Scum, Scum, Go Away

bathroom scum

Let’s not pretend here. The drawback to using real soap in the bathroom is that you have to face the reality of scum. Soap scum, to be exact. It’s gonna happen. So let’s face it head on. (As a sidenote, if you don’t have scum in your sinks or tubs, you might want to check and see if your body cleaning products are actually detergents.)

First off, what it is. Soap scum is a bit of a misnomer because there is not actually soap left on the sink or tub that just didn’t get rinsed away. Instead, it is a salt produced from a reaction between the soap and minerals in the water. This is why, if you have hard water (i.e. more minerals), you have more soap scum. If you have soft water, you won’t have as much.

Be that as it may, let’s get rid of it. I have two preferred ways of getting rid of soap scum.

The Dissolving Method
The first is to dissolve it with vinegar. Dilute one cup (240 mL) of vinegar in a quart (1 L) of water and spray it on the scummy surfaces. Let it sit for about 5 minutes (not long enough for it to dry), and then rinse it away with very hot water. If your scum is really thick, you may have to do this again or use a stronger concentration of vinegar. (As I’ve said before, take care with using vinegar on soft stones like marble. It will etch.)
bathroom scum

The Scouring Method
The second method uses brute force. This involves scouring the scum off with baking soda sprayed with an All-Purpose Cleaning Spray made with Castile Soap. (Wait! Spraying soap scum with soap? I know it sounds like this will compound the problem. I’ll get to that.) To do this, I spray the sink or tub with my Castile Soap All-Purpose Spray. (The All-Purpose Spray made with Sal Suds works equally well.) Then, I sprinkle a cupful (240 mL) of baking soda liberally on the sink or tub. With a washcloth, scrub all the surfaces and rinse with very hot water.
bathroom scum

The Soft Scrub Method (Added 9/30/2019)

This method is perhaps the most fun, but it takes a little longer in the preparation. A GIY (Green-It-Yourself) Soft Scrub, from Karen Logan’s book, Clean House, Clean Planet, clings to vertical surfaces, such as tub or shower walls, and provides the soft abrasion to clean off any soap scum, or whatever else might be there. It’s made of Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile, Baking Soda, white vinegar, and water. Check out the how-to here: GIY Soft Scrub with Dr. Bronner’s.

Lastly, after whichever method, dry the surfaces.

Here is the trick to preventing future soap scum, and why the second method works. If you dry the water off the surfaces, there are no dissolved salts sitting there that would later cling to the surfaces when the water evaporates. For large, flat areas, such as shower stalls, especially with glass, use a squeegee. I keep a squeegee in my shower stall and do this after every shower. Sounds like a pain, but it greatly cuts down on my work in the long-run.

I generally use the dissolving or soft scrub method. The soap in each of these also eliminates germs that may be residing on the surfaces . Vinegar does this to an extent, but the soap does it better. And I like scrubbing. It’s cathartic.

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Gayla says:

We bought all ingredients to make body wash and clothes detergent with liquid Castile soap. Well it’s a problem we discovered that our water is very hard so it leaves terrible white scum! Unfortunately we are not able to afford to install a water softener system. Is there a way or an ingredient we can add to make the homemade soap compatible with hard water?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Gayla – What ingredients have you already combined?

Katherine says:

Well, this isn’t about soap scum but about an old toilet with the perpetual ring. I clean the toilet, but the next day the ring is back. The little holes at the top have gray marks. So I know there are two things going on here. The toilet had pits from using abrasive cleaner to clean. Second, the tank is full of stuff; I use the term because I think it’s residue from well water, mold, and other stuff. I bought a product that was supposed to clean the tank, but it didn’t do a very good job. I’ve seen a few videos where people dangle bar soap from the flusher bar inside the tank. I’m thinking maybe I could cut a bar of any flavor of Dr. Bonner’s in half. Then I make something like a sachet bag out of cheese cloth to hold the soap. Tie the bag with polyester string and hang it on the bar. Every time the commode flushes, it gets clean and the tank will start cleaning itself via flushing as the soap dissolves. What do you think?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Katherine- This is very intriguing, in a “I’ve never heard of this but I like a good cleaning mystery” sort of way. The first thing I recommend is turning off the water to your toilet, emptying the toilet and tank by flushing it a couple times, and giving both the tank and the toilet a good scrubbing with Sal Suds and baking soda. Turn the water back on and flush it a couple times to rinse out the Sal Suds and baking soda. This will make sure the source of the problem is not something growing in the toilet itself. Then I recommend getting your water tested, because the same water that is flowing into your toilet is also coming out of your faucets, and if there is mold and other stuff living in there, that’s probably not healthy for you. It could just be a very high mineral content that is redepositing on the toilet. These minerals aren’t harmful, but are unsightly. A water softener would help eliminate them. As far as a perpetual cleaning for the toilet, the bar soap in cheesecloth is a new idea to me and could work, though it would provide you with perpetually cloudy water because the soap would react with minerals in the well water. However, that’s not harmful. I don’t know how long the bar soap would last in this usage. I don’t see any problem with giving it a try, and if you do, please let me know how it goes. I hope some of these thoughts have helped.

Stephen Osterday says:

I’ve been doing a massive amount of research on hard water stained glass and it seems Citric Acid is better at hard water stains than vinegar. Today I added a new element to my experimenting. I made up a 6% solution of distilled water and citric acid and then added a few drops of Sal-Suds as a way to keep the glass wet with the mixture longer and as a water wetting agent. Time will tell if it works.

Rebecca says:

Did you find this worked well? Or better than the vinegar solution?

Gary says:

I’ve been fighting with extremely hard-to-remove scum buildup on the shower walls (and tub) for as long as I can remember. I must have very hard water and I’ve tried a vast array of different cleaners. Recently, I somewhat accidentally started drying off those surfaces with a towel after every shower. (I say accidentally because I already had always been drying off a couple “chrome” surfaces.) I was shocked to discover that just by wiping after a shower – no soap of any kind mind you, the shower remains clean and the buildup is finally stopped. How is this possible? You just explained it!

If you have the energy and mobility, plain wiping off the shower surfaces to dry them, immediately after every shower, is physically good for you.

Diane says:

A squeegee with a rubber edge (meant to clean pet hair from upholstered furniture) makes the wipe down nearly effortless.

Katherine says:

I soap up a washcloth the last shower before changing the towel. I wash down the shower including inside the door and rinse well. No buildup. I’m using Dr. Bonner’s bottled lavender to wash me too. Anyway, the shower gets cleaned and the residue disappears.

Tiffany says:


After spraying the shower with the antibacterial all purpose spray, is it ok to use either plain baking soda or baking soda with essential oil?

Thank you!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Tiffany- I spray, sprinkle baking soda, scrub with a brush or cloth, then rinse with hot water. There’s no concern of a reaction or nasty fumes.

Green Cleaning Your Bathroom | Going Green with a Bronner Mom says:

[…] it up with the GIY Soft Scrub or a sprinkle of baking soda. Vinegar is another way to dissolve soap scum and water spots, but not all surfaces can withstand the acidity. Start with a cloth to wash […]

Morgan Warren says:

Hi Lisa- I’ve looked around on your blog but can’t find the answer to my question so wanted to ask. I’m a total devotee to your products and methods! I have hard water and my master bathroom glass shower door is basically stained with hard water spots. I’ve tried spraying vinegar and squeegeeing after every shower but it’s not cleaning it up. I’ve tried Karen’s other tips in that book you love, like Club Soda. I just can’t get the spots off! Any new ideas of how to remove those spots so that I’m starting from fresh and the vinegar and squeegee upkeep daily will actually work?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Morgan- Have you tried the GIY Soft Scrub on the scum build up? Sometimes you need that soft abrasion to get through the mineral deposits. Then you should be able to start afresh and use the lighter means of the vinegar and squeegee on a daily basis. I find I need to do the deeper cleaning once a week.

Katherine says:

Once you get the door clean on the inside, always dry rinse it then dry it with a towel after each and every use. You won’t have water spots or residue anymore.

Marcy says:

Hubs just started using Castille liquid shower soap/gel/swamp goo, whatever the heck it is. I’m afraid my shower floor tiles have been ruined from this stuff. Used bar keepers friend and a scouring brush to try clean but it still looks awful. May try the vinegar protocol next. Idk if I’ll ever get the crap out of the grout. Grrr

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Marcy- I’m sorry for your frustration. I’m guessing you have particularly hard water to have resulted in the mineral deposits. (I’ve been learning more about this – the deposits are actually a form of an insoluble soap called “lime soap”.) Bar Keepers Friend doesn’t publish their ingredients, so I can’t speak to it specifically. They give categories: mineral abrasive, surfactant, water softening agent. My guess is that the mineral abrasive is either sodium carbonate (aka washing soda) or borax. Try one of the other options I’ve mentioned. Once this is clean, a regular diluted vinegar spray-down will keep things in check.

Robert says:

The mineral abrasive may be felspar (as used in Bon Ami) or silica (sand as used in Ajax). It’s the water softener that may be sodium carbonate.

Teddie Armour says:

Hello Lisa,

Thank you so much for this post, my husband and I just bought a house and this will be great for doing our deep clean before moving in.

I am having issues cleaning our dishwasher though, the previous owner never put salt in the water softener and it needed it. We are currently hand washing dishes until our water issue is fixed because for some odd reason the dishes are in worse shape if they are washed in the dishwasher,

But the dishwasher has a horrible coating it is from never being cleaned. I was able to get most of it off the door after running 2 load with just vinegar, then one with citric acid. After that I made a baking soda paste and scrubbed the inside of the door and ran a cycle with hot water to was off the baking soda. It took most of the film off, but still stuck in some corners and in the soap dispenser part. For the life of me I can’t get it out of the soap dispenser, I can wipe it with my finger (dry) and I will get a white film on the finger, but it doesn’t come off the dispenser at all (to the eye). The base of the inside has the same film and I haven’t taken the racks out to clean that yet, but I feel it will be hard than the door.

Do you have a recommendation for a strong solution I can make and a way of using it to clean this?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Teddie- Congratulations! There are certainly always a few kinks to work out with a new home! Based on your description, it sounds like what you’re seeing is hard water scale build up rather than soap scum. I’m afraid that until you get the water softener fixed, you’re fighting an uphill battle in eliminating the scale deposits. In the meantime, a vinegar rinse after washing will keep your dishes and glasses shiny and clear. Once your water is softened, vinegar should be effective in dissolving the deposits. Clearing out the dishwasher’s filter is a good idea too.

Going green with shampoo | Simply Mimi says:

[…] itself left behind, but rather certain salts. When this builds up on sinks and tubs, we call this soap scum. Vinegar is a great way to cut this. So after you’ve handwashed your dishes with Castile soap and […]

A Word of Caution About Vinegar and Castile Soap says:

[…] itself left behind, but rather certain salts. When this builds up on sinks and tubs, we call this soap scum. Vinegar is a great way to cut this. So after you’ve handwashed your dishes with Castile soap and […]

Testing for Water Hardness says:

[…] faucets, and why you may have lower water pressure due to build up in pipes. Keep in mind, from my soap scum blog, that acids (like vinegar) dissolve water […]

Sal Suds or Castile Soap - Which One Should You Use? says:

[…] on shiny objects that are left to air dry.  They will take on a whitish film. (Read my post on eliminating soap scum.) Also, absorbent fabrics like towels and cloth diapers will become stiff and lose their […]

Using Soap to Test for Hard Water (Video) says:

[…] Wipe surfaces dry, and clean once or twice a week with a 50% vinegar spray, or scour the scum away with this fun (yes, I did just use that word) GIY Soft […]

Tina Zeigler says:

Thank you so much! I make castile soap but I use my mineral water for the process. I figured it would help it have a more nutral PH but it was leaving a thin film on my lanolium flooring. I was very frustrated and ready to quit making it. Then I found the answers here! I am so thankful for your loving gift of knowledge. Thanks again.

Christina says:

Hello! I love Sal Suds and all the different Dr. Bronner products! However, since starting to use the Castille soap in foaming containers at our bathroom sinks, we’ve noticed the pipes clog up pretty fast. Any suggestions of how to keep pipes running freely? Maybe a vinegar flush once or twice a week?? I’m concerned about using these products in the washing machine, as well. We have a fairly new HE washer and I don’t want to ruin it, so will vinegar in the rinse cycle help with this? Any guidance will be most welcomed. Thanks!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Christina – A weekly flush of vinegar, followed by hot water (not boiling) is a great way to clear your drains. Of course, if there is a physical blockage, this will not get rid of it. (PSA – Please never attempt to unclog a drain with Drano or Liquid Plumber. These are the single most dangerous conventional cleaning products out there. If you need instructions on how to unclog a drain without calling a plumber, check out my instructions here.)

For HE machines, I recommend the Sal Suds. Sal Suds. as a mild and non-toxic detergent, does not interact with hard water like the Castile soap does and it is more clean rinsing. Ideal for HE machines.

Rachel says:

Hi there, about the castile soap- If I use it in a hard water area (I did the drop in a glass of water test and it turned foggy), will it be safe for my front loading washing machine? I’m afraid because from what I’ve researched on the internet soap can gum up the works of the machine. However, I’m thinking vinegar in the softener part of the drawer would stop this? Or maybe putting the soap directly in the drum? Also I’ve heard the soap build up can clog pipes? Love the soap and I want to use it for more things like in the shower as a body wash too but where I live we’ve had a lot of drain problems so I need to be careful.



Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Rachel – I do not have an HE machine, so my suggestions are from customer feedback and my own thinking. If I did have HE machine, I would use our Sal Suds for my laundry. This is hardly revolutionary since this is what I use anyways for my laundry. Sal Suds is very clean rinsing and very effective. However, many customers use the castile in an HE machine with great results. I don’t know their water type, but generally 1/6-1/4 cup of the castile works for them. In your case, with hard water, I’d lean towards the Sal Suds.

Robert says:

First of all, seeing the water cloud from a drop of soap is not a good test for water “hardness”. ANY water, unless you make it very alkaline, will cloud from soap dissolved in it, just from protons from the water reacting with the soap to make fatty acid. The scum is not this fatty acid, but is lime soaps that mostly float on the surface or stick to the container. There is a standard test for water “hardness” that uses a standard soap solution, adding and shaking to determine the amount needed to make suds in a given volume of the water.

When you say “front loading washing machine”, you might be referring to a HE machine or not. The older front loaders use more water and move a little slower in the wash cycle, and generally tolerate suds unless they really fill up the machine; in fact instructions on soap or high suds detergents used to call for 2-3″ of suds on top of the water. And even if you do over-suds them with soap (actual soap soap), if the water’s sufficiently “hard”, the rinse will knock those suds down to nothing in a hurry. It’s only the HE machines that could have a problem when they lather up.

The problem with soap scum has generally not had anything to do with damaging the machines, but with the clothes. Machines that get the water out of the fabrics by spinning them like a centrifuge — i.e. all machines not old enough to be museum pieces — push the water thru the clothes, and if there’s scum in the rinse cycle, the fabrics catch it like filter paper.

I’m surprised at the recommendation of Sal Suds for HE washers, because from what I recall having seen of Sal Suds’s ingredients, it’s pretty sure to be high sudsing. And “hardness” in the rinse water won’t do much to knock those suds down. So to the extent suds inhibit the action of HE machines, I wouldn’t use a detergent like Sal Suds. Note that the issue is not damage to machines or clogging of drains, but just inefficient washing action. Automatic washing machines in the 1950s frequently had suds lock problems, burning out pumps, but my understanding is that problem’s long since been resolved.

Soap scum can clog drains, but I don’t know that the problem would be any worse by the use of soap in the laundry than just from, say, washing hands. Scum can deposit on pipes only so fast, regardless of how much soap is going thru them.

A says:


I often see a great deal of info on removing soap scum from household surfaces, but I don’t see much on removing it from the skin. I am referring to that sticky soap scum feeling after using real soap in hard water.
Just wondering if there was a solution other than getting a water softener or using a natural based detergent cleanser for the body.

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi there – Soap scum happens when surfaces are left to air dry and the water droplets, with the reacted soap and minerals in them, evaporate and leave deposits behind. Toweling our bodies dry after a shower absorbs the water droplets so that we don’t have the residue left on our bodies. (Also, towel drying surfaces would prevent soap scum, but I know that’s a pain to do each time you wash your body or hands.) However, I’m trying to think through what would be giving you a sticky feeling. This may sound counterintuitive, but it could be because the soap does not leave behind any sort of coating that a detergent cleanser might, under the guise of “moisturizing”. This is why some people describe their skin as feeling tight or cracking after switching to real soap. In that case, I recommend a light moisturizer like a little bit of coconut oil. But I have no idea if that’s the case for you. You could try a light moisturizer and see if that helps. I’m sorry not to be more definite.

Robert says:

Somebody sold a device I saw advertised on TV for that decades ago. It had 3 reservoirs that could be tipped individually to add liquids to a stream that came from a shower head, the other end being plugged into the spigot. Supposedly solution #1 would clean, #2 would remove soap scum, and #3 was a skin conditioner, sort of like crème rinse for skin, I guess. Or maybe there were just 2 reservoirs and you used bar soap, then the scum remover, then the conditioner, I forget.

Presumably the scum remover was a lime soap dispersant, which probably worked best if you used it in the rinse water rather than rinsing first with plain “hard” water.

Some decades earlier someone took out a trademark on Ring-Go, a bathtub ring preventative. Assuming it was not a water “softening” powder, it would’ve been a lime soap dispersant, and since it was said to be a preventative, presumably it would’ve been added to bath water before bathing. Then again, most bubble baths would do the same, maybe not as effectively as this product.

alice says:

Someone Out there Help PLEAZZZE!
Ok, I find my self in a bit of a stressful situation! After nearly accidentally intoxicating myself with some common household cleaning product, I decided to get rid of it all and revisit some of the natural and frugal alternatives to these toxic chemicals. I hate to run back and forth from the store so I bought myself 4 Dr. Bronners Castile soap 32 oz bottles. Was so super excited with my new purchase that I could already dream the cleaning possibilities me and my new friend Castile Soap were gonna have! Hooray!,…….. Until,…..Sigh,……. I get home to realize that apparently I have Hard water! Doh! I really haven’t had problems with soap scum or hard water mineral build up at my house before this so I had no idea I had hard water!,….. I was SUUUUUPER EXCITED to use my natural cleaners that I made myself a hole load of all purpose cleaners using my new castile soaps, only to realize that they were leaving soap scum behind on my skin and on surfaces that I used it on ;( ,….. So sad,…..sigh. I did notice that I could sprinkle baking soda and use my watered down (50 50) castile soap to clean the surfaces even in hard water and it would leave it looking like new. I do however fear that I can’t take full advantage of my soap and use it as I normally would have because It will leave that scum behind. Maybe good to clean once a week/every other week and then use other natural soaps that will not react with my hard water. I feel so sad cause I was so happy to make this change and help even in this small way the impact I have as an individual to my environment, but I don’t realistically think I can use this soap. I know I can also use distelled water in a spray bottle, but,….. what about when I rinse/wash my cleaning cloths with my hard water? surely it will react with my hard water then, right? Will my rags begin to get build up making them less absorbent? can the scum also affect my washing machine with built up? It’s now becoming an inconvenience if I begin to look at it that way, and, well,.. it saddens me a lil :(.I planned on mopping my floors with the castile soap (a tbls or so of castile soap per bucket of water (around a gallon perhaps)) and again, this is hard water, so, again I face the same issue.
I tried looking everywhere online to see how others with hard water have successfully dealt with this without jeopardizing the cleaning power of the soap. I pretty much feel like,… “hey Chemist! where are you? help me/us figure this out!”. I’m at a loss, the soap cost me a good chunk of change and If it can be salvaged I would be so glad.
Thanx in advance to anyone with any feed back! ESPECIALLY,….. any chemist ;)!

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Alice – All is not lost! I, too, have hard water and still use the Castile soaps effortlessly to clean my house. It is really only a problem if surfaces are left to dry on their own, but I spray counters/sinks/tubs and then wipe with a microfiber cloth. I squeegee my glass shower doors after I shower. For the laundry, adding vinegar to the rinse water (where you would add the liquid fabric softener) counteracts any hard water. I use the castile in my mop bucket with a microfiber mop head and it works great. Are you seeing build-up in any particular area?

Other users with hard water – weigh in here on your methods!

Robert says:

In general, if water “hardness” is a problem, it can be minimized by using less water. The less water, the less “hardness” to react with a given amount of soap. So for instance for mopping floors, use the minimum amount of water feasible in the bucket, changing it as needed but only in small amounts each time.

Soap scum can be prevented from sticking to fabrics or other surfaces by adding a relatively small amount of lime soap dispersant to the water. Most effective in that role would be certain nonionic surfactants, such as those used in Shaklee Basic H or Lestoil.

There are many things you can add to water to “soften” it. The amount of water softener you need depends on how “hard” the water is & of course how much water you use. The original Calgon was sodium hexametaphosphate, which has the advantages of not being alkaline and not leaving any precipitate of its own, as opposed to washing soda which has both such problems, although for such cleaning applications as floor mopping alkalinity is not a problem. The only drawbacks to phosphates are expense & environmental; however, phosphates in cleaning water (or bath water) will probably contribute less to the total in your sewage than your own urine & feces will.

Certain moderately alkaline sodium silicate salts are particularly good for cleaning with soap in “hard” water even in laundry, and were used in Rinso & Persil for instance, but whether you can easily obtain such a salt in household use amounts, I don’t know. Plus you need to know the right ratio of Na2O to SiO2 for the silicate to be alkaline enough but not too much.

Megan says:

Hi, Lisa! I know I’m a little late to the party here, but maybe you’ll still have an answer for me. I’ve been using Dr. Bronner’s soap (tea tree!) as shampoo for about 3 months and recently I’ve been finding soap scum in my hairbrush when I brush my hair (not when I look for it in my actual hair, though… strange…) My area has very hard water and I’m sure this has a lot to do with it. Do you have any experience with this and have you found any way to prevent scum from forming in hair? I love that I’m not using weird chemicals in my hair and I love how castile soap makes my hair look (super fluffy and full) but I do not love having to hide my hairbrush from my housemates. Thanks!

Robert says:

Let me get this straight: The soap makes your hair the way you like, and your only concern is how it makes your hair brush look to the people you live with?! Are you people into sharing brushes?

I wash my hair with soap (not usually Bronner’s, sorry, usually Ivory), and the water here is naturally soft, but I get a buildup of fatty acid on my comb. (Soap is like 2-in-1 conditioning shampoo that way.) It just needs cleaning. I can’t imagine you couldn’t do the same with your brush. If need be, you could alternate 2 brushes, one soaking in a cleaning solution and the other out & dry. As to what the cleaning solution should be, if lime soap is actually the coating on the brush, I’m thinking offhand Calgon in water with maybe 15% alcohol to preserve it (so you could reuse the solution many times) and just a drop of a wetting agent like Lestoil, Shaklee Basic H, 409 or some such.

Eddie says:

Hi Lisa!
I’m excited to find your blog. I stored Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap in a Waterford lead crystal decanter in my bathroom, thinking that it might be a good bubble bath (I kept other bubble baths and bath salts in Waterford decanters also). Unfortunately, Dr. Bronner’s doesn’t bubble, but it does leave one squeaky clean! Needless to say, it set in the decanter for an extended period, because the true bubble baths bubbled better. Recently, I emptied the decanter, and it has terrible white “soap scum” stains that I have tried practically everything to remove. I started with an extended vinegar soak, and then all the other remedies I could find online to remove crystal cloudiness. I even tried Liquid Plumber, and then bleach! Nothing has worked so far. Do you have any recommendations? Thank you!

Robert says:

Unfortunately your glass decanter is probably etched. Alkaline materials attack glass, albeit slowly. I wouldn’t’ve guessed liquid soap to etch glass quickly enough that you’d ever notice it, but I can’t think of another reason you’d have such a resistant cloudiness. If it’s etched, that means alkaline silicate is now in the glass, forming permanent opaque discontinuities or crystals. It’s not a scum on the surface.

anne says:

How can I get rid of the residue left on my sinks, tub and shower by the bronner soap? I hate it.everything get cover in this thick, sticky gray residue. Didn’t have this problem when using other natural soaps.I have had this issue in different houses, 2 different cities. I have to clean my bathrooms every other day.thnx.

Phyllis says:

Thanks, Lisa, for the article. I plan to try your method of getting rid of soap scum in the shower as just baking soda and water doesn’t seem to work. However, I’ve found that I can’t use vinegar on tiled/grouted areas because vinegar breaks down the grout even when diluted. Do you know if lemon juice causes the same issue?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Cam – The issue with natural stones like marble and limestone is that they’re soft and they dissolve in acids. This is why vinegar or any sort of acidic cleaner is out of the question. Dr. Bronner’s products are alkaline, and thereby are safe for these surfaces. I would use the All Purpose Sal Suds spray (1 Tbsp. Sal Suds in a quart of water in a spray bottle) along with a nice bristled brush. This should clear up mildew as well. If it’s been a while since you’ve grouted/sealed that would be a good step, too.

All the best,

Cam says:

I have natural stone (tumbled marble/limestone) in all my bathrooms…how do you keep these surfaces clean with your products? I get that your soaps work all right on granite, but what about more porous surfaces, and which products work best? I’ve been having problems with mildew…probably need to regrout/reseal everything first, but then what? Thanks1

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Anwen – I apologize for my delay in responding. I definitely understand about that first wash. I have used the soap for shampoo in incredibly hard water, and it really is incredible how sticky my hair feels. I think the Dr. Bronner’s Hair Rinse will resolve this, although there still is that transition time from conventional products. For the Hair Rinse, I would recommend not diluting it in water and putting a tablespoon or so directly on your washed and very wet hair. This way the rinse will cling to your hair more. Let it sit for several minutes and then rinse it out. You may need two rinses at first – I did, but after my hair got used to it, I need only one. Your hair will still not have that slippery feel as with conventional hair care, but let it rest and brush it out.

For laundry in hard water, I highly recommend Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds all-purpose cleaner. This is a detergent, but exceptionally mild and non-toxic. It does not react with hard water and rinses very well.

All the best,

Anwen says:


This is a little off topic, but still about soap scum. I really want to use more natural products. I’ve tried to use both Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap and other solid “shampoo bars” (that are definitely soap, not detergents) for my long hair, but I can’t get past that first wash. Actually, I can’t leave the shower until giving in and going back to the shampoo. One wash with the natural stuff and it feels like I’ve poured tacky goo on my scalp. Vinegar or lemon juice rinses don’t help at all. My water is hard – very, like 380ppm. I realize your hair conditioning rise should help, but with water that hard, do you think it’s enough?

I’d like to use natural soap for my laundry too, but same problem – what can I do with water that hard?

Lisa Bronner says:

Hi Rupi – The residue left after using the castile soap has to do with the hardness of the water. The soap reacts with the minerals in the water and leaves deposits behind. The best treatment is to make sure soap itself isn’t drying on surfaces, and then if possible, dry or squeegee surfaces to prevent the mineral deposit. I keep a squeegee in my shower to clear the glass doors after every shower. It saves a lot of work in the long run.

All the best,

Rupi says:

Nice posts!I’ve been using all different kind of natural soaps from abroad & states. Why this pure castile soap left white scums only in one day?

katrina says:

Lisa..I just used a version of this and it was a miracle. The soap scum came off so easily. I used baking soda and lemon juice. Then I pour hydrogen perioxide in the brown bottle on with that mixture. This is great because the hydrogen perioxide whitens and kills the bacteria that is living in the shower. Got rid of the mold looking spots in the corner of the shower. I use this combo and vinegar for just about everything. Look to sharing stories with you and reading more!

Lisa Bronner says:

@Katrina – Glad to hear it! I’ll try out that hydrogen peroxide tip. Peroxide is very strong stuff. In my search for a laundry stain removers, I tried it on some rust spots on a shirt – the spots were gone, but then so was the fabric. It ate right through! I have colored grout, so I think I’ll do a spot test first. I’ve been looking for a better solution to cleaning my shower corners, too.

All the best,

Lisa Bronner says:

@Tanja – I do have Borax, but I don’t use it much. Although it is considered non-toxic and does biodegrade, it is still extremely caustic to the touch. The only place I use it is to clean the inside of the toilet bowls. It’s a super lazy way to do it, but I sprinkle it in the bowls just before I go to bed and swish it around. Then, first thing in the morning, I scrub them with a toilet brush and flush.

@ Crystal – I just tackled that question in response to another posting about Sal Suds in a spray bottle. If you wouldn’t mind checking there, the link is Let me know if you need more specifics.

Thanks for reading!

Crystal says:

Hi Lisa, Loving your blog. I’m having a hard time to figure out when to use sal suds for cleaning and when to use dr. bronners castile soap for cleaning. For instance, what is best to use for all purpose cleaner, windows/mirrors, toliets. Also, how much and how to use them for those purposes. What is your preference?

Tanja says:

I’m just curious to know if you use Borax on anything in your home. If so, do you like it? how do you use it AND where you use it? If you don’t use it, why not?

Lisa Bronner says:

@Laura – My tea tree soap spray is 1/4 c. tea tree pure castile soap in 1 quart of water. I add about 1/2 tsp. of pure tea tree oil. I buy mine through Frontier Natural Products, but you can also find it in health stores that sell essential oils. In southern California, we have Henry’s and Jimbo’s, but even the independent ones usually carry essential oils. Call around.

Glad this is helpful to so many of you! Thank you for the encouragement. Happy cleaning!


Stephanie says:

I’ve found that Dr. Bronner’s Sal Suds works really well in our tub and shower. I use it full strength, but it does the trick!

Ro says:

For those folks asking about antibacterial cleaning – put a few drops of GSE (grapefruit seed extract) into your cleaning supplies. Google the powers of GSE – I use it in my cleaning products, and in my own drinking water too.

Laura says:

I really enjoyed this article. Couple of questions though. Do you dilute the castile tea tree soap? If so how much water do you use? Lastly where do you get essential tea oil?

cindybrady says:

Triclosan is a common additive found in antibacterial soaps and personal care products.

Rolf Halden, an environmental engineering expert from ASU’s Biodesign Institute and an associate professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and researcher at Biodesign’s Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, led a research team that has found triclosan – and another antimicrobial additive called triclocarban – to persist during wastewater treatment and cause environmental contamination nationwide. Triclosan and triclocarban pose risks to ecological and human health due to their potential to disrupt proper endocrine function and to cause cross-resistance to life-saving antibiotics used in human medicine.

The chemistry behind these compounds makes them notoriously difficult to break down, thereby enabling them to persist in the environment for years to decades. Halden’s team found significant concentrations of these chemicals dating back to the 1950s in sediments of the Eastern Seaboard near New York City and Baltimore, where sewage treatment plants discharge their treated domestic wastewater. In fact, both triclosan and triclocarban are present in 60 percent of all rivers and streams in the United States. Wastewater treatment processes do not fully eliminate them, so the chemicals persist in sewage sludge, which is then used to fertilize crops on agricultural land.

Closer to home, antimicrobial chemicals appear in household dust where they may act as allergens, and alarmingly, 97 percent of U.S. women with newborns show detectable levels of triclosan in their breast milk. Such unnecessary exposures carry risks that, at present, are ill-defined.

“The culture of fear leads people to make impulsive decisions and buy a lot of antimicrobial products that are not really needed,” Halden said. “It’s a profitable market to be in, but not one that is ultimately sustainable or a good idea.”

CDC: Antibacterial Household Products: Cause for Concern

The recent entry of products containing antibacterial agents into healthy households has escalated from a few dozen products in the mid-1990s to more than 700 today. Antibacterial products were developed and have been successfully used to prevent transmission of disease-causing microorganisms among patients, particularly in hospitals. They are now being added to products used in healthy households, even though an added health benefit has not been demonstrated. Scientists are concerned that the antibacterial agents will select bacteria resistant to them and cross-resistant to antibiotics. Moreover, if they alter a person’s microflora, they may negatively affect the normal maturation of the T helper cell response of the immune system to commensal flora antigens; this change could lead to a greater chance of allergies in children. As with antibiotics, prudent use of these products is urged. Their designated purpose is to protect vulnerable patients.

Mindy says:

Hi Lisa,
I, too, had the same question when I saw antibacterial. It gave me pause for a second, but then I assumed you probably mixed something up with tea tree in it. As a suggestion, you might want to create a link, so that the term “antibacterial spray” links to your recipe for the spray, just to clarify for others who don’t take time to read or make comments. I just found your blog today, and I’m looking forward to reading more posts. I’ve enjoyed Dr. Bronner’s products for years.

Lisa Bronner says:

@Kim and Valerie – My Antibacterial Bathroom spray is my castile soap spray – when I use the Dr. Bronner’s Tea Tree castile soap and add about 1/2 tsp. of pure essential tea tree oil. (Take care handling the pure tea tree oil – it burns.) This works really well.

The superbug issue arises around antibacterial cleaners that are not soaps – ones that use primarily Triclosan for cleaning. Triclosan is truly ubiquitous – from hand cleaners to toothpastes to socks to cutting boards. Anything that has the term “antibacterial” labeled on it probably contains Triclosan. This substance is blamed for creating the superbugs. You can check out more about this in my post “Who gave soap a bad name”.

Hope this helps!


Valerie says:

With all the bad press antibacterials soaps get because of superbug resistance I’d be interested in what you are using.

KIm says:

what type of antibacterial spray are you using? Have you been able to find one that works and is all natural by chance?

Tina Zeigler says:

You can use thieves oil- 5 oil essential blend or thieves oil- 7 oil essential blend mixture. Excellent! Both these receipes can be found on youtube. I love to help the youtubers.

Janelle says:

I love to read your posts! I have switched my whole family to Dr Bronner and we love it!
I am going to try your suggestions for cleaning our bathroom as soon as we finish the remodel!! I cannot wait!

Love this stuff – thanks for all you share through your blog!

About Lisa Bronner

My grandfather was Dr. Bronner, my family makes soap, and I share ways to use it plus tips on greener living.

Learn about my book, Soap & Soul!

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