With supereffective tactics from Aggie MacKenzie, a coauthor of How Clean Is Your House?—and with Gerba’s gory details to spur you on—you can clobber germs like never before.
Whether you divvy up your antibacterial blitz into small sessions or complete it in one fell swoop, implementing these habits every couple of months will be like flushing your worries down the…well, you know.
What to do: Take it from the top: Pour an ample amount of white vinegar into a plastic grocery bag (enough to fully submerge the showerhead nozzle) and tie it in place for an overnight soaking. Remove it in the morning and run the water to rinse. Give plastic shower curtains and liners a spin in the washing machine with your regular detergent and a few old towels, which act as scrubbers to help get rid of soap scum and mildew. Rehang to dry. For shower doors, make a paste by adding a few drops of distilled white vinegar to a cup of baking soda; apply it directly to the door (it’s nice and thick, so it will stick). Let sit for an hour, then rub with a microfiber cloth. Rinse and buff dry with a fresh, dry microfiber cloth. The tub is less of an issue—a weekly scrubbing is usually enough. But for extra gleam, fill it with hot water, then drain. Apply a bathroom cleaner and let sit for 15 minutes before scrubbing.
Why: Besides the soap-scum issue, there’s the showerhead, which can harbor Mycobacterium avium, a pathogen linked to pulmonary disease. Gerba says that turning on a neglected shower can send millions of germs straight into your lungs.
Best practices: Wipe condensation from all surfaces after showering, and leave the window open for one hour a day to lower the room’s humidity level.
What to do: Dip a grout brush in straight bleach and scrub any discolored areas; rinse well. Be sure to ventilate the room.
Why: Grout is porous and highly susceptible to bacteria growth.
Best practice: Seal grout every six months to help prevent moisture and grime from infiltrating (try DuPont Advanced Grout Sealer; $15, lowes.com).
What to do: Spray tile, countertops, walls, and the ceiling with all-purpose cleaner and turn on the shower, cranking the hot water until steam builds (about five minutes). Turn off the water, shut the door on your way out, and let the steam and the cleaner mix for 20 minutes. Then wipe down all surfaces with a clean cloth. To reach high spots, use a clean, dry microfiber mop. Wipe the tile floor, too, but only after you’ve finished the rest of the dirty work.
Why: Soaps, along with the dirt and the skin cells they slough off, leave behind a microscopic film.
Best practices: To minimize water marks on ceramic tile, apply a coat of car wax once a year (like Super Hard Shell Liquid Wax; $15, walmart.com for stores). Water will bead up and roll off. Mildew-resistant paint can also help on untiled walls and ceilings (try Benjamin Moore Aura Bath & Spa; $68 a gallon, benjaminmoore.com).