5 Spots in Your Bathroom You’re Probably Forgetting to Clean

Neglecting them, as I learned, is a terrible idea.

January 29, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

I have a love-hate relationship with cleaning my bathroom.

When it’s that day of the week, you’ll find me running out the door on a day-long chore-arathon that will likely include the pet store (we have no pets) and the dentist (I hate dentists). But mention a deep clean, and I’m all ears and legs—dashing to the kitchen to grab my bucket of arsenal from under the sink. For me, there’s just something about the 'deep' that puts the fun back into 'clean'—it’s the regular cleaning that I’m not best friends with.

My bathroom deep clean has a recurring spot on my calendar each month and includes a checklist of the usual suspects (hello, grout) but also, and more rewarding to me, everything else that typically sits—and stays—in our blindspots. The other day, for the express purpose of researching this article—it's what I told them—I asked a few friends of mine: How many of you clean the area behind the toilet regularly? At least half of them had no idea such an area exists. One friend said she got in there once for exactly two seconds before she ran away screaming…never to revisit it.

I don’t blame her—its appeal is limited, not to mention its access. But like any cleaning task, it only gets grosser the longer you put it off. Here then are five spots in the bathroom that I can confirm definitely exist, and that you may be forgetting to clean.

Behind the toilet

When it comes to cleaning, or eating a pre-plated meal, my strategy is to always tackle the least favorite thing first. To begin, I take my dustbuster into the awkward space behind the toilet and suck up the dust bunnies that have made it their home. I then grab a disinfecting spray and liberally spritz the entire base of the toilet, and especially the harder-to-reach back of the base, and also spray the tiled walls and floor behind and beside the toilet. I let the cleaner sit for a minute or two before wiping the whole area down. One down, four to go.

Shower curtain rod

You’d be surprised at how many layers of dust can stubbornly hang on these things. But cleaning a curtain rod is easier than you think: Fill a small bucket or bowl with warm, soapy water, dip a cloth into this water, wring, and run across and down the length of the shower rod. Rinse out the rag and wipe the rod again to remove any remaining soap. You can also pour some white vinegar onto a clean, dry rag and wipe down the curtain rod for extra flourish.

Light bulbs

What if I told you you could get up to 30 percent more light in your bathroom if you did this one? Make sure your bulb is cold i.e. has been off for a while before you do anything with it. Take the bulb carefully off its fixture and wipe it with a dry, soft microfiber cloth or a (very, very well-wrung) damp one. What you definitely don't want to do is wipe a lightbulb with a damp cloth while it's still warm or turned on. This will run you the risk of a terrifying glass shatter.

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Top Comment:
— mdelgatty

Put aside till totally dry before screwing it back on—while it dries, you can use a feather duster to clean the lighting fixture itself. Also, read this for an extra step that will make your bathroom smell like a spa.

Toothbrush holder

Assistant Editor Caroline Mullen swears by this extra-mile cleaning routine: “I tend to rinse off my toothbrush holder whenever I wipe down other surfaces in the bathroom. This usually happens when I see little flecks of toothpaste—ew—accumulating on the faucet," she says. If she’s doing a deep clean—usually once a month—she might even run her holder through the dishwasher.

Exhaust vent cover

Of all the items to clean in your bathroom, the exhaust vent cover isn't always top-of-mind. But neglecting it is a terrible idea, as I discovered via the near-dangerous buildup I spotted a couple months ago. Ok, I fib: I spotted it way before that but chose to ignore it.

Before you start, remember to flip the circuit breaker. Then, getting on a stool or small ladder, carefully unclip the vent cover. Soak it in a bucket of hot soapy water, using a damp microfiber cloth, or soft brush, to scrub away caked-on dust and grime. And remember to air-dry the vent cover completely before reassembly. However, this, as is turns out, is just the beginning: there’s also the fan blades and the motor, both of which I plan to get to this weekend. I’ll tell you how it goes.

Finally, don’t forget to give your gloved hands a good scrubbing with soap and hot water before you take them off. A pat on the back doesn’t hurt, either.

What is the one spot in your bathroom that needs your attention? Tell us in the comments below!

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Arati Menon

Written by: Arati Menon

Arati grew up hanging off the petticoat-tails of three generations of Indian matriarchs who used food to speak their language of love—and she finds herself instinctually following suit. Life has taken her all across the world, but she carries with her a menagerie of inherited home and kitchen objects that serve as her anchor. Formerly at GQ and Architectural Digest, she's now based in Brooklyn.


Rochelle W. February 20, 2020
A couple of things.....

1). I eliminated half the containers underneath the bathroom sink by no linger buying cleaners that not only cost a pretty penny, but contain lots of different chemicals harsh chemicals (and always make me sneeze, etc.). Instead I have two really good spray bottles of two different cleaners I make myself:
One is half rubbing alcohol and half water and the other is half hydrogen peroxide and half water. Between those and using baking soda for an abrasive cleaner inside the toilet, you eliminate clutter. Only buy bathroom rugs you can throw in the washer and dryer and make sure to throw them regularly in the laundry. Light switches and doorknobs should be cleaned weekly at a minimum and baseboards seem to always be forgotten even while we keep the floors mopped. I used miracle cloths for cleaning/drying as well as dish cloths as both can be throw in the washing machine; eliminates the need for sponges.
Arati M. February 21, 2020
This is all such great advice. I really need to start making my own cleaners (I've also been on a drive to cut down plastic consumption at home). Which of those two do you use for which tasks? And I agree about the baseboards...always a blindspot!
Rochelle W. February 21, 2020
Arati, while it is my understanding that both of the cleaners do a good job of disinfecting, I usually reserve the hydrogen peroxide/water mixture for either when hubby is sick in the house, there are a lot of colds going around, etc. Costco has them both for really inexpensive prices but hydrogen peroxide is used a lot in hospitals for killing all sorts of viruses/bacteria - so I use it more right around the kitchen sink area/disinfecting the cutting boards.

I use the rubbing alcohol (making sure I only buy the 70% Isopropyl Alcohol)/water one for most everything else. It does especially well on the granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, bathroom mirrors, toilet seat lid and seat, etc.

Someone suggested adding some essential oil to get nice lingering smells and while I love the idea of putting them in the lightbulbs, I wouldn’t put it in the cleaning solutions because I think it leaves a residue on the bathroom mirrors.
Lauren B. February 20, 2020
I am guessing that nobody here ever cleaned for a living. The tasks mentioned are done weekly and then there never is too much to clean and you don’t have to make them into such a big production. Example: Use the vacuum to clean the Exhaust vents frequently and then you don’t have to fuss with circuit breakers and wet rags. 🌻
janet V. February 21, 2020
I do clean for a living and do exactly as you describe with the exhaust vent. Wiping the entire floor, including behind the toilet and baseboards, if done weekly, are not daunting tasks.
If time is really an issue, keep a container of disinfecting wipes under the sink and ask family members to help by wiping a few things each time they're in there (TP holder, light switches, flusher handle, top of toilet tank. )
RecipeCat February 20, 2020
One little known trick is to wash the shower curtains in your washing machine. Yes! It's such a great way to reduce waste and be a little gentler on the environment. Stop throwing away giant sheets of plastic with this easy refreshing trick.
Here are the steps I follow:
1. Use the gentle cycle, and very little soap (maybe a quarter of what you use for a small load)
2. Be ready with a bucket when you pull out the curtains (I use an old plastic storage box) as it will be wet
3. Hang it back up in your shower to "drip dry"
It may look a bit wrinkle-y when it first comes out but it will relax over a couple of days especially with the warm shower water and steam.
janet V. February 21, 2020
I do this as well. Use a generous amount of Lime Away if there is hard water residue, or bleach if mildew is a problem. However, NEVER MIX THE TWO CHEMICALS TOGETHER. The toxic gases that form can kill you.
Arati M. February 21, 2020
Love this, and yes, as far as possible, always buy washable stuff: shower curtains, rugs...
mdelgatty March 15, 2020
I put it in the dryer for five minutes; shakes out whatever water has collected, and then it's easier to hang up and smooth right away. Or running some hot water over it when you hang it up...
Pamela February 20, 2020
Top of the shower head. Water doesn't get there, but dust does!
Arati M. February 20, 2020
100% agree. Need to clean that this weekend!
Marylin February 16, 2020
Behind and all around, including walls, is the almighty TOILET!
ustabahippie February 20, 2020
Especially if you have little boys learning how to aim!!!!
Kendra D. February 16, 2020
Don’t forget the door knobs😳
Arati M. February 20, 2020
So true. All those germs from our hands...
ellen February 16, 2020
Definitely behind the toilet. I’m disabled. My caregiver does some cleaning. She’s elderly and not too thorough. The shower door rails run a close 2nd. Whew!
Arati M. February 20, 2020
Behind the toilet is such a tricky area to get to under any circumstances, so I hear you, Ellen.
mdelgatty February 1, 2020
Under the rim of the toilet bowl. People who always shower never see under there, but I've been startled several times from my viewpoint lying in the tub at noticing urgent need for cleaning there in otherwise pristine houses...
Arati M. February 20, 2020
Let's just say, up, down, inside, and all around that toilet bowl. Leave no inch of porcelain undone :)
Fran M. January 31, 2020
Most people don’t clean the toilet handle, the door handle or light switches. People also leave hand towels for days or weeks without washing. My hand towels are changed several times a day and that’s for 2 people.
mdelgatty February 1, 2020
Anne J. February 18, 2020
And the faucet handles which are never as clean as I would like them when I visit places, especially the old faux crystal which collect the Lord knows what. Truly I’m only happy at a surgery scrub sink with elbow handles or foot pedals.
Lauren B. February 20, 2020
I think that if each individual has his/her own hand towel that is fine for the week unless somebody doesn’t really wash hands thoroughly, like kids who wet hands and then wipe off the dirt with the towel.
VeraDysonn January 29, 2020
oh, you caught me on this. I totally neglect cleaning my shower curtain rod and my bulbs. I wonder how they must have been feeling all these while. I will make it to them by thoroughly cleaning on my next clean day. Wow!

Thanks for this update. It's really helpful and eye opening.
Arati M. January 31, 2020
;) Bookmark for the weekend!
JulieG January 29, 2020
Behind the pedestal sink! My tiny ground - floor - half - bath - sink is so hard to get behind! It’s really gross. I use a narrow paint brush to dust and loosen, and a glass scrubber to spread/wipe away disinfectant.
Arati M. January 29, 2020
Ah, I'm in the market for a pedestal sink, so this is good food for thought! I generally find vanities notoriously tough to clean around, and there's always the tiniest of gaps between my vanity and the wall that are near impossible to get into!
GigiR February 20, 2020
Dear Julie,
As the owner of several pedestal sinks, I regret not choosing some kind of enclosed vanity storage. Sometimes, you just really need cleanser, a plunger, a toilet brush, glass cleaner, a cleaning cloth, extra soap, towels and feminine hygiene products. With my pedestal sinks, impossible. Medicine cabinets are something else. Just properly assess your needs for storage.
Arati M. February 20, 2020
I see both sides of the coin, and am very torn about my own upcoming choice. In a smaller bathroom pedestal sinks leave you with so much more room, but you're right, where do all our cleaning arsenal and odds and ends go?!
Lauren B. February 20, 2020
Cleaning stuff can go in a caddy under kitchen sink?
mdelgatty March 15, 2020
In a bigger bathroom...?