All You Need To Deep Clean Your Shower Are These Products & Some Elbow Grease
Here, we share a few products that earn high marks for human and environmental safety and outline how to use them.
If you're looking for an effective DIY cleaner, skip through to the end for some all-time favorites from the mbg vault.
How to find a shower cleaner that's safe and effective.
First, let's go over what to look for in a healthier shower cleaner. The term natural or chemical-free on a bottle won't necessarily tell you anything since natural has no legally binding definition and all cleaners, even safe ones, contain chemicals. (Heck, water is a chemical.)
So to decide if a product is up to your cleaning standards, you'll need to check out its ingredient list—if you can find it.
The FDA doesn't actually require cleaning companies to disclose their ingredients to consumers.
Lack of transparency is a red flag—especially when it comes to products we're going to literally bathe in—so skip over any company that doesn't have this list.
Then onto the next layer of scrutiny: If a product contains chemicals that can harm the environment when rinsed down the drain or worse, harm you when you breathe them in, you'll want to skip it.
"Some bathroom cleaners may be more acidic (low pH) or basic (high pH) with higher concentrations of acids or alkalis compared to some all-purpose cleaners," explains Samara Geller, a senior research and database analyst for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). "These formulas can be irritating or corrosive to eyes, skin, and airways and can worsen asthma."
Some potential problem ingredients in bathroom cleaning products include triclosan (linked to antibiotic resistance), 1,4 Dioxane (potential carcinogen), and 2-butoxyethanol acetate (causes irritation, headache, and vomiting).
Geller adds bleach-based products, ammonia or ammonium hydroxide, and sodium hydroxide to the list.
Any drain de-clogging liquid you buy will likely contain multiple potentially harmful chemicals, so you're better off avoiding those altogether and using another method.
Sleuthing through product labels can get tedious. We did the legwork and chose six shower cleaners that are safe, effective, and suitable for a number of surfaces.
6 products to try.
Each one has a transparent ingredient list that's been vetted by a third party and deemed safe for you and the planet.
One all-purpose cleaner, one spot treatment, and a glass cleaner if you have a glass shower door should be all you need in your cleaning arsenal.
Always test out new products on a small patch of surface first to make sure your shower is OK with them.
1. Lemi Shine Shower + Tile Cleaner (all-purpose)
This spray can be used to spruce up most showers (though those with marble or other porous surfaces will want to go with something else), and its ingredient list earns an A rating on the EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning, which reviewed 2,000 popular household cleaners on their transparency and ingredient safety.
Lemi Shine Shower + Tile Cleaner, 28 oz., 3 pk. ($19.99)
2. Seventh Generation Tub & Tile Natural Cleaner, Emerald Cypress & Fir (all-purpose)
Seventh Generation has long been churning out safe and environmentally friendly products at reasonable prices, and their tub and tile cleaner is no exception. It's certified biodegradable, scented using exclusively essential oils, and safe to use every day (just not on marble or brass).
Seventh Generation Emerald Cypress & Fir Tub & Tile Cleaner, 32 oz. ($2.99)
3. Earth Friendly Products ECOS Shower Cleaner with Tea Tree Oil (all-purpose)
This cleaning spray is formulated without nasties like chemical dyes, parabens, phosphates, or phthalates and touts the EPA Safer Choice certification. As a company, ECOS was just named a 2020 Safer Choice Partner of the Year Award Winner for its commitment to using safer chemicals in its products.
Earth Friendly Products ECOS Shower Cleaner with Tea Tree Oil, 22 oz., 2 pk.
4. Branch Basics Oxygen Boost (for mold or tougher buildup)
Branch Basics' star product is a multipurpose concentrate formulated to be safe for even the most sensitive of users.
Their Oxygen Boost takes it up a notch to fight tougher stains sans bleach, ammonia, fragrances, or dyes. Sprinkle it on top of dirt buildup or mold, let sit for one to five minutes, then wipe clean with a scrub brush. The Branch Basics team recommends finishing by spraying hydrogen peroxide on the area and letting it dry.
Branch Basics Oxygen Boost, 2 lbs. ($10)
5. Concrobium Mold Control Spray (for mold or tougher buildup)
6. Citra Solv Citra Clear Window & Glass Cleaner
How to clean a shower:
Wipe it down every time you use it (yes, every time).
The secret to a clean shower is regular maintenance. Wipe down all the shower's hard surfaces after every use with a squeegee, towel, or microfiber cloth, and guide any leftover water down the drain so it doesn't sit and promote mold. This step shouldn't take more than a minute and it also does the work of preventing soap scum buildup.
Get the air flowing.
Next, open windows or run exhaust fans to zap any leftover liquid. If you don't have either, Harvard's Healthy Buildings report suggests investing in a free-standing fan for your bathroom. This step is important because it lowers humidity levels—again, a preventive measure for mold. According to environmental toxicity expert Ann Shippy, M.D., you'll want to keep your bathroom air as close to 50% humidity as possible to stave off mold buildup (a portable humidity reader will tell you when you've gotten there, and they run cheap).
Once a week, use a cleaner.
The frequency of deeper cleans will depend on the size of your household, but once a week is a good general rule of thumb. Every week, designate a day to wipe down the entire shower with an all-purpose cleaner like the ones listed above (again, making sure to patch-test with any new product). For spots where grime doesn't want to come up, use a spot treatment.
Really get in the crevices where the tub or shower floor meets the wall since that's where buildup tends to form. A bathroom scrubber or designated tub toothbrush comes in handy here. Don't forget to wipe down your faucets, shower head, and shower tracks, too. Staying proactive with this weekly shower scrub should protect against mold.
With the right ingredients, homemade cleaners can be effective in the bathroom too. If you'd rather skip the bottled stuff, here are a few recipes to try.
For an all-purpose spray:
For a spray to use on any hard surface in your shower (or the rest of your bathroom), cleaning expert and founder of Clean My Space Melissa Maker recommends adding equal parts white vinegar and dish soap to a spray bottle. Feel free to put a few drops of an antimicrobial essential oil like tea tree in there as well.
For a spot treatment:
This abrasive spot treatment from Maker calls for equal parts baking soda and dish soap. Form into a paste, and apply to problem patches. Let sit for five minutes before wiping clean with a sponge.
For the drain:
As an alternative to sending harsh drain cleaners, pour three cups of boiling water down your drain and follow it up with a cup of baking soda. Let sit for a minimum of one hour before slowly sending 3 cups of white vinegar down the drain. "This, combined with the baking soda, will cause a bubbling reaction that can help loosen up whatever is stuck in there," Maker previously told mbg of how to clean shower drains. Let hot water run down your drain for a minute to help flush away any leftover gunk.
For the shower rods and curtains.
To shine up your shower, make a cleansing scrub of ¼ cup baking soda, 1 to 2 tablespoons Castile soap, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Apply to rods, faucets, and other metal features of your shower, let sit for a minute or so, then wipe down with a damp cloth or sponge.
The bottom line.
Showers can get pretty grimy, but a number of cleaners that you can buy or whip up yourself should be up for the challenge. When paired with good post-shower habits, they can make your bleach habit a thing of bath times past.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.