How to Deep Clean a Bathroom

PREVENTIVE MEASURE #1 Use a mild, vegetable based soap while you bathe. It will go a long way in preventing soap scum and scale buildup.


Always have these basic Bathroom Cleaning Tools and non-toxic cleaning ingredients on hand

1. Gloves

2. Cleaning, Drying and Polishing Cloths

  • Cotton terrycloth for mopping up excess water
  • Microfiber pads or cellulose sponges (your preference) for light scrubbing
  • Lint free towels for polishing glass and bathroom faucets, spouts and other fittings

3.  Scrubber Brushes

  • Soft toothbrush
  • Plastic or nylon bristled soft bathroom scrubber

4. Vinegar—distilled, white, 5 percent, made from grain–and water mixed 50-50 in a spray bottle

5. Hydrogen Peroxide–3 percent–straight in a spray bottle

6. Castile soap or mild liquid dish detergent

7. Borax or Baking Soda, both are abrasive bathroom deodorizers

8. Squeegee

9. LAUNDRY DETERGENT – laundry detergent is your number 1 cleaning resource for the bathroom! and you already have some in your cupboard, right?

Obtain these extra cleaning tools and cleaners for Deep Cleaning the Bathroom

  • Cotton rags or paper towels to throw out after use
  • Medium stiff bathroom scrubber
  • Razor blade or old credit card for scraping
  • Abrasive cleaning powder such as Bon Ami or Borax
  • ‘Method’ Tub and Tile Soap and Scum Remover (for light to moderate buildup)

And only in extreme conditions have on hand

  • Scrubbing Bubbles for truly heavy soap scum and scale in the shower, although now I can’t tolerate the smell.
  • Ammonia based glass cleaner for really smelly toilet exteriors

Scrubbing Bubbles and Tilex for example, are pretty toxic compared to everything else we use for green cleaning, but occasionally you have to break the green rules and use something really strong and nasty. I prefer Scrubbing Bubbles to Tilex. It makes me want to gag less!

Steam CleanersHow to Clean a Bathroom

Steam Cleaning grout and tile is an effective way to deep clean a dirty bathroom. It may not be quick but steam will be very effective in killing mold and mildew and sanitizing the surfaces in the bathroom. Remember that the surface must be free from dirt, scum and soap residues before you attempt to disinfect or sanitize.

Disinfecting is killing all the germs (99.99% is the usual claim) and sanitizing is reducing germ populations to a safe level. Healthy people with properly working immune systems don’t need to and shouldn’t be disinfecting surfaces in their homes. That keeps your body from building its own defenses against various bacteria. Healthy people, lucky you, only need to sanitize surfaces to keep a handle on bacteria and germs.

Before you start Deep Cleaning the Bathroom

Thoroughly sweep or vacuum the bathroom floor before you start. Carefully vacuum hair, etc. From the base of the toilet. Wipe all hair off of counters into the wastebasket. Take out the wastebasket, rugs or bath-mats. Probably the bath-mat needs to be laundered and the rug replaced! Remove curtains and shades. Launder the curtains and maybe replace the shades.

Bathroom Shower and Tub—Start here, it will take some time

How to Deep Clean your BathroomBefore we tackle the how-to of cleaning a bathroom let’s discuss ever so briefly how soap scum builds up on bathroom tiles and fittings in the shower. We wash ourselves in the shower and we don’t want to use harsh detergents on our sensitive skin. Detergents don’t leave residues leading to scum build-up, but soap does, and we use soap on our skin because it is milder than detergent.

Some soaps, like the ones you find in health food stores, boutique shops, and online are made the old fashioned way with vegetable oils, and are pretty easy to clean off of surfaces. Other more commercial brands like the ones you typically find in chain grocery and drug stores are made from synthetic oil, also known as petroleum, and are very hard to clean away without employing equally harsh chemical cleaners.

PREVENTIVE MEASURE #1 Use a mild, vegetable based soap while you bathe. It will go a long way in preventing soap scum and scale buildup in your shower.

On with the soap scum saga. Soap scum mixes with minerals in your water (hard water has more minerals) to create this very difficult to remove gunk on your previously shiny tiles and unstained grout.

How to Deep Clean Your Bathroom Shower Tiles

Please Read! Before you get started:  if your super scummy shower and bathtub areas covered with natural stone such as granite, soapstone, or marble, you need to get yourself a specially formulated cleaner to safely remove soap scum without damaging the stone.

For a super scummy client shower, I will use Scrubbing Bubbles if I have to. Read how I go about it:

How I Do the Dirty Deed of Cleaning Soap Scum with Chemicals

 I wrap my hair, put on old clothes and rubber gloves. I open the bathroom window, turn on the exhaust fan, and hold my breath as I spray the chemical over the scummy shower stall and bathtub surfaces. Then I close the door as I run out of the bathroom gasping for air. I sit for a minute and then take a big breath of air and go back in. I make sure to close the door behind me.

And so on, I run in holding my breath, wipe down as much as I can, run out and take a deep breath. Repeat. I should get a vapor mask, but I only do this once in a while, and only if I clear it with the homeowner. I never allow my own bathtub and shower to reach the super scummy stage. Since I moved into this new apartment when the shower tiles shone like new, I haven’t had to scrub at all. That’s mainly because I use mild vegetable oil based soap and shampoo, and because I dry all the tiles and grout with a sponge and cotton terrycloth towel after each and every shower and bath. I always crack the window unless it is frigid outside.

How to Clean Bathroom Tiles the Green, Non-toxic Way

The nice way to do this takes a bit longer and a little more of your own physical effort. Instead of wiping off the cleaning foam and finding shiny tile beneath it, (magically!) you will have to remove soap scum and mineral deposits layer by layer.

To get off oily soap scum, you have to use something similarly oily:

  • Laundry detergent straight from the bottle
  • Warm Murphy Oil Soap

First using your scrubber brushes, the laundry detergent or Murphy Oil Soap and a little water go over your tiles, glass, fittings and grout scrubbing gently and using as little water as possible. Don’t rinse yet.

Then using your cotton rags, tee shirts work very well, and if necessary razor blades or old credit cards, old start wiping and scraping up the residue of soap and soap scum that you have whipped up on the surface of your bathtub and shower stall. Pay attention to corners and edges where fittings meet tile. Do the shower stall floor last. Throw away the rags. Rinse down the tiles and fittings with warm water.

Hopefully by now you have removed the worst of the dirt and scum. If there is still a thick layer of scum, do it again!!

Once the thickest gunk is gone, the glass and tile will still have a hazy film of soap and mineral deposits. Go for the vinegar in the spray bottle now, and spray evenly across the shower and tub. Leave the vinegar, don’t rinse off. Using a cellulose sponge with an abrasive pad on one side, water, and a drop or two of castile soap or mild dish detergent, proceed to remove the next layer of scum, scrubbing in smallish circles, say 1 foot in diameter, section by section. Rinse lightly to see if you are making progress. Finish up with the floor and rinse really, really well.


Don’t forget to dry it all with your squeegee or terrycloth towel.

You may be happy enough with what you have accomplished, but if not and you want to keep going to make the tiles and glass shine like new (this may or may not be possible depending on the age of quality of your bathroom) Try this lightweight method for cleaning lightly soiled bathroom tiles and glass.

Clean tile-by-tile—yes it takes a little time, but it’s a meditation too! —Using a clean, dry cotton rag and a drop or two of straight laundry detergent or Murphy’s oil soap, wipe vigorously the remaining film from each tile. Polish with a separate dry cotton cloth. Bravo! What a piece of work!

After this heavy duty Deep Cleaning, you’ll only need to follow my Bathroom Cleaning Basic Steps to keep your bathroom clean from now on. Clean bathroom maintenance takes 15 – 20 minutes tops, once a week or so depending on how many people use the bathroom.

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Welcome to my website!

Julia has been practicing green cleaning for several years as the owner of As You Like It Home Cleaning and organic gardening for almost 20 years running Julia Houriet Custom Gardening. She studied landscape design at Radcliffe Seminars in Cambridge Massachusetts. Her expertise is gleaned from education and years of experience.

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