How to get a Really Clean Bathroom (without asphyxiating yourself in the process)

Everyone knows how to clean a bathroom, right? Just grab your aerosol can of mega-disinfectant, spray everything in sight, wipe with a paper towel, swish the toilet with a brush, and shine the mirror with a fragranced blue liquid, and you’re done.

Perfectly clean. Or is it?

In addition to the sizable amount of grime left behind by this method, numerous toxic chemicals are left on the surfaces of your fixtures for hours or days. Not to mention all the dangerous vapors you had to inhale as you sprayed those products.

What if we cleaned our dishes this same way; some disinfectant spray and a paper towel for all the silverware and glasses after a party? Yuk, I’m not sticking that in my mouth. Although I never plan to put my mouth on my toilet, the same concept holds true: a soapy water wash is a cleaner clean.

It’s time for a new paradigm in bathroom clean.

A non-toxic clean:

  • Isn’t complicated, you’ll use items already in your kitchen
  • Can be much more affordable than using standard chemical products
  • Means you will remove the grime and odors, not cover them with disinfectants and fragrances

Read my post on Washing the Bathroom to get a blow-by-blow (albeit mundane) how-to on getting a really clean bathroom.

Step 1: Preclean Toilet

As the dirtiest part of the bathroom, the toilet should take first consideration on a precleaning. Your goal is to wipe up any gunk, hair, and yuk that you can SEE, before you come back and WASH the toilet in a few minutes. As you wipe, keep folding the paper towel to use an unsoiled area of the towel, discarding the towel when fully soiled.

  • Using the vinegar spray and paper towel, start with the top of the tank and the top of the lid (this is mostly dusting).
  • Move to spraying and wiping the area behind and around the lid bolts.
  • Then spray and wipe all around the outside of bowl including where it is bolted to the floor and the immediate floor around it.
  • Open the lid and spray and wipe the seat, under the seat, and top of bowl.
  • Lastly, spray into the toilet bowl all the surfaces not under the water, and wipe away any gunk you can see.
  • Throw the soiled paper towel(s) into the trash and flush the toilet.
  • Prepare for washing the toilet by sprinkling the toilet lip and inside of bowl with baking soda.

Go to Step 2: Preclean Vanity.

Step 2: Preclean Vanity

  • Before actually cleaning the vanity area, it is necessary to remove all the stuff that can makes its way onto the countertop; put away personal care products, medication, toothbrushes, and jewelry. Move candles and/or any other decorative items to a different area so they are protected and you can clean under them.
  • Next, spray the mirror and vanity with the vinegar water, and buff with a dry rag. If you notice streaks on the mirror, this is from the previous glass cleaners you have used which leave a film. You can add a small amount (1/8 tsp) of liquid castile soap or liquid dishwashing soap to your vinegar spray and this should help wash away that old film. Next time you make up your vinegar spray it should be unnecessary to add this.
  • Once the mirror has been shined, wipe the counter clean of dust, cosmetic spills, and hair, thoroughly rinse rag in the sink.

Go to Step 3: Wash Vanity and Sink.

Step 3: Wash Vanity and Sink

  • Respray vanity area and faucet with vinegar spray. Using your thoroughly rinsed rag, scrub counter and backsplash tiles, paying close attention to edges and ledges that collect dust, and to any areas with dried on toothpaste or other gunk.
  • Sprinkle about 1/8 cup baking soda in the sink. Add water as necessary to make a thick paste
  • Scrub all areas of the sink
  • Scrub and wipe all the areas around the faucets to remove gunk and mineral buildup, rinsing your rag as necessary
  • Next, pull the drain stopper out of the drain. If you have not cleaned it for awhile this will be disgusting, however, it must be cleaned, and next week it won’t be so filthy. Pull off any hair balls with attached muck, and flush down toilet. Use the soda paste in the sink to scrub away all the black muck on the stopper, rinsing periodically as you go. Scrub the top of the drain, and wipe around the inside of it an inch or so.
  • Rinse the entire sink and replace stopper.
  • Retrieve those decorative countertop items, wipe them free of dust, and replace.
  • If you have oversprayed or splatter the mirror with water, rewipe those areas with a dry cloth.

Go to Step 4: Mop Floor.

Step 4: Mop Floor

Note: this recipe is suitable for vinyl flooring. Check out cleaner recipes for tile, wood, and linoleum. If you have carpet in your bathroom, I highly recommend replacing it right away with a hard surface which will not harbor bacteria, biological waste, and dust mites. In the meantime, vacuum for dust and lightly spray with vinegar water to reduce urine odors.

Prepare a mop bucket with 4-6 quarts warm water and 1/2 cup vinegar.

  • Vacuum or sweep entire floor, removing the wastebasket and other items on floor.
  • Using a rag wet in the bucket solution and wrung out, wipe floor surface, starting at the bathroom door and working towards the toilet.
  • Continue to rinse the rag in the bucket as you clean, paying attention to the edges of the floor and baseboards as these are dusty areas. You may want to fold an old towel/rag for your knees to rest on, and to use to wipe up any water left behind.
  • The greatest amount of bacteria and grime will be in immediate area around the toilet, so it makes sense to finish with this area rather than spreading the grime around the bathroom.

Go to Step 5: Wash Toilet.

Step 5: Wash Toilet

  • With floor rag, wash the exterior of the toilet tank, continuing to rinse the rag in the bucket.
  • Pay attention to the area where the toilet is bolted to the floor. This make require multiple scrubbings to come clean. Wash as far as you can reach around the back of the bowl, and in all crevices.
  • The baking soda which you left in and on the toilet at the end of your precleaning will help to deodorize and scour away mineral deposits. Wash the entire inside of bowl, using the rag and soda to scrub under the lip where stains are not visible from overhead. Flush, holding tightly to rag to rinse it. Repeat soda scrubbing if necessary. For tough mineral deposits, a scouring stick will do the trick; removing the water from the bowl may be necessary to allow it to work effectively.
  • Once the cleaning rag has cleaned the toilet/toilet area, it is fully soiled, and should be laundered and disinfected before it is used again for cleaning. The solution in the bucket should be discarded and the bucket washed out.

Go to Step 6: Hydrogen Peroxide Spray.

Step 6: Hydrogen Peroxide Spray

For those of you who are worried about vinegar not being a strong enough disinfectant, a final spray of hydrogen peroxide should assure you that your bathroom is really, really clean. Or use my favorite: Thieves household cleaner from Young Living. Once diluted, it’s even cheaper per bottle than peroxide.

  • look for 3% hydrogen peroxide (easy to find at drugstores) and pour this at full strength into a clean new spray bottle.
  • purchase Thieves household cleaner wholesale from Young Living and mix with water as instructed on the bottle, to medium dilution.
  • after your bathroom fixtures have dried completely of the cleaning solutions you used, spray them with the hydrogen peroxide.
  • allow to dry without wiping it.

Go to Step 7: Natural Fragrance.

Step 7: Natural Fragrance

After using all these fragrance-free solutions, it is fun to leave a lovely fragrance in the bathroom as you leave it Really Clean. Read ingredient lists to find a room spray that contains naturally sourced ingredients, such as water, alcohol from corn, and essential oils.

Or better yet, make your own with high quality essential oils.

Spring Breeze Bathroom Spray
4oz water
pinch epsom salt
5 drops each: lavender, orange essential oils
3 drops each: Joy blend, peppermint essential oils

Mix in a small glass spray bottle. Shake before using.

Pumpkin Spice Bathroom Spray
4oz water
pinch epsom salt
5 drops each: cinnamon bark, clove essential oils
3 drops each: nutmeg, lemon essential oils

Mix in a small glass spray bottle. Shake before using.

Go to Step 8: Launder Rags.

Step 8: Launder Rags

It is most efficient to clean all the bathrooms in one house on the same day, using clean rags for each, and then launder all rags together afterward.

  • Rinse and wring out rags as you finish using them, and collect into your washing machine.
  • Set the washer for the smallest amount of water which will wash the amount to rags you have accumulated.
  • Choose the hottest water setting for the wash cycle, cold for rinse cycle.
  • For it’s disinfectant properties, add oxygen bleach along with your mild detergent. Ideally, line-dry the rags in sunshine. If that isn’t possible, a hot dryer cycle will do.

Note: many microfiber rags should not be tumble-dried. Check manufacturer label.

Go to Step 9: Shower and Tub.

Step 9: Shower and Tub

I’m of the theory that showers are too difficult to clean from the outside, and I much prefer to clean mine while using it.

I keep a scrub brush and spray bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the shower for a quick all-over scrub of the walls, floor and crevices around the door. Periodically the floor needs a scouring, which requires baking soda and a little more elbow grease. A daily spray of hydrogen peroxide in areas prone to mold help keep it in check, as does an all-over squee-gee to remove water drops before you exit the shower.

Tubs that are used often will also need periodic scourings with baking soda and water. On a weekly basis, spray with vinegar water and wipe down with a damp rag, then rinse.