I have terrible soap scum and hard water stains and am looking for a more natural way to clean it. I hate having to use the harsh chemical cleaners, but good old elbow grease is just not doing the job! —Renee Skrodzki
I hear you! Following unusually heavy use by houseguests using all manner of shampooing, conditioning and shaving potions, we recently faced an bad attack of shower scum complicated by mildew.
Although the black and orange (really!) crust looked daunting, my asthma precludes even thinking of using harsh conventional products, which generally contain toxic ammonia, chlorine, 2-butoxyethanol, formaldehyde, and other solvents that release unhealthy, caustic fumes. In addition to chlorine-based powders, even some cleaners claiming to be green have been found to house dozens of toxic chemicals in studies by the Environmental Working Group.
Being frugal as well as green-minded, I mixed up a least-toxic soft scrub that would remove stains and slime without scratching the tiles.
Here’s my recipe:
2 ½ cups baking soda
½ cup green liquid dish soap (or Dr. Bronner's)
½ cup white vinegar (a natural bleach/disinfectant)
3-4 drops of vegetable oil
Apply to tiles; let sit for a bit, then scour with non-scratching dish sponge and/or a good stiff brush. You can adjust the consistency as you wish by adding more liquid or powder. If you need more scouring power, add more baking soda as you go along. For really tough jobs, mix in a half cup of washing soda (sold in laundry aisles) but be sure to wear gloves, because although it’s a natural mineral, it is caustic and can burn skin.
No time for DIY? Bon Ami scouring powder is chlorine-free and doesn’t scratch surfaces; Ecover makes a lovely but tough-working cream scrub; and I also recommend green spray-on bathroom cleaners and soft scrubs made by Martha Stewart Clean, Method, and Seventh Generation.
EWG’s study also found that, as one would expect, certified green cleaners contained far fewer worrisome ingredients. Because a few drops of green dish soap are part of most DIY cleaner recipes, I’ve compiled a short shopping reference list of greenest brands and trustworthy certifications.
Scum, be gone!