When our bathrooms are out of order, it’s as if our lives are out of order. Whether you have one bathroom or five, uninterrupted function and cleanliness are crucial. That’s why it’s important to know exactly when the elements in your bathroom can conk out and need to be replaced.
“Homeowners should be thinking about replacing and performing the proper upkeep with things in the bathroom because it’s the second most used room in the house, next to the kitchen,” says Mark Dawson, chief operating officer at Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. “It’s also the room to have the second most number of leaks or drain clogs, right behind the laundry room. The last thing you want is to not have access to the toilet or shower.”
To keep your loo in clean and working order, follow these tips for bathroom maintenance.
Toothbrushes are meant to clean our teeth, but they can also harbor germs if kept in a grimy toothbrush holder.
“Your toothbrush holder should be rinsed and dried daily to prevent stagnant moisture that can cause mildew and bacteria,” says Vera Peterson, president of Molly Maid.
Peterson recommends storing toothbrushes as far from the toilet as possible and ditching the traditional cuplike toothbrush holder, which pools water and causes slime. Opt for a suction cup holder that attaches to your mirror or tile walls.
“Also, remember to replace your toothbrush every few months,” says Peterson. (But you knew that already, right?)
Parents, your child’s favorite rubber ducky could be a haven for bacteria.
“Many bath toys hold water within them,” says Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations at Two Maids & a Mop. “They lack air circulation and remain in the moisture-filled, damp bathroom, and this serves as a breeding ground for all types of mold and mildew.”
The longer the mold remains on the toy, the more likely it will spread throughout the bath—and onto your child.
“Because of this, bath toys should be cleaned out after every use and replaced every two to three months, depending on use,” says Bowen.
Watch: Get Rid of That Mildew Odor in Your Bathroom—for Good
“Did you know that it only takes 20 minutes for a wet towel on the floor to begin harboring mildew and bacteria?” says Peterson. Yikes! That’s why you should always hang up your towels to dry after use. They should also be reused only once or twice before laundering.
If you start to notice a musty odor—despite your body and hand towels being freshly laundered—it’s probably time to replace them. Experts say towels should be replaced every two to five years depending on the material and quality.
Shower curtain liners
“Shower curtain liners should be replaced every six months, as the lack of ventilation and accumulation of humidity will cause mold and mildew,” says Bowen.
To prolong the life of your shower curtain liner, mix one part vinegar to four parts water in a spray bottle and spray the solution on the liner.
“The vinegar will help break down mold and soap scum that has gathered on the liner,” says Bowen. Then, rinse the liner with warm water from top to bottom, and let it air-dry.
For a more thorough cleaning, hand-wash the liner in the tub biweekly. Mix a quarter cup baking soda and a splash of laundry detergent in the tub, hand-wash the shower curtain liner, and then let it air-dry.
If you notice a change in water pressure, leaks, or (worst-case scenario) mold coming out of your shower head, it might be time to replace it.
“Shower heads can leak, clog, or come with other issues. Before replacing, a simple repair may do the trick, so call a professional for their recommendation,” says Kevin Busch, vice president of operations of Mr. Handyman.
You also might need to replace shower head filters, which function to remove harmful chemicals from the water you use in the shower.
“If you have one at home, you can expect to replace the filter every six to 12 months. Big retailers like Home Depot and Amazon carry shower water filters,” says Dawson.
To replace, remove the shower head from the attachment in the shower wall, unscrew the top of the shower head to reveal the filter inside, and replace it with a new one.
If you see leaks, cracks, or excessive black mold that cannot be easily remediated, a bathtub replacement might be in your immediate future.
“Bathtub liners are a quick, short-term, and affordable solution,” says Amy Moneypenny, a senior product marketing manager at Leaf Home. “If the problems you’re having with your bathtub are purely cosmetic, a liner is a convenient solution that can temporarily improve the look of your entire space.”
But if a bathtub replacement is needed, a bathroom remodeling expert can give homeowners “an extensive inspection to ensure that the subflooring, plumbing, support beams, and other areas around the tub are in good condition,” says Moneypenny.
The average price to install a new tub is $2,500 but can range anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, according to HomeServe.
Toilets typically have a life span of 10 to 15 years but can be replaced sooner if necessary.
“Replacing old toilets can be the exact refresh the bathroom needs. Toilets often need a new wax ring, tank flapper, or flush valve,” says Busch.
The most likely source for leaks in plumbing is a faulty flapper, says Aaron Mulder, co-owner and operations manager for Mr. Rooter Plumbing of San Antonio.
“The good news is the repair is simple and inexpensive for a homeowner to do themselves. You should expect to have to replace your flapper every two to three years, as exposure to water usually contributes to their degrading condition. With the new part, the toilet will flush more efficiently, conserving water and saving you money on your future water bills,” says Mulder.