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How Can I Spot the Difference Between Soap Scum and Mold?

The difference between soap scum and mold is most easily identified by the smell. Mold will produce a very horrendous smell, while soap scum will not. Fact: Upon first glance, many homeowners can’t tell the difference between mold and mildew. Sure, both of these two distinctive “details” are entirely different in character, but they do get mistaken for one another quite frequently. If you’re not sure what to look for, then we’re here to help!

Soap Scum

Oh, soap scum! Known to be one of the most irritating impurities of any shower, this residue is the gradual buildup of any soap or shampoo in your bathroom. Predominantly found at the bottom of a bathtub or shower, soap scum gives off a “baked on” appearance — as if you had leftover baking soda from a cake pan.

Just like mold, soap scum certainly has the potential to appear in other areas of your bathroom, such as on glass showers doors, your sink, and drain. Of course, despite its appearance, it’s quite simple to get rid of. Simply take some hot water, followed by an all-purpose tub/shower cleaner, and you’ll be good to go.

Before you dive head first into cleaning the soap scum, it’s important to know that it can be removed with ease — and nothing too powerful should be used to remove it, such an acidic chemical cleaner. Using a harsh cleaner will not only remove the soap scum with excessive force, but it will also damage your tub/shower in the process.


Oh, no: what’s that foul smell? It turns out that the horrendous odor coming from your bathroom could be a case of mold! Sure, it might seem impossible to spot — but it’s quite simple, just like detecting soap scum.

To start, you’ll want to scan your shower/bathtub, looking for any ~mysterious~ green/brown/black spots. These specific spots can either be in the corners of your shower or on deep within the tile. From there, you may even notice a foul smell. Unlike soap scum, mold tends to be quite fragrant — which isn’t pleasant or healthy to inhale.

Once you spot the mold, it’s essential to clean it immediately. To rid of mold effectively, you’ll want to use bleach or bleach-based cleaner. Please note: when cleaning with bleach, or any chemical cleaner, you’ll want to have the proper ventilation.

Not only will this rid your home of the smell — but it also won’t interfere with your breathing. Once you clean the mold, your shower/tub will be as good as new!

If you run into any problems with your home plumbing, heating or cooling, and prefer to forgo the DIY route, our technicians are here to help! Visit our website to learn more about the services that we offer here at Pipe Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, Inc. — or you can call (865) 518-7008 to speak with a representative directly.