Thursday, 2 August 2012

bathroom bliss - part one

Let's face it, the rented bathroom has the potential to be one of the most nightmarish of rooms. Bad tiles, mouldy shower, limescale encrusted taps and best not to even mention toilets. The legacy of previous tenants bad housekeeping is never more evident than in the bathroom. Kitchens can be bad but seem to escape the worst offenses because in most houses someone usually gets around to cleaning the kitchen, but volunteers for toilet cleaning seem to be thin on the ground, especially in shared houses. I've rejected many an otherwise lovely flat for having an unspeakable bathroom. 

A bathroom should be above all things, clean and hygienic, but should also be a sanctuary, somewhere to unwind in the bath, or get ready for the day ahead. Imagine the difference to your state of mind if you're showering in spa-like serenity first thing in the morning, instead of trying to escape the horror of damp towels and a mouldy shower curtain as fast as possible. What to do though if you're either stuck with a horror already, or find that everything else about the flat you're viewing is too perfect to turn down? Fear not, with some serious (but not strenuous!) cleaning, a bit of a spruce up and some new accessories, even the plainest or dirtiest bathroom can be rescued and even an avocado suite can be accommodated.

Part one of this post is going to deal with the basics and the essentials and part two will cover the fun stuff, accessorising, styling tips and adding the finishing touches.

Image source: House to Home

First up, assess how bad the situation is. Could those limescale encrusted taps be cleaned, or are they so unuseable that they need replacing? Any damaged hardware should be replaced by your landlord and you're well within your rights to request a deep clean of the flat before you move in. Check that the shower works properly and request for it to be fixed if it doesn't. Likewise, if the bathroom has a serious mould issue, ask for it to be dealt with as a condition of you taking the flat. A lot of bathrooms I've seen in rented accomodation have been ok-ish, but generally not up to my standard (in the end I took a recently refurbished place so my bathroom was brand new) in which case, a bit of work on your part and a bit of negotiation with your landlord could do the trick.

Easy fixes include, discoloured grout, mouldy sealant, mild to medium limescale issues, bad shower curtains, lack of storage and/or mirror, flaking paint and a dirty toilet. All of these things can be remedied by you, with minimal outlay and a bit of time. Here's a guide to fixing the worst problems, roughly in the order that it's best to tackle them.

Dirty Toilet
There's nothing worse than a dirty toilet. It's perhaps the worst offender in the bathroom, especially if it's got limescale and black marks below the waterline. Eugh. The good news is, that even the dirtiest toilet can be rescued. Try dropping a couple of denture cleaning tablets in the bowl and leaving over night, and scrub the bowl in the morning if needed. The fizzing action removes all the build up below the water line. You might need to do this a couple of times but it's easy and non toxic. Remove the toilet seat once a month to thoroughly clean around the fixtures with an antibacterial agent, which should also be used on the handle, cistern and the outside of the bowl. Finally, use a toilet cleaner around the rim and bowl and leave to work for an hour or two. This one from Method is non-toxic.

If you want to use a rim-block or toilet brush that's entirely up to you of course. Personally, I think both are a haven for germs and it's possible to live without them. For a quick clean between weekly cleans, use something like Methods flush-able wipes, as flushing ordinary wipes can cause blockages.

Limescale
Limescale is a fact of life in hard water areas and not only does it damage bathroom hardware, it harbors germs too. Don't despair though, because even very bad limescale can be removed. Vinegar is a great product to remove limescale on taps, pop some kitchen towel in a sandwich bag, soak in vinegar and tie around the affected area of the tap. Leave for a few hours and the limescale just falls away. It also works on shower heads and any non vertical surface. For other areas try the Limescale Remover from Ecover.

Grout
There are several effective ways to deal with grotty grout. If the grout is sound, but just discoloured, try cleaning with Coca-Cola (I've never tried it but apparently it works!) or a mix of vinegar and baking soda. In both cases use a stiff bristled toothbrush to scrub the grout (I keep one especially for cleaning) Rise off and deal with any remaining stubborn stains by applying neat bleach, which will also whiten the grout again. For a really sparkling finish and to ward off mould, finish off with some Forever White Grout Reviver once everything has been rinsed and dried.

If the grout is patchy, crumbling or in a really bad state, the only remedy may be to remove the old grout from the seams between the tiles and re-grout. It's a bit trickier of course but worth the effort if it's your only option. For step by step instructions, try here.

Sealant
Sealant is a little more tricky, as it stains when mouldy so the only real option is to take out the old sealant and re-apply. This has two potential drawbacks, firstly, sealing guns are tricky things and it's hard to get a professional, smooth finish. Secondly, make sure everything is thouroughly re-sealed or you'll be dealing with leaks later on! If your landlord won't replace the sealant and you feel up to the job, there's a great set of instructions here. It's also worth reading these tips as well. Use a quality sealant like this one from Forever White which also inhibits future mould growth. Cheap sealants don't last, and will only need to be re-done again.

Flaking Paint
This is a really easy fix, just make sure you spend time on the perparation to ensure a lasting finish. Flaking paint usually occurs because the heat and relative humidity in a bathroom lifts the paint away from the wall surface. Sand the walls and ceiling to remove all loose paint before wiping over with a damp cloth. Once the surface is dry, apply two coats of a good bathroom paint, leaving a day in between coats. It's important not to subject the fresh paint to any water or humidity while it dries so ventilate the room throughly by leaving doors and windows open while you shower. 

Good bathroom paint has mould inhibitors in the formula, like this paint from Dulux, the surface will be resistant to moisture and you'll be able to wipe surfaces clean as well. A coat of fresh white paint can completely transform a bathroom from dull and dingy to sparkling and clean.

Image source: House to Home

The key to getting and maintaining a good rented bathroom, is to keep it simple. Once you have attended to fixing the basics and have the room at the standard you want, the main priority should be damage prevention:

  • Ventilate! Proper ventilation when bathing and especially showering helps prevent mould and damage to surfaces like painted walls.
  • Clean thoroughly once a week, and wipe surfaces daily to prevent limescale build up. Apartment Therapy have a great 5 minute cleaning guide here
  • Keep surfaces clear to make cleaning quick and easy. Keep bottles to a minimum and don't hoard old, half-empty containers.
  • Pull out the shower curtain to air daily and allow towels to dry properly, thus preventing mildew and that stale smell.
  • Use a squeegie on shower enclosures to prevent watermarks. it takes just seconds, keeps everything sparkling and makes cleaning easier.
  • Use a non toxic daily bathroom spray like this one from Method to keep soap scum and limescale at bay and to make the weekly clean less arduous.

It might take a bit of work to start with but once that's done, only a few minutes maintenance every day means you can have a spa like haven in your home. Not to mention the fact that a good clean bathroom can make all the difference in retaining your precious deposit.



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