Non-Toxic Homemade Heavy Duty Shower Cleaner

Non-Toxic Homemade Heavy Duty Shower Cleaner at

OK.  I rarely claim that my lightbulb moments are life-changing, but I believe this one is.  I have discovered a non-toxic, homemade HEAVY DUTY shower cleaner.


Are you ready?  It has only two ingredients and one cleaning tool.

The tool?


If your surface is scratchable, use (affiliate link alert) the blue non-scratch version of this sponge or these like the one in the top picture that I love!
(Labeled by a can’t-judge-writing-space paranoid Mama who doesn’t want a bathroom-contaminated sponge migrating to the kitchen.)

A heavy-duty scrubbing sponge.

The “ingredients”?

Dish soap.

Elbow grease.

For real.

And I am beyond excited.  Here’s the thing.  My various cleaning “issues” pile on top of one another until they become completely overwhelming.

And paralyzing.

Issue #1 – Slob Vision.  Or Time Passage Awareness Disorder.  Or Whatever You Want to Call It.

When life gets crazy (and when is it not?), I get tunnel-vision-ated and dirty showers become invisible to me.  Then life speeds by and if I’m not following my Weekly Cleaning Schedule, I truly have no idea how long it has been since I last cleaned the shower.

Until the shower door looks like this.  And kind of smells funny.  (Not ha-ha funny.)

This issue results in large amounts of overwhelmed-ness.

Issue #2 – Overactive Imagination Regarding Length of Required Cleaning Time.

For real.  I can imagine that a task is huMONgous and that I can’t possibly take the time out of my schedule to deal with this gargantuan mess.

This issue results in me procrastinating.  For even longer.

Issue #3 – Cleaning Aisle Aversion

I don’t window shop in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store.  Unless the exact product that I just realized I needed THAT morning (but still didn’t write on my list) is in my face at the checkout aisle, there’s a 94% chance I will never remember to pick it up at the store.

This issue results in a fabulous excuse to not clean even when issues 1 and 2 could possibly be overcome.

Issue #4 – (Distantly related to #2) Overactive Imagination Regarding Toxicity of Cleaning Products

It’s true.  I feel the need to wear a haz-mat suit when using really chemical-ey products.

And then I get paranoid about rinsing away those products.

My overactive imagination shows me all the life-long repercussions of showering (or bathing!) in those chemicals.

Add together issues 1-4 and you have a problem. I let the shower get to the point where it needs heavy duty cleaning, and yet the typical heavy-duty cleaners scare me, so I put off the cleaning even longer.  And the need for heavy-duty cleaning increases.

By a lot.

It’s a never-ending cycle.

Sooooo, I’m pretty excited about this.  Mike of Discount Cleaning Products tweeted a random tip a few weeks ago about using dishwashing liquid to clean the ring-around-the-bathtub.

I thought “hmmmm.”

And then forgot about it.

Then, when I was working with my daughter last week in my own icky bathroom, I remembered that I’ve heard over and over lately that Dawn dish soap and vinegar, together in a spray bottle, make an effective shower cleaner.

Great idea!

Except I was out of vinegar.

And I didn’t have a spare spray bottle.

So I thought I’d give Mike’s tip a try on the shower in general.

I used Dawn from the kitchen sink on the just-out-of-the-package sponge, but once it was contaminated with bathroom germs, I couldn’t bear to take it back into the kitchen.  After that, I opted for the Ivory that I use in my homemade cleaning spray.

It . . . works.  Seriously.  I simply wet the sponge, squirted the dish-soap onto the green scrubby side, and started scrubbing.  It removed soap-scum, ring-around-the-bathtub, water-spots, etc.  It CLEANED the bathtub/shower.

Elbow grease was required, but significantly less than I expected, as I just used liberal amounts of the dish soap on the tougher spots.

And the fact that my Grandma used to use Ivory dish-soap to make my bubble baths means that I have NO paranoia whatsoever about bathing after I’m done.

Or about my daughter scrubbing the bathtub!

And here’s that previously-hideous shower door!

Note: Elbow grease is muscle power. I do feel the need to clarify that since I’ve heard a Grandma or two laugh about some youngster asking where to buy it.

Note #2: Read the comments!  Evidently, these types of scrubby sponges shouldn’t be used on all types of tub surfaces, because they can scratch some.  Updated in 2015, I now use these sponges which are AWESOME and don’t scratch!


I’ll link this up to Works for Me Wednesday, Homemaking Link-up, Living Well Wednesdays.

Non-Toxic Homemade Heavy Duty Shower Cleaner fb at



  1. 1

    I’ve taken to simply keeping a shower sponge in the tub with me and cleaning the shower piece by piece while I’m in it with the soap that I use on my body. Apparently, soap is soap and soap is made for cleaning.
    My tub sparkles every day now and I don’t have to feel all weird about taking a bath in a tub that I just cleaned with gritty, toxic bleach smelling chemicals.
    This is actually the only habit that I’ve kept up consistently since starting my own deslobification journey. Something about 45 seconds of cleaning while you’re in the shower just seems so easy.

  2. 2

    Dawn is amazing for getting rid of gunk around the house. I use it, along with a little vinegar and a lot of hot water, to get rid of that nasty ring that builds up in our washing machine. I hate to think what caused that, and what it does to our clothes when I don’t scrub it away!

  3. 3

    I never would have thought to use dish soap in the bathroom. But it makes sense. I also have an aversion to cleaning products, especially since I have a 9 month old who likes to be help while I clean. I like to use vinegar and baking soda on everything if I can. Vinegar and water work great on mirrors and windows, baking soda it great in toilets and bathtubs and even the sink. There are the moments when more heavy duty cleaners are necessary. (Like when babies poop in the tub or when its been a VERY long time since the toilet was cleaned). But if I do the jobs on a regular basis (once a week). Then baking soda and vinegar are enough. and I don’t have any worries about it being around my baby because they are edible (wouldn’t taste great alone, but not toxic)

  4. 4
    Michelle says:

    You’re right on about Issues 1-4!
    I’ll try anything on this 50+ year old cast iron tub we inherited when we purchased this fixer-upper. So far, the only thing that works on the stubborn gunk is a Magic Eraser.
    Thanks for making me smile today =)

  5. 5
    Taycia Yockim says:

    I’ve been using dishsoap for several years as our bathroom cleaner. Toilet, sink, shower. Its amazing stuff! It also works better than Shout on greasy clothing stains 😉

  6. 6

    I’ve been known to scrub the tub/shower when I’m in it. Sounds lazy, but it really is a time and back saver. I’ve also been known to use the kids’ shampoo and their scrubbies to take care of dirt. After all, the dirt came in on their bodies in the first place! I’ve also used “fancy” body wash received as gifts that I don’t like to scrub the shower while I’m in there instead of dish soap. Works so nice!

  7. 7

    Since shower build up has wax/oil you just need to break those bonds and rinse away!

    To bring it round to a previous post- when laundry detergent used to have phosphate I would clean showers with it in my housekeeping business-it got the worst wax/soap scum doors clean. And -nothing smells as good as a fresh clean laundry scent in the bathroom!

    Also, bar soap is banned from my house, I know it’s cheaper, but what a huge mess all around.

    And, if anyone can explain why vinegar and soap in the same bottle????? Doesn’t vinegar just deactiviate soap anyway? I always use it to rinse soap residue from clothes and hands.

    • 8

      Most soaps and vinegar should not be used together. Cleaning products work best because they are either acids or bases. When you mix a base and an acid they neutralize and no longer work. Generally, soaps are bases. Vinegar is an acid. Now the hard part…which jobs work best with acids and which ones work best with bases?

  8. 9
    leigh7911 says:

    I use shampoo. Mainly ’cause it’s already in the bathroom and I’m too darn lazy to walk into the kitchen and get the dish soap.

    • 10
      PegOBrien61 says:

      Me too. I don’t use commercial shampoo anymore so it’s a good way to use up what I have left. Does a bang up job on the glass door.

  9. 11

    hmm, i wonder if that would work with the liquid dr bronners soap? gonna go try it soon. love the idea of labeling sponges. that’s much better than my normal “throw it out” approach.

  10. 12
    Lynell Estep says:

    someone said you can use dish soap to clean a toilet. is that only if you’re on city sewer? we’re on septic and you get really limited. i am using baking soda to get the hard water off the tub (and it works wonders!), but if i could get away from harmful chem’s in the rest of the bathroom, that would be awesome!

    also, what do you use to clean kitchen cabinets? vinegar? baking soda? dish soap? thanks!

    • 13

      I use baking soda if the counters need a scrubbing and lemon juice or vinegar to spray down a mostly clean counter. I like vinegar on the cabinet doors,but again, if they need scrubbing I pull out the baking soda

    • 14
      PegOBrien61 says:

      If you use dish soap in the kitchen, it shouldn’t matter. All your waste water goes into the septic system, no? At least that is how my parent’s house is. Unless you have a separate grey water system for shower/sink water then you are already putting dish soap in the septic system. Oh, and on your last question, I use microfiber cloths and water on everything. I have one that has some scrubby stripes for the tougher areas but mostly just a plain one does fine.

  11. 15

    Take off the gloves you’re using to clean the bathroom. Go into the kitchen, Make a little cup out of your hand. Squirt Dawn into it. Return to the bathroom. Holding your hand above the sponge, let the dish soap run onto the sponge. Rinse your hand. Dry your hand. Put your gloves back on.

    I know because I am squicked out by mixing bathroom cleaning stuff with kitchen cleaning stuff too. Won’t even wash bath towels and kitchen towels in the same load.

  12. 16
    Michelle B says:

    I threw out all my other shower cleaning products and only use the Dawn and Vinegar mix now! It is the BEST!!! I am in love with the stuff! If you haven’t tried the Dawn with Vinegar I recommend you give it at try! It takes a bit of the elbow grease out of tub/shower cleaning!

  13. 18
    Stephanie says:

    What I used to do is use a retired-from-the-kitchen soap-in-the-handle sponge filled with Dawn. Worked great, and then you don’t have to go squirting soap all over the place or get your hands in it. I threw it out when we moved because I didn’t want to pack it… Hm…may have to invest in another…

  14. 19

    Never would have thought to use dish soap.

    One word of caution though. Even though those spongers say they don’t scratch, they will and do, especially fiberglass tub/showers. They leave really fine scratches in the surface which collects more scum and you have to start scrubbing harder and harder which results in more scratches and you end up in a viscous cycle. Those green sponges have been banished from my house because of what they do long term. Now if I need something really abrasive I use an old fashioned nylon scrubby and more elbow grease.

    Sorry to sound like a Debbie downer!

  15. 20

    My problem on the shower door is rust. Our water is hard so we get a rusty build up. However I have discovered my own “toxic free” cleaner that works well for rust. I make a thick baking soda paste on my cleaning cloth. Then I spray the shower with vinegar, and then start scrubbing with my baking soda incrusted cloth and with a bit of elbow grease it comes up clean in no time.

  16. 21

    I’ve started using a paste made with dish soap and baking soda in place of cleanser. It works quite well on soap scum, but the baking soda can be a bit tough to rinse. I still feel a lot better about putting my child in the tub after I cleaned than I would if I even used bar keepers friend, or comet.

  17. 23

    Love your site and stretchy fork on the kitchen drawer one. I made my husband come over to see what I was laughing about! Hey, I just posted about my own nasty shower, but my main problem was grout/caulk. I used vinegar on the door, but recaulking the corners of the shower was much easier than I thought. Just in case your tile corners are as nasty as mine were. (Scroll down to get to the shower tile part.)

  18. 24
    TwoDiffSocks says:

    As a cleaning woman in one building over the past 6 years, i find Mr Clean Magic Eraser works wonders on the glass shower doors–just use with your favourite cleaner & rinse….shower doors in no time AND can be used on various other parts of your home.

    Hope This Helps

  19. 25
    heather says:

    Nony!!!! I love love you blog! I have to say, even better to clean is dawn and baking soda (for some reason it must be brand name!) I mix them together so they look like icing and keep in a container in my shower. whenever I feel like it I scrub with it. BUT even better than your sponge is a “scrubbie” they are awesome! My mother in law makes them out of netting so they are just a tiny bit abrasive. First you use them to wash dishes, once they get ratty, you clean with them. They never die! I will try and send you one sometime!

    • 26
      Elaine in Ark says:

      I make scrubbies out of the fronts of grapefruit bags. I just cut it out, fold it over a couple of times, and secure it with a bread-bag twistie tie. It works great!

  20. 27
    Jennifer says:

    Add a sprinkle or 2 of baking soda on that soapy sponge too and you will need less elbow grease 🙂 Shampoo and liquid hand soap also work, but I bet Dawn is better than either of those.

  21. 29

    oh i love dawn and vinger in the bathroom… and i love dawn on my stains in clothes too 🙂

  22. 30

    I used to clean the guest rooms at my college and I used apple scented dawn in the showers. I can still smell it in my memory. Now I will not buy apple scented dish soap because it smells like bathrooms not washing dishes!

    That being said, it hadn’t occurred to use the dishsoap on the shower in my house now. Thanks for the reminder!

  23. 31
    Gillian says:

    I had to laugh when I read your comment about elbow grease – once in home economic class I told a friend that she had to put some elbow grease into cleaning the dishes. She freaked out and told me she wasn’t touching any grease stuff! Guess it wasn’t used in her house like it was in mine!

  24. 32
    Michelle says:

    Grandma had you use the dish soap in the water to prevent the ring around the tub to begin with. It was preventitve measure. Those grandma’s are pretty smart. They didn’t have the cleaners or heavy cleaning equipment we have now. They stopped the mess before it started whenever possible. My mother in law always did this with their kids and shared it with me when I first lived with them or would help her clean on the weekends.
    Dish soap works great on grease stains on clothes too btw. Always have a great supply of Dawn on hand.

  25. 33

    Great homemade and heavy duty shower cleaner. It is good to know the cleaner you are using is a non toxic one.

  26. 34

    Great post! I suffer from the same hindrances you did, especially the second one. I’ve been spraying foam bathroom cleaner in the shower; it’s easy but it doesn’t do a thorough job. I might have to try your idea. Thanks!

  27. 35

    When we remodeled our bath a friend told us if we were going to tile the shower, the only way to keep it clean was to wipe it down after every shower so the water doesn’t sit on the grout. Amazingly my slob brain can remember this. The best part is…I almost never have to clean the shower, just the tub itself. And since we spent ALL that money remodeling the bath…hubby wipes it down when he showers too 🙂

  28. 36

    Dish soap is extremely toxic.

  29. 39

    I too love Dawn and use it in conjuction with white vinegar & baking soda for my cleaning (when I actually get around to cleaning!). I do what I can to have things convenient and easy so that I don’t have an excuse not to clean. I have recycled hand soap bottles, filled them with Dawn and keep one in each shower and at the laundry room sink. I also have a old kitchen sponge in each shower so I can clean as needed. Several years ago, when I became aware of the dangers of antibacterial soap, I stopped using that. Then when I got tired of paying for hand soap, I started using Dawn at all my bathroom sinks for our hand soap as well, . I bought several of the foaming hand soaps (on sale with coupons), then just keep refilling them. I dilute everything by almost half (more for the foaming pumps). I have found that it helps to keep my bathroom sinks cleaner and makes it very easy to grab a cloth and quickly clean. Recently, I switched from the blue Dawn to the hand renewal Dawn (for the bathroom sinks) to help keep with dry hands.

  30. 40
    Danielle Cullum says:

    We use a dish wand from the dollar store filled half with vinegar and half with dawn. It kills bacteria and cuts through soap scum and gunk with little effort. my little girl can scrub the tub spotless too now and it takes her maybe 5mins!

  31. 41
    Teija Nelson says:

    Hi, going to try all these tub tips. I recently made sugar scrub (for your feet, elbows, etc.) using conditioning Dawn and sugar. It was wonderful. Just mix the Dawn with enough sugar until it is like damp sand. Add essential oils if wanted. My feet are just so soft now.This article about tubs made me think, maybe it would work on the tub as well. But, I know Dawn makes the tub very slick, so rinse well.

  32. 42

    I have been using Dawn in my tubs and showers for years– it works great! And I figure if I use it to wash the dishes my family eats off of, it must get things really clean and it must be safe!

  33. 43

    People seem to have missed the one comment from someone that dish soap itself is very toxic! although I am still using it I am planning when I have some time to switch over to the make it your self version. Just google. and also clothes detergent, someone tested and cheaper and works better than Tide.
    Now I dont know it is will work as good, but at least for dishes!
    I have a very stained fiberglass shower floor. Years ago I used Thermal Silk shampoo and accidently it spilled and was left overnight, totally white in that area. Bleach didnt really make any difference, unfortunately I dont think they make that any more!

    • 44

      It depends on the dish soap, some are certainly more “toxic” than others. I have never liked the scent of original Dawn myself but if they use it exclusively for removing oil from wildlife that has been affected by oil spills I’m guessing it isn’t particularly toxic but it does say something about it’s ability to fight oil.

  34. 45

    Keep a squeegee in the shower and use it on the shower door every time you shower. You won’t ever have to scrub it again. Works great on the shower tiles, too, and only takes a couple of minutes, tops.

  35. 46

    Now that you have it clean, polish it with turtle wax and watch the water bead off just like rain does on your car. Makes shower and sinks shine like new and stay cleaner longer. Be careful not to wax the floor or it makes it slippery.

  36. 48

    I love you blog. Its so nice to know that my house is not the only one that doesn’t look like it came out of Better Homes and Garden . your tips for cleaning are so easy and simple as far as products to use. I read it on a daily basis , I really should read once or twice a week and I would get more cleaning done ( hehehe) thanks so much for doing this !!!!!

  37. 49

    I saw a Pinterest pin of yours once that suggested using dish soap in one of those auto-soaping-scrubby-things. I tried it and WOW. Its amazing how quick it is to scrub down the walls and tub while you’re already in the shower. I never have to scrub the tub on cleaning days anymore. Save for this one time when I let my toddler play in mud puddles and the bath tub had a layer of ick on it that called for heavy duty “Elbow Grease”.

  38. 50
    Rachael says:

    I decided to try this, because you haven’t steered me wrong yet.My bathroom is an embarrassment. I HATE cleaning the tub, shower, and glass door. I actually bought some new cleaner this morning and my plan was to tackle it over the weekend. Well, I had the dawn dish soap and an old kitchen sponge. It is unbelievable how this works….I have tried all types of “bathroom”cleaners and this works better. Also, it took me a total of 15 minutes. It could use another wipe/scrub down, but it already looks a million times better. No toxic smell and my hands aren’t sore….great tip!

  39. 52

    Off topic but I know you and/or your readers can help. HELP!!! My gas oven is so disgusting!!! Any quick tips to clean the burnt on stuff? I keep putting it on the back burner. Can’t see through the window. Even with the light on. 911!! Please help. Thank you.

  40. 55

    How much of the vinegar smell lasts? My husband hates the smell and so it the Dawn works without the vinagar–awesome!! But if the vinagar will only last a short time (in a bathroom with no ventilation, I would be willing to spray it in the wee early morning hours after he has left for work!!!
    Does it matter what kind of Dawn?

  41. 57

    I’ve been using a combination of dish soap (I use Sunlight) and baking soda to clean the bathtub and sink for ages now. It’s super easy, requires almost no elbow grease at all, and you don’t need a sponge. I just sprinkle a bit of baking soda onto a wet cloth (e.g., J-cloth, face cloth, rag), add a squirt of dish soap, and scrub all around the tub and tiles. Works amazingly well on soap scum build up and leaves everything fresh and clean smelling and looking. As far as I know it’s not too bad for the environment and it’s completely non-toxic to humans. I keep a container of baking soda and a bottle of Sunlight in my bathroom cupboard at all times for this purpose. Works great on the sink and countertop too. Don’t see why it wouldn’t work well on the toilet as well. For the mirror, I have a spray bottle full of water with a small squirt of Sunlight added to it that I clean it with. Works great. A final swipe with a coffee filter (I buy a big stack from the dollar store and use each one a few times – been on the same $1 stack for about two years now) clears away any streaks or lint and leaves a perfectly clean shining mirror. Not sure where I first heard about the many uses of dish soap but I think it was on the Oprah show.
    I enjoy this site very much and appreciate all the helpful advice.

  42. 58

    Hi Nony
    Thanks for this great tip. Dawn dish soap takes grease & oil out of dishes etc…so for the shower I would assume it is awesome…and smells great.

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