By Winnie Yu
Germy toilets. Grimy showers. Cluttered cabinets. It’s easy to see why the bathroom may be one of the unhealthiest rooms in your house.
Take control of your bathroom this year by giving it a healthy makeover for spring. Some simple reorganizing, cleaning and change of habits will have your bathroom clean and sparkly in no time. Here are eight easy makeover tips from Donna Duberg, assistant professor of clinical laboratory science for St. Louis University:
Bathroom Makeover Step No. 1: Clear the clutter.
Leaving cosmetics on the counter exposes them to bacteria, which is then applied to your eyes, face and mouth. “Keep them in something covered if you do,” says Duberg. In addition, lotion bottles, toothpaste and hairbrushes give dust and other germs an additional place to settle. Too much clutter also discourages routine cleaning. Instead, stash these products in drawers and closets.
Bathroom Makeover Step No. 2: Bring toothbrushes out on the counter.
Sealing them up in a closed environment, like your medicine cabinet, encourages bacterial growth, says Duberg. If you must keep them there, try drying the toothbrush with a clean towel first. If you keep your toothbrush on the counter or sink, keep it as far from the toilet as possible to avoid any germ spray if someone forgets to close the lid before flushing. Also, whenever someone in the house has diarrhea or a respiratory illness, replace toothbrushes as soon as the illness ends.
Bathroom Makeover Step No. 3: Purge your medicine cabinet.
Get rid of medications that have expired or that you no longer need. Read labels carefully for instructions on disposal. Call the local trash and recycling service and ask about drug take-back programs. If there are no instructions or programs, mash up the drugs and mix them into coffee grounds or kitty litter. Seal them in a plastic bag or coffee can before throwing them in the trash.
Bathroom Makeover Step No. 4: Post a reminder over the toilet.
The reminder should say something like, “Always close the lid when you flush.” This is important because toilets contain more than 3 million bacteria per square inch, says Duberg. Flushing creates an aerosol that allows the germs to land on toothbrushes, counters and magazines — and anything else that’s close by.
Bathroom Makeover Step No. 5: Check the vent.
Dust, mold and bacteria can collect in vents too. When you turn on the vent, it distributes these unhealthy organisms. Give your vents a thorough cleaning or vacuuming once a month.
Bathroom Makeover Step No. 6: Wipe down the shower and tub.
And be sure to do it after each use too. Viruses and bacteria from your skin collect on these surfaces. The moist setting also provides a breeding ground for mold. Spritz surfaces every few days with a mixture made up of one part vinegar and nine parts water. Vinegar doesn’t require rinsing and is safe for children and pets. If you prefer a 10 percent bleach solution, keep in mind that it has to be rinsed off and prepared freshly every day in order to kill mold.
Bathroom Makeover Step No. 7: Wash the floors.
Wipe down the floors with the vinegar and water mix you use on the shower surfaces. Use washable rugs that are easily tossed in the washer and dryer. And don’t wear outdoor shoes in the bathroom — or anywhere else in the house.