What Causes Soap Scum To Build Up?

Have you noticed something different on your shower curtain? As if there are unusual wavy designs on them that you haven’t seen before. Or have you noticed some discoloration on your bathroom fixtures, bathtubs, and even your bathroom tiles? This can be troublesome, as it can make your bathroom fixtures look old within a month of buying them. While you know for a fact that by the time you purchased them from the store, those were not their original colors and design.

Now, to think that our bathroom and laundry areas could be one of the cleanest parts of our house, then you better have second thoughts about this. Even though we clean our bodies in a bathroom and wash our clothes in a laundry area, these places are not guaranteed to be dirt-free, or more specifically, soap scum-free.

All these unusual wavy designs on them that are off-white or gray chalky colored are called soap scum. These soap scums, or sometimes called lime soaps, are the white solid deposits that are composed of calcium stearate, magnesium stearate, and other alkali products of fatty acids. Soap scums usually cover surfaces where soap is commonly used, like in the bathroom and laundry. 

Now that you have an idea about soap scum, the next thing you should know is what causes them to build up. After learning these things, you can easily remove those pesky soap scum or prevent them from building up. 

If you are looking for answers to the usual formation of soap scum in your bathroom, continue reading. In this article, we are going to looking the cause of soap scum buildup and ways to prevent them. 

Cause of Soap Scum Build Up

The main culprit here of soap scum buildup is hard water. Hard water is commonly found in tap water coming from a typical residential faucet or showerhead, where the water supply is not treated. So when soap is mixed with hard water, then it will result in the formation of soap scum.

Formation of Hard Water

So what’s with hard water for soap scum to build up? Despite being in liquid form, water can be called “hard” if it has some added properties in them. Hard water is water with contents high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium. And they are formed when water flows through large deposits of calcium and magnesium carbonates, bicarbonates, and sulfates, which are commonly seen in chalks, gypsums, or limestones.

Drinking hard water might give a person some health benefits. On the other hand, utilizing hard water as a cleaning ingredient or as a medium in industrial settings will cause serious problems. Large equipment will have a costly breakdown that sometimes requires long repairs and expensive replacement of certain parts. Now, to avoid such incidents for using hard water, the water supply is being treated. This treatment is called water softening.

Treating Hard Water

Water softening is a type of water treatment to reduce the hardness of the water, and it is commonly used in industrial settings to protect machines. While in residential areas, water softening treatment is rare because of the added space it requires and the cost of equipment needed to install. Because of this, water treatment seems to be impractical in households, making soap scum inevitable. 

How to reduce soap scum?

There is still hope; there are strategies to lessen soap scum buildup. Unfortunately, there is no magic wand; regular cleaning is the only solution. Yet, there are a few techniques you may use every day to slow the rate at which it accumulates.

In the shower:

Rinse the shower pan and tiles well to remove any leftover suds, especially shampoo suds. To further prevent against scratches, wipe the glass with a towel or microfiber cloth after removing the water with a squeegee. Once a month, take down your shower curtain and wash it in the washing machine before hanging it back up to dry.

In the bath:

Following a bath, rub the “ring” with a moist face wash before wiping with a towel or microfiber cloth. Although the bath may appear to be rather clean, give a bath bomb a try and see. It will find a ring!

In the basin sink:

Rub your clean hands around the sink to remove any suds or buildup after washing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Extra points if you use a towel or microfiber cloth to clean it up. Soap scum can build up in your bathroom sink quickly, but not as much from actual soap. A film is frequently created in the sink by toothpaste residue, hairspray, cosmetics, and skincare items. Soap then clings to this film so don’t blame soap too quickly.

Effects of Soap Scum

Whether in an industrial setting or in a regular household, soap scum can be irritating. When mixed with hard water, these scums will start to form on surfaces. If left uncleaned, the soap scum would continue to build up, which would cause various effects to your bathroom tiles. 

The problem with soap scums, they can be sneaky since they are blended with water that you normally use for cleaning. And if these soap scums are left unchecked for a long time, they will start to buildup on the surface of your bathroom tiles, floors, and fixtures. Then, if they are not removed at an early stage, soap scums will start to hard themselves on the surface.

In some cases, soap scums mix up with mold and mild dew that causes discoloration of most surfaces, or worst it can also result in unusual odor in your bathroom or laundry areas. In rare cases, they can be as hard as concretes that it will be difficult for you to remove them.

Remember, prevention is always better than cure. To prevent all these hassles, try to remove these soap scums when you first notice them, or you can also try to clean your bathroom and laundry area regularly and always dry them up with a dry cloth. Regularly cleaning your bathroom is a great practice to prevent dirt and scum buildup in the future. This could help keep your bathroom clean and longer-lasting. 


We all know that soap scum is an irritating mess to deal with in the bathroom. It makes the floor slippery and looks dirty, and in addition, it could lead to permanent changes to your bathroom tiles. There are different causes for soap scum to build, but one of the most common is hard water found in tap water. 

Having soap scum seems to be unavoidable since we commonly use tap water in everyday tasks, such as taking a bath or washing the dishes. Because of this, soap scum would eventually build up in your kitchen sink or bathroom. A good practice is to always keep these places clean and remove the soap scums to avoid causing long-term effects. 

Having soap scum once in a while is totally fine, but if not treated, it would continue to grow could cause permanent adverse effects to your bathroom. So if you are experiencing soap scum in your bathroom, it is best to treat it at an early stage to avoid such problems in the future.

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