Soap Scum removal
April 15, 2005 3:37 PM   Subscribe

What magic solution do you have for removing soap scum?

I am a single guy, living alone, which should tell you that I am not very strict with my regular cleaning routine. And, as can be expected, I have not scrubbed out my tub in a while and a nice layer of soap scum has built up within it. The last time this happened, I spent about an hour scrubbing away with some Comet and a sponge. There has to be a better way. Please tell me there is some miracle product I can spray on this stuff, let sit, and than easily wipe away. Or at least some overlooked technique for easier removal. Thanks.
posted by Hackworth to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately, when it comes to soap scum, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure... You're in for some repeated applications and scrubbing, I think.

If you want to avoid toxic chemicals, you can apply a baking powder paste, let it sit for at least 15 minutes (keep moist) and scrub off. Heated white vinegar will also work. If you want something different, try a commercial tile cleaner: again, leave on for 15 minutes and keep moist.

Uh, I'm assuming you have a porcelain tub, here.
posted by Specklet at 3:44 PM on April 15, 2005

Kaboom from those cheesy TV ads works on my soap scum. You can get a decent sized bottle for about $3 at Target.
posted by birdherder at 4:02 PM on April 15, 2005

I had the very same problem, until I bought .... a $3 stiff-bristled brush from the hardware store! With the help of Comet and/or Soft Scrub, it totally demolished a ton of scummy nastiness. This really will work. Just don't buy one of the ones with brass (or other metal) bristles; there's a kind with stiff, rigid nylon (or something) that won't damage your tub at all. Oh, and get yerself some decent rubber gloves, too.
Happy scrubbing!
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:11 PM on April 15, 2005

I use CLR in a spray bottle and a stiff-bristled nylon brush like the good Dr. suggests. As a result, my old clawfoot tub is virtually scum-, rust-, and limeless, and it was pretty gunked up with all that stuff when I first moved in.
posted by melissa may at 4:17 PM on April 15, 2005

Excellent ideas! Thanks! A sponge is defintely too soft, duh, why didn't I think of a brush earlier?
posted by Hackworth at 4:28 PM on April 15, 2005

A solution of vinegar and water, spray it on, then scrub or wipe off. You may have to scrub if it's bad. It doesn't smell good, but it certainly works wonders.
posted by suchatreat at 4:45 PM on April 15, 2005

Whoa! Whoa! Do not use anything abrasive on a porcelain tub! No stiff bristled brushes!! No Soft Scrub! (If the tub is acrylic, be my guest.)

Porcelain has a protective coating that is baked on. When it is scratched or scrubbed with an abrasive cleanser, it begins to wear away. This leads tiny pits in the porcelain, which leads to dirt and scum accumulating in the pits, which leads to more scrubbing and more pits...and the cycle continues until a handful of years go by and you've ruined the porcelain.

Over the years, harsher chemicals and synthetic cleaning tools have begun to ruin some nice vintage tubs. And getting them refinished properly is costly and leads to more work with upkeep.

The best defense is a good offense (as Specklet suggested). Wipe out the tub with your towel or a soft cloth after you use it for a bath or a shower. Don't let the chemicals in treated water or the oils from your body dry onto the tub or tile surfaces.

Try Fantastik Bleach, Fantastik Oxypower, 409 or Clorox CleanUp. can fill the tub and pour in vinegar OR bleach and let it sit for 30 or so minutes. (Never mix cleaners or chemicals together. Use rubber gloves.)

If you must scrub with something lightly abrasive, buy a "tiler's sponge" or "grout sponge" at your local hardware store. This has a gently abrasive side that won't scratch tile or porcelain, but will help with cleaning up.

The more you wipe and dry the tub after each use, though, the less you will have to clean.
posted by jeanmari at 9:40 PM on April 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

I have pretty good luck with any spray- on bathroom cleaner that's labelled "removes soap scum" and a stiff- bristled brush.
posted by puddinghead at 10:00 PM on April 15, 2005

One of the big culprets for causing scum in the bathroom is hard water. After just a month of regular bathing, every surface of my shower (including the faucet/shower head) was completely gunked up in my previous apartment due to extremely hard, mineral-full water. Consider getting a water softener if you don't want the hassle of drying your tub every day.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:26 AM on April 16, 2005

If you want simple, go to your local dollar store, buy whatever toxic spray product claims to work on soap scum, usually it's got some scrubby-bubble knock off imagery on the outside. Buy a few of those sponges that have scrubbits on one side. Go to your tub, spray the stuff on thick enough so that it sticks, leave the room & leave it alone for 15-20 minutes, go back in and it will mostly wipe off with the sponge, use the scrubbit for tough areas. Seriously, this works like a charm and the more often you can do it, the easier it is to do. I have no idea if the stuff is toxic enough to mess with porcelain finishes, my tub seems to be doing okay after years of this.
posted by jessamyn at 7:20 AM on April 16, 2005

Sell the house and move to an area served by an aquifer with a low dissolved mineral content (Climbing out of the shower filthier than when I got in is why I won't live in London).
posted by RichLyon at 7:26 AM on April 16, 2005

I find the stuff labeled soap scum remover works great but try CLR too - it's a miracle product hat immediately gets rid of stains you might think are soap scum but are actually mineral deposits. I had a terrible looking tub and tried everything on it to no avail, then one shpritz of CLR and it was sparkly-new again. Great stuff.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:13 AM on April 16, 2005

orange peel oil solvent (costs about a buck at the supermarket. Degreases anything including soap scum, effortlessly, and its so non toxic you could drink the stuff
posted by BentPenguin at 7:20 PM on April 16, 2005

When I lived in the U.S., I used Tilex Fresh Shower to avoid this problem. You just spray it after your shower, and don't even have to wipe it off.
posted by grouse at 12:59 AM on April 17, 2005

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