You are a cleaning ninja and your solution for soap scum is...
January 28, 2017 6:32 PM   Subscribe

My shower screen has one panel with the most persistent soap-scum in the known universe. Some of it was there when I moved in 5 years ago, but despite regular cleaning, it have continued to get worse. I have already tried the following without success:

- every product in the cleaning aisle that promises to dissolve soap scum
- magic erasers
- microfibre cloths
- vinegar spray
- removing the door panel and laying it flat with a vinegar-soaked cloth on it for 2 hours
- vinegar + dishsoap + boiling water
- barkeepers friend
- bicarbonate of soda
- nail polish remover (yes I was getting desperate)
- methylated spirits
- eucalyptus oil
- almond oil.

I'm pretty sure it isn't limescale because I live in a soft water area and nothing else in the house has limescale (and also, it doesn't respond to vinegar).

Please hope me, cleaning ninjas! There must be something that will get this glass clean.
posted by girlgenius to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
"Shower screen" is unusual terminology for me (I'm in USA, West coast). Can you say more about what you mean? Is this a "shower curtain", e.g. made of fabric? A "shower door" e.g. a glass sliding door? Where do you live roughly?
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:43 PM on January 28, 2017

To clarify: the shower has two tiled walls, a fixed glass wall, and a three-panel sliding glass door. It is the middle panel on this glass door that I'm talking about. The glass is framed in aluminium.
posted by girlgenius at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2017

Home Comforts is a reference book that suggests a lot of what you've already tried. Then it says:
If this should fail, or if you can tell from looking at the problem that stronger measures are needed, use this highly effective procedure recommended by the Ceramic Tile Institute: (1) Using a soft cloth or brush, coat the entire surface with undiluted liquid detergent. Allow it to dry for several hours. Let badly neglected surfaces stand overnight. (2) Then wet the surface with a solution of liquid detergent and water (in the same proportions as are recommended for ordinary cleaning. (3) While the surface is still wet, sprinkle it with scouring powder; then scour it with a stiff brush. (4) Rinse it thoroughly, and polish it up with a bath towel. [...] The results will amaze you.
posted by aniola at 6:48 PM on January 28, 2017 [9 favorites]

Please pardon me for asking this, but is it possible that what you have there is plastic (or maybe even glass) that has been abraded so that it has become cloudy through tiny tiny scratches or etching, e.g. from the magic eraser, barkeeper's friend, or baking soda (abrasives) or nail polish remover or methylated spirits (solvents)?
posted by amtho at 6:49 PM on January 28, 2017 [12 favorites]

" is it possible that what you have there is plastic "

+1 to that idea.

Glass (and ceramics) are kind of the definition of "easy to clean" - super duper hard so you basically can't hurt it physically by scraping and most chemicals won't damage them either. It's why we make plates, toilets, etc. out of it.

You've used many chemicals, but not physics.

Get a razor-blade and scrape the stuff off.

If that's not working, then maybe it's not glass?
posted by soylent00FF00 at 6:54 PM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Crazy idea: since it's just one of your panels, could it be that the protective plastic coating (which glass panels often come with) was never removed? So panels 1 and 3 are just glass (and easy to clean) but panel 2 is glass+ old plastic coating and it's the plastic coating which is dirty?

A razor blade would solve this mystery, methinks.
posted by soylent00FF00 at 7:01 PM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

every product in the cleaning ais

Even CLR? That shit is majik
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:40 PM on January 28, 2017 [6 favorites]

OK, I know how crazy this sounds because I thought it was crazy when I first heard it but believe it or not... Easy-Off oven cleaner, let it sit at least half an hour and wipe it off with dryer sheets. It is magic against soap scum on fiberglass. It may work for your door panel.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 8:03 PM on January 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Try this one weird trick!

Well ok it isn't a trick. I don't see baking soda in your list. It helped sell our house. I had the exact same problem - our glass shower door was the bane of our existence for over 20 years. It was never ever ever ever spot free. We were getting ready to list our house and I had tried everything and the glass was spotty and looked terrible. I got naked, got into the shower, closed the door, and scrubbed the door down with a damp cloth and baking soda. Just scrubbed in circular motions. When I rinsed the door I was shocked to see it was clean for the first time since we moved into our house. People who came through to look remarked on how sparkly our bathroom was.
posted by the webmistress at 8:18 PM on January 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't see baking soda in your list

it was on the list of tried chemicals (sodium bicarbonate / bicarbonate of sodium).
posted by soylent00FF00 at 8:23 PM on January 28, 2017

Razor scraper. Been there, done that.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:15 PM on January 28, 2017

I have a friend with a nifty cottage and one summer I asked for a prime summer week there with my daughter in exchange for doing some cleaning and leaving some cooking in the freezer; she was blown away by her "new" shower -- I brought up my steam cleaner. It has blasted off an incredible amount of crud that chemicals haven't made a dent in, and I, not an owner of much elbow grease, am a very big fan of and aggressive user of cleaning chemicals; still the steam beats them in a lot of cases.
posted by kmennie at 9:53 PM on January 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Depending on the type of soap leaving the residue, it's possible that it actually etched the glass. That doesn't really help you, other than to reassure you that you're not insane if none of the methods to remove it work.
posted by AV at 9:57 PM on January 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

I get the fastest accumulating and most hard-watery soap scum ever, and I would second running a razor blade to scrape the glass and see what comes up. If it's perfectly clear underneath, the only thing I've found, in years of trying every combination of everything anybody has ever posted on the Internet, is oven cleaner. It's lye, and it works. The only thing that does, in my case. Test it for glass, of course, but enamel is essentially glass and it doesn't hurt my tub.
posted by rhizome at 10:48 PM on January 28, 2017

Really, is it worth the grief? Take it out, drive to your local glazing place, and ask them to replace the panel using the existing framing.

Next, throw away the soap and use shower gels, and never again have a problem with soap residues. Heaven on a stick!
posted by GeeEmm at 10:53 PM on January 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Chlorine bleach, the cheap stuff. Apply with a damp cloth, leave for ~10 minutes, wipe/scrub off with another cloth. It's probably something biological happily thriving on the soap you feed it every day.

CLR's pretty good, but it's just a mild acid in detergent. It also has a weird sour milk smell (no surprise: it's almost 20% lactic acid).
posted by scruss at 6:49 AM on January 29, 2017

Toilet bowl cleaner might work, Lysol brand seems to work best, and be sure to use gloves if you use that or oven cleaner.
posted by mareli at 6:53 AM on January 29, 2017

The nuclear solution is oven cleaner. Wear gloves and a mask.
posted by Dashy at 8:01 AM on January 29, 2017

I keep a sponge/scrubby in the shower. Toothpaste (Arm and Hammer) on scrubber. Wax on, wax off. Rinse off.

I do it a couple times a week and it gets better over a few months.

Have you considered it's the other side of the pane that is scummy?
posted by porpoise at 10:14 AM on January 29, 2017

probably not that Karen Blair: " Easy-Off oven cleaner, "

Proceed with caution; oven cleaner will damage a polished and many other aluminum surface treatments.
posted by Mitheral at 10:58 AM on January 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

You've tried so many things that usually work I think you might consider whether the surface of the glass itself has somehow been roughened, either by a chemical etching process, or by mechanical abrasion.

As a middle panel, I assume it has the aluminum frames of the other panels sliding past it on either side of the glass, and if one of those frames happens to drag across the glass it could abrade the glass over time even though aluminum is much softer than glass, because the protective aluminum oxide layer that forms on all aluminum exposed to air is actually much harder than glass.

To test whether the glass is clouded, take a stainless steel spoon and rub the edge of it not too forcefully along a cloudy stretch of glass. If it leaves a bright metal streak, the cloudiness is probably in the glass itself.

In that case it would probably be easiest to replace the panel, but if the glass in the other panels is patterned and hard to match, you could try polishing -- say with one of those vibrating finishing sanders using 1200 grit sandpaper from an auto supply store. Wear one of those little disposable dust masks if you go the polishing route.
posted by jamjam at 12:15 PM on January 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

original blue dawn mixed with white vinegar. smells awful, burns the nose hairs, but works. spray or dump it around and let it set for a bit. get a sponge on a handle thing that you fill with the same mixture. scrub lightly. gone.

this is the only thing that ever worked for the two hard as rock water places i've lived.

ninja edit: has to be the blue dawn, not that flowery moisturizing crap they've come out with recently.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:24 AM on January 30, 2017

Dawn and vinegar never worked for me, and neither did hydrogen peroxide, anything with baking soda or toothpaste, or even a straight green scrubber. I had to find something that "re-soapified" (saponified) the scum, and it has to be a base to do so. Acids were useless, but lye isn't.
posted by rhizome at 2:01 PM on January 30, 2017

Aluminum resists weak acids pretty well -- but not lye.

Lye and aluminum.
posted by jamjam at 8:48 PM on February 1, 2017

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