RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—A few weeks back I scrubbed down my kitchen, and last weekend the cool and drizzly weather kept me inside again, giving me the chance to give my bathrooms a good, deep, green clean as well.
It was a damp, snowy winter, and so far, it's been a damp, wet spring, which means that getting rid of mold is the number one challenge in my bathrooms. Adding to that, our water leaves lime deposits, so my spring-cleaning chores include tackling all the hard-water deposits that build up all winter long.
Conventional cleaning products designed to combat mold and hard water are full of toxic chemicals, such as harsh acids and chlorine bleach, which you don't really want to be inhaling in a steamy shower. My nontoxic cleaning tools, on the other hand, didn’t cost me much in time or effort, and all I was left with were sparkly-clean surfaces and clean-smelling air.
Coping with Mold and Mildew
I started by tossing the mats and fabric shower curtains in the washing machine and hanging them out on the line, where the spring sunshine emerged to do its mold-killing magic. If your curtain is a bit musty, you may want to give it a presoak for a few hours, or even overnight, in a bucket of water with a cup of white vinegar added before tossing it into the washer.
Then, I tackled the grout. No matter how diligent you are at giving your bathroom its weekly once-over (and I am very not diligent), the joints where one material meets another are prone to dirt buildup and mildew. A number of natural cleaners are equal to the challenge, but the type and condition of your grout, tile, and other surfaces need to be taken into consideration when you select one so you don’t damage them. Also, steer clear of scrubby pads if you have materials that could be scratched (my surfaces are tough and were marred long before I owned them, so I don’t sweat a little more scrubbing once in a while).
A good basic cleaner to start with is baking soda dissolved in water for spraying or sponging (1/8 cup per quart of water), sprinkled dry on a damp sponge, or made into a paste with a little water for tough areas. Baking soda has been found to kill certain types of mildew, and for the types it can't kill, its mild abrasiveness allows you to scrub the stuff away. It's safe for most surfaces, but you might want to test a small area first if you have any doubts. Apply the baking soda, either in spray or paste form, leave it alone for an hour or so, and then scrub with a soft brush (a retired toothbrush is my favorite). Wipe and rinse well when finished.