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How to Clean Etched Glass Shower Doors

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Etched glass shower doors add a personal touch to any bathroom. Whether you purchased a house that already had an etched glass shower door or you had one installed, keeping it clean is the best way to maintain your glass and keep your bathroom looking good.

Keeping your etched glass clean will prevent the delicate surface from becoming stained or permanently damaged. If not cleaned regularly, the glass may accumulate water spots, mildew, dirt, dust, oils or even fingerprints. This is easier with etched glass because the small etch marks can more easily hold onto dirt.

Classic Etched Shower Glass

What is Glass Etching?

First, you need to know what glass etching involves so that you understand why maintenance is required. Etched glass is the result of a series of small cuts made to the glass, by acidic, caustic or abrasive substances. The cuts normally appear white against the glass.

This process can form patterns or images. Etched glass is made by sandblasting, acid etching, using glass etching cream or even mold etching. In this process, a mold is made with the design or image created in relief and molten glass is poured into the mold and left to cool. This leaves the surface of the glass more delicate than non-etched glass.

Typically shower door glass is etched using an acid solution. On custom projects, the glass is sometimes sandblasted but most often the glass is acid etched. This etching is then, sometimes, treated with a sealer which is intended to seal the acid-etched areas to protect them and to make them easier to clean. These sealers are pretty good and tend to be not only effective but durable, meaning that they will last for an extended period of time.

Why Does Shower Glass Get Dirty?

Hard water is high in minerals such as calcium and magnesium carbonates that appear when water comes in contact with limestone or chalk deposits. When the hard water mixes with your soap, it can leave stains on your shower door glass called soap scum. Soap scum can be harmful to the glass and take away from the aesthetic of your bathroom. Glass is porous, allowing those hard water minerals to seep into the glass over time and cause corrosion. Keeping it clean is the best way to prevent any long-lasting or hard-to-remove stains.

Soap scum is different from mildew. Mildew is a thin coating made up of fungal hyphae. It grows in warm, damp places. Your bathroom is the perfect breeding ground, especially around the edges of your shower door where the glass meets the frame. Mildew can be harmful and you will want to get rid of it as soon as possible using a solution with chlorine or hydrogen peroxide. You don’t need to scrub, just spray the solution onto the area with mildew and wipe it away.

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How to Keep Your Shower Glass Clean

Shower Cleaner Spray Bottles

You should clean an etched glass shower door almost the same way you’d clean any other glass shower door. First, make sure the glass is dry. While there are several methods for cleaning glass, it is best to use cleaner made specifically for use on glass. You can purchase these products at a grocery store or from your shower glass installer. You can also use a solution of water and mild dishwashing soap.

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Make sure not to use abrasive materials or harsh chemicals or soaps on your etched glass shower door, as this could damage the glass. Chemicals to avoid include hydrofluoric acid, fluorine or chlorine. Use a lint-free towel, rag or paper towel rather than scouring pads to clean your glass so you don’t cause any damage to the glass. This is especially important if you have a coating on the glass, as abrasive materials could scratch the coating.

Spray the cleaner onto the towel or dip your towel in the water and soap solution and then gently clean the glass. Applying excessive pressure can damage the surface by over-polishing it. Rinse the area with clean water and then dry it with a lint-free towel.

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Even if only one part of the glass is dirty, it’s important to clean all of the glass each time you do it. Spot cleaning can create halos on the glass. In addition, you shouldn’t try to clean the glass with a dry or dirty cloth because this could scratch the glass surface. Always use plenty of water.

Other Tips to Keep Your Shower Glass Clean

Shower Squeegee

One of the best ways to keep your etched glass shower door clean is to prevent it from becoming overly dirty. Using a squeegee to wipe off water at the end of a shower will help keep your glass clean. Many shower door installers will provide you with one after completing an installation to set the expectation that you will need to maintain your glass. This is necessary whether your glass has a protective or hydrophobic coating or not.

Make sure to squeegee soon after you’ve finished your shower. Start from one of the top corners and put slight pressure onto the squeegee as you drag it down the glass. The water should run down the glass as you pull. Repeat this, overlapping the area you just dried about two inches, until you’ve removed all the water droplets on your shower glass. Drying the rubber blade in between each pull prevents the squeegee from leaving streaks and rubber marks.

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Another way to prevent your glass from becoming dirty is to leave the bathroom door open after a shower. This will allow air to circulate and aid in water evaporation, while also preventing mildew build-up in other areas of the bathroom. If your shower is not properly ventilated, keep your shower door open to release humidity when not in use. If you do have a vent, turn it on before starting your shower.

If you don’t want to wipe down or squeegee the glass after each shower, you can try spraying glass cleaner or a daily shower spray on the glass doors after each shower. Don’t rub it or squeegee it. This can be useful on non-etched shower door glass as well. It will help prevent the build-up of soap scum and hard water spots. Always check with the shower door manufacturer to ensure that any product you are using on your etched shower door is safe.

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Restoring Etched Shower Glass

A question from one of our readers asks:

I have an etched glass shower door. It always looks dirty and covered with soap scum. I am a thorough cleaner, but it never gets clean. I also accidentally sprayed shower cleaner on the etched glass and can’t get rid of that streaking either. Is there a way to restore the etching so that it doesn’t look streaked?

Sometimes shower glass and etched shower glass can become streaked, hazy or discolored, despite meticulous cleaning efforts. This could be caused by using cleaners not approved by the glass manufacturer, hard water, or other chemicals coming in contact with the glass. If you’re experiencing issues like these, first try to identify the provider of your glass shower door and see if they can recommend a solution to you. They should know how the glass they furnished to you was fabricated. There are factory-applied coatings as well as ‘post manufacturing’ coatings/sealers that are regularly used on shower door glass and fixed glass panels.

If this is not possible to figure out who made the glass in the door, either because the original glass manufacturer is not known or cannot be found, do the following:

    1. Thoroughly clean all of the etched areas with isopropyl alcohol. Put the alcohol on a rag and wipe the acid-etched areas down aggressively. A 70% isopropyl solution should be used.
    2. Let this dry.
    3. If it now appears to look clean and non-streaky, coat the entire shower door with a hydrophobic coating product such as Rain-X which is the same product you are encouraged to put on your windshield to help shed water when it rains. Follow the directions that are given for application on a windshield.
    4. If, after you have tried the alcohol, the glass is still streaky, do not put the hydrophobic treatment on. Instead, try cleaning the glass (etched areas) with a specially formulated glass polishing compound. Be “light-handed” with this and only do a very small test area to begin.
    5. Rinse it thoroughly after this application.
    6. Experiment in a small area to see if it is having the effect you desire. If the test area is coming clean, use the compound as needed, rinse the glass very well afterward and then apply the hydrophobic solution.


More Information About Updating Shower Enclosures

If you’re interested in learning more about glass shower doors and other types of glass, you should check out the® Info Center. In the market for a new glass shower enclosure?

Please note, this article may contain links to Amazon products. As an Amazon Associate, earns from qualifying purchases.



Jordan Scott

Jordan Scott serves as the assistant editor for USGlass magazine. She has a background as a reporter for Tennessee’s Tullahoma News and associate producer for ABC2’s “Good Morning Maryland.” Jordan studied English and international studies at Virginia Tech where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Jordan is a voracious reader and has an extensive book collection. She is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do but jokes that she has now also earned her black belt in “attempting” to go to the gym. Jordan loves to travel and learn languages. When not abroad, she enjoys exploring new restaurants in her local Washington D.C. area. Find out more about Jordan on Linkedin.

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One Response

  1. Thank you, this info is very helpful. I will try the alcohol and hopefully it will solve my problem. I accidentally sprayed soap scum cleaner on the door because it had a film on it. I couldn’t find my paperwork that came with the door. I got really mad with myself for doing that. The etching is only visible on the inside. I read somewhere to try WD-40 . I haven’t tried that as of yet. I had also read about Rainex. Thanks again.

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