The world of bathtub and shower cleaners is busy with options. When it comes to cleaning the place you keep yourself clean, you need to account for all the different surfaces and fixtures that could be covered in soap scum and mildew.
Most showers contain some combination of tile, grout, plastic, glass, and metal, all of which have special considerations when it comes to cleaners—you want to pick a cleaner that’s tough enough to save you some elbow grease, but not so tough it will damage your grout.
We tested a batch of the most popular shower cleaners on the market against soap scum and grime, spread across tile, grout, plastic, metal, and glass. We also considered other factors, such as the spray pattern, any antimicrobial properties, and how much you will pay per ounce.
Once all the soap scum was scoured away, two cleaners stood out from the pack. The Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner Spray(available at Amazon) had the best raw stain-fighting power, with Kaboom Foam-Tastic Bathroom Cleaner with OxiClean (available at Amazon) not too far behind. Both cleaners excelled at the various surfaces we tested, scrubbing stubborn stains off grout and leaving streakless shines on glass.
Here are the best shower cleaners we tested, ranked in order:
Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner Spray
Kaboom Foam-Tastic Bathroom Cleaner with OxiClean
Method Antibacterial Bathroom Cleaner
Wet and Forget Weekly Shower Cleaner
Soft Scrub Gel Cleanser with Bleach
Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Grime Fighter
Better Life Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner
Ecos Nontoxic Shower Cleaner
Microban 24-hour Bathroom Cleaner and Sanitizing Spray
CLR Bathroom Routine Clean
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Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner + Bleach
Kaboom Foam-Tastic Bathroom Cleaner
Method Bathroom Cleaner
How We Tested Shower Cleaners
What You Should Know About Buying a Shower Cleaner
Regardless of what surface you need cleaned, Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner Spray will do an excellent job. Difficult stains melted away in just about a single swipe, with very little effort needed. Even stains clinging to grout were gone after a pass or two. We saw no visible residue left behind on glass or metallic surfaces, just a shining reflection.
The spray bottle we tested is able to cover a large area with a thin mist, which helps the cleaner stay where you sprayed it, instead of running down the wall.
The one sticking point for some, however, will be the smell. This cleaner is from Clorox, after all, a name almost synonymous with bleach, and it bears that chemical’s signature scent. Although it kills the coronavirus, its bleach component also means this isn’t one of the safer cleaners on the list—those with younger kids and pets will want to secure this one under the sink.
The Kaboom Foam-Tastic Bathroom Cleaner with OxiClean came in a relatively close second in our testing. The lightweight can is easy to hold and use, and we loved how the thick foam spray clung to surfaces without dripping, making spot-cleaning a breeze.
Those who don’t like cleaners with an overwhelming floral bouquet will also be pleased: Kaboom’s pleasant, mild scent is just enough to remind you it’s there.
In terms of raw cleaning power, we did have to use slightly more elbow grease with the Kaboom than we did with our winner, but not that much. On average, it only took a few additional swipes to get rid of difficult stains.
What the Kaboom lacks in stain-scouring strength, however, it makes up for in value: It only costs $0.20 per ounce, compared to the average price per ounce, $0.27. It’s also less than half as expensive as the most costly cleaner we tested. That means it packs the most punch for its price out of every product we tested.
In the world of cleaning, “nontoxic” is almost synonymous with “not a lot of cleaning power,” which is why we were so surprised by the Method Antibacterial Bathroom Cleaner’s great test results.
This cleaner cuts through grime and soap scum almost as well as our top two contenders, and it showed little to no signs of streaking after a few swipes—all while also being a much safer option for those with younger children or pets.
We didn’t have any issues with the Method cleaner’s spray bottle during testing, and we thought its wide, thin spray pattern was ideal for cleaning large areas. This thin, even distribution also means you won’t have to race to catch any runny drips.
The main downside with the Method Antibacterial Bathroom Cleaner is its price: At most retailers, Method runs about twice as much per ounce, compared to its competitors. The extra few dollars may not be worth it for many consumers, but those specifically in the market for a nontoxic option should consider this money well spent.
Since showers are made up of all different types of materials, we made sure to test each of our shower cleaners on the gamut: plastic, tile, grout, glass, and metal. To do this, we marked out swatches on each surface or sets of surfaces. This compartmentalization allowed us to isolate each spray’s performance and cross-compare the swatches after each individual swipe with a sudsed-up sponge.
The stains we chose to test were soap scum and a general sticky grime (similar to the smudge a child may leave behind after eating a PB&J). Each stain was dried on with the help of fans, to ensure the stains were as difficult as possible to clean away.
In general, our testing is separated into two parts, objective and subjective. The objective part is why we have a lab: We use standardized testing methods and precise measurements so we can directly compare products against each other in a slew of different categories.
The subjective part is so we don’t miss all the little details you’d notice just by using these products around your house. Speaking specifically of shower cleaners, maybe it’s a pain to lock or unlock the bottle’s nozzle, or the spray tends to run down your shower walls so fast you need to be a quickdraw with your cleaning cloth to catch it.
Other factors we considered include how much coverage you were able to get from each spray pattern, and how much cleaner you’ll actually get for the purchase price.
What You Should Know About Buying a Shower Cleaner
Spray Patterns: A cleaner's saving grace or constant mild annoyance
When you clean your shower, do you tend to do intermittent spot-cleaning when you see residue, or do you instead save up the chore for one big deep-cleaning event? The answer to this question could be informative about what type of spray bottle would suit you best.
Spray patterns typically fall into one of three categories: a fine mist, a blob of foam, or a stream.
The fine mist is great for quickly covering a larger area in an evenly-distributed coating of cleaner, which is excellent for those who want to scrub down their whole shower in one go.
The foaming cleaners are best for spot cleaning and for grout, since the foam tends to stick where you spray it and can expand into craggy surfaces.
If you're using a squeeze bottle, or the nozzle on your spray only has a stream mode, then you'll find the cleaner runs down the side of your shower more or less immediately.
We're not a fan of the stream or spray bottles, since if we wanted to cover a large area the fine mist would be more efficient. We found streams and squeeze bottles are best sprayed directly into your cleaning cloth or sponge, since they're cumbersome to apply to surfaces directly.
Cleaners with foaming action can be remarkably different from each other
While "with foaming action" seems to be a popular selling point in the shower cleaner space, not all cleaners that foam up are created equal. Consider the image above, which showcases the spray pattern of three different cleaners with foaming action. The first spray only foams up slightly, the middle spray ran all the way off the tile in the time it took us to snap this picture, and the third spray is stuck exactly where we initially sprayed it.
In our experience, the main benefit of a foaming-action cleaner is its ability to help clean grout or other textured surfaces more easily. Also, its tendency to stay clumped together and stuck to where you sprayed it will make spot-cleaning a smudge much less difficult.
As such, we don't recommend a foaming spray that runs down your shower wall, away from the stain you're trying to spot-clean.
What is the best shower cleaner for mold and mildew?
Mold and mildew are stains best snuffed out sooner than later. Not only will the mold’s spores lower your indoor air quality, it will also eat away at your grout over time, much like it does on vinyl siding. So, what’s the best shower cleaner for getting rid of these biological invaders?
If the first answer that leapt into your head was “something antibacterial” then you need to keep reading. Antibacterial cleaners only fight bacteria, which mold and mildew are not. There are plenty of reasons you may want an antibacterial cleaner, but they won’t do anything special to fight fungus.
The secret in fighting mold and mildew is to make your bathroom inhospitable to their growth in the first place. Mold and mildew need a damp environment, which your bathroom certainly is after a steamy shower. Make sure the room is well-ventilated and that the humidity is allowed to dissipate rapidly. Consider getting a fan or a dehumidifier if you’re still having trouble keeping the area dry.
What is the best shower cleaner for glass?
Glass is a notoriously difficult surface to clean. Not only do glass cleaners need to scrub away splotches and grime, they need to dry perfectly clear: The hazy residue that may go unnoticed on an opaque surface is going to look like a fog bank on glass.
As such, it makes sense to think the glass in your shower requires a similarly-specialized cleaner. In our testing, however, we found that all of the cleaners were able to wipe clean for a streak-free shine, once the stains were wiped away.
Some took more or less swipes to get everything clean, but we saw nothing in our testing that would indicate some of the cleaners would be insufficient at giving your shower’s glass door a spotless sheen.
What is the best shower cleaner for hard-water stains?
Hard-water stains happen when water that’s rich in calcium and/or magnesium is allowed to dry on a surface, resulting in a small deposit of those excess minerals.
Since we’re dealing with hardened minerals here, these stains can be difficult to scrub out—if you don’t have the correct tool.
Fortunately, the correct tool is cheap and easy: common white vinegar. Scrub the surface with a roughly 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water and your white scale deposits should melt away.
One surface we didn’t test for this round-up is the sort of porous plastic material that is common to shower curtains. The reason? They’re incredibly difficult to clean manually and the effort isn’t really worth it. Instead, we recommend using a washing machine, which will do a much more thorough and efficient job.
How good are eco-friendly or DIY shower cleaners (such as baking soda and vinegar)?
While it’s hard to go too wrong with baking soda and vinegar, DIY and eco-friendly soaps and detergents typically can’t measure up to even average offerings in this product space. They’ll usually do a pretty good job, but stubborn stains will require something stronger.
One caveat: Be careful where you use more astringent natural cleaners like vinegar. While vinegar’s acidity is great at dissolving hard-water stains, it’s also great at dissolving unsealed grout. Make sure to only use vinegar to clean localized stains, far from any sealant.
Other Shower Cleaners We Tested
Wet & Forget Shower
We were initially skeptical of the Wet and Forget Weekly Shower Cleaner’s giant jug of a bottle, but quickly came to like it. While lugging around a jug may seem more difficult than a smaller bottle, its spray head is connected to the main jug by a very long retractable tube.
This design lets you hold the jug in one hand, giving the other full range of motion. It was actually more lightweight than a traditional spray bottle, as the arm doing all the moving and spritzing isn’t encumbered by water weight.
Innovative bottle design aside, the Wet and Forget Weekly Shower Cleaner performed excellently on our tests, scrubbing stains off glass without major streaking and getting the grime out of grout with only an additional swipe or two compared to the top performers.
Those sensitive to smells will be pleased to note this was the one cleaner we tried that seemed to be completely scentless, whereas every other cleaner on this list had at least a mild scent.
Detachable spray nozzle with extension hose provides full range of movement
Soft Scrub Gel Cleanser with Bleach has good cleaning power, melting away the overwhelming majority of our test stains in a single swipe, with only a few follow-ups needed to rid the rest. It is not as good with glass as some other options on this list, but we were still able to get the glass spotless with very little effort.
The main issue we have with this cleaner is its squeeze bottle. Whereas spray bottles are much easier to apply to a specific area for spot cleaning, you just can’t do that with a squeeze bottle. Picture trying to apply soap to a smudge with a ketchup bottle.
Unless you’re aiming to clean the entire wall and start squirting soap at the top, you may prefer to apply the soap directly to your cleaning cloth or sponge instead.
Though not the only cleaner on this list that uses bleach, this Soft Scrub is very good at not smelling like it uses bleach. We thought its smell was relatively mild and nowhere near as pungent as other bleach-based cleaners we tested.
Good cleaning power
Very mild smell for a bleach-based cleaner
Its squirt bottle makes applying the soap to surfaces awkward
The Scrubbing Bubbles Bathroom Grime Fighter and its iconic mascot rank squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to cleaning power. While more of the stain was left behind after an initial swipe when compared to other cleaners, we still didn’t have to scrub particularly hard to get every surface looking spotless.
While we do like foaming action sprays, we were a bit underwhelmed by what Scrubbing Bubbles offered compared to other foaming cleaners we tested. Not only did the foam barely puff up compared to its competitors, it was also very runny. Still, the foaming action it did display seemed to help it clean out grout with one fewer swipe than the average cleaner.
While we had no issue with its test results, this cleaner is more expensive than its competitors. It’s not a large difference, fortunately, so if you want a foaming spray that’s not quite as thick as other available options, Scrubbing Bubbles may be worth the extra few bucks.
Decent cleaning power
More pricy per ounce than cleaners with similar performance
While not the best nontoxic option on this list, the Better Life Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner still managed to out-perform some cleaners that do rely on more harmful chemicals.
While this cleaner did leave a moderate amount of streaks and residue on a first pass, we were able to clean up the straggler stains with a minimum of subsequent scrubs.
Better Life has a standard bottle design that we think works well enough. We also like its thin spray pattern, which provides good coverage and isn’t too runny (though there will be some drips).
Where this Better Life shower cleaner really shines is in its value as a nontoxic option. While other nontoxic options on this list may have more cleaning power, they also cost almost twice as much as the Better Life does.
If you want a more budget-friendly option for a nontoxic cleaner, but don’t want to give up too much cleaning power, we think Better Life Natural Tub and Tile Cleaner is a good pick.
When we think of natural and nontoxic cleaners, we tend to think of cleaners like Ecos Nontoxic Shower Cleaner.
Like many natural cleaners that work well enough, but simply don’t pack the same punch as traditional cleaners, the Ecos shower cleaner took quite a few swipes to scrub away our test stains, and glass surfaces required a bit of polishing to remove lingering streaks and haze. It’ll get the job done, sure, it’ll just take about 10% longer.
In terms of its bottle, the one non-standard feature is that its nozzle can be set to either mist or stream—we recommend sticking with mist.
One of the best qualities of this product is its low cost per ounce—the lowest out of all the products we tested.
If you’re looking for a powerful cleaner, the Ecos isn’t the best choice on this list, though we do recommend it as a cheap, nontoxic option.
Doesn't cut through stains as well as other options
In short: While the Microban 24-hour Bathroom Cleaner and Sanitizing Spray can uniquely keep a surface free from bacterial growth for up to 24 hours, it’s not the best in terms of raw cleaning power.
We found this cleaner needed more scrubbing than average to fully erase our test stains, and glass surfaces required a bit of a polish afterwards to remove streaks.
The cleaner comes in a standard spray bottle and has a medium-density spray that was a bit runny in our opinion: Attempting to spot clean a stain will mean rushing to catch the drips before they stray too far.
Overall, if you’re interested in the best antibacterial cleaner in the business, Microban has a good claim to that title. If you’re just looking for a cleaner that can cut through gunk with ease, then look elsewhere.
We won’t lie: This one surprised us. While CLR Bathroom Routine Clean certainly has a brand name and reputation that precedes it, it fell behind all of the other available options we tested.
First and foremost, its cleaning power just doesn’t measure up. After a few swipes, the CLR’s swatches were still streaky with residue remaining. For comparison, it took the CLR eight swipes to clear grime off tile, whereas it took the average cleaner four swipes to get the same stain gone and the remaining surface just as spotless.
The CLR’s spray is a mixed bag. It creates a thick, foamy, dollop where sprayed, which we would prefer to a runnier formulation if it weren’t for the fact that said dollop doesn’t stay put either: The whole blob of foam tends to run down surfaces, away from where you initially sprayed it and, presumably, the stain you want to clean.
As may be expected, the CLR brand also comes at a slightly higher price compared to some of the other cleaners we tested, so it’s not a particularly compelling value buy either.
All in all, you can and will get surfaces clean with CLR, it’ll just take longer and you’ll have to put in more effort.
It is possible that it’s formulated more specifically for the C (calcium), L (lime), and R (rust) implied by its name, which fell outside the purview of this test. If you’re looking for a cleaner that excels in these areas, it’s possible CLR is the right option for you. As a more generalized cleaner? We don’t recommend it.
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