Battling the Beast in the Bathroom

Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Mike Masson

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought I’d take a crack at dealing with a horror of the domestic kind: Cleaning the bathroom. Next to reorganizing the garage or raking up wet leaves, it is the most undesirable activity when maintaining your home. Only the truly die-hard neat freaks take pleasure in it. For the rest of us there are the perils of astringent chemicals, the musty smell of mildew, and the toilet. The horror!

But fear not, though you may not have a full-blown case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there are plenty of ways to keep your bathroom fresh, clean, and safe without requiring a HAZMAT suit. This article will go through the common problems of bacteria and mildew in the bathroom, how to counteract them, and several cleaning tips and tricks that you can use every day.

The Fungus Among Us

If you worry about bacteria and mildew in your home, then this is the article for you. Next to food-borne bacteria in your kitchen, the bathroom is the most likely place to find harmful and even dangerous bacteria, mold and fungus in your home. Mold and mildew are not as dangerous, but they can be harmful to people with sensitive mold allergies, compromised immune systems,
Unidentified species of mildew growing 
on a plastic shower curtain. The numbered
ticks on the scale are eleven (11) microns 
apart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 or respiratory ailments. Molds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation, or, in some cases, skin irritation. The good news is that a clean environment and good personal hygiene can easily eliminate the worst types of bacteria.

Here are some easy steps to take to get rid of the problem areas when it comes to bacteria and mildew. Keep toothbrushes covered or in the cabinets when they’re not being used, and throw away toothbrushes after an illness. If you keep a drinking glass or cup in the bathroom, replace it with disposable paper cups. Buy, cheap, disposable sponges, or use clean, washable cloth rags. If you prefer reusing sponges soak them in vinegar overnight. Do the same with all of the bath toys.

Now some simple daily tips on keeping the bathroom bacteria and mold-free. First, close the toilet seat before flushing. When running the shower, open a window and turn on the fan. Keep the fan running for at least a half hour after the shower is finished. If you’re rushed in the morning and usually out the door five minutes after the shower, think about getting a timer switch installed instead of an on/off switch.

Try thinking of your bathroom as you would your bed. Before sleeping the bed is made with crisp
Courtesy of
corners and the extra pillows are placed just so. You take all of it apart to get some sleep, and when the sleep is done, you return the bedding to its previously “made” status. Try doing the same with the bathroom. Leave it the same way you found it. Keep your bathmats off the ground when not being used. Keep the shower liner closed so that water doesn’t get trapped in the folds. The same is true with towels. Hanging a towel on a hook makes it more likely to retain moisture. Keep towels hung on bars or between two hooks. After the shower, wipe down all wet surfaces with a cloth, close the shower curtain liner, hang up the towel, and pick up the bathmat. Follow these steps and there will be far less moisture for the bathroom environment to absorb and fewer places for it to collect.

The Clean Machine

Now on to the hard part; Cleaning. First, you should get rid of harsh scrubbers and cleansers. They aren’t necessary unless you’re cleaning the galley of an aircraft carrier. Throw away those blue hockey pucks they tell you to put in your toilet. They don’t work as well as advertised and they degrade the fixtures inside most toilets. If you prefer using cleansers, look into the new, greener alternatives. They are better for the environment and less toxic for your family.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

Courtesy of
  • Bleach
  • White Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Warm Water
  • Gloves
  • Clean, dry rags
  • Soft-bristled brush
  • Toilet brush
  • Small scrubber
  • Long-handled scrubber, or mop
Before we go any further a word of warning about chemicals. CAUTION: NEVER MIX BLEACH WITH VINEGAR OR AMMONIA. When bleach is mixed with these chemicals it creates chlorine gas that is toxic in small quantities and deadly in large quantities. Whenever washing a surface with bleach, thoroughly rinse it off and wash with a pH-neutral cleanser. Most dish detergents are pH-neutral.

Throw your shower curtain and liner in the washing machine with a ½ cup detergent and ½ cup baking soda. Put two towels in there with them to act as brushes. Add a cup of vinegar in the
 rinse cycle. Promptly take them out to hang dry. Remember to replace your liner every six months.

Remove your showerhead and soak it in vinegar overnight, or fill a plastic bag with vinegar and wrap it around the showerhead with a rubber band. Once it’s rinsed scrub the face with a soft-bristled brush or unused toothbrush. This will get rid of the bacteria that collects there. Spray the non-tiled walls
HAZMAT Class 6 Inhalation 
Hazard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
and ceiling with an all-purpose cleaner. Run a steamy shower for twenty minutes with a closed door and no fan. Once the steam and cleanser have mixed, wipe down with a clean cloth or a long-handled mop for hard to reach areas. If you’re going to clean the ceiling you may want to wear goggles just in case. While you’re dealing with the ceiling take a look at the fan. A lot of mildew and bacteria could be building up there. Every six months take it down and give it a once over with a vacuum and a vinegar solution. Be sure to turn off the breakers before attempting to remove it.

The grout in your bathroom is a porous substance, which makes it an ideal gathering place for all types of bacteria. Use a solution of 10/1 parts warm water and bleach, and scrub with a soft-bristled brush. Remember to cleanse with dish detergent after using bleach. Most other surfaces, i.e. tiles, tub, shower, and sink, can be cleaned with a mixture of 3/1 vinegar and warm water along with a tablespoon of baking soda. Every month or so clean out the pipes by pouring in a ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup vinegar. Let it foam up and dissipate. This will clear hair and soap residue out of your fixtures.

Well, we’ve cleaned every inch of the bathroom except for -- cue ominous music --The Toilet! Most of my research says bleach is the preferred cleanser for the toilet, and bleach is the most disinfecting of substances, but it is trailed closely by undiluted white vinegar. They’ll both make your toilet sparkle, but vinegar is far less noxious and irritating. Other tricks to use on the toilet include antacid tablets, cola, and mouthwash. Also remember to thoroughly clean your toilet brush after each cleaning.

In this article I have discussed how to safely clean your bathroom so that it is wonderful place to visit. I discussed how to safely use cleaning products and way to make the job easier. Now you can enjoy your claw foot or walk-in tub without having to deal with bad smells or unsightly views. Using these tricks won’t necessarily eliminate the Beast in the Bathroom, but it will certainly cut it down to size.

Check out this short video on Walk-in Tubs

Alan and Kerry Knight are the owners of Tub King, Inc.,  in Jacksonville, Florida. Together they have many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. Their companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. If you’d like to contact them, call (800) 409-3375 or (800) 843-4231 or send an email to

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