(updated February 2014)
Which non-toxic cleaners are best for the shower stall? The answer is of course: it depends. Are you giving a basically clean shower a quick wipe over? Or scrubbing a filthy shower? Or somewhere in between – perhaps spring cleaning a just-okay shower? Or do you have a mould problem? Read on, to find the answers to all these issues.
For your basic wipe down, I use a microfiber cloth and just clean as I go (ie a quick wipe down while I’m in the shower). My cloth of choice is the Norwex envirocloth, which is basically their general purpose cloth. I’m sure other high quality microfiber cloths would be similarly effective (but I haven’t personally tried them). I have tried cheap supermarket ones, and not been impressed with the results.
For a daily clean I don’t use anything but the cloth, but if you don’t have microfiber you can use my DIY citrus-vinegar spray with a regular cloth, and squeegee the shower glass after use.
I also use my disinfectant vinegar spray from time to time (the recipe is on the non-toxic cleaning printables and in the book, but the important thing is that it has a vinegar base and includes clove oil and tea tree oil, all of which inhibit mould), mostly just as a lazy way to inhibit mould growth. I just spray and leave it on there.
Now, for a thorough Spring clean or for a more generally grimy shower, things might need to go a bit further than this. Especially if you have several people – including kids – using the same bathroom. So when I gave the shower a thorough Spring clean recently, I used the Norwex “scrubby” cloth. It was particularly good on my slate floor tiles, but I used it for everything.
But the scrubby didn’t quite do it for the grout. To clean the grout I still recommend the old standby, an old toothbrush that is not going in anyone’s mouth again. If your grout warrants it, use it with a homemade cream cleanser. There are a few different recipes for cream cleansers, and normally I would use a dishwashing liquid based one, but on my Spring Clean Day I didn’t have enough dishwashing liquid left. So I used a liquid soap base instead which worked a treat, though didn’t store as well.
Here are two recipes for DIY cream cleanser
1. With dishwashing liquid
You will need
- 1 cup bicarb soda (baking soda in America)
- ½ cup dishwashing liquid
- Optionally add about 15 drops essential oils
Mix the dishwashing liquid into the bicarb soda until you have the consistency of a thick cream cleanser. You can add a little more of either ingredient to get the right consistency if need be – it will vary a bit depending on your dishwashing liquid.
Add essential oils if desired. Lime and lemon make a good bathroomy smell, and have good antimicrobial and cleaning properties, but check out which essential oils are best for cleaning and make your own choice.
2. With liquid soap
- ¾ cup bicarb soda
- ½ cup liquid castile soap
- 1 tbsp glycerine (optional – this will help it to last longer without drying out in the bottle).
- Optionally add about 15 drops essential oils
Again, mix the ingredients together, first mixing the castile soap into the bicarb soda, then adding the glycerine and essential oils, if desired.
The bicarb soda provides the scrubbing power, so the more dissolved it is, the less “scrubby” it will be. If you want a more abrasive cleaner, you can add 1 tbsp course salt to either mixture (but then test in a hidden place to make sure if won’t damage your surface).
Store the mixture in an airtight bottle, and shake well before use.
These cream cleansers are good whenever you need a little more scrubbing power, and bicarb soda also has a mild whitening effect. I would use it for a dirty bath ring, but in my Spring Clean I found my Norwex ‘scrubby’ cloth did that job perfectly just with water. I did use the cream cleanser for my grout though, and it did a great job, with an old toothbrush.
Edited to add: Since writing this post I have switched to using the Norwex Cleaning Paste, rather than these cream cleansers, mostly because one tub lasts FOREVER, whereas these cleansers have a limited shelf life, and it is so versatile. The ingredients are safe – just marble flour, chalk, natural soap and traces of coconut oil – and because one tub will last so long (I have had mine for a year and it barely looks started) it is very cost effective. Some day I will do a post just on the paste! Having said all that, these recipes are good too, and if you have the ingredients on hand when you need it, then you’re good to go
How to clean glass shower doors and screens
To clean my shower doors I used the scrubby and followed it up with the Norwex window cloth, which I must say does an amazing job on mirrors and windows. But, I wasn’t able to get my shower screens completely clean. They looked great when wet, but afterwards they’d still have that slightly water stained look, if you look at the right angle. I scrubbed them multiple times! This could be the hard water build up people talk about.
I have to confess that I didn’t try vinegar or any other spray, but Shannon Lush recommends mixing 1 part methylated spirits with 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water, and wiping them with that. I know vinegar alone is good against a mineral build up, so I will try that, then Shannon’s formula if necessary. Norwex also do a natural enzyme-based descaler, which I also have yet to try. I’ll move on to that if the DIY option doesn’t do it.
I am also reliably informed that if you use a squeegee to clean off the shower screens every.single.time, you will never have these problem again. And prevention is so much better than cure, don’t you think?
Edited to add: One more thing about the glass – have you heard of “glass cancer”? This is when soap scum has been on the glass sufficiently long to actually eat into it (its the caustic soda in soap that does this, apparently). If you scrub your screen clean, and when it dries there’s still an etching, or cloudiness on it where the scum was, it could be this. This is what I found in my own shower after trying all the above methods.
Can you clean glass cancer off? No, because it is actual damage to the glass. However, if you wipe a thin layer of oil over it – I’ve read people recommending sweet almond, olive or even goanna oil – then wipe off again. Use just a few drops of oils and an old pair of pantyhose to wipe it with. If it’s glass cancer, it should fill in the etching and make it look better. It’s only a temporary fix though. There is no permanent fix.
What about mould?
Okay, so the bathroom is often a mould and mildew trap, especially if you don’t have good ventilation. I can’t emphasise this strongly enough: ventilation is the key. Mould will grow where things are left wet. If you have a bathroom exhaust fan use it! Use it whenever someone is in the shower or bath, and leave it on for a bit afterwards.
If you don’t have an exhaust fan you are likely to have a mould problem. Leave the door or window open when showering if possible, and certainly afterwards.
If you have a shower curtain make sure you leave it shut so that it can dry.
But what about existing mould? Generally I would recommend my disinfectant cleaning spray, with a vinegar base and about 50 drops of essential oil per litre, including at least clove oil (I usually use a mix of three – four oils). But be aware that essential oils can be toxic just like anything else, and especially if you are using clove oil, you need good ventilation.
If you have respiratory issues, be extra cautious with clove oil.
If you are sensitive to essential oils, white vinegar is quite good at cleaning most types of mould on its own. If you have a mould problem, I recommend cleaning every surface it is on with white vinegar, and repeating regularly. If you have a ceiling mould problem, trying moping it once a month with neat white vinegar. You can also spray it with a vinegar and oil of cloves solution. Either way, just don’t let it drip into your eyes!!
Unfortunately, if mould has gotten under your silicon, there’s really nothing you can do but replace it.
Now over to you:
Do you have a bathroom cleaning tip or a mould problem to share? Do you have a sure fire way for cleaning shower glass? Leave a comment and tell us all about it!
*However, building biologist Nicole Bijlsma does not recommend using clove oil on mould, and am I looking forward to a guest post from her in late January or February, to talk about why not, and what she does recommend.
Even though I published before Tuesday this week, this post was shared, as usual, over at Essentially Jess’s IBOT.
February 9, ’14: Updated to add: Since writing this post I have become so gung ho about high quality microfibre that I’ve actually become a Norwex “Independent Sales Consultant”. Consequently, the links to Norwex cloths in this post, now goes to my own online store. Woohoo! (they used to go to my friend’s store. Sorry Lis!)