my hood range over my stove though!! i mean seriously amazing!

  37. Tracy says

    My showers are soaking right now, the smell for sure is strong, but I have high hopes! I used 2 cups vinegar and about 8oz of dawn.

    Do you have any tips for cleaning bath tub toys?

    • Mary says

      Wouldn’t it work to put them in your newly cleaned bathtub, spray with the vinegar/Dawn mixture, let sit, then spray with water? I used this mixture to clean 2 VERY dirty booster seats. I also did a 2 to 1 ratio so I wasn’t using so much dawn. Dawn can be expensive, and vinegar is so cheap!

      • Mimi says

        Dawn is not cheap. Keep on the watch at coupons.com, and also CVS has it on sale every other month for like $0.99. Combine that with a coupon, and it ends up being like $0.45-$0.50. Thats when you stock up!!!


  1. [...] Deep clean the bathtub by using a vinegar and blue dawn solution once a month. Let the solution sit for as long as you can stand (the longer, the better). Wipe clean with a sponge. The solution mixture can be found here. [...]

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