You’ve been putting it off for weeks—maybe even months: the dreaded chore of deep cleaning the bathroom. Meanwhile, the bathtub has gotten grimier, the sink ickier, and, well, we won’t even talk about what’s behind the toilet bowl.
Deep cleaning your bathroom requires some “elbow grease”—your back and shoulders will definitely get a workout. If you can’t do a deep cleaning yourself because you’re too busy, you have physical limitations, or you simply don’t like doing it, hiring a maid service for house cleaning help is an ideal solution, especially for more physically demanding tasks like scrubbing the shower/bathtub, and interior and exterior window cleaning.
Keeping your bathroom(s) spic and span is important not only for appearance’s sake, but also to keep nasty germs at bay. Here’s the deal: Our environment (and our bodies) are covered in germs—from single-celled bacteria, to viruses, to fungi and protozoa. Trying to get rid of germs is an effort in futility, and we wouldn’t want to eliminate them all, in any case, since most of these microscopic hitchhikers are harmless and can even help keep us healthy.
While the majority of germs pose no risk to our health, there are some bad apples that can make us sick, like E. coli and Staph aureus. It’s these tiny troublemakers we need to avoid.
Ahead we’ll explore tricks for easier cleaning without endless scrubbing, and we’ll look at how to make your own germ-killing, non-toxic cleaners using ingredients found right in your kitchen. First, let’s talk germs.
The “Bad Bugs” That Could Be Lurking in Your Bathroom
Only 1-2% of germs are pathogenic (meaning they can make us sick), but we still need to be cautious of them. Here are some bugs that could be making a cozy home in your bathroom:
- Enteric pathogens like Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter are spread through food contamination and can be carried in feces. Some of these organisms can cause severe diarrhea, which can lead to more serious health problems, especially for young children and seniors, whose immune systems are more vulnerable.
- Fungi such as the species that cause athlete’s foot can be picked up when walking barefoot in the bathroom (which is inevitable, isn’t it?). Residual fungi like mold and mildew can trigger allergies and asthma symptoms.
- Gastrointestinal viruses, such as norovirus, cause inflammation in the stomach/intestines that leads to stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting.
- Skin and respiratory bugs, such as Staphylococcus aureus, the strain responsible for most staph infections; S. aureus can lead to skin infections, pneumonia, and other problems.
The good news is that regular cleaning and good hygiene habits keep your risk of contracting these bacterial, fungal, and viral infections low.
Before we get started with cleaning tips, let’s look at the supplies you’ll need.
Deep Cleaning Supply List
- Microfiber cloths and/or cotton cleaning towels
- Scouring pads (made of metal or plastic mesh)
- Baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, tea tree oil, essential oil, lemon juice (more info below)
- Paper towels
- Dustpan and broom
- Steam cleaner (optional, but recommended for non-toxic germ-killing)
- Toilet brush
Natural Alternatives to Harsh Cleaning Products
You can effectively clean and kill germs using natural products. Parents who have kids with asthma, allergies, or other sensitivities already know the advantages of using non-toxic products to avoid triggering wheezing, skin reactions, and other problems.
If you’ve ever read the labels on the side of commercial-grade cleaning products, there’s typically a laundry list of potential dangers, including eye, respiratory, and skin irritation. There’s no doubt these cleaners are powerful germ and grime killers, and they may very well be necessary if your bathroom has been neglected and you need to bring out the big guns. If not, the natural stuff will probably do the job.
Here are some natural options for cleaning:
Vinegar: A weak form of acetic acid, most bacteria can’t survive the acidic pH of vinegar. It has a strong odor while you’re using it, but the smell quickly fades once dry. To make the smell more pleasant, add a few drops of peppermint extract or your favorite essential oil to a solution of equal parts vinegar and water.
Hydrogen peroxide: The stuff we’ve used for generations to disinfect scrapes and wounds is also an excellent non-toxic cleaner for your bathroom. It also makes a great no-streak window cleaner. Fill a spray bottle and use to disinfect surfaces.
Baking soda: Not only does it make your cookies soft and fluffy, baking soda also works wonders on mold and mildew, which are common problems in frequently humid bathrooms. Apply baking soda to dirty grout and use it to scrub away dirt, grime, and mildew from the sink, shower, toilet bowl—even the shower curtain.
Tea tree oil: This versatile oil (extracted from the leaves of a tree native to Australia) has natural antiseptic properties, giving it a surprising variety of uses, from treating acne, to freshening laundry, to killing mold and mildew.
DIY Recipes for Non-Toxic, Eco-Friendly Cleaners
- All-purpose cleaner: Mix 3 cups of water, ½ cup of vinegar, and ¼ teaspoon of tea tree oil drops tea tree oil into a spray bottle for use on all washable surfaces.
- Abrasive, scrubbing paste: Mix one part lemon juice with two parts baking soda for a deodorizing paste that can be used to scrub mildew and grime from the shower, tub, sink, and other surfaces.
- Glass cleaner: Use undiluted white vinegar or undiluted 3% hydrogen peroxide for squeaky clean glass.
- Mold cleaner: Mix one part 3% hydrogen peroxide with two parts water into a spray bottle. Spray onto areas with mold/mildew, and wait at least an hour before rinsing.
If making natural cleaners isn’t your thing, there are plenty of non-toxic cleaners made from plant-derived cleaning agents, like Seventh Generation products, available at your local retailers.
Okay, now that we’ve covered the supplies you’ll need and explored how to make your own natural cleaning products, let’s get down to the nitty gritty with some cleaning tips and tricks.
Turn up the tunes, grab your cleaning supplies, and let’s get started!
A solution of one part non-toxic dishwashing detergent and vinegar is excellent for getting rid of soap scum. Apply and use a scouring pad to work off the grime. Using a steam cleaner beforehand will make scrubbing easier. If you don’t have a steam cleaner, running the shower for one minute using hot water will have a similar effect.
A paste of baking soda and lemon juice is good for scrubbing the shower pan/bathtub. If you have doors on your shower rather than a shower curtain, it’s likely you have at least some mold build-up in the cracks and crevices of the doors—a toothbrush will come in handy here.
Your shower head makes an ideal home for bacteria, and mineral build up can clog the sprayers. To clean and disinfect the shower head, put a small amount of equal parts water and vinegar into a plastic bag and secure it around the shower head with a rubber band. Leave it on overnight, remove, and run the water to clear it out.
If you have a shower curtain, toss it along with the plastic liner (if applicable) right into the washing machine on a warm water setting. If the outer shower curtain is fabric, you should be able to dry it in the dryer on a low heat setting. Meanwhile, hang the plastic curtain back up to dry completely. You’ll be amazed at how well the washing machine cleans the curtain and liner.
Scrubbing down walls isn’t typically part of the cleaning routine for most of us, but bathrooms are one place where it’s needed, since bathroom walls can easily collect residue from frequent heat/steam. If you’re noticing strange yellow-tinged droplets on your walls and ceiling, this is an indication that you need to improve the ventilation in your bathroom. Moisture and humidity cause beads of water to condense and stick to the walls, trapping dirt and other contaminants in the process.
To eliminate this problem, make a habit of open a window after showering. If your bathroom has no windows, make sure you have an operable exhaust fan, and run it during and after bathroom use until surfaces are completely dry. To scrub walls clean, use a 1:1 solution of water-vinegar, or, alternatively, hydrogen peroxide in a spray bottle, and wipe down with a cleaning cloth.
It’s amazing how much dust can collect on the inside of medicine and storage cabinets. Removing everything from the cabinets and wiping down shelves is one of those annoyingly time-consuming chores, but it’s worth it, since it also gives you the opportunity to purge old toiletries, medications, and other products in the process. Learn how/where to dispose of old medications and partially used toiletries.
“I love cleaning the toilet,” said no one ever, but, alas, it must be done. A steam cleaner is great for killing germs in and around the toilet. If you don’t have a steam cleaner, use a toothbrush with a 1:1 water/vinegar solution and baking soda/lemon juice paste to clean inside the bowl. Spray a vinegar/water solution on the base, outer bowl and tank, toilet seat and lid, and wipe down with a rag/cleaning cloth for a squeaky clean, disinfected toilet, inside and out.
Cleaning countertops is pretty straightforward … unless you have a tile countertop with moldy grout. To get grout clean, mix 3% hydrogen peroxide and water (1:1 ratio) in a spray bottle. Spray the grout until it’s completely saturated, and wait an hour. Scrub grout with a toothbrush, rinse well, and wipe dry.
Most countertops (granite, tile, Formica, etc.) will come clean with a vinegar and water solution. A baking soda/lemon juice paste will help remove soap scum from the sink. Spray the faucet with a vinegar/water solution and wipe down. If your faucet is scummy/moldy, use the same trick we described earlier for the shower head.
Streaks are so annoying. Thankfully, either white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide (3%) does a great job of getting mirrors and windows clean with no streaks. Use newspaper or a microfiber cloth for best results. A vinegar/water solution works well to clean windowsills.
You’re almost done! It makes sense to clean the floor last, since you’ll be walking through your bathroom to clean other areas, and water will inevitably drip onto the floor. Remove everything from the floor, including area rugs, the wastebasket and magazine rack, etc. Next, sweep or vacuum the floors to remove debris.
If you have tile floors, a steam cleaner is ideal to get the tile and grout clean and disinfected, and for cleaning around the base boards and behind the toilet. If you don’t have a steam cleaner, dunk microfiber cloth into a bucket of warm water and vinegar, and wipe along baseboards. Wash down the floors with the same vinegar/water solution, whether you do it the old fashioned way (on hands and knees) or with a mop.