The Original Homemade DIY Tub Tile Shower Cleaner (30 Years and Counting!)

Quite possibly one of the best tips to ever land in 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.

He told me that the biggest challenge is always the bathroom, specifically the tub and shower. He kindly left specific details to my imagination but let me know that “gross” is not strong enough to describe what he often finds.

That’s when he gave me his super magical potion—the only product he uses to return showers, tubs, tile, enclosures, faucets, and shower doors to their sparkling clean, and sanitized condition.

I gave his unbelievably simple recipe a try. Since that day nearly 30 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 away. 

To make your own bottle of pure magic I mean Homemade Tub, Tile, n’ 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.

To Make

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.

To Use

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.


Do not use this homemade on granite, marble, or other natural stone countertops however as vinegar and natural stone products that are coated with a protective sealant (and must be re-sealed annually—do you know this?). Vinegar will eventually strip the sealant which could result in permanent damage to the natural stone.

To Maintain

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 watermark to be seen. Simply brilliant!

I use this stuff in the kitchen, too—on my appliances, stainless steel sink, and faucets (never on granite, marble, or other natural stone countertops however as vinegar and granite do not play well together), but only where it can be rinsed away quickly and easily. 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!

First published: 1-10-93; Revised & Updated 6-22-22


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  1. Francie Simrak says:

    Been using this cleaning recipe for years, now, & recommending to friends & family. The first use was on a walk-in shower stall with scum build up. I had to do some scrubbing, but was impressed at how well it dissolved the built up scum when nothing else worked. One of my most favorite tips from Mary. Am also making & using my the diy hardwood floor cleanerNext I will try using fabric softener to dust with. Love EC!

  2. Chelle says:

    I had read about this formula before we remodeled our bathroom. Our tub is acrylic and the instructions said to use ivory dishwashing liquid. After a time, the tub had a gray film that didn’t come off. I used the dawn and vinegar and it’s never happened again. It works!

  3. Kddomingue says:

    I’ve used nothing but the blue Dawn and vinegar mixture for the majority of my household cleaning for a couple of decades now. I love that I know exactly what’s in my cleaning product! Vinegar is not my favorite aroma but it dissipates quickly.

  4. Cally Ross says:

    That job would require a hazmat suit on my part, college kids can be pretty gross!
    this is the only cleaner I use in my bathroom. the first mix I thought it was half-and-half vinegar and soap, when i reread the directions it worked even better.

  5. L Parker says:

    Mary, wondering how you use this on toilets when you have to rinse this off. Seems like it would get very messy and slippery.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I spray a bit on a cleaning rag and then scrub the toilet (exterior), rinsing and wiping it away with a clean microfiber cloth. It’s not the only way to clean a toilet but sure works well when I’m in a hurry!

    • Dawn says:

      I also added some water, because the vinegar smell was so strong. Still worked great. I need to add that I sprinkled baking soda over the sprayed on solution and let it sit for about 20 minutes then scrubbed with a nylon scrubber. My shower shined!

  6. 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 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.

    • Sara Winters says:

      I wanted to share a couple of tips for hard water deposits and grimy grout. For extremely difficult hard water deposits, I use a razor blade. You have to be extra careful to hold the blade at the right angle, so as not to scratch the service you’re working on. For the grout, I use; Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner. Because of the gel consistency, it works wonders. The squeeze bottle makes it so easy to apply. After about 10 minutes, I gently scrub the grout and let it sit for another 5-10 minutes. Wipe up the excess with an old towel, then mop with plain water. This works best on un-sealed grout. I suggest sealing the grout once you’ve reached desired results.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      There reaches a point that glass and aluminum becomes “etched” by soap, scum, hard water so that it is permanent. Sorry to hear you may have this problem, Kathe!

  7. 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.

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