What Dissolves Soap Scum Buildup in the Drain?

Soap scum removal can be one of the toughest household challenges. The filmy, white substance can build up on shower walls, shower curtains and in drains if ignored. Almost everyone has a different trick for preventing soap scum buildup from daily cleaning to waxing shower walls and using only liquid soap in the shower. There are just as many home remedies for removing tough-to-clean scum from showers and drains. It only takes a stroll down the cleaning aisle at a grocery or discount store to see that soap scum removal is a big business. There are, though, some at-home treatments you can try using common products that are likely already in your home.

White vinegar

White vinegar is one of the top must-have household cleaning items. It is a natural cleaner without harsh fumes and its acidic properties can help remove soap scum and mineral deposits from almost any surface, according to the Queen of Clean, Linda Cobb. To remove soap scum from shower walls or drains, fill a spray bottle with warm white vinegar and spray on scummy surfaces. Let it soak for 10 to 15 minutes and then wash clean with a sponge. Tough-to-clean areas may take several applications to remove all scum. For tough problems, add baking soda to a drain before adding the white vinegar; the mixture will bubble and help remove tough scum. Let it work for 15 minutes and then rinse.


Ammonia can remove some of the worst soap scum buildup, according to house cleaning company Mrs. Clean. Ammonia, though, can be damaging to skin and you should wear gloves to protect your hands when handling the chemical. Mix about 1/2 cup of ammonia with a gallon of water, pour in a spray bottle and coat the problem area. After the drain is coated in ammonia, wipe the area clean and be sure to rinse excess scum and ammonia from the surface.

Lemon oil

The same lemon oil used to refresh furniture will also remove soap scum from a drain. The oil will even help prevent future buildup. Using a cloth or scrubbing tool, apply lemon oil to the drain and rub in a circular motion. Wipe the surface clean with a cotton cloth once scum is loosened from the surface.

Laundry detergent

Powdered laundry detergent or borax (a mineral compound often sold as a laundry booster) will also work for soap scum removal. Mix powdered detergent or borax with water to make a paste that can be applied to a scum-covered drain. Work the paste into the scum to remove it and rinse way.

Commercial cleaners

Numerous commercial cleaners claim to easily remove soap scum from almost any surface. Be aware that certain chemicals and cleaners don't work on all surfaces. Other products such as those used to unclog drains will also remove scum from hard-to-reach drains.


As with any cleaning product, be careful with fumes and chemical reactions from household cleaners. Acidic cleaners, for example, should never be used on marble. Make sure to read all packaging or spot test a new cleaner before using it. NEVER mix products containing chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) with products containing vinegar (acetic acid) or ammonia; the resulting vapors can kill you.