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Monday, May 14, 2012

How to Make Sure You’re Never Stuck with Cleaning a Nasty Bathroom Ever Again

If you’d asked me ten years ago what my most dreaded chore on earth was, I would say that the weekly bathroom cleaning would be it (all right, more like bi-weekly…if I was energetic…) I was taught that the bathroom surfaces should be scrubbed with Scrubbing Bubbles & the hottest water possible used for rinsing every week. Using a sponge with a scrub backing, this took forever, and the product has to soak in for at least five minutes to work before it can be scrubbed & rinsed away. For anyone who has ever used a sponge & a product with bubbles at all, which would be 99.9% of us, you know the kind of rinsing which is required to get every trace of bubbles out. This was like bathroom cleaning from hell. Daily touch-ups, other than for the toilet bowl, were an alien concept to me back then. First, I’d have to clear EVERYTHING off of the bathroom surfaces. Since my mom is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind person, she keeps every single product she owns in the bathroom (which would be a lot- she loves variety in her beauty products) out in the open, on the counter or tub. So I’d have to keep a big basket under the sink, take off all these products, wipe them down individually- since they got dusty, too- and then put them back in perfect order after all the cleaning was done AND the surfaces had dried.

Then I’d have to spray the Scrubbing Bubbles liberally on the vanity, every inch of the toilet inside & out, from top to bottom, the entire shower enclosure (fiberglass, or later on, tile) and tub. And being a perfectionist, this meant applying it to bathroom baseboards, too. After the toilet was cleaned, of course the sponge had to be rinsed out in hot, hot water to be sanitized again. Proper bathtub cleaning meant getting on my knees & making sure every millimeter was left sparkling, dust-free & white as a lily. If the Scrubbing Bubbles got scrubbed out & rinsed away, but any mildew remained, I’d have to hit whatever the offending leftover surface was with spray bleach, letting it sit an additional ten minutes, then scrub & rinse again. I had to make sure, also, that every inch of brass or chrome shone like a diamond. This method meant having to go back after scrubbing, wiping & rinsing all those surfaces down to polish the bathroom mirrors top-to-bottom with Windex & paper towels, because if I did the mirrors before the scrubbing, water could get splashed up on the mirror & ruin my work on them. And not one streak, spot or speck better be left on the mirror when I was done cleaning the bathroom. After all, if it wasn’t going to be done perfectly, I shouldn’t even bother to do it, period! Lastly, I had to vacuum the vinyl floor & wash it with a sponge mop, carrying along a bucket filled with scalding water & Pine Sol. Every corner & edge had to be pristine, meaning good old hand-scrubbing was needed at times, too. Daily hairspray usage made this chore even worse, because hairspray lacquers hair, dust & dirt to every surface in what seems like a semi-permanent manner. What a nightmare. And worse, we had/have two bathrooms!

You can see why I procrastinated about doing this chore “the right way”, a.k.a., via the method I listed above. No wonder I used to spend six hours a day cleaning! I couldn’t do all of this now if I wanted to, given my aging back & knees. If you’re still doing what I used to do, I’ve come to bring you bathroom salvation. Now, hopefully, you’re only shaking your head at what a moron I am for having once used this backbreaking method. But if you can relate all-too-well, please keep reading. My old techniques were incredibly time-consuming, used a ton of water & scrubbing (meaning higher water bills, lots of chances for getting splashed & stained clothing, and ruined hands/fingernails/cuticles) & were just plain miserable to endure. It is close to the method you may have to use if your bathroom has sat without a deep cleaning for a month or longer on-end, at least once. But once the bathroom is clean, I can tell you how to maintain it, without ever again having to endure that level of torture.

Being committed to cleaning the bathroom a little bit at a time every day is key. I promise, it takes five minutes a day, maximum. Much of what I know I either learned from the FlyLady, otherwise known as Maria Cilley, or Jeff Campbell (author of the book, “Speed Cleaning”). A little bit, I learned on my own. I hit the mirror every day for a spot-check. If it has streaks, little toothpaste spots or any dust on it, I give it a quick blast of Antibacterial Windex & wipe it down with a lint-free white cotton cleaning cloth. Caldrea makes these cleaning cloths, and sells cloths like this, too. As long as they are lint-free & don’t streak, microfiber cloths work great, too (FlyLady sells pretty purple ones). Lastly, paper towels could be used instead. I like reusable white cotton cloths. I wash them on the delicate cycle in the washing machine, and them dry them alone once a week, to make sure they stay lint-free. If you start mixing them with towels or other laundry, they usually develop lint on them, defeating their purpose. I keep seven on hand for each bathroom, enough for one each day, making my life easier. Anyway, I next wipe down the vanity top, faucet & sink with a spritz of the same cleaner. I usually just work around the few items on my vanity, but if need be, I’ll quickly lift those up, wipe, and keep going. If an item on my vanity needs it, I’ll give it a quick wipe down, too. (Once a week, I put my bathroom tumbler [which holds my toothbrush & toothpaste] in the dishwasher for cleaning & sanitizing purposes.) I then wipe my toilet tank & the floor around the floor quickly with the same wipe. Assuming your cloth is large enough, and it should be, the best way to start is with a wipe folded into a square, four working squares to each side of the cloth. As each square gets a little too dusty or dirty, just go on to the next square. Assuming you do this little cleanup daily, one cloth should do just fine per day, unless you have a really gigantic bathroom & a lot of people using it. I then hit the toilet bowl with a splash of Pine Sol & a quick swish with a toilet brush. When the bowl’s cleaned daily, hard water deposits, nasty gremlins & mildew don’t get a chance to form. I promise, when done daily, this swish takes less than a minute. A toilet brush is really best because it scrubs out the little holes wear water comes into the toilet, and keeping those holes clean & clog-free helps prevent toilet back-ups. Plus, it keeps the toilet & bathroom looking & smelling sanitary. FlyLady sells a toilet brush, and so does The Clean Team. Any toilet brush will do, but a brush that can reach under the toilet rim is best, as well as scrub the whole bowl, is best. Lastly, I give a quick blast of Lysol Disinfectant Spray to the toilet flusher, light switch & door handles, which also freshens up the smell of the room. I absolutely swear that, once this becomes habit, it goes really fast each day. Do this at the same time, in the same order, every single day.

Keep your daily products used minimal- if it takes more than three products to clean your bathroom a little each day, you‘re probably overdoing it. You also don’t want too many chemicals in your nose & lungs. Safety first! Make your tools & cleaners extremely accessible- stored right in a basket next to your sink or right in the front of the bathroom cabinet. Store them in the order of which they’ll be used. Keep your cleaning cloths washed, dried & neatly folded away. I keep my toilet brush right next to the toilet in it‘s little holder. Since it’s used daily, and used with a disinfectant every day, it never gets dusty or moldy. Once or twice a week, you’ll need to hit the rest of your floor, and probably your baseboards. A quick vacuuming & use of a cleaning wipe or a Sh-Mop should be all that’s needed. When you do this “lick at a snake”( a great FlyLady term!) daily, the rest of the bathroom baseboards & floor really don’t get very dirty at all. Gravity is part of the reason for this- when dust doesn’t build up on higher surfaces, less of course should then have a chance to fall downward & stick around.

Finally, I need to address the shower/tub enclosure. FlyLady taught me that a bathroom’s best friend is air. After all, mildew & mold can only form when too much water & not enough fresh air is present. If you have a window in your bathroom, open it as often as possible, for as long as possible, especially after a shower or bath. Run the biggest plug-in or battery-operated fan you can find, and run it for as long as possible, preferably aimed right at your wettest surfaces- the bathroom sink and/or the shower/tub enclosure. Here’s my fan rule: I own a Lasko personal fan which is plugged in & sits on my vanity, which thankfully is big enough to hold this at a safe distance from my sink. After my shower, I wipe down my shower walls & bathtub ASAP with an inexpensive but absorbent white hand towel. This does two things- it absorbs as much excess moisture as possible, meaning almost no chance of mildew getting to form. The second thing this does is keep my shower tile & tub so perpetually scrubbed down that no dust, soap scum or dirt ever gets an opportunity to stick around. It literally takes me one minute a day to wipe this shower stall out. Next, I push my shower curtain over completely to the right, letting my fan hit the left side of the tub for a bit, just to dry up any last bit of water left on that side. After twenty minutes or so (enough time to get dried off, do my body grooming & get dressed), I move the shower curtain entirely to the left, adjust the fan to hit the right side of the shower stall, and let that side dry off. Finally, about twenty more minutes later (hair styled & face now made up!), I draw the shower curtain back completely & the curtain now gets to drip-dry openly into the tub. This eliminates my shower curtain from getting moldy, too. If I’m leaving for the day, I turn off the fan. If not, I leave it running, to get residual steam & moisture out of the bathroom’s atmosphere. Don’t leave a fan running if no one will be home, just in case.

If you need to, put up a Post-it note on the bathroom mirror with a brief list of these steps up as a reminder, until they become an ingrained habit for you to do daily. There you have it- a clean bathroom for life, and no one ever has to know that you didn’t break your back to get it! I haven’t had to scrub my bathroom literally in years because of this habit. And my bathroom is cleaner now than it ever was then, because it gets cleaned every day. Enjoy getting your weekends, sanity & mobility back! :D



  1. When I was a kid, the bathroom cleaning routine sucked mightily so I can relate. Ours involved Comet cleaner rather than Scrubbing Bubbles, but otherwise similar. I'm a FlyLady swish & swipe gal myself and life is SOOOO much nicer. I have a garden tub, which I love, but bath products leave a goopy film. My solution is a squirt of Dawn dish liquid on a wet rag, swiped around the inside of the tub. A quick rinse & it's all good! I'm in the process of working through the zones & purging; you're blog is SO motivational--thanks. ~Sheila

    1. I still use Comet & a scrub brush once in a great while to scour the bottom of the rub, but that's a pretty rare housekeeping need. Especially since I switched years ago from bar soap to a body wash- shower gel produces very little soap scum. It's amazing what a wipe down w/ a wet towel & a tiny bit of dishwashing liquid or plain old shampoo does, isn't it? If only I'd known that years ago. I wouldn't saved my manicure & my lungs!

      It warmed my heart to hear my blog motivated you. I'm always a little worried I write too much, and will bore my poor readers to death- but I like to make sure I got everything covered! Thanks so much for your feedback. :)

    2. Bottom of the tub, I meant, lol!

  2. Hi Liz- I am an old Flybuddy- don't know if you would remember me. I am so glad I found this blog of yours!
    I also conquered the bathroom foe the Flylady way, and I am sorry I only found it after my kids were house-trained; I can imagine what a difference it would make in those early helter skelter years. All those apologies when a guest would drop by expectantly, and the frantic cleaning sessions when the Grandparents came for a visit...

    1. Hi, Santie, how are you? Yes, I remember you. :) Thank you so much for advising you like the blog! Yes, I too, remember all-too-well the mad dash for the maintenance man, unexpected guests, etc.- and usually, an argument in the household over "the pigsty". Sigh. Thankfully, like you said, those days are over. I love everything FlyLady talks about. I simply hope to expand & add to what she has done to help others, though I'm not "officially" affiliated with her. I readily admit she is a wonderful mentor of mine, and would steer everyone I know to start her program ASAP. Thanks again for your support, and I hope you continue to enjoy my blog! :D

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