No-Scrub Tub Cleaning: One Easy Trick to Make Your Shower Sparkle (Effortlessly!)

Updated on December 16, 2012
Powdered Borax
Powdered Borax | Source

I have hard water. It turns the toilet bowl a rusty color and coats the shower walls with scaly mineral deposits. Because it's hard to clean (and I'm kind of a lazy cleaner), I don't clean my shower that often. So when I do, it's a project. I get out multiple bottles of toxic tile cleaner, lots of brushes and scrubbies, and then dive in.

But no matter what I do, there are always places I can't quite get clean. Oh, sure, they look clean. But if you run your hand over the shower walls, you can feel rough spots: soap scum and mineral deposits that just aren't going anywhere.

But then! A cleaning miracle

This fall, on Thanksgiving morning, when I was frantically trying to get the bathroom presentable for guests...I ran out of cleaner.

And in a fit of inspiration, I grabbed a box of borax. And the result was like a beam of cleansing light bursting from the heavens.

Because borax, just plain borax, is AWESOME.

I sprinkled it in the bottom of the tub, swishled it around with a scrubber, and it was Soap scum gone, rust stains gone, mineral scale GONE.

The whole thing took about 90 seconds. I wasn't even aiming for super-clean -- a lack of visible dirt would have been just fine -- but that tub got cleaner than it has in months.

Did I mention how awesome this was??

A (slightly) more scientific explanation

When mixed with water (especially hot water), Borax converts some molecules to hydrogen peroxide, which helps clean and bleach. It also produces a basic solution, allowing detergents and bleaches to work more effectively--which is why its so often used as a laundry booster.

Borax also can interfere with the metabolism of certain organisms, which makes it useful as a fungicide, herbicide, and insecticide. (Which is also why you shouldn't eat or breathe it.)

Why borax rocks the cleaning world

So borax is itself a mineral, which apparently gives it super powers against other minerals. Like baking soda, it's long been recognized as the workhorse of the cleaning world. It's an ingredient in lots of cleansers and it's been sold for a long time as a laundry additive.

I've even used it myself, when I get motivated and make my own homemade spray cleaners.

The reason that I had a box in the first place, actually, was that I was planning on mixing up a bottle of Alice's Wonder Spray, which is a fabulous and yummy smelling kitchen cleaner. But before I got around to Alice, I read the back of the borax box, which suggests using it as a toilet bowl cleaner.

So (this was sometime before the fateful Thanksgiving morning), I dumped a bunch in my rusty toilet (which, I swear, has started developing mineral deposits that look chunky. It's like the water in my house gets harder by the day). I let it sit, swished it around with a toilet brush, and voila! It worked really well. But never occurred to me to use it in the tub. Until the no-cleanser emergency, anyway.

Even Reagan was a borax fan. Evidently.
Even Reagan was a borax fan. Evidently. | Source

Other reasons to love borax

  1. It's cheap.
    A medium-sized box of Twenty Mule Team Borax will run you $4 or $5, depending on where you shop. It'll last a good while -- and an even bigger box will save you more moolah.

  2. It's safer.
    So borax is not completely non-toxic -- but it's got a pretty low-level of toxicity, especially compared to pretty much all other commercial cleaners. Like anything toxic, borax can kill you if you ingest enough of it, and chronic exposure (including breathing it) can cause severe problems. So you shouldn't eat it (or let pets or small children near it) and you shouldn't wallow in it or breathe it (so be careful when you're sprinkling it around)-- but some incidental skin contact (as when you're scrubbing, for example) is unlikely to cause any damage. And it's much less likely to cause damage than whatever caustic cleaning product you're likely using now.

  3. It's endorsed by Ronald Reagan.
    No, that's a lie. As far as I know. But I found this photo of Reagan with a box of borax (why?), and it's too good not to use.

So get thee to a box of borax!

You won't be sorry, I promise. And don't forget -- it's multipurpose! Use it in the toilet, add it to your laundry, scrub your shower (or dare I suggest? your bathroom sink??) with it. Borax can handle it all. And if, like me, you're plagued with hard water deposits...prepare yourself for cleaning ecstasy.

Questions & Answers


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      • JustPlainLarry profile image

        Larry Dinkoff 8 months ago from Houston TX USA

        Ronald Reagan, during the show Death Valley Days, was the endorser for Borateem, which later became 20 Mule Team Borax.

        Whether or not he actually used it was another question, but I remember watching Death Valley Days and seeing him doing the endorsements.

      • profile image

        icleanstuff 2 years ago

        What state are you in with the hard water?

      • lizlauder profile image

        lizlauder 5 years ago from Western New York

        You'll love it. I can't believe I didn't stumble on to this earlier!

      • faythef profile image

        Faythe Payne 5 years ago from USA

        Wow..Guess what I will be doing tomorrow...LOL