Q: My shower fixtures have built up a coating of some kind of scaly gunk, and it’s also on the bottom of the glass shower door. Is there a way to clean it off without destroying the finish? – Clark in Miami
A: One of the best home-cleaning recipes for mineral buildup is baking soda and vinegar – the same stuff kids use to make science project “volcanoes.” It’s an inexpensive first step to cleaning scale from your fixtures.
Ideally, you should remove your shower head in order to clean it thoroughly. Turn off water to the shower or bathroom at the nearest shutoff point. (This might be the shutoff for the entire home.) Carefully unscrew the shower head. If you can’t turn it by hand, wrap a soft cloth around the shower head to get a better grip. If you need to use an adjustable wrench to loosen the shower head, wet the cloth and wrap it around the area that will be gripped by the wrench to prevent it from scratching the finish.
Wash the shower head in warm soapy water to remove loose debris and rinse. Next, make a paste using approximately 2 parts baking soda to 1 part vinegar. As the paste foams, apply it to the shower head wherever mineral scale exists, using a soft brush. Pay attention to the sprayer holes: scale tends to build up and reduce the effectiveness of the spray. Set the shower head to the side for 10 to 20 minutes to let the foam work.
Next, brush the paste onto the shower controls, particularly mineral buildup areas. Let the paste sit for at least 20 minutes. Some homeowners wrap the fixtures in plastic to prevent the paste from drying out during this period, but that’s up to you.
Scrub the fixtures and shower head with a soft brush, applying more baking soda-vinegar paste as necessary. Rinse them with clear water. If some mineral scale remains, reapply the paste, let it sit for several more minutes and rinse again.
HOME TIP: Common ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, lemon, etc., are inexpensive and effective alternatives to commercial cleansers.
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