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Are You Making These HUGE Mistakes Cleaning Your Bathroom?

Are You Making These HUGE Mistakes Cleaning Your Bathroom?

Let’s say the quiet part out loud! It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong, especially with something you think you should know. Everyone likes to see themselves as reasonably smart, and it’s embarrassing admitting you’ve flubbed up something that feels like it should be common knowledge.

The problem with this is that vanity can keep you from reaching out for help when you actually need it and from finding out that the thing you’re struggling with is something most people don’t know either!

Prime Example #1 is Bathroom Cleaning! Almost every person on the planet uses a bathroom several times a day, so knowing how to clean one properly feels like it should become knowledge, right?! Wrong!

The truth is that most high schools stopped offering Home Economics decades ago, and even when they did, cleaning was never taught in detail. As a result, people have received little to no formal cleaning education, especially in cleaning chemistry.

Most people’s main teachers about cleaning, their parents, got no real schooling on the topic either. So, for the most part, it’s the blind leading the blind out there, which has led to a bunch of misconceptions, myths, and downright mistakes.

These six incredibly common mistakes cost thousands of dollars in damage and painful injuries all across the country every year, so let’s set the record straight and end the confusion once and for all!

1. Using Bleach on Rust Stains

I see this mistake everywhere! Everyone thinks it’s an ironclad rule that bleach is their go-to whitener for every dark, gross stain in the bathroom. Bleach can whiten anything, right? Not even close! The truth is oxidizers, like bleach and hydrogen peroxide, can whiten mold, fabric dyes, and dirt, but they can’t make metals and minerals change color!

Rust stains are actually oxidized iron deposits. Iron dissolves in the water, deposits all over your toilet and shower, and then rusts from constant exposure to water and oxygen. Bleach is an oxidizer, so it’s bringing more oxygen to the party, making your rust stains rustier, not better. Using bleach-based bathroom cleaners, like Tilex or Comet powder, actually intensifies rust stains, causing them to bond harder to the surface and make it far more difficult to scrub off.

The right way to remove rust is with acid, as acid will dissolve the iron and other mineral deposits. Hard water cleaners, like Bar Keepers Friend and Iron Out, are all powered by acids and sometimes abrasives to dissolve the deposits and make them brittle. Read the instructions on the bottle, but for most hard water products, they say to wait at least 10 minutes and then scrub with a scrubbing sponge.

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2. Not Letting Disinfectant Sit Long Enough

Bathrooms are a literal germ jamboree between the mold, bacteria feeding off dead skin cells, and the fecal plume from every flush, so everyone should know how to disinfect properly, shouldn’t they? If only!

Most disinfectants take at least 10 minutes to kill all the germs and at least a full minute to sanitize. Yet, if you watch most people clean with disinfecting products, they only let the spray sit for a few seconds before wiping!

Disinfectants work through chemical reactions where they destroy germs by dissolving their exterior, cooking their proteins, and committing other murderous acts. If you haven’t waited long enough for the chemical reaction to take place, the disinfectant may not have done anything yet and be no more effective than soap! Also, if you spray dirty surfaces, the disinfectant may never make contact with the germs that are hiding under microscopic poop umbrellas, even if you wait the right amount of time!

The right way to use disinfectant is to clean the area with your favorite soap and microfiber towel until all visible soils are removed. Then you want to apply the disinfectant to the pre-clean surface and let it stay damp for a full 10 minutes. If it dries, nothing dies! If your product is both a cleaner and disinfectant in one, like Windex Multisurface, you still have to pre-clean the surface with the product, but you can leave some excess spray behind, keeping the surface damp till it air dries in at least 10 minutes.

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3. Trying to Kill Mold in Grout with Bleach

Bleach kills mold, so it’s perfect for killing mold in your shower grout, right? Well, I hate to break it to you, but did you ever stop to think that if the bleach was working, why does the mold keep coming back?! The answer to this moldy myth is actually right on the beach bottle. Bleach only kills mold on top of non-porous surfaces, as every jug of Clorox will tell you!

Bleach is super volatile and reacts violently to everything it touches, so it is always “consumed” or used up by the top of any surface you put it on and turns into nothing but salt water by the time it tries to absorb into anything. This means your Tilex can whiten and kill the mold on the outer couple of millimeters of your grout, but the rest of the mold in the wall is laughing at you while enjoying a fresh drink of water you just fed it!

What’s the real solution?! Cut off the water and oxygen with sealants. Products like 511 Impregnator Sealer* actually fill in every microscopic hole in bathroom surfaces like tile, stone, and grout, so water, dirt, and air can no longer get in. This will not only starve the mold to death but make it 10x easier to clean your shower in general, as all the soap scum and stains will just be sitting on the surface where they can be rubbed off easily, rather than scouring with harsh chemicals.

4. Using Harsh Acids on Plated Metal and Stone to Remove Hard Water

This is one of the most expensive mistakes on the list, which far too many people can sadly attest to. As we explained in mistake #1, acids are the easiest solution to remove hard water stains because they dissolve minerals and make them brittle, making them easier to scrub off. The only big problem is that acids dissolve lots of other things, too, many of which you paid good money for!!

If you read the fine print on the back of most hard water cleaners, you’ll see that they warn you not to use their product on chrome and other plated metals, acid-sensitive stone (like marble, travertine, and granite), as well as any other delicate surface like painted walls or finished wood. Patina-coated surfaces, like aged bronze and copper sinks, are also doomed, as the acid will strip off the oxidation, leaving them shinier than a new penny!

Spoil alert, most modern bathrooms, especially the pretty and newly remodeled ones, include at least one of the things on the No-No list! All it takes is a quick Google to reveal thousands of stories of people corroding their tub drains, pitting their stone tiles, stripping their sinks, marring their cabinets under the sink, dulling their vanity stone, and more! Even seemingly mild acids, like vinegar and Bar Keepers Friend, can cause the same havoc if applied straight or left too long.

So how SHOULD you remove hard water from acidic sensitive surfaces? First, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Apply sealants like 511 Impregnator Sealer* on the stone, ProtectaClear on the patina-coated sinks, and buff in Faucet Wax on faucets and shower fixtures with a microfiber towel. Sealants keep minerals from bonding to the valuable surface and make water bead up and slide off everything, keeping hard water deposits from happening in the first place! Sealants truly are the best-kept secret in cleaning and as long as you remember to reapply them regularly, you’ll never need a harsh, hard water cleanser.

If you are already in a pickle with a heavily stained acid-sensitive surface, the right way to fix it is with specialty products and elbow grease. Professional products like Stone Pro Stone & Glass Scrub are designed to scrub off hard water deposits without the use of acid, usually relying on high-quality detergents and ultra-fine grit abrasives like jeweler's polish, which can be used by hand or a buffer on your cordless drill. Products like Stone Pro take time and are expensive, but FAR cheaper than hiring a contractor because you trashed your bathroom with an acid-based product!

5. Forgetting to Vent Room When Using Strong Chemicals

Again, if I had a nickel for every time a cleaner went off half-cocked, cleaning with dangerous chemicals without stopping to read the back of the bottle, I would be retired instead of explaining this to you!  

Manufacturers don’t actually want to kill you, as corpses make lousy repeat customers, so they try their best to warn you when their products have important safety precautions. The only problem is that chemists have done such an incredible job making so many low-risk cleaning products that work great for routine cleaning that most people have forgotten how dangerous restoration cleaning products can be!

If you are cleaning a heavily neglected surface in need of restoration, you are pretty much guaranteed to need a stronger product, especially if you don’t want to spend hours scrubbing. But as Uncle Ben warned Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility!” which means taking the time to read the warnings and follow the safety instructions. Simple tasks like putting on a pair of gloves and goggles, or opening up the windows, can be the difference between a clean bathroom and a trip to the ER.

Many bathroom cleaners require lots of ventilation to work with safely, especially those that contain harsh chemicals like bleach, ammonia, and muriatic acid. When used in an enclosed environment, the fumes from intense cleaning products can build in concentration, causing burning of the nose and throat, eye damage, and even suffocation. If a product calls for ventilation, turn on the shower vent fan, open the window, and open the door for maximum airflow.

If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned your exhaust fan, do it before you start coughing from fumes. If the bathroom lacks a window or the vent fan is weak, open the door and point as strong a portable fan as you own, set to high, into the open doorway, flooding the room with fresh air from the hallway. Your lungs will thank you.

6. Mixing Different Cleaning Products That Create Toxic Fumes

Before you roll your eyes and skim past this one, thinking you already know which chemicals not to mix, ER nurses and DRs across the country can assure you that most of you don’t, given the thousands of people that make unintended attempts to win the Darwin Awards every year!

Unless you live under a rock, you already know that mixing the wrong chemicals together can cause chemical reactions that create new chemicals that are far more dangerous than what you started out with. For example, some of the most popular that everyone thinks they know are combinations like Bleach and Alcohol which makes Chloroform that can knock you out. And Bleach and Vinegar that make Chloramine, which can cause horrible irritation and damage to the eyes and respiratory tract. Or Bleach and Ammonia which makes Mustard Gas, a literal chemical weapon of war.

At some point, pretty much everyone remembers a science teacher or newscaster warning them about the perils of mixing chemicals, so why does this problem persist?! The big problem is that nobody knows which chemicals are in which cleaners! As you have seen us mention in almost all of these common mistakes, people are TERRIBLE about reading the back of the bottle on their cleaning products, never mind looking up ingredients or SDS sheets. As a result, many people have no clue that their favorite bathroom cleaner has bleach, acid, alcohol, or peroxide in them, leading to disaster!

If you prefer your nasal passages un-singed, never mix any cleaning products unless you have been expressly told by the manufacturer that it is safe to do so. No, influencers on TikTok making ASMR videos of cleaning toilets do not count as scientifically vetted advice. TikTok Cleaning Influencers have made videos literally making mustard gas! As a general rule, never mix bleach with anything, especially acids like vinegar and hard water cleaners.

Here's some homework we did for you: Comet Powder = Bleach; Kaboom = Acid; Iron Out = Acid; Tilex = Bleach; Armstrong Floor Cleaner = Ammonia; Windex = Ammonia-D. You're Welcome!


*Warning: Always consult your installer before applying permanent sealants to porous stone or grout. At a minimum, read the instructions carefully and ensure the stone and grout are fully clean and bone dry before you trap in dirt, oil, or moisture with a sealant.


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