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louise_allana in greenripples

Help using planet-friendly cleaning products

OK people, I am in need of assistance. I have been trying to use more planet- and people-friendly cleaning products, but I just don't know what to do about my shower. I moved into a rental property six months ago, and when we moved in the grouting in the (rather old) shower was sparkling white. Now, it has many areas of brown/black/red that I don't know how to attack with my new philosophy of cleaning. I haven't dealt with a tiled shower in years. The only thing I have tried, really, is all-purpose cleaner and a good stiff scrubbing, as I'm having trouble getting my head around the science of the different cleaning ingredients and just don't know where to start. The all-purpose cleaner simply lightened the patches without removing them. I'd say the owners have not sealed the grout, so the mould is persistent. I'm thinking this stuff is gonna need the big guns, but, what are the big guns? I haven't used chlorine bleach yet, but this is the only other thing I can think of. Does anyone have any experience to share?

FYI these are the cleaning products I have on hand, feel free to let me know if I am missing something that would help me.

* Bi-carb soda
* White vinegar
* Cloudy ammonia
* Detergent
* Disinfectant
* Lemon juice
* Chlorine bleach

I do a weekly clean, so while I'll put in the extra effort to get rid of this lot, I'd love to find something that would keep this under control with only weekly attention. If I can't I guess I'll have to start drying the tiles after showers. It's depressing me to shower looking at this gunk.


The first word that came to mind was "borax". It's a mineral, available as a white powder that dissolves in water, that discourages fungus (including mould). I have heard that it shouldn't be used too liberally, though, because it is "very strong" (whereas baking soda is much more harmless). I can't vouch for that though.

Google borax bathroom grout mould and explore the results.

I found this, for example, that seems like it would be good for maintenance once you get the bg stuff off:

Mould Inhibiting Spray

2 teaspoons of borax
1 cup of white vinegar

Mix and put into a spray bottle.
Spray on shower tiles etc.
Leave for 30 minutes, then wipe off.
Now if I could just figure out how to get rid of soap scum. Even the strongest, yuckiest conventional chemical cleaners aren't very good at removing it, even with hard scrubbing! *cries*

Oh, and PS: you might already know this, but in your experimentation, don't go mixing bleach and ammonia. Together, they form a deadly gas that eats away at the lining of your respiratory system when inhaled.
Thanks for your reply. I have heard of borax but had forgotten about it. I will look into it.

Re the bleach and ammonia, which I do know about, but thanks... I once decided to use bleach on a really old laundry floor, and put it in the corner where my housemate's cat had peed repeatedly (we had such a time with that cat!) without bothering to clean up the mess first. I realised what I had done about ten seconds later. I spent the next few hours with all the windows and doors open, and sat outside the house waiting until I thought it was safe! I have no real idea if that was necessary, but I really wasn't interested in a trip to hospital!

Re the soap scum thing, I have this formula from the book 'Home Comforts' by Cheryl Mendelson and it is the recommended method from the Ceramic Tile Institute in the US for bad cases of soap scum. Her book is very good so this will probably work, although I haven't used it (maybe I should try it on the grout?):

1. Using a soft cloth or brush, coat the entire surface with undiluted liquid detergent. Allow it to dry for several hours. Let badly neglected surfaces stand overnight.

2. Then wet the surface with a solution of liquid detergent and water, in the same proportions as are recommended for ordinary cleaning.

3. While the surface is still wet, sprinkle it with scouring powder, then scrub with a stiff brush.

4. Rinse it thoroughly and polish it up with a towel.


Soap scum, bacteria

I like chlorine bleach, very effective. Just keep it away from all living things you don't want dead, cloth, wood, etc. If borax will work, that sounds good. Safer, more envrionmentally friendly.
For soap scum, I use Cautic Soda. Very dangerous, be very careful, use gloves, don't scrub with a brush, splatter is dangerous. Wipe on the surface that has soap scum, wait for a while, then wash it off. Caustic soda turns all oil based things into soap, including soap scum, your flesh, greasy dirt, etc.
Caustic soda has no enviromental impact, chlorine has some impact, minimise use.