We Spritzed and Scrubbed to Find the Best Shower Cleaners
Bonus: Our favorite formulas are plant-based.
Published Feb 28, 2022 1:00 AM
The only red flag when I signed the lease on my current apartment was a less-than-clean-looking shower situation: The white tile, tub, and (what I assumed was once white) grout were all discolored, covered in stains of unknown origins. As much as I hoped to restore my bathroom to its former glory and start fresh with a germ-free space, I wasn’t too keen on having to use toxic, chemical-smelling bathroom cleaners either. So in my search for the best shower cleaners, I prioritized biodegradable formulas with plant-based ingredients and sustainable packaging (and bonus points for spray bottles and containers so chic that I’ve kept them out on my shelves rather than hiding them in my bathroom vanity). Here’s what I found to be the most effective on any kind of surface you might find in a shower.
- Best on tile: Supernatural Bath and Tile Cleaner
- Best on glass doors: Safely Natural Glass Cleaner
- Best on tubs: HumbleSuds Cleaning Paste
- Best on grout: Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Concentrate
- Best on steel fixtures: Meliora Unscented Gentle Cleaning Scrub
- Best on all of the above: Grove Shower Cleaner and Method Daily Shower Spray
Best on Tile: Supernatural Bath and Tile Cleaner
Size: 13 ounces | Application: Concentrate, spray | Scent: Lime, orange, basil, fir, palmarosa, peppermint, and rosemary
What we like:
- Different spray modes
- Subscriptions available
- 100 percent recyclable packaging
- Citrusy and herbaceous scent
Why we chose it: Easily removes soap-scum buildup with a few sprays and wipes.
Shower tile—especially ceramic and porcelain—is pretty durable, but a classic, glossy sheen more easily reveals hard-water droplets and filmy soap buildup. Supernatural’s mixture of essential oils (hello, citrusy freshness!) and nontoxic cleaning agents promises to restore a shower’s shine in a flash. And the glass spray bottle is the icing on the cake. A unique, screen-printed label and packaging makes it feel a little bit luxurious. Our tip: Twist the nozzle of the spray bottle to a wider stream for maximum coverage, and work in stages as you go rather than spraying every wall at once (you don’t want the product drying out). Then just grab a nonabrasive sponge and apply a little bit of pressure, before rinsing everything down for a streak-free clean.
Best on Glass Doors: Safely Natural Glass Cleaner
Size: 28 ounces | Application: Spray and wipe | Scent: Choose between Rise (citrusy and floral) or Spring (sandalwood and geranium)
What we like:
- Pretty, bright color
- Smells as good as a fancy candle
- Corn-derived alcohol
- Even better on windows and mirrors
Why we chose it: Fingerprints be gone—this spray will get you a crystal-clear, reflective surface.
There are few things more frustrating than a glass shower door that always looks foggy. Before reaching for Windex, consider Safely, a new, plant-powered cleaning line with a pleasant, spalike scent (created by candlemakers!) that rivals old-school sprays’ germ-banishing abilities. Simply spritz and wipe down your designated surface with a microfiber cloth whenever you start to notice those stubborn water droplets appear. Or spray and squeegee, which can also reduce the amount of water that drips down onto your tiled floor (where mold can gather). But perhaps the best part? It’s incredibly affordable at just $6.
Best on Tubs: HumbleSuds Scour Cleaning Paste
Size: 11 ounces | Application: Dampen surface before applying paste, then scrub and rinse well | Scent: Citrus
What we like:
- Basic pH
- Safe on all sorts of surfaces (even your sink and stovetop)
- Nonabrasive and deodorizing
- Using too much can leave behind a residue
Why we chose it: Strong against stains but safe enough to apply with your bare hands.
The Scour paste from HumbleSuds is safe enough to clean pretty much anything, from pots and pans to fruits and vegetables—even your hands. But more than any other cleaners tested, we found it to be a particularly good bathtub cleaner, incredibly effective at working against a yellowing fiberglass tub—a common culprit in rental bathrooms. The whipped texture almost foams up as you’re using it, but the trick is to start with just a spoonful, then add on as needed; because it’s baking soda–based, the paste can be difficult to remove if too much has been applied. The magic truly happens when you get a bristly brush or sponge and start scrubbing in circular motions. If you are looking for a bit more grit, the company recommends adding a dash or two of kosher salt for stronger scrubbing.
Best on Grout: Mrs. Meyer’s Multi-Surface Concentrate
Size: 32 fluid ounces | Application: Dilute in a spray bottle or cleaning bucket, then spray or apply with a brush | Scent: Varies
What we like:
- So many scent options (that will subtly linger)
- Sustainable certified
- Does not disinfect
Why we chose it: If you want to skip the ammonia and bleach.
We’ll just come out and say it: White grout is a beast to keep clean. As a porous material, it easily absorbs all sorts of crud, especially when mixed with water. But you don’t need to worry about breathing in chemicals to clean these crevices. Mrs. Meyer’s multisurface concentrate is great at loosening up particles and will work even better with the right tool. Skip the toothbrush—which often has bristles that are too soft to get the job done—and look for stiffer fibers, like tampico (we linked one option, below) and reinforced nylon or polyester. (We also found that presoaking grout with a paste of baking soda and water makes the cleaner more effective.) Then dilute this cleaner, pour it on, and watch dirt melt away without ever having to put on a hazmat suit.
Best on Steel Fixtures: Meliora Unscented Gentle Cleaning Scrub
Size: 12 ounces | Application: Dampen surface, sprinkle on powder, then buff and rinse | Scent: Tea tree, peppermint
What we like:
- Fragrance-, preservative- and dye-free
- Great against rust; brightens grout
- Powder form can be tricky to use
Why we chose it: Makes fussy fixtures shine.
Stainless steel cleaners almost always feature some harsh ingredients, but not Meliora’s. Just sprinkle this fragrance- and dye-free powder on a wet surface and scrub until it forms a paste that’s a bit grainy in texture, working it into every hard-to-reach nook and cranny of your shower knobs and spout, even the drain. Then buff it out with a microfiber, nonabrasive cloth (to help prevent scratching and ensure streak-free shine) and rinse, rinse, rinse. The formula will easily turn shower hardware from dull and blemished to sparkling—like Bar Keeper’s Friend for the bath, but safer.
Best on All of the Above: Grove Shower Cleaner and Method Daily Shower Spray
Size: Varies | Application: Spray | Scent: Varies
What we like:
- No rinsing or wiping required
- Not recommended for natural stone
Why we chose it: For lazy cleaners and keeping things fresh between full cleans.
In between deep cleans with the products we highlighted above, adopt an easier weekly ritual of spraying everything down—from tile to steel plumbing fixtures to glass doors—with either of these options from Grove or Method, no rinsing or wiping required. They’re also great if you’re in a pinch—say, if a friend or family member shows up at your door unannounced. The more you use it, the better it will be as a daily defender against soap scum and mildew. And the natural scents quickly transform your space into a spa, as if you had lit an aromatherapy candle or hung up a fresh bundle of eucalyptus branches.
Tools to Help
How We Chose These Products
First, we narrowed down our list of the best shower cleaners by sticking to nontoxic formulas. Then we tested nearly a dozen options to determine the best line of defense against soap scum, hard-water droplets, and bacteria buildup on common shower surfaces including tile, fiberglass and acrylic bathtubs, stainless steel plumbing fixtures, and more.
Our Shopping Checklist
Concentrate vs. Ready-to-Use
Some of the most effective shower cleaners are packaged as concentrates, meaning they have to be diluted with water prior to use. This is actually more sustainable than picking up a ready-to-use spray, mainly for the reusability factor: You can choose to either purchase a spray bottle or reuse an existing one you have at home, filling it up with small vials of concentrate and water. This method also allows more flexibility in how strong the cleaner needs to be. Other shower cleaners on our list are applied as a powder or paste, which mix with water while scrubbing and rinsing.
Of course, each of the products on our list of the best shower cleaners safely removes gunk and grime from your shower walls and floors, but there are a few ingredients worth pointing out that reinforce the effectiveness of these products. You don’t need to lean on ammonia or bleach when there are the following:
- Denatured alcohol, a solvent that’s also a common cleaning agent for both sanitizing and helping dissolve scum.
- Glycerin, another solvent that is found in all sorts of things (including food!); in a cleaner, it helps whittle away stubborn stains (and can also help cleaning pastes from going dry). You can almost always find this in soaps.
- Lactic acid, which is antimicrobial and assists with decalcifying shower doors.
- Citric acid, naturally derived from fruits and great for hard-water stains.
- Borax, although similar to baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate), has a higher pH value. It can help keep mold and mildew at bay while also disinfecting, degreasing, and brightening a surface.
- Sodium cocoyl glutamate, great for naturally creating suds and foam.
Think about how you want your shower to smell after it’s been cleaned, especially if you’re employing the use of more than one cleaner (though, do be warned, there are a lot of chemicals that shouldn’t be mixed together, as housekeepers have warned us before). The cleaners on our list are naturally aromatic thanks to essential oils and plant extracts, offering citrusy, herbal, and clean scents that won’t give you a headache like most artificial fragrances can. But as HumbleSuds points out on the back of its packaging, even though it smells good enough to eat, you should never ingest it.
Q: How often should I clean my shower?
In an ideal world, you should aim to give your shower a quick spray-down about once a week (that’s where the cleaners by Grove and Method come in handy). Then do a deep clean roughly once a month to disinfect, though it all depends on how often you’re cleaning in between as well as what’s in your water. Our hack: Clean after showering! Keep your spray nearby and give the whole area a spritz, then wipe it down with a cloth, sponge, or squeegee. Last but not least, don’t forget your shower curtain if you don’t have a glass door. Lauren Haynes of Star Domestic Cleaners told Domino that you can simply throw it in the washer (the liner, too!) and let it air-dry.
Q: For when I do deep clean, any tricks on how to pretreat my shower tile?
Get steamy! Whether you actually take a shower first or let the water run for a few minutes, the heat can boost the effectiveness of your cleaner; plus everything will already generally be wetted down.
Q: Any DIY alternatives I can try instead to clean my shower?
We’ve learned that there’s a DIY for everything. If you’d rather get crafty with your bathroom cleaning supplies, try mixing a 1:5 ratio of white vinegar to water in a spray bottle (for a bit of extra fighting power, you can even add a couple squirts of dish soap). If the vinegar smell is a bit intense, add a few drops of essential oil. The acidity of vinegar is great at breaking down pretty much anything, so feel free to take this mixture beyond your bathroom to the kitchen, too. Otherwise, there are all sorts of great ingredients for cleaning the shower that can be found in your home—check out this helpful resource list.
The Last Word
The bathroom is a breeding ground for mold and germs—and constant humidity and moisture in the shower just makes the situation worse. And if you’re hesitant to douse your tub in bleach, we hear you—we made sure the best shower cleaners made from plant-based ingredients are still pretty effective by testing them out in our bathrooms, but know that you can always DIY your way to a squeaky-clean shower.
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