How to clean glass shower doors with no chemicals

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Written By Jim J Neal

It’s easier than you think to remove tough soap scum and stains from your glass shower doors without nasty chemicals, cleaners or power tools.

Gleaming glass shower doors are an eye-catching focal point in any bath suite. But that glittering glass can become an eyesore when covered with hard water spots and soap scum buildup.

For years I used harsh, chemical-laden store-bought shower door cleaners, homemade brews, power tools and other methods that all worked, even Mr. Clean Original Magic Eraser. But as I repeatedly cleaned that grungy glass and metal shower door track, I knew there had to be a better, faster way.

And there is! If you own a portable handheld steamer with a squeegee accessory, you can quickly make your shower doors look like new with minimal fuss, muss and mess.

Like most novel ideas, I discovered this by happenstance.

One day while using our handheld steamer, I noticed the squeegee and brushes that came with it. Not sure why, but I decided to try them to clean accumulated muck off the metal shower door track. The steam cleaner made short work of scrubbing the track, especially the corners! I figured, if the steamer could dissolve soap scum from the track, why not the glass?

Although it took a few passes, the steam cleaner with the squeegee attachment thoroughly removed the water spots and soap scum. When finished, the glass looked new!

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Why Do Glass Shower Doors Get So Dirty?

Minerals in water are the main reason spots and soap scum build up. As your shower water evaporates, calcium bonds to the glass, forming mildew and white water spots (called lime scale).

Soap scum film results from dirt, body oils, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and the worse offender, commercial bar soaps. These mix with moisture vapors containing calcium and magnesium carbonate drying on the door’s surface.

Shower Door Cleaning Tools and Materials Needed

Save time by using these:

  • Handheld steam cleaner with a squeegee attachment;
  • Distilled water;
  • White vinegar;
  • Two clean glass spray bottles (label bottles to indicate contents);
  • Glass squeegee;.
  • Balled-up newspaper;
  • Premium microfiber towel;
  • Homemade natural glass cleaner (recipe below);
  • A razor blade scraper if your doors are really crusty.

Homemade natural glass cleaner recipe

These household staples are just as effective as store-bought glass cleaners:

  • Two cups distilled water;
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar;
  • 1/3 cup rubbing alcohol;
  • Two drops dishwashing liquid (optional; helps cut oils and waxy residue).

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle, then shake vigorously to combine.

Here’s an optional pre-treatment solution for doors with heavy-duty grime and buildup:

  • 3/4 cup warm distilled water;
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar;
  • Two drops dishwashing liquid.

Mix, don’t shake, all ingredients in a spray bottle.

Steps To Restore That New Glass Shine

1. Unplug the steam cleaner and fill with distilled water. Install the squeegee attachment. Following the manufacturer’s instructions on venting, let the water heat up.

2. If the doors are nasty, as the steamer heats up spray some of the pre-treatment solution on a clean microfiber towel. Saturate the glass only. Strong vinegar-based cleaners can damage non-glass parts.

3. If the soap scum buildup is really stubborn, take the razor blade scraper and carefully remove it. Be careful not to scratch the glass.

4. Set the shower temperature between warm and hot, then let the shower run for about five minutes to gently warm the glass and soften soap scum.

5. Once the steamer is ready, place the steamer’s squeegee attachment on the glass. Start at the top and work down. Then deliberately “wipe” the glass shower doors in about 12-inch increments. Wipe away residue with the squeegee and/or a clean microfiber towel.

6. Continue down the glass until all soap scum and water spots are gone. Let the glass dry. If this was your first attempt, you may need to repeat step five a few more times.

7. Using lint-free balled up newspaper or microfiber towels, thoroughly polish the glass with the homemade glass cleaner to give them a streak free sparkling shine.

How To Prevent Water Spotting And Soap Scum Build-Up

Follow this routine to keep your glass shower doors looking cleaner longer:

  • After every use, immediately squeegee or wipe the glass with a clean microfiber towel. Don’t let the water start to dry.
  • Open a window or let the exhaust fan run to remove water vapors.
  • Frequently clean the doors with the homemade natural glass cleaner to prevent buildup. A long handled soft bristle brush works great.
  • Applying a water repellent like Rain-X reduces spotting.

Bob LacivitaBob Lacivita

Bob Lacivita
Bob Lacivita is an award-winning ASE and General Motors auto technician, educator and freelance writer who has written about DYI car repairs and vehicle maintenance topics. His work has been featured in The Family Handyman, a Reader’s Digest book and Classic Bike Rider magazine. He has been a career and technical educator for 25 years teaching automotive technology, as well as writing state, federal and organizational foundation grants. He also helped design a unique curriculum delivery model that integrates rigorous, relevant academic standards seamlessly into career and technical education.