by Ann Waterman
I knew I’d arrived in the domestic arts when my mom, the cleanest person I know (I’d eat off her floors in heartbeat), asked me if we’d redone our bathroom because it looked so clean and new. I just about died from the unintended recognition of my cleaning prowess.
I wasn’t always this good at cleaning bathrooms — my college roommates would be happy to elaborate, I’m sure — but I’ve gotten better at it over the years and can make even the dirtiest bathroom sparkle with a little elbow grease and a few tricks up my sleeve. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:
It’s important to have the right tools when you’re cleaning: It’ll make the job easier and save time. I like to have a cleaning caddy where I keep all of my supplies close at hand when I work. In the caddy, I keep the following: baking soda, castile soap, a 10:1 solution of water to bleach in a spray bottle, cotton rags (made from my husband’s old t-shirts), microfiber cloths, an old toothbrush (used exclusively for cleaning nooks and crannies, not teeth), a scrub brush, and my favorite cleaning solution. I keep bathroom-specific cleaners (like toilet-bowl cleaner) under the sink. I also have a small bucket to toss dirty rags in as I work, since I go through a lot of them and don’t want them lying around on my freshly cleaned floor (yuck!). You may also need a broom and dustpan for the floor.
Tub and Tiles
When it comes to any chore, I try to tackle the hardest thing first; it helps knowing the rest of the job will be downhill once the first task is complete. In the bathroom, it’s cleaning the tub and tiles I dread most (with the toilet coming in at a close second).
The first thing I do is clear everything out of the area — shampoo bottles, razors, bars of soap, etc. — so I’m not knocking things down when I clean. Then I check my cloth shower curtain liner to see if it needs a wash. If it’s looking a little funky, I’ll take it down, toss it in the wash, and replace it with my back-up liner.
Cleaning should always be done top to bottom, so I start with the tiles first. If you’re feeling green, put a little castile soap on your scrub brush and clean away. Rinse the walls with a wet microfiber cloth (I like the microfiber cloths for this task because they hold a lot of water). For the tub, sprinkle in some baking soda, add a little squirt of castile soap, and go at it with your scrub brush. (Prefer a chemical cleanser? No judgment here. Sometimes the soap scum gets to be too much for me and I’ll resort to Scrubbing Bubbles, rinsing it off with a wet microfiber cloth.)
Just a quick word about mold: Even if you clean your bathroom regularly, mold can still pop up in your shower. Mold loves damp conditions, and your best defense is to keep your bathroom as dry as possible: Always turn on the fan while you shower, and close the shower curtain when you’re done so it can dry. I know you probably don’t want to hear this, because it’s something your very meticulous neat-freak aunt does (or your friendly neighborhood blogger <cough>), but swipe the walls with a shower squeegee and wipe down horizontal surfaces where water collects after every shower. Taking a few minutes to do this after you shower could save you from a tedious (and potentially expensive) re-caulking or re-tiling job later on. If you’re battling mold, here are some green ways to get rid of it.
Before moving on to the toilet, vanity, and floors, I dust all the hardware: the towel bars, light fixtures, and the often-overlooked toilet-roll holder (take a look: You’ll be surprised at how much toilet-paper dust has settled on it!). I also like to wipe down the door handle and switch plate with a little bleach solution, just in case someone didn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom (8-year-old, I’m looking at you).
Apply your toilet-bowl cleaner first to allow it time to work while you clean the exterior of the toilet. If the toilet bowl is especially grimy, consider applying it before you start the shower.
I used to waste a lot of time chasing around wet dust on the toilet porcelain with my cleaning rag until I discovered a little trick: Now, before spraying the toilet with any cleansing spray, I do a dry wipe-down first with a microfiber cloth to capture all the dust. It makes my wet wipe down so much easier; just think of it like sweeping the floor before you mop it.
Again, work top-down, making sure to use a clean rag for surfaces that come in contact with skin (i.e., don’t clean the underside of the toilet seat and then use the same rag to clean the top of the seat). Pay special attention to the toilet seat hinges where grime loves to collect. This is where I like to pull out my cleaning toothbrush to get it really clean. Don’t forget to clean the base of the toilet, too.
Clear the vanity of anything sitting out on the counter, taking care to give everything a quick wipe-down as you move it. Pay special attention to soap dispensers or bar soap holders, which may need to be rinsed with water to remove dried-on soap.
If you’ve already dusted the light fixtures above the sink, next spray and wipe the mirror to remove fingerprints and toothpaste stains. Spray the entire surface, including faucet hardware, with cleanser. Starting with the faucet, begin wiping down the counter, saving the sink for last. To get rid of funk around the faucet fixture and the sink drain, spray with cleanser and use your cleaning toothbrush to really get it clean.
If you have a vanity cabinet underneath the sink, check to see if the handles and cabinet door are clean. (My boys sometimes leave toothpaste dribbles.)
Remove everything from the floor so you can clean with ease. Empty the garbage can, shake out the rugs, and give the bathroom scale a wipe-down to remove any dust. Next, sweep the floor, being sure to use your microfiber cloth to grab the dust that likes to settle on the trim.
There are several ways to wash the floor, but my preferred method — shown me by a college roommate who used to clean hotel bathrooms — is to spray a section of the floor with my preferred cleaner and then wipe it with a rag. Repeat until the entire floor is finished, folding your cloth to a clean part as you work. Depending on the size of the floor, you may need a few cloths to get the job done. I like this method because it saves me from messing with buckets of water and mops, and it allows me to really get into nooks and crannies — plus, since most bathrooms are small, it takes little time.
You’re almost done! Replace shower items, vanity items, and any trash cans or bath mats you removed while cleaning, then take down used bath and hand towels and replace them with a clean set. Now, how about a nice, hot shower in your squeaky-clean tub?
What are your favorite bathroom cleaning tips?
Images: Ann Waterman