Keeping the bathroom clean is no small feat, especially when multiple people are sharing this high-traffic space. But dirty bathrooms are minefields of mold, mildew, and invisible germs.
University of Arizona professor of microbiology Charles Gerba has conducted studies of household bacteria and uncovered some really gross findings in the bathroom. Gerba tells Real Simple the sink drain has the highest amount of bacteria in the bathroom — even more than the toilet. In fact, it has as much as you’d find on a cutting board used to cut up raw meat.
Obviously it’s imperative to keep the bathroom clean. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a big ordeal. Follow some of these simple tricks for eliminating icky germs quickly and easily, without spending a whole lot of time doing it.
1. Do a little bit every day
Waiting weeks between cleanings can leave you with a much bigger project on your hands — and one that will take more time than it has to. Make a habit of doing a few basic cleaning tasks on a daily basis, so your regular deep cleans go faster and take less time. Wipe down counters, empty the trash, and give mirrors a quick wipe in five minutes flat.
2. Keep cleaning supplies accessible
Newsflash: There’s no rule that says all your cleaning products must be stored under the kitchen sink. Save time, and create a dedicated bathroom cleaning basket. Keep it right where you plan on using it. Store items, such as all-purpose cleaning spray, glass cleaner, gloves, microfiber cloths, and brushes, in one conveniently accessible place, so you don’t have to run all over the house hunting down supplies when it’s time to clean.
3. Turn on the fan
The key to a mildew-free bathroom is moisture reduction. And the best way to do that in such a small, damp space is through proper ventilation. Make it a habit to switch on the fan whenever you enter bathroom and turn it off when you leave. Be sure to leave it running at least 20 minutes post shower or bath to effectively cleanse the air of any steam from the hot water. Keeping your bathroom as cool and dry as possible discourages mildew growth — and requires very little effort.
4. Use really hot water
Cleaning expert Jenny Botero, resident manager of the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Virginia, tells HGTV that heating up your tile and tub 10 degrees warmer than normal air temperature almost doubles the effectiveness of alkaline cleansers. Her staff members fill the bottom of the tub with a few inches of the “hottest water they can draw from the tap.” Then, it sits for a few minutes before they use the hot water on the tiles, shower, and tub.
5. Clean the shower every time you use it
Keep a spray bottle filled with vinegar and water right in the shower, and give it a quick once-over every time you use it. According to Good Housekeeping, this 60-second task can save you a lot of time later when you go back and do a deeper clean because the area will already be pretty clean.
Alternately, you can use a cleaning wand filled with soap and water. Keep it hanging on a plastic hook right in the shower.
6. Invest in a few Magic Erasers
Cleaning professionals and regular homeowners alike have discovered the wondrous cleaning power of the Magic Eraser. This powerful little scrubber works on everything — soap scum, mold, and mildew — erasing built-up dirt and germs like a dream. Always keep a few on hand for stubborn spots, and get a better clean in a shorter amount of time.
7. Empty the toilet before cleaning it
Here’s a little-known fact: Toilets are much easier to scrub down when they’re empty. Follow one of these tips from The Spruce for emptying out the water before you tackle the porcelain throne. And enjoy a cleaner commode in less time.
8. Let cleaners sit to increase effectiveness
Many disinfecting products require a bit of time to get the job done. Spray down surfaces, and let them sit for at least 15 minutes before you start scrubbing to make the job easier.
9. Don’t forget to dry
Minimize water spots by wiping down all wet surfaces when you’re finished cleaning. Get a few good quality microfiber cloths, and keep them in your regular cleaning bucket. You can even use different color cloths for each area of the bathroom. That way, you never use the toilet cloth on the sink or vice versa.
10. Work your way from top to bottom
This cleaning principle applies in most rooms of the house, including the bathroom. Start at the top of the shower and work your way down, so you’re not repeating your work. The same goes for the sink and toilet. Washing the floor should always be your last step on your way out of the room.
11. Establish a routine
The best way to get faster at something is to do it consistently. You can even keep a laminated copy of your task list right in your cleaning bucket, so you never miss one. Work in a clockwise or counterclockwise pattern around the room to further ensure no area gets missed.
12. Unclog drains in 10 minutes
No need to call a plumber or spend tons of money on fancy drain cleaners. To keep water flowing smoothly, begin by dumping a pot of boiling water down the drain. Next, dump in about ½ cup of baking soda, and let that sit for a few minutes. Finally, pour a mix of 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of hot water on top of the baking soda. Cover the drain, and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Finish with another pot of boiling water to eliminate excess buildup, and you’re done.
13. Wash your shower curtain
Regular shower curtains are real mildew magnets and should be cleaned on a regular basis to keep it from spreading. First, be sure to purchase mildew-resistant liners whenever possible. The extra cost is worth it. Check the care instructions. Either add the liner to your regular laundry at least once a month, or soak it in the tub with hot water and laundry detergent. Then, scrub it with a sponge to remove stains.
14. Vacuum before you mop
It might feel a little silly vacuuming a tile or vinyl floor, but sucking up dust and hair with a high-quality vacuum will give you much better results than mopping alone. You can also access hard-to-reach corners more easily than you can with a mop.
15. Eliminate hard water buildup on your showerhead with vinegar
Hard water buildup blocking your showerhead? Try this easy trick to get it good as new. Get a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag or plastic shopping bag, and add enough vinegar to cover the showerhead (but not too much, or it’ll overflow). Tightly rubber band it onto the showerhead, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight. Run the water for a few minutes, and then wipe residue off with a microfiber cloth.
16. Freshen dingy grout with a bleach pen
White grout is next to impossible to keep pristine, especially in the bathroom. For stubborn spots, keep a bleach pen handy to help keep yours looking good as new.
17. Share the workload
If you share your bathroom with someone else, then there’s no reason you should be the only one stuck cleaning it. Divvying out tasks can make cleaning time go faster for everyone and ensure everything gets done on a regular basis. Have kids at home? Assigning chores to children helps to teach responsibility from a young age and frees up your time, as well. It’s a win-win.