If you visited me, as opposed to looking at my photos, you really would not think I’m that great of a housekeeper. I’m the kind of person who never even gives a thought to whether there should be toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom (you know, the bathroom your dinner guests use), because to me it’s more important that I’m able to brush my teeth when I want to go to bed than whether the guests see my toothbrushes.
And you see, at our house we don’t have a master-bedroom bathroom, despite having five bathrooms. It’s complicated. Maybe at your house things are complicated too, and maybe you aren’t that great of a housekeeper, figuring that if you got yourself dressed you were ahead of the game, never mind cleaning bathtubs…
But you know, the bathroom needs to be clean! And it needs to look clean and smell clean. For a professional explanation of how to clean a bathroom, go to the library and check out some books like Home Comforts or Confessions of an Organized Homemaker.
|Michael’s craft mirror, thrifted knob, hand-me-down ribbon and curtain tack.|
If I may, I would just like to offer a few little things having to do with cleaning bathrooms while nursing babies, homeschooling, being 8 months preggo and not bendable, and in short, just having lots of kids. It’s the reality factor that’s missing from the books (less in Confessions, as the author raised five children; more in Home Comforts, the author of which had one child, and I truly believe you can do anything with one child, including have a clean house all the time!).
First, do everything in your power to get a bathroom made of cleanable substances. When comparing toilets, for example, steer clear of the ones with many nooks and crannies and inaccessible places. Why, oh why, did anyone ever invent the cursed shower door? What’s so wrong with a bathtub/shower combo? At least if a shower curtain gets gross you can throw it out and get a new one.
And don’t get me started on Jacuzzis. You can’t bathe a baby in one. No one can afford to fill one. And no one has time for one. Please just get me an old fashioned bathtub. Please.
|Old-fashioned door, not an old-fashioned tub :(|
Go ahead and scrape out old caulking and replace it with silicone caulking — very thinly applied. Use your finger — you can wipe it off later. Eschew very white grout. Use washable paint and avoid wallpaper. Wallpaper + steam = drooping wallpaper, duh.
Living in old houses, we’ve always had issues with other people’s bad construction choices. I’m dreaming of the day when everything will be tightly sealed, mildew-free, and wipeable! Obviously it’s easier to clean a good bathroom than a bad one, so get a good one if you can.
|Paint your 70s cabinet black and the hardware suddenly pops.|
Okay, moving on to cleaning what you’ve got.
Personally, and maybe I’m revealing even more of my inadequacy than I intended to, I don’t see the need for a bucket unless you are mopping the floor. The bucket idea seems to reach back into the mists of time when the bathroom didn’t actually have running water in it. But LO! It does now. Don Aslett says (not sure in which of his valuable books) to use the water in the sink or tub and clean those last. I concur.
And there are two levels of bathroom cleaning, just like the other rooms: The Blitz and the Normal Clean (the deep clean is for special and you can consult the books on that one).
Here’s where having lots of kids works in your favor.
The key to your life, obviously, is multi-tasking. No one multi-tasks like a mom. So, you know how all those kids are always needing a bath? And even when they aren’t particularly dirty, it’s just a lifesaver to get them in there splashing away?
Well, that time is your chance to get the bathroom into shape with a daily blitz. You have to be with them because they need supervision so that they don’t drown and they don’t grab razors and Tylenol and Comet and what have you. Yet, most of the time when you are in there, they are playing happily and you are doing nothing! So get off the phone and clean the bathroom!
Listen. Don’t let them drown on account of me. Use your common sense. You know the difference between a baby who truly has to be watched every second and one who is okay in there because there are so many others in that tub that they are all like sardines, propping each other up! So you, also on the spot, can scrub down the toilet and sink.
So if anyone expires, don’t blame moi.
But this is what I did, and my bathroom was cleaner then than it is now that I have lots of time: I used that playing time (and you really only need five minutes) to get the toilet scrubbed, wiped down, and dried off. Then, since I’ve used the sink for my water supply, I clean that, using a different sponge, and rinse and dry it off. (Use rag towels for drying.) Wipe off the mirror.
Replace the hand towel with a clean one (please do this at least once a day with many kids around!).
It follows as the night the day that your supplies need to be right there under the sink or in a handy cabinet. No running down the hall for Windex. Stock up with the following:
- Two sponges of distinct styling (that have been demoted from kitchen use): one for the toilet, the other for everything else
- Comet (what’s wrong with good ole Comet?)
- Scrubbing bubbles–type spray for the accursed shower
- Mildew spray for the accursed shower
- Toilet brush
- Windex (store brand, natch)
- Paper towels and rags for the mirror
- If you are saddled with a shower door, get a squeegee. Never mind sprays — you need to wipe that water off with a rubber tool.
- Rubber gloves that don’t have holes in them — treat yourself to a new pair
- A basin to contain it all neatly under the sink.
- A pitcher for rinsing dogs and tubs.
- Clean towels and washcloths.
|Today is Friday and I don’t replace the towels and washcloths in this basket until Saturday morning, but this is our immediate supply here on this yard-sale chippy kid’s chair.|
When the kids are drying off and in various stages of getting dressed, running around naked, screaming, and laughing, wash out the tub, gather up your dirty towels along with their things and back yourself out of your blitzed bathroom.
Once or twice a week, shake out and wash the rugs, vacuum and mop the floor, change the bath towels, and you’re good to go.
How do you only do bath towels once a week? How, Auntie Leila?
Color code the towels. I mean, unless you have it together enough for monograms! Do not rely on the placement of the towel (i.e. hooks or racks). All it takes is for two children to toss their towels on the floor and you are sunk. You do need hooks, because a towel that has dried a clean child will be fine for many days if it dries out completely between uses.
You know the hygiene protocol that you go through with each child, teaching them to wipe themselves and wash their hands? Let me advise you to revisit that training every year or two, asking them to visualize what is happening to that towel if they are not using warm water and soap to wash their hands… yeah.
As you leave, ask yourself if your bathroom looks and smells clean. Imagine that you are taking a guest around your house. (This happens often, I find. Sometimes they are looking for their child, sometimes they want a tour. It’s revealing, isn’t it?) What would you change right now if a non-family member were there? Do it!
Don’t boom and bust in your bathroom — it should always be fairly presentable. Good job!
Now, would you do me a favor? If you have recently built or renovated a bathroom and know of and have experience with fixtures (tub, sink, toilet, shower, faucets, flooring) that are durable, affordable, and easy to clean (over time — they all look good to start with, but then reveal their blasted impossible places to get at and moldering aspects), would you share with us? I for one would surely appreciate it!