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How to Get Soap Scum Off an Aquarium

By Deborah Lundin

Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

The milky layer on your aquarium walls may be soap scum left from a previous cleaning and inadequate rinsing, or it may be mineral deposits left from evaporated water. Regardless of what type of scum it is, the same natural substance -- possibly in your kitchen pantry -- will remove either one and leave your aquarium sparkling. Don't use glass cleaner or bleach.

Step 1

Pour 1/2 cup of white vinegar into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 gallon of distilled water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle for easier use if you desire.

Step 2

Take a clean rag and dip it into the vinegar-and-water mixture. Wipe the rag over the soap or mineral scum to remove. For stubborn areas, use a new toothbrush to gently scrub and loosen the scum.

Step 3

Rinse the aquarium thoroughly with fresh water and set the tank out to air dry.

Items you will need

  • White vinegar
  • Distilled water
  • Mixing bowl
  • New spray bottle (optional)
  • Clean rag or paper towel
  • New toothbrush


  • 💡 If a layer of scum covers the majority of the aquarium, mix up a larger batch of the vinegar and water mixture. Fill the entire aquarium with the mixture and let it sit overnight. In the morning, take a clean cloth and wipe away the scum. Drain the vinegar and water, and rinse with clean water. Allow the aquarium to air dry.


  • Do not use commercial window cleaner or bleach to remove aquarium deposits. These harsh chemicals can be harmful to your fish.
  • While vinegar is acidic, and large amounts can affect the pH in your tank. A few drops from a wet cloth while cleaning should not be toxic. Natural buffers in your water should neutralize the acid.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images


Deborah Lundin is a professional writer with more than 20 years of experience in the medical field and as a small business owner. She studied medical science and sociology at Northern Illinois University. Her passions and interests include fitness, health, healthy eating, children and pets.