Homemade “Soft Scrub” | Revised Homemade Shower Cleaner

Homemade Shower Cleaner
I thought I should have maybe titled this post, “Why My Homemade Shower Cleaner Didn’t Work — and Here’s One That Does!”

It took me a pretty short time to figure out that something wasn’t quite right with my Homemade Shower Cleaner.

Read on to find out what went wrong.

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First of all, I am so sorry about this.  I just get so excited when I find a DIY recipe to share with you all…

You know–a way to
get the toxins out of your home and your body
save money and
– still get the job done.

I just love that kind of thing.

Well, I feel horrible when I have to come back and tell you that something I shared just wasn’t right.

Like when I had to post on update to my Natural Dishwasher Rinse Aid.

Other things I have to admit aren’t as humiliating, like when I realize that Lilla Rose Flexi-Clips aren’t just foofy hair ornaments.

Or when when I change my mind about The Best Essential Oils Company for the money.

But this one is a little humbling.

You see, after using my Homemade Shower Cleaner to get some of the soap scum and mineral deposits off of my shower, it looked great.

I really thought I had found something wonderful–and so I posted about it.

It was a super simple recipe — basically just castille soap and vinegar.

What I didn’t know was that there is an issue when mixing those two ingredients together.

I read a number of posts, looked up pH scales, and even corresponded with a few chemists (one of them being my father-in-law.  He’s really a genius, and very engaging, and has some great stories about his days teaching in the high school chemistry lab.  I wish he’d been my teacher :-).)

What happens, it seems, is that the acid and base in the vinegar and the castille soap react, causing the castille soap to unsaponify, which basically means that the soap is broken down to its original oils.

Whatever the reason–my spray bottle is now clogged and though I couldn’t really see it, when I scraped my fingernail (or this pan scraper) against the shower wall, a bunch of residue from my not-so-good-shower-cleaner came off.

homemade shower cleaner


Sorry about that folks.

I do have some good news to share, however.

A Revised Homemade Shower Cleaner – Homemade “Soft Scrub” that took off the filmy gunk and is my new shower cleaner.

I got this recipe from Live Renewed and I really like it!  (Notice that Emily at Live Renewed made the same mistake I made.  Turns out a lot of bloggers have been posting vinegar and castile soap cleaning mixtures that just don’t work.  Glad I’m not the only one :-)!)

{Please note – there are affiliate links in this post. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might make a commission. Your support is much appreciated and helps keep this free resource up and running – thanks!}

 We use rags for everything in our home.

Super frugal and a great way to use clothing that isn’t usable anymore.

I’m glad that I finally have something that works to clean our shower.

This would also work on your:

– bathroom sinks
– kitchen sink
– kitchen countertop
– toilets
– anywhere that you need a little cleaning strength without a lot of abasiveness

It even got that “Shower Cleaner Unsaponified Gunk” off of my shower–lickety split.

Sorry if I caused you all trouble.

This Homemade Shower Cleaner really works.

For other DIY Personal and Home Care Products, check out:

“The Best” Eye Makeup Remover
Natural Dishwasher Rinse Aid
Jojoba Oil Face Wash
Easiest Deodorant
– Foaming Hand Soap
Nourishing Sugar Scrub for Hands and Body
Nourishing Lip Scrub

This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclaimer.



    Speak Your Mind


  1. Not only that, but sometimes castille soap will separate if you put it in water. I found this out the hard way. Between my hard water and all the chlorine my local water treatment plant adds, it causes the castille soap to desaponify in the water. So Emily’s all purpose cleaner did not work for me. (I mixed some natural dish soap with water in a spray bottle and it works great for an all purpose cleaner.) So I guess my water must have some pretty nasty stuff added to it… :(

  2. I know! I first discovered it when I tried to use castille soap and water in my liquid soap dispenser for my bathroom. I thought it was strange when the soap started separating… Now I know! I wish we could get a whole house filter too, but we live in a rented condo and some things have to be approved by the landlord. (we found out we can’t get our ducts cleaned for this reason too.)

    • Ugh. I’ve thought about renting but that would be the tough part.

    • I bet you could get those ducts cleaned if your doctor says it’s medically necessary. Not to allow it could be a potential violation of the fair housing act especially if it’s disability related. I have severe dust allergies that I know duct cleaning helped with.

      • I don’t think you can get a doctor to do that. I tried to get whatever I could recommended by a doc but they are really strict. It’s your choice what house to buy.

        • I’m lucky I have a good landlord. I asked and they (owned by a couple) gave me permission and reimbursed me.

  3. This is the same recipe I love using only I don’t ever measure it :) I just dump some baking soda in a bowl and add enough castile soap to make a good paste. I also add a few drops of tea tree oil. Works wonderfully for showers and tubs as well as sinks and to get all the burned-on gunk on my glass top range.

  4. This might sound like something obvious, can this be mixed ahead of time and stored until it’s time to clean the showers? Looking at the recipe, I don’t know if it’s something I ‘m suppose to put together right before cleaning. I like to have cleaning products already mixed up and ready to go so I can clean with minimal effort. :)

  5. I found the same thing about 15 years ago after talking with a chemist. Vinegar and soap DO NOT mix. That’s why we use it in the rinse cycle when washing clothes….it breaks down and removes any residual soap. Also, I don’t mix up the baking soda/soap mixture anymore….The baking soda loses it’s properties quickly after mixing up anyway. I keep a box of baking soda under the bathroom sink to use for cleanup and the Dr. Bronner’s is always there by the tub anyway, as well as a bottle in the shower – it’s what we bathe with. I don’t need the soda every time tho, as I have found that the best thing to remove soap scum is…..well….oddly enough….soap. The Dr. Bronner’s removes it quick as a wink.

    Keep up the good work!!

    • Are you serious? I was thinking the baking soda was just for a little abrasion. What property does it lose? Now I am going to have to write another post? Yikes!

  6. I use Bon Ami or Baking Soda along with some peppermint essential oil and a green scrubber pad….my favorite!

  7. This is not completely accurate. Not every recipe that includes vinegar and castile will cause problems. First, it depends on the other ingredients and second it depends on the amounts. Another factor is how long it sits. Then I always ask if it really matters considering the fact that oil is what removes dirt, oil, and scum no matter if it is saponified or not.

    I have one recipe for an all purpose cleaner that includes both and people comment all the time saying it won’t work or whatever yet, it’s been tested in three different labs (for a book I’m publishing) and all have said it works great and there are no problems. The only data I received back was for balancing the PH to make it safe for all surfaces. Which, I’ve done. And then another report stating to change the order in which they are added. Chemistry is an amazing thing. Simple changes make things work when they wouldn’t have previously.

    Also, let your readers know they should never use tap water to make homemade cleaners. The reasons are too many to list here but it is very dangerous. You should only use water that is filtered and distilled.

    I have no idea whether this particular recipe would work. I just wanted to comment about the other particulars of the post. :)

    • Thanks, Amy!! Did you figure out the proportions that will work? I am assuming you did, but this is just fascinating to me. My first cleaner seemed to gunk up pretty fast. Will this all be in your book? And if it’s true that it should remove the scum, I can’t understand why the film remained on my shower. It was pretty icky. When does your book come out?

      • I hadn’t really looked at the recipe before. I was commenting about the castile and vinegar being mixed. But, now that I look I can make some recommendations. First, through trial, error, and lots of testing we’ve discovered that a lot of these home remedies work wonders if you use them. Even if you mix some things that typically shouldn’t be mixed. Why? Even if the mix is neutralized some of the components come out stronger and even if it doesn’t water in and of itself is a strong cleaner. Also, the main component for a good cleaner and germ buster is the PH balance.

        What I will teach in my book (after all the rigorous recipe testing) is how to formulate your own recipes based on your preferences. All of the cleaners work as well as or better than their evil counterparts as long as a good rinse with vinegar is done after cleaning or if used with essential oils. That is for killing germs, bacteria, etc.

        Aside from PH balance a basic understanding of what cleans what comes in handy. Oil removes oil. Soap is oil. So if you need a degreaser you use an alkaline or oil/soap based cleaner. If you have stuck on food you need something acidic to remove it so a vinegar based cleaner is best.

        Finally, sometimes it all boils down to the right tools and some elbow grease. For jobs like showers and bathtubs a rag just isn’t enough (unless you plan to clean it every day). Tests prove that the tools make the most difference in cleaning. You must use a soft bristle brush. In that case, the recipe you’ve shared should work.

        For my showers and bathrooms I now just use a bar of castile and a dry scrub (similar to Bon Ami). I wet the shower and the soap, wipe the brush across it, then sprinkle the dry scrub on it and go to town. I rinse it all off when I am done and then spray it down with vinegar and let it air dry. It takes about ten minutes to clean the whole thing and there are no scrubbing bubble armies that come out and help but it gets it done and I know it is really clean. Before, when I used a rag, it took me nearly 20-30 minutes to get a clean. Using the brush helped shave off a lot of time.

        • I have a kitchen scrub brush but I felt it might have been a little abrasive for our shower…maybe not. But the “soft scrub” recipe I shared worked even with a rag so I was really pleased! Thanks.

        • Hi I’m just starting to make all my own homemade products and you said you had a book with tried and true recipes. Could you give me a link so I can look at at it. I think I would like to buy it as I dont want to waste time, material and effort to make cleaners. thank you

  8. I know you will but just to ease my mind I have to say please do lost of research before believing everything everyone posts here. And don’t use blogs. They just repeat the same incorrect info over and over. We’ve spent a lot of time and money investigating all of these “claims” and most turn out to be very misguided. I only look to the pros: chemists and environmental engineers.

  9. No there is just a lot of incorrect info in general that others post. They believe it because someone they trust (blogger, friend, etc) told them it was true. My fear is that people will find it so complicating to make their own products that they won’t try and they’ll go back to the toxic store bought stuff. It isn’t as hard as others make it seem. It is simply a matter of understanding why certain ingredients are added or how they work. And using the tap water is a major issue. You should never use th
    at for cleaners. It can contain chemicals, minerals, or even drugs that could transfer or cause reactions in homemade cleaners. That’s all. :)

  10. Don’t beat yourself up. Similar formulas are all over the web, you’re just the only to fix the mistake. Same goes for vinegar + baking soda. You mix them and get an inert something. But I think almost every diy site has that formula. Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Amy!

    • As I understand it, the explosive reaction of vinegar+baking soda neutralizes a lot of the chemical properties of each ingredient (for example, the germ-killing power of vinegar) BUT the bubbling action can be useful in a mechanical sense.

      For example, you can clean out a gunky drain by dumping baking soda into it and then adding vinegar–the bubbling will knock some of the gunk off the pipe and either push it up out of the drain or cause it to slide on down. But if you mix the soda and vinegar in advance, it won’t work because the bubbling is over.

  11. Sandi in MN says:

    I just always use straight baking soda..it’s my go to cleaner now, it gets all the yellow hard iron well water gunk off the tub every time. I use an old shower scrubby just for this purpose. No chemicals no fragrance. Although I would love some essential oils smells, just don’t have any right now. I also use baking soda for my sinks and smooth surface cook top. It’s a great cleaner and cheap:)I was an old Flylady follower..she always said “it’s not the potion but the motion”..always stuck with me.

  12. I Love this idea and I love that you are willing to say, “I was wrong!” I’ve been buying handmade soft scrub cleaner from Etsy, and I am so into it! But, I really want to give this a try. If I do, I’ll be sure to come back and let you know how it’s working!

  13. Hmmm, I’ve just been using baking soda and my homemade knitted scrubby sponge which works fine. Do I need to add in the castille soap?

  14. borax and your favorite dish soap mixed to the consistency of frosting and add some essential oils to your choosing! my favorite recipe!! try it

  15. This is great, thanks!

  16. great recipe thanks for updating it. Thanks for sharing at Tasteful Tuesdays this week! Do you sew or know someone who does? I have a fabulous pattern sale (18 patterns for under $25) and giveaway going on right now.http://www.nap-timecreations.com/2013/02/sew-fab-e-pattern-sale-and-giveaway.html

  17. Congratulations on admitting your mistake–I know that’s hard, especially when you have publicized what you’re doing!

    I love the combination of baking soda and liquid soap. You can also use it as a facial scrub, to remove some laundry stains, and on pots and pans! Great stuff.

  18. I haven’t made this before, but we do the baking soda/vinegar cleaning for most everything. I recently started using table salt to get some of the tougher stuff off the tub, it seems to work pretty well. But, I think I will have to give this a try!

    • You mean you use baking soda and vinegar together?

      • Yes! It works quite well. I also use it for unclogging drains, and cleaning the toilet. Plus, my kids like to watch it all bubble up :-)

        • That’s interesting seeing all the comments about the vinegar and castile soap canceling each other out. I think my father-in-law was right…the acid base combo unsaponifies the castile, causing the gunk.

          • I made that mistake when I first started “natural” cleaning, thinking I was getting the best of everything. I made a batch of an “all purpose” cleaner that had vinegar and dr. bronners, and when I came back to it the next week, it had all separated. So I tend to stay away from mixing too many things now. But I stick baking soda in an old parmesan cheese container and sprinkle that, spray with white vinegar, and scrub scrub scrub :-)

  19. I make my own cleaning products too! I kind of use the same thing, but I made my own “comet” cleanser.
    It is just baking soda and (optional) essential oils, in a canning jar with holes poked in the lid. I shake it on and the scrub, I also use it with my vinegar based glass cleaner, So basically I shake on baking soda spray on a little vinegar and water and scrub.
    I have no doubt your soft scrub recipe works, because what I do works amazingly well too! It will scrub off gunk and grime you didnt even see was there until you started scrubbing and saw that the “white” sink was not actually white at all until the layer of scum was scrubbed off. The scrubbing too takes very little elbow grease.
    Baking soda is awesome for scrubbing off stuff like that!
    Also I had no idea about acidic things and castille soap, that is really interesting!

  20. Glad to know it works! :) And that I have all the ingredients on hand. My son is 13 and has yet to clean his own shower. This weekend he takes the plunge. He’ll thank me later.

  21. It’s probably not as natural as you’d like, but I’ve had really good luck with equal parts vinegar and blue Dawn dish soap. I spray it on, let it set for about 15 minutes, scrub, and rinse! Works so much better than anything I ever bought from the store!!

  22. Juliana says:

    I use just about the same thing, however I’ve found that it works just as well to pour whatever amount of baking soda into a bowl, then squirt enough Dr. Bronners in to make it into a nice paste (sort of like tooth paste?). If I am cleaning something particularly gunky or germy, I add a teeny splash of essential oil. I just add water, do varying degrees, as I use it with a rag. So… I thought I’d throw that out there just in case someone is less measurement-minded. :)

  23. shannon says:

    This works so well! I made up a batch. I tweaked it a bit to make it easier to squeeze out of my container. I just added another tablespoon of distilled water. I put about 15 drops of peppermint oil, just cause I like the smell. It works with very little effort and I will be making it again…Thanks

  24. thank you so much, i love this cleanser! do you know how it would work as a dishwasher detergent?

  25. Can you make a batch of this shower “soft Scrub” cleaner and store it? Or is this a make as you use kind of recipe? I am VERY new to this and haven’t had much success.
    Thanks for reading my comment

    • Sure thing – of course :). You could store it for awhile – but like anything else it will go bad after awhile. Well, natural things will spoil sooner than the chemical stuff.

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