How to Clean the Bathroom from Top to Bottom
Your step-by-step guide for how to clean a bathroom till it sparkles.
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Get ready for your bathroom cleaning checklist
Cleaning the bathroom is a double-edged sword: It’s no fun to do, but it’s hard not to love the results. So think of the sparkling “after” photo when it’s time for your bathroom’s regularly scheduled scrub-down—and yes, it definitely needs cleaning on the regular. The bathroom is one of the most highly trafficked and germy places in your entire home. Throw in a steamy shower and water splashes, and you’ve just created a welcoming environment for bacteria, fungus, mold, and grime. Suffice it to say, it’s important to learn how to clean a bathroom properly, and to do so often.
Knowing how to clean your bathroom the right way isn’t as hard as you’d think. In fact, with our expert-approved checklist, this domestic drudgery can even transform into an easily accomplished task. Whether you’re learning how to clean stainless steel, how to remove hard water stains, or how to clean the dirtiest items in your home, you’ll get A-plus advice from Sarah Karakaian, a home rental consultant who uses her cleaning expertise to help clients improve their rental properties.
Of course, once your bathroom shines like the top of the Chrysler Building, you’ll need to put in a little effort to maintain all your hard work. How often should you clean your bathroom? Karakaian likes to tidy up the sink and vanity area nightly, before bed. You can save the deep cleaning for once a week. As for the heavy-duty stuff, “you don’t have to get the drill out for your grout line more than once a year,” she says. Read on as she breaks down the entire bathroom-cleaning process step by step and shares the optimal cleaning schedule.
Karakaian recommends cleaning from top to bottom so bits of dust and debris—say, from ceiling vents—don’t dirty just-cleaned bathroom surfaces. The bathroom exhaust fan is a good place to start because it’s so crucial; if it’s not cleaned often, it can pose a fire hazard. Use a microfiber cloth or paper towel to wipe visible dust bits from the fan’s vent. You can also use a vacuum cleaner nozzle to suck up the dust. Then, using a cloth and spritz of vinegar-and-water cleaner, wipe down the surface (be careful not to get the interior wet) and around the outside of the vent.
Every six months, you’ll need to do a deeper clean, which involves removing the vent cover and soaking it in soapy water. You’ll need to take proper precautions, so save this explainer on how to deep clean a bathroom exhaust fan for your next big cleaning.
Tile and grout
White and light gray subway tiles have been top bathroom decor options over the past five years, says Karakaian. And while they’re definitely beautiful, they make it impossible to hide grime. Thankfully, the solution couldn’t be simpler. “Get a really simple paste going with baking soda and water. I wish it was more glamorous, but that is what works best,” she jokes, adding that the consistency of the paste should be on the thicker side, not watery. You’ll be spreading it across the grout, and you don’t want it to drip.
“Then get a scrub brush attachment for an ordinary handheld power drill, which really helps to just save your arm, and move in a circular motion on the lowest setting. It gets in those grout lines really well,” she says. “It takes the yellow out, it takes the dirt out, it really revives your grout.”
If you don’t have a power drill, a toothbrush works just fine for the grout, but be prepared for an arm workout. Not much of a DIY-er? Zep grout cleaner is basically magic. Whatever solution you choose, let it sit on the grout for five minutes before rinsing with warm water.
If you know how to clean a bathroom shower, you’re well on your way to knowing how to clean a bathroom floor. You’ll use the same baking soda paste, but for an extra-deep clean, you’ll need to put the baking soda solution all over the floor. Let it sit for five minutes before washing it away. “Do a simple solution of soap and water, and put a microfiber towel on a Swiffer or Bona tool,” recommends Karakaian, who prefers Bona’s microfiber mop because the towels can be thrown in the wash and reused. “Your floors will never look cleaner.”
One of Karakaian’s must-haves for cleaning the bathroom, and specifically, cleaning the showerhead, is Bar Keepers Friend. Generously apply the product around the showerhead’s nozzle, pipe, and spray. The wait time isn’t long—the manufacturer suggests one minute. “Let it sit for a little bit and wipe off with your microfiber rag,” Karakaian says. “It will bring that stainless steel finish, or whatever finish it is, back to life.”
If your tub is looking a little worse for wear or it’s been a (long) while since you wiped it down, it may need a deeper clean than a scrubbing with simple tub cleaner. Karakaian has the perfect hack, and it includes supplies you probably already have at home. “You can use powdered Tide, the laundry detergent, with water and just a microfiber cloth to scrub your tub,” she says.
That’s step one. If the tub still doesn’t sparkle, kick it up a notch by mixing Tide, baking soda, and borax with a bit of water. “That is going to cut through anything on top,” she says.
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The fact that it’s easy to clean doesn’t make your bathroom mirror any less important than your other fixtures. Just think of all the toothpaste that splatters its surface! You can reach for the Windex, but Karakaian learned an even better cleaning hack from her mother: “We use vinegar, water, and newspaper,” she says.
Karakaian admits it’s an odd combination, but insists she’s never found a better solution. Use the newspaper to wipe the vinegar-and-water solution over your mirror and “it becomes crystal clear,” she says.
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Countertop or vanity
To clean the top of a vanity or counter, Karakaian opts for natural cleansers over Lysol. Not only can harsh chemical cleaners harm certain countertop materials, but the strong scent also lingers. Vinegar, on the other hand, “dissipates incredibly fast,” she says. “It’s just great for cleaning almost anything.”
But—and this is important—before you start spraying, make sure you know how to clean countertops made of various materials. If your vanity top is a natural stone like granite or marble, you should not use vinegar. Instead, opt for dish soap, water, and a microfiber towel to wipe down the surface. Or if you prefer your counters to have a just-cleaned smell, Karakaian suggests using a stone cleaner from Zep.
Chakrapong Worathat/Getty Images
You can effectively clean your bathroom with natural cleaners, but you’ll probably want to break out the big guns (aka chemical cleaners) for this germ-ridden item. Karakaian prefers Lysol toilet bowl cleaner, which has disinfecting power. First, flush the toilet. Then place the pointed tip at the top of the bowl and squeeze cleaner as you circle the toilet, letting the solution run down into the water. Scrub the bowl with a brush, making sure you get under the rim. Let the cleaner sit for 30 seconds (to sanitize) or 15 minutes (to disinfect), then flush.
“The biggest thing to remember for people who are cleaning the toilet is to make sure they get into that little nook where everything flushes through,” she says. “If you don’t clean that part, too, it can yellow over time.” Another gentle reminder: Let the brush dry before you stash it in its holder. Putting it away while wet is just one cleaning mistake that’ll make your home dirtier.
Bathroom sinks take quite a beating, washing down toothpaste to moisturizers and everything in between. (Yes, we’re referring to hair, the number one reason you have to unclog your sink so often.) Karakaian likes to use a solution of vinegar and water around the basin, provided it’s not stone. But be warned: Vinegar isn’t a disinfectant, and your sink is one of the germiest places in your bathroom. To kill bacteria, you may want to use a disinfectant spray.
You can use vinegar spray, a disinfectant, or Bar Keepers Friend to make your sink faucet and handles shine. Next, move on to the drain. Make its metal finish sparkle with a sprinkle of powdered Bar Keepers Friend. Let it sit for a minute, then use your microfiber rag to wipe away the excess. “It’ll take off any of that pinkish or yellowish grime that can build up by the drain,” she says.
Plastic shower curtains and liners are magnets for mildew, soap scum, and hard water stains, but learning how to clean a shower curtain is almost too easy. Are you ready for the simple solution? Toss them into the washing machine. Yes, that’s it!
Add a few rags or old towels to the load; they’ll help rub away the offending grime. Wash with your normal detergent and to dry, hang the curtain back up on its hooks.
Soap scum–covered shower doors don’t make for the most spa-like bath experience. But glass shower doors will glisten with Karakaian’s hack: Use newspaper to wipe the doors with a vinegar-and-water mix. If your doors aren’t pure glass, spritz the vinegar solution onto them, then wipe dry with a microfiber cloth. “Vinegar is a fantastic, natural cleaning agent,” she says, “and that would be a great way to just get that deep clean.”
Now that you know how to clean a bathroom the right way, it’s time to tackle cleaning your oven. We promise, it’s not as hard as it looks.
- Sarah Karakaian, home rental consultant