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How To Clean Soap Scum from Painted Surfaces

Soap scum is a waxy, soapy, calcified mess. Painted surfaces like the étagere in your bathroom can accumulate soap scum from repeated splashes or overflow from a soap dish placed on the painted surface. The challenge is to soften, dislodge and remove the soap scum while avoiding gouging or otherwise damaging the painted surface beneath. Painted surfaces and base materials can vary widely, so test all cleaning solutions and application techniques in an inconspicuous  location before using them in a wider area.

Soap scum can be attacked with an acidic cleanser. A great home remedy is to mix 1 TB of mild pH neutral dish liquid or shampoo with 1 TB of white vinegar and 1 tsp of glycerin. Do not dilute. Apply the viscous cleaning fluid to the soap scum with a clean sponge or clean rag and work gently to soften and dislodge the soap scum deposit. When the soap scum has been removed to your satisfaction, wash gently with a lightly sudsy solution of a mild pH neutral dish liquid diluted with water, applied with a clean soft sponge. Avoid over wetting, and allow the painted surface to dry thoroughly. If a large area was affected, you may wish to use fans to help facilitate drying and prevent lingering moisture that could  encourage mildew growth.

For particularly stubborn deposits, thoroughly soak clean paper towels in white vinegar. Place the vinegar-soaked paper towels directly on the soap scum deposits. Allow to sit for 20 minutes at a time, wiping the area with a clean sponge dampened with water to help neutralize vinegar that may have gotten on the painted surface. Follow with a light overall cleansing as above.

If you choose to use a commercial product to remove soap scum from your painted surfaces, read labels carefully prior to purchase as many cleaners formulated to remove mineral deposits are designed for use on tile and other similar materials. For preventative maintenance, clean areas vulnerable to soap scum regularly or use protective mats to help avoid buildup.

Caution: Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals, the result can be dangerous or deadly. Before cleaning, always test the agent on an inconspicuous location to determine its suitability and to make certain it does not damage the material. Wear appropriate clothing such as gloves and protective eyewear, and work in a well-ventilated area. Accidental inhalation or ingestion of cleaning agents can be hazardous and even fatal, particularly to pets and children.

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