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Cleaning the Glass Shower Door

August 2, 2010

Searching the internet for the easiest way to clean my glass shower doors, I became overwhelmed by the number of suggestions. There were recommendations for everything from the obvious (scrubbing bubbles) to the not so obvious (dryer sheets). I decided to figure out what would work best for me. After setting up a simple test area, I picked 12 products, and set it up Battle Royal style; 12 products enter, one product remains.

For the fastest, quickest way to eliminate the appearance of soap scum and hard water spots, Lemon Pledge wins hands down. It required no rubbing and no residue removal. Pure lemon oil came in a close second. However, you will need to remove the residue using your favorite method of cleaning glass. I did find that lemon juice and vinegar + baking soda paste both worked, but required much more rubbing than lemon oil or pledge. And by much more rubbing, I mean, I finally gave up! You can find images of results at the Flickr site.

Recommendation: Start by applying lemon juice (25% strength up to 75% strength for tough messes) with a clean towel. Just wipe on in small circles. Clean lemon juice off with Lemon Pledge (CAREFUL: do not let the pledge touch anywhere you plan to stand! SERIOUSLY!). Wipe on, wipe off; that’s it. If you prefer to not use Pledge, pure Lemon Oil does a great job as well. Wipe on; wipe off (no rubbing necessary). You will have to clean the residue of the oil off, so it’s a little more work. Regardless, these methods are much faster AND easier than any other method I’ve ever used

So, today was the day.  CLEAN THE SHOWER.  The quest: discover the quickest product that will get the job done.  It’s me vs. the enemy: 

 

  

In the past, I have used scrubbing bubbles, x-11, CLR, Kaboom, and many others, but it generally requires multiple applications and a lot of scrubbing.  Surely, there’s some product or technique that will 

  1. remove the scum, and
  2. keep it from coming back.

After scouring the internet, I realized that I had more than one problem.  A lot of the residue that I was seeing was not soap scum but also hard water buildup.  Great, TWO problems. 

Now, of course the shower is more than just the glass doors, but based on the images below, you can see that the glass component will be enough to focus on for today!

 

The Experiment: 

Based on my past experiences with products, I decided to test the following different suggestions that I found online 

  • Lemon Juice
  • CLR
  • Barkeepers Friend
  • Pledge (long shot.  Chosen because my advisor used it for everything.  Stainless steel, dry erase boards, you name it).
  • Dryer sheets
  • Lemon Oil
  • 409
  • Clorex Clean-Up
  • Spic-n-Span
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda Paste
  • Magic Eraser
  • Control (water and paper towel only)

The idea is that I would try all 12 items side by side in a moderately soiled area.  Then, I would select the top 7 items would move on to a second round on a much tougher location.  Hopefully, a winner would emerage. 

Round One: 

I tried the above 11 items + one control item.  Each material was sprayed onto a paper towel which was used to cover the area with the solution in circular motions (with no pressure).  After the appropriate amount of time, each area was rinsed  according to the instructions. 

The results were as follows: 

 

 

Item  Rating  Comments 
Pledge (Commercial Line)  WOW!  Looks great.  Some small spots remaining. 
Clorex clean-up  3.25  Seems good on mildly soiled area.  Hard water spots remaining. 
Lemon Juice  3.25  Some residue and hard water spots remaining. 
Lemon Oil  3.25  Residue remaining after clean-up. 
CLR  3.25  Residue remaining after clean-up.  Eventually cleaned up with vinegar + water. 
BarKeepers Friend  2.75  Some streaks and hard water remaining after clean-up. 
Spic-n-Span  2.25  Heavy residue remaining.  Multiple rounds of clean-up needed. 
Dryer Sheet  2.25  Streaks and hard water remaining after clean up. 
Product 409  2.25  Some residue and hard water 
Magic Eraser  2.25  Hard water spots and streaks remaining. 
Vinegar + Baking Soda  2.25  Some streaks, residue and hard water spots. 
Control (water)  1.00  Residue, hard water spots and soap scum remaining. 

 

Below, you can see some of the images from Round One.  Click on any of the images to navigate to the Flickr site with additional images, annotations, and comments.

 

Round Two: 

Based on my evaluation of performance (ease of use, quality of results), I picked the top seven performs from above for the worst location: the actual shower door. 

Using the same methods as before, I tested the seven underlined products.  Without going into all of the details, I’ll just let you know that Lemon Pledge and Lemon Oil came out as winners, hands down!  They required no scrubbing, just wipe on, and wipe off (and rinse in the case of pure lemon oil).  In fact, just look at the results from just “wiping” pledge on the surface.   

 

If you would like to see a comparison with the other contenders, you can find additional images and comments at the Flickr site

Conclusions: 

For the fastest, quickest way to eliminate the appearance of soap scum and hard water spots, pledge wins hands down.  It required no rubbing and no residue removal.  Pure lemon oil came in a close second.  However, you will need to remove the residue using your favorite method of cleaning glass. 

I did find that lemon juice and vinegar both worked, but required much more rubbing than lemon oil or Pledge.  And by much more rubbing, I mean, I finally gave up!  You can find images of results at the Flickr site.

My concerns regarding the use of Pledge are as follows:

  1. NEVER let Pledge come in contact with a floor surface. It will become like an ice-skating rink. I once put pledge on hardwood floors. OPPS! I can only imagine that if you have a slick tub, you could be in a world of hurt. Lucky for us, we have a very non-slick floor in our shower. But PLEASE, be careful with this.
  2. The hard water spots are still present. They are barely noticable though. I’m not sure how this will hold up under repeated use. I do know that Pledge contains Silicon oil and Naphtha (a petroleum). Both are found in products such as RainX etc, so one can assume that this might help to reduce future buildup. You can find the ingredients in Pledge here, and an interesting discussion about the ingredients of Pledge here.  I will comment on how this holds up in the near future.

Regarding this last point, if you want to remove all visable traces of hard-water stains, you will need to use something acidic.  Given that the lemon juice worked better than the vinegar + baking soda solution (and was cheaper, smelled better, and was more skin friendly than CLR, etc), I would recommend starting with a mild lemon juice solution, then follow up with pledge.  Just be careful if your shower or surrounding area contains any type of natural stone such as Marble, Limestone, or Travertine.  They can all be etched by acid and leave unsightly rough surfaces.  

One final note: 

I’ve been told that you should use RainX once you clean your showers to help reduce future buildup.  Well, I wanted to test that idea as well.  So, a small section of my now clean shower was taped off, and RainX was applied.  I’m curious to see if it will make a difference.  Details after several showers ;) 

Hopefully, the shower will look like this for a while to come! 

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