We’ve all heard the words before in countless ads on TV for the latest and greatest cleaning products. But what exactly is soap scum? How do you get rid of it? And do you really need all those expensive cleaning products to deal with it? Let’s dive in and take a look.

What is Soap Scum?

Soap scum is that horrible looking, spotty buildup on the walls of your shower or lining your tub. It can be grey, white, or sometimes even a pinkish color. It is caused by the mixing of body oil, soap, and minerals present in you water. It’s worse if you have hard water, as the mineral content is much greater.

How do you get rid of it?

Since the issue is body oil, soap, and water minerals, let’s start there. You could stop showering, then there would be no more body oil. But since that’s not really socially acceptable, let’s keep looking. You could shower but without using soap. But let’s be honest, those lathery bubbles are all the fun of getting in the shower in the first place. So what’s left? Water minerals. You have two options here.

First, to deal with the mineral deposits after they occur, you can purchase any of a number of cleaning products specifically made for soap scum. It is recommended to use them after every shower in order to maximize the effectiveness of the product. Just know that you will need to scrub frequently and vigorously to fully remove all the staining and spots.

On the other hand, to prevent mineral build up before it happens, you can install a water softener to reduce the mineral content before it ever reaches your shower. Without all the calcium, iron, and magnesium to bind to, the soap will wash away more cleanly from your hair, skin, and shower surfaces.

Do you really need those expensive products?

As previously stated, there are many products on the market made specifically to deal with soap scum. And they work to varying degrees. But at $5-$15 per bottle, is it really worth it? One simple option is to make a DIY soap scum cleaner yourself with products you likely already have in your home. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 part white distilled vinegar
  • 1 part dish soap
  • (Optional) Essential oil for a fresh scent

Mix all of the ingredients into a spray bottle, shake well, spray it on your surfaces, and let stand for a few minutes, and then scrub away. The vinegar breaks down the mineral deposits, and the dish soap removes body oil as well as the oils in bath soaps. Rinse well and admire your handiwork. You’ve earned it. Just remember that vinegar and natural stone surfaces such as granite or marble do not play well together. So those surfaces should be cleaned with a product that is safe for natural stone.