How to Clean Your Bathroom

“Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.” – Lord Chesterfield

Earlier, I said I was going to talk about how to clean a bathroom. Today’s the day! I can feel your excitement right through my keyboard as I type. (If this were on Twitter, I’d be hashtagging it #mundane.)

So yeah, it’s not the most exciting thing to talk about. In fact, cleaning the bathroom is my least favorite job in the whole repertoire. But it’s got to be done, or things get smelly and nasty and just plain unsanitary.

I thought twice about posting this, thinking there must be lots of other sites that had this information. When I looked I found that most make the job too hard. Some start with taking everything out of the bathroom that can be removed, including the shower curtain. Really? Every week? Not this girl. I like to do a thorough job, but keep it simple at the same time.

I’ll tell you what products I have found to be best, but really the most important products are elbow grease and a good sponge with a scrubby side. And the order you do things is up to you, as well. I usually start with the toilet, because I don’t want to be kneeling next to a dirty toilet as I clean the tub. Sometimes I start with the shower, because it’s the biggest part of the job, and I want to get it done first. It’s a mental trick I use on myself to make the job seem easier.

Ok. Here we go. (Basic instructions in bold text.)

  1. Remove the rugs, give them a shake or five, and then sweep the floor. It’s easier to sweep before you clean, when it’s dry. The floor tends to get wet when I clean the bathroom. I sweep the bathroom dirt out into the hallway, before I vacuum the hall. Easier than using a dustpan. And yes, you should take the bathroom rugs outside and give them a good shake, but that takes longer, so I shake them the best I can inside without getting stuff everywhere, but well enough to remove all the dirt from them. Leave the rug outside the bathroom until you’ve finished cleaning.
     
  2. Flush the toilet, lift the lid and seat, and then squirt toilet bowl cleaner up under the rim of the bowl. You don’t have to use a lot, just enough to go around the rim once and cascade down into the water. Use a good toilet bowl brush (good = enough bristles so you don’t scratch the bowl with the metal part, and doesn’t come apart when you use it) to scrub (and I mean scrub) every inch of the inside of the bowl. Don’t forget up under the rim where the water comes out and mildew hides, and down deep where the water leaves the bowl, and along the water line where stains hide. Flush the toilet, and rinse the brush in the clean water. I keep my toilet brush in a plastic cup in my bathroom cleaning supplies box, which I keep under the bathroom sink in one of the bathrooms. It’s much simpler to keep all your supplies together in something plastic in which you can carry them around, than to have to gather them when it’s time to clean.
     
  3. Using a disinfectant wipe or a paper towel and window cleaner, wipe down the entire outside surface of the toilet. Start at the top, because it’ll be the cleanest part. Be sure to turn the wipe over and use clean surfaces as it gets full of dust and hair. It might take two wipes. I start with mine folded, and unfold and refold as needed, and try to just use one. Depends on how much hair we’ve all shed this week. This is, without a doubt, the nastiest part of the job, especially if you have little boys.
     
  4.  Take the shampoo, soap, etc., out of the bathtub/shower and spray the walls with cleaner. Let the spray do it’s magic on the walls for a couple of minutes before you scrub. These cleaners work well, so let them do as much as they can before you start wiping them off. I really like Mr. Clean Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner. I also like the Scrubbing Bubbles spray, but I think the can runs out a lot faster and ends up costing more. I’d love to learn to use vinegar and water, but I have to get over the mental block that it’s not clean unless you use chemicals capable of taking the skin off your hands or killing you if you accidentally mix them and inhale. Scrub the walls with the scrubby side of a wet sponge. Rinse the sponge as it gets dirty. I scrub the walls in with a circular motion, because even though the spray bottle may tell you no scrubbing necessary, soap scum and hard water build up always need a little help. You can tell that by the way it’s a little harder to scrub the parts of the walls the shower water hits. If your perfectionism is flaring, use the edge of the sponge to scrub the grout between the tiles. Rinse the walls. If you don’t have a handheld shower head that allows you to easily hose the walls down, get one. Those things are invaluable for washing dogs and kids, too!
     
  5. When you rinsed the shower walls, you should have gotten most of the tub or shower floor wet. If not, wet the tub/shower floor. Sprinkle with a powdered cleanser like Ajax or Comet, and scrub the entire inside of the tub, soap dish, and faucets with the scrubby side of a really wet sponge. Rinse the tub well. Dry the chrome surfaces with a clean towel so they shine. I actually spray the tub with bathroom cleaner, then sprinkle it with cleanser. I find the two work better together than separately. You could use Soft Scrub, but it doesn’t work as well for me, and it’s more expensive (Comet & Ajax are less than $1 in my area for a nice sized can). Of course, if you have delicate surfaces like natural marble, please use whatever works best for that. Always read the warning labels of any cleaner before you use it. If your tub is extra dirty and weekly methods just aren’t doing the trick, do what I did here.
     
  6. Dust the shelves, picture frames, top of the shower curtain rod or shower doors, top of the medicine cabinet, and the top of the tile where it meets the wall. A damp towel or sponge is good for this. Damp, because in the bathroom dust doesn’t just lay there, it’s stuck there by hairspray and humidity, so it needs a little water on the sponge to get it moving. It’s best to take everything off the shelf, wipe off the shelf, and then dust/polish the things as you put them back on the shelf. This is more thorough and really easier than trying to dust around your perfume bottles and whatnot.
     
  7. Scrub the sink, faucet, and area around the sink with cleanser. Dry the faucet and area around the sink with a towel and make ‘em shine! I always save this for almost last, because I need the sink to rinse out my sponge when I’m doing the other things, and to wash my hands after I clean the toilet. Oh, didn’t I mention that part? Please wash your hands, or your rubber gloves, after you clean the toilet!
     
  8. Wipe down and polish the knick-knacks around the sink. I have a cup for holding toothbrushes, a decorative liquid soap dispenser, and a three ounce Dixie Cup dispenser around my sinks. I use very hot water and some of the liquid soap to wash the toothbrush cup, then I dry it and fold a paper towel to put into the bottom to catch water that drips off the toothbrushes, so the bottom of the cup doesn’t get slimy and mildewy. I change the paper towel when I clean the bathroom. Then I refill the Dixie Cups and soap, as needed. Put out a fresh hand towel.
     
  9. Polish the mirror. I use Windex and a paper towel to clean the mirror, but this is another area where I want to learn to use white vinegar and water. Someday. Cleaning a mirror is hard, because it tends to get streaky. Here’s how I do it. Fold a paper towel in half, then in half again. This gives you several sides to work with and gets the most use out of that towel. Spray the mirror (or half the mirror, if it’s a big one) with a quality window cleaner like Windex that contains ammonia. Clean the mirror with the paper towel with big, sweeping motions. Wipe with one side of the paper towel to clean it, and then turn to a dry side to polish it. It may take two spray/wipe sessions if the mirror has toothpaste splatters on it, or turns out streaky. So one turn to clean it, and one turn to make it shiny and streak-free. The key to no streaks is to leave the mirror a little wet. So if you have streaks, spray lightly with the window cleaner and then wipe it lightly. Another thing to try is to polish it with no window cleaner but lots of elbow grease and a microfiber cloth or dry towel (not a fluffy one. A worn out towel works better.)
     
  10. Mop the floor. Be sure to rinse the mop really well after you mop around the toilet, otherwise you just push that stuff around the floor. Ideally, we would mop the area around the toilet last, because it’s more sanitary to clean from cleanest area to dirtiest, but the toilet is seldom by the bathroom door, so you’d have to walk over your wet floor to do that. It’s not like you’re going to leave dirty footprints, so you could do that. Just be careful and don’t slip on the wet floor. When the floor dries, put the rugs back.
     
  11. Stand back and admire your work! After you put hard work into any job, you should always take a minute or two to pat yourself on the back. You’ve earned it!

Once in a while, you should also wash your decorative towels, rugs, and shower curtain. You can also make your shower curtain liner last longer by putting it in the washing machine with some towels to clean it.

So how do you know it’s time to clean your bathroom? Ideally, you should clean it once a week. At least, those are the parameters my mom set up when I was cleaning our 1.5 baths at home as a teenager. So I strive for that, but there’s not always time to do a thorough job. When that happens, just clean the toilet bowl and shine everything else up real quick with a paper towel and window cleaner or a towel. The goal is to keep nature from letting you know you haven’t cleaned it in a while with mold and mildew growing in the toilet and shower. Don’t ask how I know this happens.

And when that does happen, tell your family it was a test to see how long it would take them to pick up a toilet brush and clean it themselves. Then go into a rant that if skillfully done, will end with them sending you to a spa for a much needed day off while they clean the whole house for you. Yeah. That never happens, but a girl can dream!

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Dirty Soda Cans Hazardous to Your Health?

I was all set to blog about the dangers of drinking from soda cans before you wash them off. It has to be hazardous to your health to drink from a can after rats have peed on it and cockroaches have scurried across it in the warehouse, right?

Turns out, there aren’t really that many dangers. I mean, it’s unlikely that you will die or even get sick if you drink out of a soda can that you didn’t wash off first. At least, according to two trusted sources, Snopes and Myth Busters. Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (aka the CDC) don’t have anything on their site about what I presumed might be a health hazard.

And that’s good. One less thing to worry about.

I mean, I wouldn’t neglect at least wiping the top of the can off before I drank out of it, just to be safe.

At our house, we keep the soda cans that won’t fit into the refrigerator on the floor of the garage. I don’t think there are many rats in our garage (I hope not!) but I know there are a couple of mice, and just possibly a few (dozen) bugs. And they might be walking across our soda cans when they take their midnight strolls. Maybe even stopping for a potty break atop one of the cylindrical aluminum insect outhouses. Even if our garage was free from creepy crawlies, it’s pretty dusty out there.

And who knows when the stock boy at the grocery store who stocked the shelf with my Vernor’s Ginger Ale last washed his hands?!  *shudder*

So I wash the tops of my cans, and the side where my mouth is going to be, before I open the can, just for my own piece of mind. Even if it just gets the dust from the garage off, a little soap and water never hurt anyone or anything.

Except…be sure to rinse it well before you open it. Last Tuesday I didn’t, and soapy ginger ale ain’t no good for nobody. Yuck.

It’s a Kind of Magic

From time to time on this blog, I’m going to talk about products I’ve used and really like or disliked.

In my lifetime, no product has blown my mind like the Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. I’ve never seen anything work like these little babies do! I’m convinced they either have some kind of acid in them that is taking off a layer of the surface of whatever they are cleaning, or they really are magic! Since they don’t ask you to wear gloves when using them, and they have not taken off a layer of my skin, I’m thinking the former explanation is out. That leaves magic.

Now I know you don’t believe in magic, not the actual Bewitched style wiggle-your-nose-and-it’s-clean kind of magic. (Wouldn’t that be awesome?!) But whatever these things have in them really works, and I’ve got pictures to prove it.

I told you about cleaning my son A’s bathroom in my last post. Well, let me fill you in on the details of that one, specifically the bathtub.

The condo A shares with two other boys who attend the University was purchased last year by one of the boy’s parents. From what I understand, prior to their buying it, another houseful of students lived like…well…college boys, in it. It was a mess. When we came to help move A into the condo, Mrs. Condo Owner was scrubbing the bathrooms, a job I did not envy her and would not have attempted without a hazmat suit.

I know for a fact that Mrs. Condo Owner scrubbed her heart out in those bathrooms. She scrubbed until they were clean and shiny and sanitary and smelled like bleached white springtime. She used most of the same cleaning products I use at home and the same scrubby sponge, and I could tell from the sweat on her brow and the huffing and puffing that she put some serious muscle into it. But the bottom of the bathtubs laughed at her in resistance, and held tight to their black stains.

It’s that coating the manufacturers put on the tubs to give you a little traction so you don’t slip. That coating grabs hold of every bit of dirt it can and never lets go. 

And that, my friends, I took as a personal challenge.

That is why I was so anxious to have some time alone with A’s bathtub. I wanted to show it who’s boss. I wanted it to say hello to my little friend, Mr. Clean. I knew he’d do his Magic, and that tub would have to give up its hold on those stains.

Here is how the tub looked before I sought to bring it to justice. This is not dirt, but stains.

My first strike was with another product I love, Mr. Clean Disinfecting Bath Cleaner with Febreze Freshness, which is quite a mouthful to say, but works well. I like it better than anything I’ve used for cleaning showers and tubs, because it gets the soap scum that traps the dirt and the dirt without needing a separate soap scum spray. I also used my old standby, Comet Cleanser .

First, I cleaned the shower walls with the Mr. Clean spray and the business end of a Scotch Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponge. After I rinsed the walls, I sprayed the tub with the Mr. Clean spray, let it set for a minute or two, and then sprinkled Comet on top of it. (Manufactures will probably tell you not to do this, but I didn’t notice any fumes from it.) Then I scrubbed that tub to within an inch of its life…or mine.

It was like night and day! Or actually night and dusk. The Mr. Clean spray combined with the Comet cleanser had really tackled the build-up. But it was still stained quite a bit.  

Time for the finishing touch, the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser Bath Scrubber. I actually could have cleaned the entire thing with this product, but I thought it’d be easier to take it in stages with different products.

There are a couple things you need to know about the Magic Erasers. As you use them, you actually use them up. The sponge will get smaller and smaller, and pieces will fall off of it. Just gather up those pieces, stick them under the rest of it, and get as much out of every bit of that sponge as you can. I’ve even stuck the small pieces under a regular sponge and scrubbed with them that way. It gets a little awkward towards the end, but it’s worth it to use up every molecule of each Magic Eraser as best you can. Even the tiny pieces clean better than anything else. All you have to do to use them is wet them with water, and rinse them out when they get dirty. Also after you use them, rinse or wipe the surface you used them on, as they sometimes leave a bit of a white film or pieces of sponge behind.

So I scrubbed the tub I had just scrubbed with the spray and cleanser, but now with the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. I scrubbed until the Magic Eraser had completely disintegrated, and the tub was whipped entirely into submission.  

The tub looked like new! It was a miracle! Well, a miracle wrought by human hands and chemical products, but a miracle nonetheless. I stumbled out of that bathroom sweaty, sore, and TRIUMPHANT!  I had risen to the challenge and conquered those stains. And I proved to myself that Mr. Clean products can clean just about anything. Nice to have products in my arsenal that work so well.

To add a disclaimer, this post is not sponsored by any of the products mentioned, so you know I’m telling it like it is. I have nothing to gain from this, but the weird pride I get from showing off that shiny bathtub. 

Reason #2 or “That’s What Mom’s Are For”

My younger son (I have two.) lives in a condo near the University of Texas campus. For the past two years, he lived in a dorm on campus where they clean everything but your room for you, so I when he moved to the condo I wondered how he’d do at keeping his bathroom clean. The answer is…he just tries not to get it dirty. As a result, the bathroom is neat and uncluttered, but with a nice buildup of bathroom dirt…if you get my drift. So, being a mom, I was anxious to find an excuse to clean it myself, one that wouldn’t embarrass him too much.

My time came when he had to have minor surgery a couple of months ago. He was slightly incapacitated. The roomates were gone. Perfect timing. I’m going in!

When I finished, and the bathroom shone like the sun, I put all the tools I had used under the bathroom sink, so he’d know where to find them when he felt better and could clean the bathroom himself. I asked him if he wanted me to show him how I cleaned it, just give him a quick overview of which sprays and foams go where and what to use to scrub each area.

“Nope.”

I guess inhaling the chemicals while cleaning must have intoxicated me slightly. I had visions of him donning rubber gloves and with sponge in one hand and toilet brush in the other, taming his bathroom on a regular basis as he shouts, “This is for you, Mom!”

I realized then that I had ill equipped my boys for the real world of living in a clean environment. I meant to! I tried! “Come on. Let’s clean the bathroom together. You’re going to have to know how to do this stuff when you move away from home.”

“Nope.”

I did take them into the bathroom with me a few times, and show them how to do it. Made them clean it themselves a few times, too. And when it wasn’t perfect, I had flashbacks of my mom telling me my attempts weren’t good enough. Ugh.

It’s quite the mental wrestling match trying to figure out how to tell them, “No, see there are still streaks on the mirror, and look at all the cleanser that’s still in the sink. You need to…” without sounding like “It’s never good enough! You’re not good enough!”

And we all know, because we’re all guilty of thinking this; it’s just easier and faster and more peaceful to do the job yourself than to have a family meltdown over a streaky mirror.

So I didn’t teach them the finer points of housekeeping. So their future wives won’t be as happy with me as I envisioned them being when the boys were too little to operate a spray can of bathroom cleaner, and I planned that by the time they were 14 they’d be so good at it, they’d be cleaning the house for me every Saturday. So what?

So that’s reason number two for starting this blog. If my boys don’t know the mechanics of keeping a home spotless, I imagine there are others out there that upon moving into their own space are saying, “I wish I’d listened when Mom tried to teach me this stuff.”

In the future, I hope to cover the ins and outs of cleaning each room, and other homemaking joys and responsibilities, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise. Then, like they do with much that they don’t know, those that seek can find the answers online, here.