Homemade Tub Tile n’ Shower Cleaner Makes Soap Scum Disappear Like Magic

It’s the number one request that shows up in my inbox—“Can you give me the recipe for that magical soap and scum cleaner?” Well, yes I can! And here it is. (Please make sure to read all of this and follow instructions carefully.) You’re welcome!

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land my mailbox came from a guy who is a professional property manager. He handles rental apartments near a big university, and lots of them. As an apartment is vacated, his job is to see that it is thoroughly cleaned and made ready for the next occupants.

Homemade shower and tile cleaner

He told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details up to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds. And that’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets and doors to their sparkling clean and sanitized condition.

I gave his unbelievably simple recipe a try. Since that day more than 20 years ago, I’ve used nothing else to clean tubs, showers, sinks, toilets, patio furniture—just about anything that will stand still long enough to get sprayed and can be rinsed easily. This product must be rinsed off.

To make your own bottle of pure magic I mean Tub, Tile and Shower Cleaner, you will need three things:


1. An empty spray bottle

2. Dawn dishwashing liquid (any variation as long as it is Dawn and it is blue)

3. White vinegar from the supermarket, labeled as 5% acidity.


Pour 1 cup blue Dawn into a 32-ounce spray bottle (1/2 cup Dawn if you are using a 16-ounce bottle). Fill the bottle the rest of the way with white vinegar. Apply sprayer top; shake gently to mix.


Spray liberally on the area to be cleaned. Allow to sit from 30 minutes up to overnight, depending on the severity of the problem. All of the offensive gunk and grime will break down and become soft and gooey. Simply rinse it away. For especially challenging situations—or if this is the initial treatment—once it’s been allowed to sit, use a sponge or brush to gently scrub the surfaces before rinsing.


While this Tub Tile ‘n Shower Cleaner works to loosen and remove most mildew, if you see a lot of black growth you will want to pretreat with full strength liquid chlorine bleach before proceeding as above.

CAUTION: Never, ever allow chlorine bleach to come in contact with vinegar (or ammonia for that matter). This could produce chlorine gas, which is deadly. Don’t panic. Simply make sure you rinse the chlorine bleach away completely before proceeding to clean with this homemade tub and tile cleaner.


Here’s the best thing about this soap and scum cleaner—if you use it weekly you will never have to scrub again. Here’s what I do:

Once each week I spray down the walls, doors, tracks, faucets, shampoo caddy—everything within reach—with this magical cleaner while I am in the shower. Before I step out, I use the handheld sprayer to rinse it all away. No scrubbing required. It dries sparkling clean without using a squeegee or wiping down with a towel. And not a water mark to be seen. Simply brilliant!

I use this stuff in the kitchen, too—on my appliances, stainless steel sink and faucets (never on the granite counter tops however as vinegar and granite do not play well together), but only where it can be rinsed away. That means I don’t spray it on the floor or into the air. That would create a slippery, soapy mess.

I can’t wait to get your feedback once you give this super simple cleaning and maintenance method a try. As always, before and after pictures would be great!

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22 replies
  1. Kathe Todd
    Kathe Todd says:

    The previous owner of this place was a bachelor who apparently never, ever cleaned his shower. Soap scum and hard water stains cover the two glass panels of the shower stall and the aluminum hardware. I’ve tried everything including the above mixture and a commercial product that was $16 a pint, with the same results – no matter how long you let it soak, no matter how hard you scrub, the stuff does NOT come off.

    • Neda Coffee
      Neda Coffee says:

      go to this website

      while it does start with the homemade cleaner, it does offer an alternative for when it is just too bad. I’m going to p0ick up some of the special sandpaper she recommends and give it a whirl.

  2. Jan
    Jan says:

    Please be careful when using this if you rinse and scrub while in the shower. The Dawn creates a very slippery surface. I also suggest a well ventilated area. I was overcome by the vinegar and had to leave the room a couple of times to catch my breath.

  3. Carol Rowe
    Carol Rowe says:

    Bleach feeds mold, my husband and son in law both worked for a restoration company. They were trained to kill mold with vinegar. Bleach contains a lot of water, water feeds mold. My son in law went through classes to learn how to clean and kill mold. Vinegar does the job.

  4. Julie
    Julie says:

    I don’t mind a vinegar smell since I naturally clean my whole house with it. But this created toxic fumes. It was as bad if not worse than spraying all the other bathroom chemicals that are meant to clean tile scum. My throat is now burning, even after putting on a mask. I’m dreading going back in to scrub the grout after it has sat for awhile. I thought it was supposed to be a mild cleanser compared to the store bought formulations. Never again after I finish scrubbing the soap scum.

  5. Jennifer Saxton
    Jennifer Saxton says:

    Interesting article! A must read for all people who spend endless hours scrubbing tubs and tiles. Certainly the above products do work their magic. But when i tried Imperia Deep Clean and Valore, it worked marvelously in eliminating the stains.

  6. Tatiana54
    Tatiana54 says:

    Our tub and tile are circa 1940’s materials. Are there other ideas for cleaning? I tried the Dawn recipe today — things look better but I was disappointed. I will try again. Thank you for any help you can give. Love this site.

  7. jane
    jane says:

    I did this today, my tub actually shines! It works better than any of the strong chemicals I used before! I have to be careful since I have liver issues, chemicals can further damage it. Thanks so much! Will use for almost everything 🙂

      • Trellowyn
        Trellowyn says:

        And if you have a sinus infection or cold, the mixture cuts straight through. By the time you’re done scrubbing for that first time, everything is cleaned out. LOL Incidentally, I’ll need to do it twice, but it took about 80% off the floor and everything off the walls on the first shot.

    • Abby
      Abby says:

      I do NOT recommend using it on tumbled marble. I used it on my tumbled marble shower and it stripped the sealer off the tile and made the tile cloudy and dull – basically ruining the shower. We re-sealed the tile in the shower and it helped some, but the tile never looked as good as it did before the cleaning.

      • Sunshine
        Sunshine says:

        Thank you Abby. I didn’t think I should add the vinegar. I have been advised to use a diluted Dawn mixture so I think I will stick with that.

    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Never use vinegar on any natural product like granite, stone or marble. Vinegar being an acid will dull the finish after time. Instead you should clean these products with rubbing alcohol and distilled water. The recipe is here at Use the search box … type in a keyword such as, well … marble! Or our homemade granite cleaner. That will work …

  8. Sue Lilley
    Sue Lilley says:

    I mixed this up a few days ago and sprayed it on about half of our very gunky shower stall and left it overnight. The next day I used a nylon scrub pad and a brush and was pretty happy with the results. We have very hard water here and there are still some of those deposits, but I think they will come off when treated again. There are still some stains in the grout and I will try the bleach there. Since I am in my 70s now and have decreased mobility, I did just half the shower at a time. I will get the rest done this week.I am happy to have this mixture that I know what’s in it. The vinegar smell went through the house when left overnight, but it was worth it.

    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Yes Sue … you may have to repeat a couple of times if it’s your first treatment. But after that? Once a week should do it and with no effort at all. Just spray and rinse.

  9. rachel papiro
    rachel papiro says:

    does this dawn & vinegar mixture also work on “hard water” stains on tile & or glass, especially shower doors?
    thank you Rachel P.

    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      It sure does for me! However if those water stains are old and stubborn you may need something even tougher like oven cleaner—EZ Off Fume Free works miracles. But I’d try the scum recipe first.

    • Douglas Anne
      Douglas Anne says:

      I’ve used the green apple scented Dawn (green! not blue!) because it smells way better. The smell of blue Dawn combined with vinegar makes me ill. The green Dawn worked just as well for me. Your mileage may vary, I guess.

    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      The formula is proprietary with Procter and Gamble that means it’s a trade secret. We don’t know … but it is definitely different than any other dishwashing liquid including Dawn in other colors and fragrances.


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