If you’re afraid of germs, walking into a dirty bathroom can feel like walking into the depths of hell.
The good news is, as long as you regularly clean your bathroom — and clean it well — you’re safe from the most harmful germs. Here are 14 relatively easy ways to keep your bathroom squeaky clean and relatively germ-free.
1. Hang a fabric shower curtain and wash it on the hottest cycle to eliminate any biofilm that could be growing on it.
OMFG WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS BIOFILM?!
According to a American Society for Microbiology study, a vinyl shower curtain is the perfect environment for the growth of biofilm, or a thin, slimy film of bacteria that adheres to a surface. Fabric shower curtains aren’t much better, but they are much easier to clean.
2. Pour a one-quarter cup of chlorine bleach into the toilet water and let it sit for a few minutes before flushing. Do this weekly.
Don’t just put the seat down — put the lid down to avoid the dreaded “toilet plumes,” or aerosols that shoot up into the air when you flush.
*Lights skin on fire*
Though scientists aren’t totally convinced that leaving the lid up spreads infection, you are still covering your bathroom in your poo when you do. You can read the literature review of toilet plumes from the National Center for Biotechnology Information for more gruesome details.
3. Make these fizzing toilet tablets out of baking soda, citric acid, and dish soap. Drop them in a few times a week, let them soak for 20 minutes, and flush.
Flushing the toilet doesn’t actually eliminate most of the ~debris~ that go into it. A study that appeared in the Journal of Applied Microbiology concluded that “large numbers of micro-organisms persisted on the toilet bowl surface and in the bowl water” even after multiple flushes. Clearly, you should be cleaning the toilet a lot more than you already do…
4. Store your toothbrush out in the open and upright so it can air-dry easily.
Storing your toothbrush in a closed container allows for the accumulation of moisture (yuck), which creates a very pleasant environment for growing microorganisms.
You should replace your toothbrush every three to four months, and whenever you get sick. Read this article from the ADA for more details.
5. Clean your toothbrush holder regularly in the dishwasher or with hot water and dish soap.
According to a study from the National Sanitation Foundation, the toothbrush holder is the germiest place in your bathroom, so you should be cleaning it weekly.
For a cute vertical dinosaur toothbrush holder, check out this tutorial from PG Everyday.
6. Keep your makeup and makeup brushes in a drawer or in a bag to protect them from bathroom germs.
Fungal spores and bacteria can be attracted to your oily makeup brushes and liquid foundation. Keeping your makeup out of the open air protects it from a lot of germs, but you should also be sanitizing your makeup brushes once a day (or at least once a week — but the more often, the better). Learn how to do it on Blushing Basics.
See 13 Ways Your Makeup Habits Can Make You Sick for more panic-inducing but motivating germ facts.
7. Mop your floors at least once a week to eliminate all of that fungus and mold that could be growing on your moist floors.
If that doesn’t make you feel squirmy, what will? An easy DIY mop solution is water, vinegar, rubbing alcohol, essential oils, and dish soap (get all the measurements here). If possible, use a washable mop that has a head you can just throw it the washer after its bacterial encounters.
According to BuzzFeed Health, by not cleaning your floors regularly, you are tracking all of those germs (toilet plume germs) into the rest of your house — including into your bed. Think about it.
Get a full mopping tutorial on Home Ec 101.
8. Make sure to rinse well after you scrub with soap, because any residue will attract new dirt.
Nuts, right? Basically there are two ends of a soap molecule: one that attracts oil, and one that attracts water. The water traps the oil and pulls it off. Read about it on Planet Science.
The trick is to rinse all surfaces after you’ve used cleaning products. Flushing surfaces with hot water before using the cleaners also makes them work more effectively. See how the pros do it on HGTV. And if you like to keep it natural, make your own surface cleaner with castile soap, water, and essential oils.
9. Clean your sink with bleach at least once a week to eliminate fecal contamination.
According to a study that appeared in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in 1998, the sink drain area and handles had even more fecal contamination than the toilet. The study found that the most effective way to significantly diminish the amount of bacteria was with bleach and a highly regimented cleaning routine: Fill the sink with water, add one cup of bleach, and drain after 10 minutes.
10. Sprinkle half a cup of baking soda down the bathtub drain and follow it up with one cup of white vinegar to get rid of that funky stench.
That smell would be the dreaded biofilm. Let the baking soda sit in the drain for about five minutes and let the vinegar fizz for about 10 minutes. Rinse it through with boiling water. Get the tutorial from the David Suzuki Foundation.
11. Scrub at grout with baking soda and a toothbrush to get rid of mold and mildew.
Grout is porous so it soaks up a lot of moisture.* Spray it with a mixture of vinegar and water and wipe it down. Use a toothbrush to scrub at it with a paste made of water and baking soda, and soak grout stains in hydrogen peroxide. See the full tutorial on Apartment Therapy. If you’re sick of this, you can learn how to seal your grout, which you would only have to do once or twice a year.
*Hypothetical question: If grout is porous and moisture makes it moldy, why in god’s name is there so damn much of both in the bathroom?! Does anyone see anything wrong with this design choice?!
12. Wipe down all of your surfaces at least once a week.
The Sweet Home, after testing eight all-purpose cleaners, determined that Puracy Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner ($6.99 per bottle) is the best. A disinfectant really is only necessary when someone in the house is sick; if you use it too frequently, you could develop or contribute to the development of disinfectant-resistant bacteria.
13. Clean your bathtub with thyme and eucalyptus essential oils, which can be effective in fighting Staphylococcus aureus.
A study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that the bathtub was the most likely site for Staphylococcus aureus contamination to occur in the bathroom (and one of the most likely places in the house). Staphylococcus aureus, or staph, is a bacteria that causes skin infections.
Though bleach is the only way to definitively eliminate staph in your house, it is also toxic. Of course. According to Science Daily, essential oils such as thyme can be effective in killing staph bacteria.* Scrub with a cleaner (like this one), rinse, and dry the tub with a clean towel. If you don’t want to purchase expensive cleaners, you can make your own! Follow this tutorial by One Good Thing by Jillee to make reusable disinfectant wipes with thyme essential oil.
*If you’re interested, The Atlantic also addresses similar experiments that demonstrate the effectiveness of using essential oils to fight drug-resistant bacteria.
14. Wash the festering pile of moisture that is your bath mat once a week to kill off any fungi or mold.
Your bathroom mat is really moist because the water that you drip after the shower doesn’t have room to evaporate. Throw it in the washing machine on a hot cycle to kill off any lurking germs. See more tips on Mama’s Laundry. This bath mat ($19.37) is machine washable and very cozy.