9 cleaning mistakes everybody makes in their bathroom

Tips and advice for next time.
White freestanding bathtub in a contemporary bathroom with a neutral, white and grey colour palette.Photography: Simon Shiff

Cleaning the bathroom is no one’s idea of a good time. There’s usually a bunch of chemicals, scrubbing, mould, soap scum and all sorts of other delightful bathroom phenomena that needs removing, and you’re more than happy to get in, get the job done, get out, and call it a day. But did you know there’s actually a few simple rules you should be following when cleaning a bathroom?

Here are nine cleaning mistakes everybody makes in the bathroom…

1. Mixing too many chemicals

Bathrooms tend to be quite small with limited ventilation, so it’s best to avoid using too many different chemicals at once. Limit yourself to a few key cleaning products to achieve a spotless bathroom without the toxic fumes. Vinegar, for example, is great for busting through soap scum and killing mould spores, but it should never ever be mixed with chlorine bleach. Dishwashing liquid is a fantastic all-rounder for cleaning shower screens and making surfaces sparkle again, and bicarb soda is great for scrubbing away stubborn grime. 

Renovated family bathroom and white subway tiles with bath.
(Credit: Photography: Simon Shiff)

2. Not cleaning hair and toothbrushes

Cleaning the bathroom doesn’t stop at wiping down all the shiny surfaces. Toothbrushes need to be replaced every three months, but should be thoroughly cleaned once every one to two weeks by soaking them in vinegar and rinsing them off, this will remove bacteria. Toothbrushes should be kept out of direct light and away from the toilet. Don’t forget to remove hair and build-up from hairbrushes too, as skin and other bacteria accumulate in them.

3. Inadequate ventilation

Everybody knows that working with harsh chemicals in an enclosed space is bad for our health, yet when it comes to bathrooms, we seem to overlook this rule. These days, many bathrooms, such as apartments and small houses, aren’t very big and don’t have enough ventilation. If this applies to your home, try to choose mild or natural cleaners, and avoid using chemical cleaners with strong smells, or bleach, unless the situation truly requires it.

If you can, keep windows and doors open and turn on the exhaust fan.

Eclectic green bathroom and clawfoot tub.
(Credit: Photography: Karl Rogers / Styling: Natalie Boruvka)

4. Not drying the shower

Want to know the secret to a shower screen you rarely have to scrub? Drying it down after every use. You can either place a squeegee in the shower or keep a stack of microfibre cloths handy to wipe things down every time. Keeping the shower dry prevents water marks, soap scum build up and prevents the kind of moisture that allows mould to thrive. It’s a little bit of effort for a big payoff. 

Have a shower curtain? Regularly pop it in the washing machine with some old towels and a bit of bleach, with hot water on a delicate cycle. To extend the shelf life of your liner, pull the curtain closed after you shower, as an open and squished-up liner will quickly attract mould and mildew.

5. Not cleaning the toilet brush

The toilet brush is the home to many unhealthy bacteria. Clean yours by filling a bucket with hot water and adding two-three capsules of bleach (see the bottle label for advice on this) or disinfectant solution. Put your toilet brush in the bucket and leave for an hour, then take the brush out and rinse under hot water. Leave to dry then replace in holder.

country style bathroom with brass tapware
(Credit: Photography: Simon Whitbread / Styling: Heliconia)

6. Not giving the products enough time to work

We’re all guilty of trying to rush through the cleaning chores, but you need to allow enough time for products to do their job once they’re applied to your floor, shower, vanity or toilet. Always follow the instructions on the packaging for optimum results.

7. Not cleaning the pipes

Martha Stewart recommends cleaning your bathroom pipes every month or two to prevent grease, oil, and hair buildup. She suggests pouring a ½ cup baking soda down the drain, followed by a ½ cup of white vinegar. Let the foamy mixture settle for a few minutes while it dissolves the fatty acids, then pour boiling water down the drain.

(Photography: Simon Whitbread)

8. Ignoring worn-out grout and silicone

There’s a big difference between discoloured grout and grout that’s well and truly had it. If your grout is becoming mouldy and discoloured no matter how many times you clean it, and no matter how many times you try to bleach it, it may be a sign that it’s time to replace it. Same goes with discoloured, crumbling or peeling silicone. Replacing both can instantly improve your bathroom and will prevent water egress and leaks down the track. 

9. Not cleaning regularly enough

Bathrooms should be cleaned once a week. It may sound like overkill, but keeping up with regular bathroom cleans will ensure the task never gets the point where you need to dedicate half a day to getting things back in order. If the thought of cleaning your entire bathroom once a week makes you feel overwhelmed – try breaking the task up into a series of smaller jobs you can tackle daily (e.g. wiping down surfaces on Monday, scrubbing the shower and bath on a Tuesday, vacuuming, cleaning the toilet on a Saturday and vacuuming and mopping floors on a Sunday). 

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