The Bathroom Staple You Can Use To Revive Grimy Shower Door Tracks In A Pinch

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Shower door tracks are among the hardest spots to get clean in your bathroom that you shouldn't overlook. Without regular scrubbing, they're notorious for collecting mold, mildew, soap scum, algae, hair, and regular old dirt in the channels. Can we get a yuck? The solution to grimy tracks is likely already in your bathroom. No, it's not your pricey face oil. It's that mundane tube of toothpaste you reach for every morning and evening. You won't want to, not least because conventional cleaners are more cost-effective. But if guests are arriving at your house tomorrow and you're short on cleaners, this will get the job done — and pretty effectively, at that.

So, precisely what's in this household ingredient that will clean dirty shower door tracks? It might surprise you to learn that some of the chemicals in toothpaste overlap with those found in household cleaning products. The first is abrasives — teeny particles suspended in the paste or liquid — like sodium bicarbonate (yup, like the baking soda you use in your homemade cleaners), aluminum hydroxide, calcium hydrogen phosphates, calcium carbonate, silica, and hydroxyapatite, which help to scrub our teeth clean — and can do the same for bathroom surfaces. Next up, we have surfactants (detergents) like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). These chemicals create foam to clean things in both toothpaste and many cleaning products. Finally, some toothpastes contain antibacterial agents like triclosan or zinc chloride, as do many cleaning products.

Get cleaning

If you want to try this method, buy the white, old-school toothpaste over gels or ones with fancy ingredients like charcoal, herbs, or the like. Bonus: this toothpaste is usually the cheapest option on the shelf! A three-pack of Colgate whitening toothpaste with baking soda and peroxide is $5.47 at Walmart. Amazon has a pack of three Tom's whole-care natural toothpaste (4 oz. tubes) for $12.19. Given this is in-a-pinch advice and since most toothpaste has similar ingredients, even if what comes out of the tube is transparent green, you could also get away with using whatever you have on hand. Check the ingredients to see if you can spot any of the abrasives or surfactants listed above.

Let's get cleaning those mildew-clogged shower door tracks! This method begins to resemble your morning routine when you realize an electric toothbrush is an essential item when cleaning your bathroom. A regular old manual toothbrush — retired from service, of course — works just fine, too, as does any other small-headed brush that will fit in the slim track channels. Liberally squeeze toothpaste onto the tracks directly or the brush head, then move the brush back and forth over the tracks. Angle the head slightly to get right down into the track's crevices. Flush the tracks with clean water, then run a just-moist microfiber rag over them to get any remaining sludge. Repeat the process if you're not satisfied with the result the first time around.

Why this may not be the best cleaning option

Toothpaste is made to clean our teeth, not shower stalls. The percentage of cleaning, scrubbing, and antibacterial agents a tube contains directly correlates to human health safety — after all, you put toothpaste in your mouth. In other words, it's pretty low. Bathroom cleaning products are formulated for use on ceramic, stone, glass, or, in the case of shower door tracks, metal. There's a reason you wear (or should wear) gloves, a mask, and a long-sleeved shirt when cleaning. It's to protect your skin and lungs from adverse reactions to the sometimes high percentages of active ingredients in bathroom cleaners.

That's why this is an "in a pinch" solution if, let's say, you've run out of your regular bathroom cleaner and need a clean bathroom today. Another reason to try toothpaste would be if you've exhausted the commercial cleaning options at your local supermarket trying to get the door tracks grime-free and are desperate for a solution. Once the embedded dirt and slime are gone, ongoing maintenance with regular cleaning products should be enough. The other reason is cost — or, more aptly, cost-effectiveness. A tube of toothpaste costs about the same amount as an entire spray bottle of bathroom cleaner.