Polish with a Microfiber Cloth
Microfiber cloths excel at putting the finishing touches on mirrors, countertops, and even tile and fixtures. After cleaning surfaces with your favorite cleaning solution and drying them off with a terry cloth rag or a separate microfiber cloth, polish them to a mirror finish with a dry microfiber cloth.
Microfiber cloths are perfect for this because they pick up dust, wipe off smudges and don't shed any fibers. You'll find microfiber cloths wherever cleaning supplies are sold. You can also buy them in bulk at wholesale clubs and use them throughout your house for all kinds of other cleaning chores.
Vacuum First, Then Scrub
Do you ever find yourself chasing strands of wet hair or running into dust balls in the corners with your sponge or cleaning rag? You can eliminate this nuisance by vacuuming the bathroom before you get out your cleaning solutions.
For a really thorough cleaning, start at the top, vacuuming the dust from light fixtures and the top of window casings. Then work your way down. And finally, vacuum the floor methodically so you cover every inch. You don't want to leave any stray hair or dust bunnies to muck up your cleaning water. A soft-bristle upholstery brush works best for this type of vacuuming. Figure out what vacuum to use here.
Buff Off Heavy Grime
If you have glass shower doors in your bathroom and don't keep on top of the cleaning, you can end up with soap scum so tough that it's nearly impossible to remove. That's when you bring out the heavy equipment.
Pick up some polishing compound at a home center or an auto parts store and use an auto buffer to polish off the offending scum. If you don't own a buffer, you can buy one for as little as $20 or borrow one from a gearhead friend. If possible, remove the doors and take them out to the garage to avoid messing up the bathroom.
Protect Your Shower Doors From Mineral Buildup
When the beads of water left on your glass shower door dry out, they leave minerals behind that are at best unsightly, and at worst can be tough as nails to remove if you let them build up (see first tip). You can avoid beading water altogether by coating the glass with an auto-glass treatment.
Follow the instructions on the package to apply the treatment to your shower door glass. You can buy Aquapel online or at local dealers. You'll find Rain-X at any auto parts store.
Install a Detachable Toilet Seat
It seems like no matter how hard you try, you can never get the hinges on the toilet seat clean. There's always a bit of cleaning solution that seeps underneath and creeps out later. Installing a detachable toilet seat solves the problem. This Bemis brand seat is easy to remove by just twisting two hinge caps about a quarter of a turn. Then you have easy access to clean under the hinges. Detachable seats cost about $20. Installation is straightforward and only requires a wrench. Are your bolts rusted and stuck? Learn how to remove rusted toilet seat bolts here.
Remove Stubborn Rust Stains With Acid Magic
If you have a lot of iron in your water and struggle with rust stains in your toilet or bathtub, here's a perfect solution. Acid Magic dissolves rust like, um, magic. It's as powerful as muriatic acid but much safer and more pleasant to use. You should still take all the precautions you would with any strong cleaning solution, like wearing gloves and safety glasses when you're using it. But it's better than regular acid because there are no noxious fumes, and it won't burn your skin.
To clean rust from toilets and other porcelain surfaces, add three parts water to one part Acid Magic. Apply the mixture to the rust stains with a sprayer, brush or foam pad and watch the stain dissolve. Rinse with clear water. You can also use it full strength for stubborn stains. Avoid getting the acid on metal parts because they can discolor. Acid Magic is available online and at hardware stores.
Remove Tough Grime With Less Scrubbing
Whether it's built-up soap scum on the shower walls, ground-in dirt on the floor tile or dried toothpaste on the vanity top, a Magic Eraser sponge (or other brands) will make short work of it. Just dampen it and rub it on the offending mess. In most cases, the mess will come right off. These sponges are especially useful for removing ground-in dirt from porous floor tile and getting those pesky nonslip strips in the bottom of your tub clean.
Magic Eraser sponges are available at grocery stores, hardware stores and wherever cleaning supplies are sold. Unlike regular sponges, they wear out pretty fast, so stock up.
Make Your Own Greener Cleaning Solution
Professional housecleaner Maggie Orth likes to make her own cleaning products. Here's her recipe for an all-purpose cleaning solution, modified from a recipe she found in the book Clean House, Clean Planet by Karen Logan (available from amazon.com).
In a 5-quart bucket, mix 1 cup of distilled vinegar, 3 tablespoons of borax, 1 gallon of hot water and 1/2 cup of soap (Maggie uses Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds). Maggie likes to add 10 or 15 drops of tea tree, lavender or lemon oil for a nice fragrance. Mix the ingredients and then pour some of the mixture into a spray bottle. Save the rest in a gallon jug. The raw ingredients will set you back $25 to $30, but you'll have enough to last for years!
Use this mixture to clean tile, countertops and painted woodwork. It's a good all-purpose cleaner, but it's not the best for cleaning glass. Maggie uses club soda to clean glass.
A Scrub and a Wax
Field Editor Joe Stiles writes: “Every three months, I use CLR Calcium, Lime and Rust Remover and an old toothbrush to clean all the faucets and lavatories. Then I apply an automotive car wax like Turtle Wax and buff after the wax hazes. Our fixtures look like new.”
Clean Grout With a Bleach Pen
For tile walls, try using a bleach pen to transform your grout from grungy to great. This method is tedious, but the payoff is crisp, clean grout lines. Use the pen to “draw” bleach across the grout lines. The pen allows you to target the grout without getting bleach all over the tile. Wait 10 minutes and then rinse.
For really mildewed grout, you may need a second application, and it can help to gently scrub the bleach into the grout with a toothbrush before allowing it to work for 10 minutes. Make sure to run the fan in the bathroom and to avoid skin contact. This method is best for light or white grout. If you have colored grout, test a small area first. It might fade.
Clean the Exhaust Fan
If the grille on your bathroom exhaust fan is clogged with dust, try a trick that's faster and more effective than vacuuming: Turn on the fan and blast out the dust with “canned air.” The fan will blow the dust outside. This works on the return air grilles of your central heating/cooling system too. Run the system so that the return airflow will carry the dust to the filter. You'll find canned air at home centers and hardware stores, usually in the electrical supplies aisle.
Caution: The cans contain chemical propellants, not just air. Don't let children play with them.
Bleach Away Stains
Remove stubborn stains from marble, cultured marble or plastic laminate with a bleach-soaked paper towel. Cover the towel with a cup to contain the bleach odor, and leave it in place overnight. If the stain has faded but not disappeared, just repeat the process. Test this trick in a hidden area first; it could discolor the surface. Dealing with a whole countertop? You can renew it yourself.
Make Cleaning Easier
Photo: Courtesy of Toto USA, Inc.