Gentle Abrasive Scrubs To Tackle Scum & Dried Crusty Gunk

There’s always something to contend with when snapping on the rubber gloves for a good house cleaning: bathtub film, dried goo on a child’s dresser (likely of unknown origin), crusty, dried gunk at the back of the refrigerator shelf, a spilled (and of course, dried) condiment in the pantry…something that requires extra TLC, elbow grease and maybe a little determination.

Soft scrubs are an excellent method of lifting all kinds of different residues without scratching or damaging surfaces. When dealing with more delicate surfaces, you’ll want to test a small, hidden area first just to make sure but for the most part, these are pretty safe to use.

Directions For Use: Once the recipe’s mixed and ready to go, apply paste to the troublesome spot and then gently scrub with a damp sponge. Don’t use too much muscle, softly rubbing in a circular motion should the trick. If it’s quite a thick goo you’re having to contend with, it’s helpful to take a dull knife or spoon and lift off as much of the gunk as possible before applying the paste…just be careful not to gouge or nick the surface while doing this.

Ready to get started? Here are two quick and easy recipes to try, use on surfaces where you need some extra power with something that is more moderate than an abrasive powder.

The first is a basic mixture while the second adds a lavender scent using essential oil and powdered milk for making a smoother paste.

Recipe #1:

1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup liquid dish detergent
1/8 to 1/4 cup vinegar

  • Mix the baking soda and soap first, then add the vinegar.
  • Adjust the bicarb amount until you have the consistency you like working with.


  • Just use whatever’s on sale or a generic brand of dish soap and you’ve got yourself some super cheap, yet very effective, homemade softscrub!
  • The liquid dish detergent is what you would use for hand washing dishes, not the stuff you use for the dishwasher.
  • Vinegar’s a great grime buster–so don’t be shy with it…all you need is the regular white, household variety.
  • If you just want to do some spot treatments and don’t need a large amount of softscrub, give the spot a light squirt of dish detergent, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda on top and gently rub. You won’t need to bother with the vinegar for small spots like this.
  • Sometimes all that’s needed is a generous sprinkling of bicarb and a damp sponge.
  • Try heating the vinegar in the microwave first before mixing it in with the other ingredients. You don’t want it super hot, but a warm temperature that’s comfortable to work with.

Lavender Recipe:
*Source: The Naturally Clean Home by Karyn Siegel-Maier

3/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup powdered milk
1/8 cup (one-eighth) liquid castile soap
5 drops lavender Essential Oil

  • Combine all ingredients in a squirt-top bottle and add enough water to make a smooth paste. Shake or stir to mix.
  • Apply to surface, then wipe area with a damp sponge or cloth. Rinse well.

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    • Sarah

    Found the dish detergent to make this recipe too soapy… I was hesitant to use it to clean my child’s bathtub for fear of it making the tub slippery. I would just leave the detergent out.

      • Ruby

      I, too, found it too soapy. But by reducing the soap, I have found the best cleaning product I have ever used. It has cut grime and soap residue quickly. I even use it for the drip pans under burners and baked-on food in pans without a non-stick surface. If there is grit or soap remaining, I spray the surface with water and white vinegar and wipe it down. Thank you, Tip Nut. I like to add Peppermint for a fresh smell.

        • Stacie

        if you leave the soap out, you’re basically cleaning your tub with salt and water – which I guess works! The vinegar neutralizes the baking soda, so omit one of those.

    • Jennie

    I wouldn’t leave the soap out entirely, but add just a little at a time until it has a little foaming power, but isn’t hard to rinse off.

    • Derenda

    Vinegar really does work good on soap scum. I it to clean my vinyl shower curtain by throwing it in the wash with a couple of towels, a cup of vinegar, and some detergeant. It comes out looking like new!

    • Charlotte

    I tried this cleaner on my shower, which had soap scum and hard water build up. It worked great!! I did find it too soapy, it seemed to take forever to rinse all of the bubbles away. Next time I make it I’m going to try and decrease the soap by half and perhaps add a bit more vinegar.

    • Craig the chemist

    This recipe does not make chemical sense. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a mild alkaline substance. Vinegar is 5% acetic acid, obviously a mild acid. Mixing the two together will form a neutralization reaction. You will get a foaming of carbon dioxide, which has no real cleaning power but the advertising people make it sound good. Perhaps this formula works, but I would guess substituting another liquid for vinegar such as water might work just as well.

      • Darlene

      The vinegar is used to get rid of mildew. It also works well to rinse soap residue away, which I’m sure as a chemist you would probably understand. Mixing together the baking soda and vinegar is the part that I would question too. But using the vinegar separately would help remove the mildew and soap scum in the final rinse. It should be a two step process.

        • Stacie

        Two step process – yes!

    • Kit

    Has anyone tried this on a glass stove top? Does it work? If not any ideas on a homemade cleaner for one?

      • Jamie

      If you’ve made any of the homemade dishwasher soaps (powdered) here, that can be used as well on glass top stoves. I use it on mine all the time and it works great.


    I rue the day that I got a white stove top(glass). It is the worst thing to keep clean. Help.

      • Diane

      I LOVE mine! Try Bar Keepers Friend…it works great on the glass top and also on stainless steel pans. I sprinkle that on, then use a plastic covered sponge (Dobie..also HEB) to scour with. It’s actually very gentle on the glass top. If you have burned on stuff, use a razor blade to scrape up excess first, the use the BKF. Hmm..student teaching teacher πŸ™‚

        • Diane

        I haven’t tried this, but I think baking soda would do the same thing.

    • Laura Depuy

    I have made this several times now. It works very well but I cut down on the dish soap. I only use a tablespoon or two at most. It works great and is easier to rinse off that way. πŸ™‚

    • Tressa

    The apartment we live in has a white shower surround. The people who lived there before left us with some nasty surprises to have to clean. I think they used a oil to try to keep soap scum/hard water stains from clinging to the surround, but it has left a gross yellow residue that won’t really go away.

    I’ve scrubbed with bleach, scrubbing bubbles, this soft scrub, and we use the after shower spray after every shower!

    Help if there are any more ideas to get the shower surround back to white and no more residue! Thank you!!!

      • Suzetmarie

      BEST tub shower cleaner

      1/2 cup distilled vinegar
      1/2 cup dawn dish soap

      mix in spray bottle spray tub/shower let sit 1/2 hour and scrub with sponge. Rinse. Works better than tilex. Smells really strong but at least the fumes are not toxic (I hope). Saw this on pinterest and tried it. I was shocked!!!! No you don’t dilute it. At least I did’nt.

        • Katt

        I was so excited when I saw this. I had a shower with 3×3 glazed tiles that had been ignored for 2 years by renters. We bought the house and found this mess. This did not work at all, and I spent a week getting the Dawn suds out of the shower. Hope it works for others.

    • Stephanie

    Tressa, try applying a liquid dishwasher detergent (like Cascade) to the affected areas. The gel will cling to the surface and the enzymes and bleach in it will help remove the surface stains. Let sit for awhile and then wipe/scrub off and rinse thoroughly. Test first in an inconspicuous place. This involves bleach so remember to avoid using ammonia in the same area at the same time.

      • Tressa

      Thank you! I’m going to go home today and try that.

    • Melissa

    I.wash my tub with plain baking soda. Works great!

    • Anna

    I have made the second recipe with the castile soap a couple of times and it works so well to remove grime from the tub and sinks (and there’s a lot with 4 young kids who love the dirt!). I ran out of castile soap one time so used dish detergent instead and it was much harder to mix b/c of the bubbles. I’ll stick to making it with the castile soap. I bought almond liquid castile soap from Vitacost for a good price. This is also a great way to use up stale tasting powdered milk you might’ve bought for making hot chocolate mixes for Christmas gifts πŸ™‚

    • Connie Blair

    What is the milk for? I dont understand the purpose of it

    • jenny

    An even easier, awesome soap grime dissolver: a wedge of lemon. Place fruit side down on countertop and scrub until either all grime/residue is dissolved
    or lemon is just peel. Wipe clean. A second wedge can be used if needed. For bonus, run lemon peel through garbage disposal to freshen sink.

    • Jack

    I have tried almost every thing to removeI have use the various miracle sponges and it usually worked! I will try Barkeeper’s Friend. I don’t think it will work on the skids in my tub but I need to try something because I can not stand these ugly dark marks on the bottom of my tub. If you can suggest a solution please email me. Thanks Jack

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