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I have a shower where the floor is made up of small 1" - 1 1/2" pebbles / rocks pushed into a grout-esq base.

It's a great "outdoor" look for the shower.

...however, each of these rocks over the course of years has become dark. I didn't realize it until I noticed the color gradient of the rocks going from dark near the drain (where you'd stand most of the time) to a more natural lighter color near the edges of the shower.

The rocks have built up waxy / oily grime on them from years of abuse of showering. You can take a flathead screwdriver and run it across the top of a rock and literally scrape off a layer of built up gunk.

I've tried various cleaners on the shower, but everything is too mild. I need something that will really just melt this away.

I've tried:

  • Vinegar / Baking Soda
  • "Scrub Daddy" / "Pink Stuff" cleaner
  • OxiClean (Hydrogen peroxide)

None have made a difference with the exception of the Scrub Daddy / Pink Stuff... and that was a ton of manual work on each individual stone. I need something more buff.

Part of my reason for not wanting to just scrub this away is because the rocks are obviously all different shapes with lots of rounding to them, so this dirt also gets built up around the edges where the rock meets the grout. This is a very difficult area to clean.

Any ideas?

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  • Might need a mixture of rubbing alcohol, dish detergent(good for oily ducks), a brush and elbow grease. An once or two of the first two in hot water, a lot of the last.
    – crip659
    Oct 8, 2022 at 20:00
  • @crip659, I tried the Dawn dish liquid soap with hot water... not a bit of progress other than what my scrubbing did. Thank you for the suggestion, though. Oct 9, 2022 at 21:07

6 Answers 6

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This looks a job for a domestic steam cleaner. I have a tile & stone bathroom, walls & floor, and this is the ideal tool for getting in every nook & cranny.
They're not great for everything, but what they are very good at is grease-based & ingrained dirt, most especially on surfaces unaffected by heat & water… like stone/tiles etc in a bathroom. [They're also great for de-greasing the kitchen].

One clear advantage is they use no chemicals, only steam - so no rinsing, breathing protection, lingering smells etc.

They come in various grades from cheap as chips…

enter image description here

To semi-industrial… [this type has a high pressure steam jet, not just the brushes in the pic. This is similar to the one I have.]

enter image description here

Alternatively …& no, I've never tried this even though I own one.. it might be a bit too messy] a high-pressure washer [Kärcher or similar. They will definitely do the job, but the sprayback/overspill might just be far too much to control.

All of these are 'penetrative' cleaners - they will reach into the tiniest cracks & pores which you can't properly reach with any wiping or scrubbing action.

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  • A pressure washer (Kärcher - like Kleenex in the US, I guess) was my first thought, too. This is a shower, so there should be containment for splashing water, my concern is that it might blow the grout out from between the pebbles.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 10, 2022 at 15:38
  • It might be overkill, for sure. I've never tried it because I credit myself with more sense than to experiment with just how far one can blow back indoors ;) I'd go with the steam.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 10, 2022 at 15:41
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    I did +1 already. My wife's done some incredible things with one of those little steam cleaners like in your first pic. Remarkable how steam powered the industrial revolution and cleanup! :)
    – FreeMan
    Oct 10, 2022 at 15:44
  • @FreeMan - my partner gets quite a lot of money in gift vouchers for John Lewis [maybe equivalent to Sears, not quite sure, posh department store] from work twice a year… which we spend on household stuff we'd really like but would never buy otherwise - steam cleaner, carpet cleaner, things by Dyson… etc. So, we've ended up with pretty much one of everything in this type of category over the years. Because the vouchers are worth so much & there's no other place to spend them, we end up with top of the range in each category too. [It's a perk, I won't knock it] ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 10, 2022 at 15:50
  • Bwahahahahaha! Sears... Posh... Bwahahaahahahahahaha... gasp that's funny...
    – FreeMan
    Oct 10, 2022 at 23:35
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I have used caustic soda to break down grease, crud and scum from showers. It's really strong stuff and you need rubber gloves, eye protection and a mask. Read and follow the directions carefully. Most home stores will carry it.

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  • More commonly known as lye, or sodium hydroxide. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sodium_hydroxide Turns grease to soap (including your fat, which is one short clue as to why you have to be so careful of it) so very good at degreasing. Do not use near any aluminum trim (like a shower door frame) or it will eat the aluminum, too. Acids are better if you've got hard water buildup, more than greasy stuff.
    – Ecnerwal
    Oct 9, 2022 at 2:13
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Zep Shower, Tub & Tile Cleaner dissolves soap scum, rust, hard water scale and other substances that build up over time on tubs, showers, sinks, faucets and other bathroom surfaces. The cleaner's tough foam spray reduces the need for scrubbing, while its unique formula is safe on cultured marble, fiberglass, acrylic and most ceramic tiles and porcelain.

Avoid contact with eyes. Avoid prolonged or repeated contact with skin. Avoid breathing vapors or spray mists. Use only with adequate ventilation.

enter image description here enter image description here

I'm not sure what the difference is between the yellow/purple bottles and the blue ones. I use the blue. Put a box fan in the doorway/window or you'll be sorry. Use only with adequate ventilation.


And a Gong Scrub Brush.

enter image description here

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  • It's acidic. It's not particularly bad for you. I use it w/o gloves all the time. The smell is just awful though... because it works.
    – Mazura
    Oct 8, 2022 at 20:42
  • Didn't work.... I just picked some up today. I let it sit 5 minutes and nothing is really doing any better than just muscle and scrub... Oct 9, 2022 at 21:04
  • 1
    Never said it didn't still require just muscle and scrub. That brush is actually more important than whatever you're using as a solvent.
    – Mazura
    Aug 12, 2023 at 19:12
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I have had good results with a scrubbing tool used to clean grout from tile. The handle makes it more comfortable to use...well as comfortable as one can be on their knees scrubbing a floor. I get 2. One of the courser grade and one finer. Find them with tile supplies in big box stores. I start with the course scrubber using a tile or shower cleaning product, then go to the finer scrubber with plain dish soap and to get it really clean I use a product called Nano Scrub. It's to clean stubborn grout off tile and make them shine. Also in the tile supply aisle. If your stones near the drain are still darker, they may be porous and you have mildew growing under them. Then the only course of action is removal. If scrubbing gives you a floor you are satisfied with I would apply a sealer for porous stone tile after everything is dry. The sealer, as the name implies seals water from weeping into the grout and stone. It should be reapplied every year. Good Luck

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  • My answer has a pic of your scrubber I think. "dish [washer] soap" aka TSP (the real stuff with actual phosphates in it; the P in TSP). If ZEP doesn't get it out, follow with phosphate, or vice versa and repeat.
    – Mazura
    Oct 8, 2022 at 20:46
  • The scrubber in the pic is not what I was referring to. That is a brush.
    – RMDman
    Oct 8, 2022 at 20:49
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Oven Cleaner and a steamer for corners. I have the same seemingly un-cleanable oily gunk in my shower. Tried everything under the sink and did Easy-Off as a last resort. It works! Just open a window for ventilation.

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It seems the scrubbing is the hard part but necessary. Figuring the pebble type floor is course enough why not consider like a commercial floor polisher and use a course brush in the first step. I think they can be rented. Something like this. An alternative could be like an automotive orbital buffer/polisher. Some grout rework might be needed after cleaning. 1 https://www.homedepot.com/p/HOOVER-COMMERCIAL-Commercial-Orbital-Floor-Cleaner-CH80100/325909321?mtc=SEM-RM-RMP-GGL-D29A-NA-MB-HOOVER-NA-DSA-NA-NA-MK686162200-NA-NBR-3397-NA-NA-NA&cm_mmc=SEM-RM-RMP-GGL-D29A-NA-MB-HOOVER-NA-DSA-NA-NA-MK686162200-NA-NBR-3397-NA-NA-NA-71700000115192596-58700008569409685-39700078716589069&gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAyKurBhD5ARIsALamXaHdWM1klbJ6Ijb6YKxMfVfvEae8yfDVOT0NGFyTh66IGDICZT8R7rIaApu2EALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

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