10 Spots in the Dorm Bathroom Everyone Forgets to Clean

Where do some of those hidden germs lurk in the bathroom -- and how can you clean them?

The dorm bathroom, that multi-use gathering place of students, is a veritable germ farm. And it's no wonder. There are 100 trillion bacteria on and in the human body, an amount that translates to about 5 pounds (2.2 kilograms) of microscopic critters. If you were to corral all the bacteria in your body, they would form a mass about the size of your liver [source: Allday]. Now multiply that number by 12 or however many people use the bathroom regularly. Gross, right?

Some bacteria play important roles while others cause problems. While one type of bacteria may regulate intestinal health, another may cause gut-twisting food poisoning.


You can tip the odds in your favor by improving the cleaning routine in one place germ-ridden danger lurks (no, we're not referring to the college cafeteria). Fight back by cleaning the 10 places everyone else has forgotten.

10: Showerheads

Showerheads tend to clog if they're not cleaned regularly.

Ah, the perfection of a hot, steamy shower. It's a cure-all for early mornings, short nights and excessive study sessions. Until, that is, the showerhead's functionality regresses from steady waterfall to few paltry sprinkles. Over time, mineral deposits will begin to clog a showerhead, making it far less useful than it once was.

Don't be surprised if the showerhead in the dorm bathroom doesn't get a lot of attention from the weekly cleaning crew or your floormates. What you should be (pleasantly) surprised about is how easy it is to clean. Pour white vinegar into a plastic baggie and seal the bag around the showerhead. Let it sit overnight and then use an old toothbrush to scrub off the residue. You'll feel like your next shower is in a tropical waterfall (as long as you have a good imagination) [source: Martha Stewart].


9: Shower Curtains

If your shower curtain is made of a natural fabric, you can launder it in hot water in a washing machine.

It's a question worth posting: Just how dirty can a shower curtain get? After all, it's in the shower -- a place specifically designed for a good scrubbing.

Turns out, shower curtains are magnets for mildew and grime. If you're in doubt, inspect the folds and seams of your shower curtain and see what you find. Eww!


The good news is that shower curtains are one of the easiest things to clean. If your shower curtain is made of a natural fabric like hemp or cotton, launder it in hot water in a washing machine. If the mildew has begun to colonize and form a political system, add a quarter-cup of bleach to the water. If it is only loosely organized, ordinary laundry detergent should work fine.

Surprisingly, you also can launder vinyl or synthetic shower curtains, as long as you keep the water warm. Pay attention to vinyl shower curtain liners, too, by scrubbing them with a 1:10 bleach-to-water ratio [source: Martha Stewart].

8: Toilet Bases and Handles

Why clean the toilet handle? The toilet is usually flushed before the hands are washed. That's one gross handle.

We'll begin by admitting this oft-forgotten cleaning task is not fun, but ultimately, satisfying. No one looks forward to scrubbing the base of a toilet, but once you do, the entire bathroom will smell better. Plus, you'll foil the mildew having a house party on the toilet base right under your ... nose.

Start by using a disinfecting spray or undiluted white vinegar and dousing the base of the porcelain throne. Scrub the base, paying close attention to areas where the base meets the floor, and then dry with paper towels or an old towel you use only for cleaning. While you're at it, give the toilet handle a good spritz-and-scrub with a disinfectant.


Cleaning the toilet base every couple of weeks should suffice, but definitely consider disinfecting the toilet handle more often. The toilet is flushed before the hands are washed. Think about it [source: Design My Space].

7: Bath Mat

Think of the many feet that have stepped on your dorm's bathroom mat. Then get it to a washing machine -- pronto.

You may have covered this in biology class, but here is a refresher: What's the ideal condition for growth of bacteria and mold? A dark, perpetually damp and relatively undisturbed environment. And here's the bad news. That's exactly what your dorm's bath mat provides.

Fight the grunge by tossing those bath mats in the washing machine once a week. It doesn't matter if they are made entirely of rubber or vinyl-backed carpet fibers. Peel them off the floor and wash them. Just don't do it in a massive combo-load that includes your sheets and skivvies because you'll risk cross-contamination. Instead, use a liberal amount of detergent and as high a water temperature as the material will allow. Then thoroughly air-dry the mats before returning them to the bathroom floor. For extra insurance, scrub that filthy floor first [source: Butler].


6: Toothbrush Holder

That toothbrush holder on your wall or bathroom sink could do with a cleaning too.
© Richard Powers/Arcaid/Corbis

You wouldn't clean your teeth with a dirty gym sock, so why store your toothbrush in a remarkably germy place? According to NSF International, an organization specializing in sanitation and public health standards, the toothbrush holder ranks third in germ infestations, just behind the kitchen sponge and sink!

Most germs on your actual toothbrush are anaerobic, which means they'll die when exposed to oxygen, so simply letting your toothbrush air-dry will help. Cleaning your toothbrush holder will require more diligence. Once a week, wash the holder in hot, soapy water (or wipe it clean if it's stuck to the wall.) For added protection, wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe in between [sources: BreathMD, NSF International].


5: Toilet Paper Holder

Every time a toilet flushes, it turns into a giant aerosol that mists the bathroom with germs. That means germs on the roll of toilet paper and its holder.

Clean the toilet roll holder? What are we, neat freaks? No, but we are about to slap some unsavory knowledge upside your noggin: Every time a toilet flushes, it turns into a giant aerosol that mists the bathroom with germs. Yes, all that stuff that was in your toilet is now out, raining invisible germy droplets all over the things you touch most, like that roll of toilet paper and the apparatus that holds it in place.

Clean this forgotten area by first removing the roll of toilet paper and then misting the toilet paper holder with a disinfectant spray and letting the spray dry. This will ensure the antibacterial ingredients in the spray do their germ-fighting job. Then, spritz the toilet paper holder again and wipe over it to remove dust and grime [source: The Maids].


4: Light Switch

The bathroom light switch is a prime place for staph to land.
Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock

What's the first thing you probably do when you enter the dorm bathroom? If there aren't automatic light-activating sensors, chances are you turn on the light. And you probably didn't wash your hands before you entered the bathroom. Consider also the "remote" possibility that some of your dormmates may not be shining examples of personal hygiene. What if they are using the bathroom's facilities, turning off the light switch and exiting -- without washing their hands?

The bathroom light switch is a prime place for staph to land. This bacteria, which normally lives on skin, can be transferred to the surfaces people touch. While it doesn't usually pose a threat, it can enter your body through a cut, scrape or the mouth, eyes or nasal membranes. And when it does, it can cause a serious infection that will need medical intervention [source: Alliance for Consumer Education].


Or you could just wipe down the light switch every day with an antibacterial cleaner. We know which option we'd choose.

3: Behind the Sink

You'd be amazed at the gunk that lives behind the bathroom sink.
Image Source/Thinkstock

Once there was a forgotten creature that thrived in dark, dank solitude. As it grew, it became greedier, expanding its reach until it could be ignored no longer.

Sound like the plot of a thriller opening in theaters this weekend? You wish. This is actually the true story of the germ-ridden gunk that lives behind the sink and faucet in your dorm bathroom. Fortunately, it's incredibly easy to fight back. Get rid of the bacteria-laced mineral deposits or mildew by adding one simple step to your bedtime routine.


Once a month, soak paper towels in white vinegar and wrap them around the faucet. Make sure the back of the faucet is completely covered. Let them rest overnight, then peel off the towels. Fill the sink with warm water, add a bit of soap and use an old toothbrush to scrub the faucet to remove any remaining residue. As a bonus, you'll also have a clean and shiny sink basin [source: Reader's Digest].

You can also take that old toothbrush, dip it in bleach and scrub behind the sink.

2: Mirror

That mirror needs defogging!

Whether you're sharing a bathroom with suitemates or an entire floor of dormmates, there's a problem you've probably encountered: foggy bathroom mirrors. Never mind the fact that you have three minutes to finish getting ready before chem class. This, somehow, is always the exact moment someone will finish a hot shower and steam-up every mirror in the room. And, even if you weren't trying to peer through a low-hanging cloud you'd still be plagued by the smattering of toothpaste and hairspray that perpetually peppers every mirror.

Take matters into your own hands by cleaning and defogging your bathroom mirrors. Grab two bowls and a cleaning cloth. Put one quart of room temperature water and two tablespoons of white vinegar in one bowl, and one quart of hot water with the same amount of vinegar in another. Dip the cleaning cloth into the room temperature mixture and clean the mirror with it; then switch to the hot mixture and wipe it over the mirror and let it dry. Congratulations! You've just cleaned and defogged your favorite shiny surfaces [source: Apartment Therapy].


1: Trash Can

In addition to emptying the trash can, spray it down with some disinfectant.

You empty the trash in your dorm bathroom before it overflows. Most of the time, at least. But there's one final step before it's really clean. The trash can needs to be cleaned, too.

After you've removed the garbage, place the receptacle in the shower and rinse it inside and out (scrub the bathtub well afterwards). Then, using a mixture of two tablespoons white vinegar to one quart hot water -- or an over-the-counter disinfectant cleaning spray -- spray its surface. If you use the trash bin as a catchall (takeout boxes, yogurt containers), opt for a cleaner meant for pet messes. It will contain enzymes that break down organic molecules, kill bacteria and freshen odors. Scrub the trash can with a brush, rinse it and allow it to air-dry. Then, before you put a trash liner into the clean trash can, place a couple of fabric softener sheets (the kind that are ultra-scented) to help eliminate odors [sources: Apartment Therapy, Real Simple].

Lots More Information

Author's Note: 10 Spots in the Dorm Bathroom Everyone Forgets to Clean

From faucets to trash cans, this is a fairly ambitious cleaning list -- especially for college students whose concerns are sure to lie elsewhere. I know mine did during those few heady years of dorm life. Still, there's no harm in setting yourself up for success by keeping mold, mildew -- and a general yuck-factor -- at bay. After all, it can be hard to concentrate on finals when you're battling a staph infection brought on by a filthy bathroom.

Related Articles

  • Allday, Erin. "100 Trillion Good Bacteria Call Human Body Home." San Francisco Chronicle. July 5, 2012. (June 20, 2013) http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/100-trillion-good-bacteria-call-human-body-home-3683153.php#next
  • Alliance for Consumer Education. "Stopping Germs in the Bathroom." (June 20, 2013) http://www.stopgerms.org/bathroom.html
  • Apartment Therapy. "Bathroom Cleaning Tips." (June 20, 2013) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/bathroom-cleaning-tips-from-so-77761
  • Apartment Therapy. "How to Clean and De-Fog Bathroom Mirrors, Toxin-Free." (June 20, 2013) http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-clean-and-defog-bathroo-109438
  • BreathMD. "How to Clean and Store a Toothbrush." April 29, 2011. (June 20, 2013) http://www.breathmd.com/how-to-clean-and-store-a-toothbrush.php
  • Butler, David. "The 21 Germiest Places You're Not Cleaning." Greatist. May 24, 2012. (June 20, 2013) http://greatist.com/health/21-germiest-places-youre-not-cleaning#footnote-1296-20
  • Design My Space. "5 Dirty Places You Forget to Clean in Your Bathroom." May 7, 2013. (June 20, 2013) http://designmyspace.org/5-dirty-places-you-forget-to-clean-in-your-bathroom/
  • The Maids. "The Maids Offer Tips to Fight Bathroom Bacteria." Jan. 19, 2012. (June 20, 2013) http://www.maids.com/blog/the-maids-offer-tips-to-fight-bathroom-bacteria/
  • Martha Stewart. "Homekeeping Solutions." (June 20, 2013) http://www.marthastewart.com/275411/bathroom-cleaning-tips/@center/277000/homekeeping-solutions#275411/235512
  • National Science Foundation. "Top Ten Germiest Places in the Home." (June 20, 2013) http://www.nsf.org/consumer/newsroom/fact_top10_germiest_places.asp
  • Reader's Digest. "9 Bathroom Cleaning Problems Solved." (June 20, 2013) http://www.rd.com/home/cleaning-organizing/9-bathroom-cleaning-problems-solved/
  • Real Simple. "The Worst Cleaning Jobs Made Easy." (June 20, 2013) http://www.realsimple.com/home-organizing/cleaning/worst-cleaning-jobs-made-easy-00000000032847/page6.html