In the dozen years I’ve been writing about cleaning I have tried a lot of cleaning products. Most of them, to be blunt, aren’t worth the landfill their packaging will take up. While it can be tempting to try every new product that promises to make cleaning the bathroom effortless, the truth is that no such miracle cleaning product exists.
Another truth of cleaning is that no matter how good a cleaning agent is — and there are some very good ones out there! — the fact of the matter is that you still need to use it, and you need to use it regularly and correctly. (People hate it when I tell them that, but it’s the truth!)
These are the bathroom cleaning products and tools I come back to over and over again, and the ones I recommend to the people in my life when they ask — and believe me, they ask! — how to make cleaning the bathroom less of a chore. They are also the products you would find if you came into my home and opened the cabinet under my bathroom sink.
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When I recommend cleaning products to people in real life, typically they get more than just “this is the product you’re looking for” — there are reasons, and product comparisons, and warnings, and methods.
One such method is the 10-minute bathroom cleaning routine I wrote about for CNN Underscored in 2021, which centers on the use of Scrubbing Bubbles. The key to the effectiveness of the routine is twofold: By using one product to do most of the work for you, it simplifies a (dreaded!) chore, and by simplifying that chore, it makes it more likely that you’ll perform it every week.
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Foaming cleaners like Scrubbing Bubbles can perform a great many tasks in the bathroom, but unfortunately, they’re not designed for cleaning glass. So you need a glass cleaner to supplement jobs that foaming cleaner isn’t designed to do, like polishing mirrors, chrome finishes, windows and other glass or metal surfaces.
I have tried a great many glass cleaners over the years — DIY solutions of water and vinegar, natural glass cleaners from commercial brands, foaming glass cleaners, glass cleaning wipes — and I always come back to Windex for use in my own home.
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X-14 is a mildew eliminator that is as close to a miracle cleaning product as I’ve found. Simply spray it on grout, tile, vinyl or plastic surfaces that have developed staining from mold, mildew or Serratia marcescens, the pinkish-orangish bacteria often found in bathrooms, and allow it to penetrate for 10-15 minutes. Then, wipe the surface clean with water to remove the product residue. No scrubbing needed!
However, miracles don’t actually exist in cleaning and X-14 has some drawbacks. It has a noxious smell reminiscent of chlorine bleach, which can be quite overpowering. When using it, you must wear protective household gloves, and ensure the area you’re working in is well-ventilated; donning a mask while spraying X-14 is also recommended. If you are sensitive to smells and/or harsh chemicals, or if you simply prefer not to use them in your home, X-14 is not for you.
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When the makers of OxiClean call it “versatile” they really mean it! OxiClean has loads of uses, but in the bathroom there are two ways in which it really stands out. The first is something I stumbled on by accident while soaking a dingy duvet cover in my bathtub — not only did the OxiClean brighten up my whites, it also cleaned the tub and cleared a slow-moving drain.
OxiClean’s other standout use in the bathroom is for deep-cleaning grout that has become badly discolored over time. Grout cleaning can evoke images of hours spent scrubbing with a toothbrush, but an oxygenated bleach like OxiClean takes the heavy lifting out of deep-cleaning grout when used correctly.
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A mistake most people make when looking for miracle cleaning products is seeking out cleaning agents, rather than cleaning tools. But selecting the right tools will make much more of an impact on the ease and efficacy of cleaning than will this spray or that foam.
There’s nothing that’s more true of than microfiber cleaning cloths. Switching from sponges, rags, paper towels, etc. to microfiber cloths will make regular bathroom chores like cleaning the sink or tub faster, easier and more effective.
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A frustrating fact of bathrooms is that they don’t stay clean for very long. It can feel like as soon as you’ve wiped the last spot from the faucet, someone comes along to wash their hands, or brush their teeth, or put on makeup, leaving the sink looking a mess.
Microfiber is, once again, the answer to this vexing bathroom cleaning problem. Place a microfiber sponge on the sink ledge for quick cleanups during the week, which will help to keep things looking tidy even in highly trafficked places like the bathroom. Wash the sponge weekly along with towels.
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Magic Erasers are not actually made of magic (they’re made of melamine foam), but they can certainly make stubborn stains on hard surfaces like walls or countertops disappear. And that’s a great thing in a bathroom, where highly pigmented products like makeup, skincare products, hair dye, etc. can cause staining.
To use a Magic Eraser, wet the sponge, wring it out and go over the stain using gentle pressure (the eraser will disintegrate as you use it, in the same way a pencil eraser does). However, Magic Erasers are not safe for every type of surface, so it’s important to test it in an inconspicuous area to ensure it doesn’t cause damage.
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DampRid is a specialty product that not everyone will need, but that I recommend often enough to people with a very specific bathroom problem that it’s earned a spot on this list. (It’s also weird and cool, and I like telling people about weird and cool things.)
DampRid is a desiccant — it absorbs water from the air, helping to regulate humidity and moisture levels. Bathrooms that are prone to dampness because of environmental or design factors can be unpleasant, for one thing, and difficult to keep clean for another, as high moisture levels will encourage bacterial growth and contribute to lingering odors. DampRid addresses that problem, helping to keep the bathroom cleaner, longer.