How to Clean Your Bathroom

The average person can tolerate a growing collection of dust balls under the bed or a drawer full of tarnished flatware in the sideboard. But a grimy bathroom is another story. The bathroom should be cleaned once a week, and even more frequently if it gets heavy use from a large family.

Fortunately, most bathrooms are made of materials that are easy to keep clean. Tile and porcelain surfaces are stain-resistant if dirt and scum are not allowed to build up on them. Make it a firm rule in your home to rinse out the tub or shower stall immediately after you use it. Spray water from the shower head on all interior surfaces, then lather soap onto a damp sponge, swish it around the tub or stall, and rinse.

These are but a few of the bathroom-cleaning guidelines we'll present in the following article. Cleaning the bathroom isn't a chore most people look forward to doing, but if you follow our instructions, this all-important room will sparkle...for a while, anyway.

Bathroom Countertops and Basins

Bathroom countertops are sloshed, splotched, and splattered with everything from hair spray to shoe polish. In most homes, countertops are made of materials that can stand up to the assault: ceramic tile, plastic laminate, and cultured marble. These materials are durable and easy to clean. Here are some suggestions for doing just that:

Cultured marble: Cultured marble resembles real marble, but it is a lot more versatile and much easier to care for. Avoid using abrasive cleaners and steel wool pads, because they will scratch the surface, making it difficult to keep clean.

Plastic laminate: Plastic laminate is made of thin layers of plastic superimposed on craft paper and overlaid on particle board or plywood. The color of most plastic laminate is only in the top layer. The glossy, matte, or textured surface is also laid on. A light application of furniture wax will protect and brighten laminate surfaces.

  • To clean plastic laminate, use a two-sided scrubbing pad with fiber on one side and a sponge on the other. Moistened slightly with water, the fiber side is just abrasive enough to loosen greasy smears and other soil. Turning the scrubber over, use the sponge side to wipe the surface clean.
  • When a spot or stain persists, sprinkle baking soda on the spot and scrub gently. If this doesn't take care of the problem, apply a polishing cleanser with a wet sponge.

Now that your countertops and basins are shining brightly, it's time to move onto your mirrors, which take their fair share of day-to-day abuse.

Bathroom Mirrors

Is there anything more annoying than gazing into a bathroom mirror and encountering a streaky vision of yourself? Consider the problem solved. To clean mirrors, use a clean, dry cloth and one of the following solutions:

  1. Mix 1/3 cup clear ammonia in 1 gallon warm water. Apply it with a sponge or pour the solution into a spray container, and spray it directly on the mirror. Buff with a lint-free cloth, chamois, or paper towel. Vinegar may be substituted for ammonia.
  2. Pour vinegar into a shallow bowl or pan, then crumple a sheet of newspaper, dip it in the vinegar, and apply to the mirror. Wipe the glass several times with the same newspaper until the mirror is almost dry. Then shine it with a clean, soft cloth or dry newspaper.
  3. Mix 2 cups isopropyl rubbing alcohol (70 percent solution), 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent, and 2 cups water. Stir until thoroughly mixed, and then pour into a spray bottle. Spray directly on the mirror. Buff with a lint-free cloth, chamois, or paper towel.

You're getting closer to having a spotless bathroom. Next up is your shower stall/bathtub.

Shower Stalls and Bathtubs

You've been working in the yard all day, and you're dirty and sweaty. The problem is, your shower stall or bathtub is grimier than you are. It's imperative that you keep this part of your bathroom as sanitary as possible.

Shower Stalls

Shower enclosures are a chore to keep clean -- but they can be less of a problem if you follow these guidelines:

  • Keep mildew from taking hold by wiping shower walls with a towel after each shower.
  • If the shower area is subject to mildew, periodically spray it with a mildew inhibitor and disinfectant.
  • Leave the shower door slightly open to allow air to circulate; this will discourage the growth of mildew.
  • Remove hard-water deposits on shower enclosures with a solution of white vinegar and water.
  • Glass shower doors will sparkle when you clean them with a sponge dipped in white vinegar.
  • Add 1 cup liquid fabric softener to 1 quart warm water, and use to loosen and clean soap scum from shower doors.
  • Mix 1 part mineral oil with 4 parts water in a clean, empty spray bottle. Spray on soap scum and dirt in your shower or tub. Wipe off with a sponge.
  • Remove water spots on the metal frames around shower doors and enclosures with lemon oil.
  • If the grout or caulking in your shower breaks away where the walls join the tub or shower floor, recaulk immediately to prevent water damage.
  • Note: Never use harsh abrasive powders or steel-wool pads.
  • Coat the tile walls of your shower with furniture polish to prevent soap scum buildup and water spots.
  • Clean mineral deposits from a shower head by removing the head, taking it apart, and soaking it in vinegar. Then brush deposits loose with an old toothbrush. Clean the holes by poking them with a wire, pin, toothpick, or ice pick.


Most bathtubs are made of porcelain. If the fixtures are older, chances are the material is porcelain on cast iron. These fixtures may not be as acid- and alkaline-resistant as newer porcelain-on-steel tubs. Fiberglass and acrylic tubs, which are lighter and easier to install than steel tubs, are used in new construction and remodeling, but they are not as durable as porcelain-coated steel. If you have a fiberglass tub, you will have to be especially careful when you clean it to avoid scratching the surface. Here are some guidelines for cleaning your bathtub:

  • Porcelain tubs should be cleaned with nonabrasive powder or liquid cleanser. Sprinkle powder on a damp sponge and apply it to the porcelain surface of the tub or basin. Use a synthetic scouring pad on stubborn soil. Rinse well.
  • When you clean the bathtub, also remove hair from the traps in the drains to prevent clogging.
  • Fiberglass tubs should be cleaned with a commercial fiberglass-cleaning product or nonabrasive liquid cleanser. Apply either product with a damp sponge, and rinse with clear water.
  • Commercial rust removers are very effective in removing rust stains. Wear rubber gloves when you work with these products because they contain acid. You can also clean discolored porcelain fixtures with a paste made of cream of tartar moistened with hydrogen peroxide or a paste made of borax moistened with lemon juice. Scrub the paste into lightly stained areas with a brush, and rinse well.
  • A ring around the tub can be rubbed away without cleaners using a nylon net ball or pad.
  • Cover a stubborn bathtub ring with a paste of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide. When the paste dries, wipe it off.
  • To remove discoloration from a yellowed bathtub, rub the tub with a solution of salt and turpentine. Rinse well. Caution: Wear rubber gloves when you work with this solution.

Of course, cleaning your shower stall or bathtub is only part of the battle. To finish the job, you need to work similar magic on your shower curtain and bath mat. We'll tackle that chore in the following section.

Shower Curtains and Bath Mats

Like tubs and enclosures, shower curtains and bath mats are subject to mildew. Fortunately, they're easy to clean. The following tips should help make this chore a breeze:

  • Keep a new shower curtain looking fresh by using the old shower curtain as a liner. Hang the new curtain on the same hooks in front of the old curtain. The old curtain will take the beating from water and soap scum while the new one stays clean.
  • To prevent shower curtains from wrinkling, put them in the washing machine with 1/2 cup of detergent and 1/2 cup of baking soda, along with two large bath towels. Add a cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle; hang the curtains up immediately after washing, and let them air-dry.
  • When you clean a plastic shower curtain, keep it soft and flexible by adding a few drops of mineral oil to the rinse water. Maintain its softness by wiping it occasionally with a solution of warm water and mineral oil.
  • Eliminate mildew by spraying newly washed shower curtains with a disinfectant.
  • Clean a rubber or vinyl bath mat by tossing it into the washer with bath towels. The terry cloth scrubs the mat, and everything comes out clean.

Onward to the most dreaded task of all: cleaning your toilet.


Cleaning the toilet is one of those chores that you want to get through as quickly as possible. Many toilet-bowl cleaners and deodorizers claim that they'll help you do this. Some products are truly helpful, some are not. Toilet bowls and tanks are usually made of vitreous china, which is nonporous and easy to clean.

Before you clean your toilet, read the label on your cleaning product to learn its exact chemical makeup and how it should be used. Be especially careful never to mix products that contain chlorine bleach with ammonia-base products. Always wear rubber gloves when you work with toilet cleaners. Be careful not to allow cleaners to remain in the toilet or to touch other bathroom surfaces.

Clean and disinfect your toilet bowl with 1/2 cup chlorine bleach. Pour it into the bowl, and let it stand for ten minutes. Then scrub with the toilet brush and flush.

Here are some other suggestions for cleaning your toilet quickly and efficiently:

  • Keep a long-handle brush for cleaning toilet bowls.
  • Disposable toilet brushes contain toilet cleaner and can make the job much faster.
  • Caution: Never combine bleach with toilet-bowl cleaners; the mix can release toxic gases.
  • Give your toilet an overnight cleaning by putting 1/4 cup borax in the bowl and letting it sit overnight. In the morning, scrub stains away.
  • You can achieve the same effect overnight by putting 2 denture cleanser tablets in the toilet and letting them sit overnight. Scrub the toilet in the morning.
  • Rust stains under a toilet-bowl rim sometimes yield to laundry bleach -- be sure to protect your hands with rubber gloves. Rub off truly stubborn stains with extra-fine steel wool or with wet-dry sandpaper (available at hardware stores).
  • Chemical toilet-bowl cleaners should never be used to clean the bathtub or sink; the chemicals will ruin the finish.

Once the toilet is clean, your work in the bathroom is done. But remember, you'll have to start the whole process over again in another week or so.

Clogged Bathroom Drains

Start with a plunger when trying to unclog a drain.
Start with a plunger when trying to unclog a drain.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.

In many homes, the bathroom sink doubles as a dressing table, and everyone in the family shampoos in the shower. Hair and soap are washed into bathroom drains day and night, and the cruddy mess can quickly jam up the plumbing. Regular clearing of the traps saves your plumbing, and it also cuts down on cleaning time -- water that flows out of the tub quickly doesn't allow dirt to settle on these surfaces.

If clearing the trap doesn't clear the drain, you'll have to take stronger measures. First plunge the drain. Before you use the plunger in the bathroom basin, plug the overflow opening. This allows the plunger to exercise its maximum suction effect on the clogged drain.

If plunging does not open the drain, use a chemical drain opener. These products must be handled with special care because they are caustic and harmful to skin and eyes. Use them in a well-ventilated area, and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Chemical drain openers will damage porcelain enamel and should not be allowed to remain on the surface of your fixtures for any length of time.

If the first type of chemical drain opener you use does not work, do not use a different chemical drain cleaner unless the initial cleaner has been totally flushed away. Never use a plunger or a pressurized drain opener after using a chemical cleaner; it may cause dangerous chemicals to splash on you. Also, be sure to tell your plumber what you have put into the drain before he or she starts to work. The combination of ammonia and other household cleaners with chemical drain openers produces hazardous gases.

Hopefully, you won't have to deal with clogged drains very often. Keeping your bathroom clean is another matter, though. In a week or so, you'll have to start the cleaning process all over again -- but until then, enjoy.