How Do I Clean a Dirty Etched Shower Door?

The Case of the Scummy Etched Glass Shower Door


Dear Glass Detective:

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?

-Dan P



Dear Dan,

Thank you for contacting the Glass Detective with your questions about getting stains and streaking off of the glass in your shower. Specifically, you state that a shower cleaner was mistakenly sprayed on the etched portion of your shower door glass and, in spite of your best attempts to clean the streaking off, it is still visible. You were also good enough to state that you have been thorough, bordering on meticulous, with the cleaning procedures of your glass shower door during the past. You conclude your comments by asking “Is there a way to restore the etching so that it doesn’t look streaked?”

The quick answer is “maybe” so now let’s see if we can help you solve your problem.

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.


I have an etched shower door in my home and I use a shower glass spray on the glass doors after each shower. I don’t rub it or squeegee it. It has seemed to work well over these past few years. I find it very useful on my non-etched shower door glass as well. However, it appears you have used something stronger than a normal shower door glass cleaning product and that product has created these streaks. With no promises or guarantees, here is what I would try;

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 manufacture is not known or cannot be found, I would 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. I am going to recommend a 70% isopropyl solution be used.
    2. Let this dry.
    3. If it now appears to look clean and non-streaky, coat the entire shower door with a 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 treatment on but try cleaning the glass (etched areas) with automotive 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 Rain-X-type solution.


I am not guaranteeing that this will work on your glass door, but it has worked for me on the type of door you are dealing with. Please let us know how this turns out. I wish you good luck with this and thank you again for contacting the Glass Detective at with your questions.


The Glass Detective attempts to answer all questions accurately but cannot be held liable for any information provided or omitted.  You should always work with a licensed, insured and reputable glass shop that can assess your specific needs and local building codes and offer professional services. Never attempt to cut, install, or otherwise work with glass yourself. The Glass Detective answers questions on an informational basis only.

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Lyle Hill

By Lyle Hill

Lyle Hill has been in the glass and metal industry for more than 40 years. In this time he has managed glass retail, contract glazing, mirror, architectural window, window film, and automotive glass businesses throughout America. He obtained an MBA from IIT with a focus on Technology and Engineering Management.

Hill is also a columnist for glass industry trade magazines and often called the “face” of the glass industry. He has also authored books including “The Broken Tomato and Other Business Parables,” which is available through Amazon.

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