We Tested the Best Shower Tile Cleaners, From Quick-Fix Sprays to Actually Cute Brushes
There’s even a DIY-friendly formula we bet you already have in the pantry.
Published May 23, 2022 3:06 PM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
We spend a lot more time wiping down our bathroom mirror and sinks, surfaces that easily harbor dust and toothpaste splatter, even sweeping the floor or scrubbing our toilet…but shower tile? It’s easier to ignore. You can just hide that with a sweep of a curtain. It’s one of those spots (like the oven, the bedroom closet, the junk drawer) that guests don’t ordinarily see, so naturally we’re less likely to spend our hard-earned free time over the weekend keeping it clean.
Eventually, though, you’ll start to spot the dreaded specks of pink mold gathering in your grout lines, one of the three main offenders when it comes to shower-tile buildup. Soap scum is a combination of leftover soap and skin cells (ew) and mostly an inevitable by-product of showering, while “dampness combined with poor ventilation equals mold and mildew,” says Melissa Maker of Clean My Space. The good news? It can be fixed. The average news? A clean shower requires daily maintenance to avoid the buildup of nastiness in the first place.
One of the easiest ways to keep gunk at bay is to squeegee your shower walls after every wash, offers Maker. Otherwise you’ll need to enlist the help of one of the best shower tile cleaners. Luckily, we did all the preparing-for-guests labor by trying out a range of tile-cleaning products, literally doing the dirty work for you. These six took our showers from dull to sparkling.
- Best overall: Better Life Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner
- Best value: Distilled White Vinegar
- Best scrub brush: Grove Co. The Tub Buster
- Best daily cleaner: Method Eucalyptus Mint Daily Shower Spray
- Best for set-in scum: Humble Suds Scouring Paste
- Best brush for small areas: Redecker Small Scrub Brush
Best Overall: Better Life Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner
Type: Plant-based spray | Application: Spray, scrub, rinse. | Size/volume: 32 fluid ounces | Scent: Tea tree and eucalyptus
What we like:
- Dissolves soap scum and hard water stains with no harsh fumes
- Refreshing tea tree, eucalyptus, and lemongrass scent
- Pro tip: Leave to soak for a bit before scrubbing
- Large bottles take up a good chunk of storage space
- Requires a bit of scrubbing to remove really stubborn spots
Why we chose it: This heavy-hitting tub and tile cleaner is the best of the bunch when it comes to dissolving soap scum and other buildup without harsh fumes.
If you’re going to invest in one product from this guide, let it be the Better Life cleaner. There’s a reason it gets thousands of positive reviews—it really cuts through grime on your shower tile (or glass! or fixtures!), without a whole lot of elbow grease involved. We sprayed down a wall of tile and walked away for 10 to 15 minutes before going in with a scrub brush, which really helped work the product beyond the tile and into the grout as well. One small caveat: We admit to having to do some hard scrubbing in areas where the pink mold was pretty far along (yuck), but this cleaner still did a great job at tackling it.
But the best part? The total lack of harsh fumes. Instead of chemical odors triggering a coughing fit, we enjoyed the gentle mix of tea tree, eucalyptus, and lemongrass, which was super-pleasant to breathe in and lingered in the bathroom.
Best Value: Distilled White Vinegar
Type: Distilled white vinegar and water solution | Application: Spray, scrub, rinse away | Size/volume: 1 gallon
What we like:
- Single-ingredient cleaner safe for pets and children
- Can be used for a multitude of other cleaning (and cooking!) purposes
- Deodorizes and leaves tiles streak-free
- Doesn’t create a foaming or sudsy action on its own
- The scent of vinegar will linger, if you happen to be sensitive to its sharpness
Why we chose it: Affordable, effective, and multipurpose: Vinegar is the best.
Vinegar, vinegar…what can’t it do? Not much, apparently. We’re huge fans of cleaning with distilled white vinegar, because it’s naturally odor neutralizing, antibacterial, and totally safe for ingestion (which is important for those of us with pets at home that lick anything and everything). We mixed up a batch of this solution à la Melissa Maker in a spray bottle and went to town on some tile. It’s just vinegar, water, and optional essential oil if you’d like to cut down on the vinegary smell. You can use this same spray for deodorizing rugs and upholstery and cleaning glass surfaces. Multipurpose for the win!
The drawbacks here are pretty obvious: Vinegar doesn’t create any kind of sudsing or bubbling on its own, but you can certainly apply a paste of water and baking soda to the tile first before spritzing it down with vinegar for a very satisfying, science experiment–style reaction. The smell of vinegar also tends to linger for a few hours, but if this doesn’t bother you (we associate the smell with freshly cleaned things now), then go forth! Spray everything with vinegar!
Best Scrub Brush: Grove Co. The Tub Buster
Type: Recycled plastic, cellulose, bamboo scrub brush | Application: Scrubbing
What we like:
- Multiple heads can be swapped for wiping or scrubbing
- Made from recycled plastic and plant-based materials
- Pretty enough to leave out if need be (or you forget)
- The sponge head isn’t super-effective for lifting tough spots
- Bamboo handle is not as comfortable as a rubber one
Why we chose it: Three tools in one: This brush can wipe and scrub with an easy switch from sponge to bristles.
When it comes to scrubbing down tile, you definitely need a tool on hand besides just a cleaning cloth or paper towel. Bathroom tile (and grout specifically) attracts a lot of crud and needs a bit of agitation to get clean, which this scrubber set is perfect for. Made from recycled plastic and plant-based materials like cellulose and bamboo (what’s not to love?), it has three separate cleaning heads: The cellulose scrubber is great for loosening grime from the tiles; the scrub brush makes quick work of gunky grout; and the sponge is soft enough to gently wipe tiles clean.
While we hadn’t experienced this ourselves, some reviewers did state that the bamboo handle was not as comfortable to hold as, say, a rubber one, but the added bonus is that it’s attractive enough to leave out between scrub sessions.
Best Daily Cleaner: Method Eucalyptus Mint Daily Shower Cleaner Spray
Type: Biodegradable cleaning spray | Application: Spray and walk away. | Size/volume: 28 ounces | Scent: Eucalyptus mint
What we like:
- Biodegradable formula that’s safe for pets and kids
- All you need to do is spray the walls down after a shower
- Refreshing scent of eucalyptus and mint
- Not made for deep cleaning
Why we chose it: A daily cleaning ritual that requires basically zero effort.
As we said earlier, showers are best dealt with on a daily basis, and this spray cleaner is our go-to for every day maintenance, because the only energy it requires is applying pressure to the trigger. All you have to do is spritz the shower down each time you use it—that’s it. This formula was developed to break down grime and prevent it from building up, so while it’s not meant for deep cleaning, it will certainly prolong the need to do a real scrubbing session.
Method is a certified B Corp (which means it meets high standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability), plus its products are biodegradable and safe for use in homes with kids and pets, who love to lick things and stick their hands in their mouths. Oh, and it has a delightful eucalyptus and mint scent, which is kind of perfect for a bathroom, if you ask us.
Best for Set-In Scum: Humble Suds Scouring Paste
Type: Biodegradable cleaning paste | Application: Scrub and rinse away. | Size/volume: 11 ounces | Scent: Sweet orange and lemongrass
What we like:
- Great for gunk and grime that’s been sitting for a while
- No harsh ingredients means it’s safe for bare hands
- The definition of multipurpose
- Does require manual scrubbing
- Can leave behind a residue if you use too much
Why we chose it: This paste has powerful scrubbing power for particularly neglected nooks and crannies of shower tile.
We love this one so much we included it in our shower cleaning picks, too. When your shower tile needs more than just a spritz and a wipe, this cleaning paste is the one to call in. It’s made from only five supersimple and safe ingredients: sodium bicarbonate, castile soap, vegetable glycerin, sweet orange essential oil, and lemongrass essential oil.
All you need is a tablespoon of paste to cover a pretty large area (we did about 4 square feet with this much), and you can scrub it on in a circular motion with a cloth, sponge, or just your hand if that’s all you’ve got. This paste is also a great multipurpose product that can tackle a variety of tasks, like get stainless steel sinks back to their shine, clean produce, lift away stuck-on drips inside an oven, and even exfoliate your hands.
Best Brush for Small Areas: Redecker Small Scrub Brush
Type: Untreated beechwood and palmyra fiber | Application: Scrub brush
What we like:
- Small size is great for hard-to-reach crevices and corners
- Fits nicely in the palm of your hand
- Stiff, natural bristles
- A bit small if you have a large area to cover
- Shouldn’t be stored in the shower itself
Why we chose it: Aesthetics and function go hand in hand with this small-space scrubber that’s a welcome addition to your decor, too.
You know that whole thing where, if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind? It certainly applies to cleaning, and if your favorite tools aren’t easily within reach, you might be less tempted to use them (or forget they exist altogether). This adorable little scrub brush, however, demands to be seen. You won’t mind leaving it out on the bathroom counter or styled on a shelf, because it’s just so dang cute.
The untreated beechwood is right at home in any design style and sits comfortably in your palm (thanks to the gentle curve and small size) even after prolonged scrubbing, while the natural fibers are decidedly French in aesthetics, and who doesn’t want to scrub their shower like a cool French girl? The small size also means it’s easy to cram into hard-to-reach crevices and corners, but not particularly great for large areas.
How We Chose These Products
All the products we picked meet one or more of the below criteria: They’re made with naturally derived and safe ingredients; they really, truly work at scrubbing shower tile clean; they have beautiful packaging that we’d be happy to display; and they’re made from pretty and eco-conscious materials like recycled plastic and bamboo.
At Domino, we believe cleaning products don’t need to be harsh on skin or lungs, and we certainly wouldn’t recommend a product that doesn’t fully disclose its ingredient list. A shower is a place you’re meant to get clean, after all, and you can’t do that in a place you’re not sure is safe for you and your family.
Each of the products was tested in similar conditions (read: put up against equally dirty shower tile), and the directions on the label were followed exactly to leave little margin for error. The ones that made the cut both effectively cleaned the grout around the tile as well as made the tile itself shine and sparkle again, or they worked well as a daily cleaner to stave off gunk buildup.
Our Shopping Checklist
Types of Cleaners
Depending on how dirty your shower tile is, you might want to go for an all-purpose tub and tile spray solution for regular cleaning, a scouring paste for particularly tough grime, or a daily shower cleaner for maintenance each time you use the shower. All of these product types are effective for getting your tile sparkling, together or separately.
We limited our list of the best shower tile cleaners with transparent ingredient labels, testing the effectiveness of nontoxic formulas packaged or made from either biodegradable or recycled materials. The cleaning solutions are made from simple ingredients like castile soap, distilled white vinegar, and essential oils, while the cleaning tools are made from natural fibers, plant-based sponges, and recycled plastic.
Crossing off a chore on your to-do is all the more satisfying when your home smells as clean as it looks. We favored spalike fragrances over fake ones that tickled our nose. We chose products with nuanced, natural scents—like sweet orange, eucalyptus, and lemongrass—that also enhance the effectiveness of a spray or paste. None of the products we chose feature synthetic scents, and they certainly won’t leave you coughing or with an irritated throat like some heavy-duty bathroom cleaners or bleach might.
Packaging and Design
We have a soft spot for products that are not only effective but attractive enough to leave out on the counter or in the bathtub as a reminder for regular cleaning. The best shower tile cleaners, whether a spray or liquid solution, come in simple packaging; the cleaning paste lives in a beautiful amber apothecary-style jar; and the scrub brushes are made with neutral, natural materials that will fit right in with your bamboo shower caddy or teak bath mat.
Q: Is it possible to clean my shower tile without having to scrub so hard?
Certainly! We’d recommend leaving the Better Life Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner sit on your tile for 10 to 15 minutes before scrubbing, so as to break down dirt and grime first. The other solution is to spray and squeegee your shower after each use (or as often as you can) to cut down on serious scrubbing later. The steam from your bath session also naturally loosens up buildup.
Q: What do the professionals use to clean their clients’ showers? Any tips or tricks to make the chore easier (and get it done quicker)?
Our cleaning expert for this story, Melissa Maker, uses a tried-and-true solution of vinegar, water, and essential oils, and she swears it’s all that’s needed to get the job done. If you’re not into the scent of vinegar, scroll up for some great alternatives.
Q: My glossy shower tile is looking pretty… cloudy? How can I get it sparkling clean again?
This is likely a buildup of soap scum over the tile; it’s just more noticeable in your shower, because your tile is meant to be glossy, not matte. We’d recommend any of the above cleaners, really, just be sure to rinse the product off thoroughly and wipe or squeegee all leftover liquids.
Q: Does it matter if my shower cleaner is antibacterial?
For most areas of the house, cleaning with multipurpose sprays and pastes is all you need to do. According to Maker, “Many germs will be physically removed” while completing regular cleaning tasks, but a disinfectant can be the final step if you’re looking to destroy all bacteria on a surface. Keep in mind that “any disinfectant (or cleaner and disinfectant product) needs to sit for at least five to 10 minutes, wet, to kill any bacteria,” stresses Maker. And always be sure to check the label on your specific product.
The Last Word
If your shower tile needs a basic scrubbing, we’d highly recommend Better Life Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner, as it’s safe for pets and kids and really gets the job done. But for more intense jobs, turn to Humble Suds’s scouring paste.