How to clean a bathroom – an expert guide

Our 10-step guide on how to clean a bathroom will keep your smallest room fresh, shiny, and hygienically clean

marble bathroom with big window and brass fittings
(Image credit: Kitesgrove)

Cleaning the bathroom is the most dreaded of all household chores, not helped by the fact that most homes boast more than one, nor that bathrooms need cleaning really regularly to remain both inviting and hygienic.

The good news is you don’t need any specialist tools or equipment to clean a bathroom. A few cleaning cloths, an old toothbrush and a mop and bucket is all that’s really required – and some great cleaning tips, of course. 

With so many hard surfaces in the bathroom, it’s worth learning how to clean a bathroom with vinegar and make your own chemical-free cleaning spray that powers through dirt and is naturally disinfecting, too. 

Our guide will ensure your bathroom ideas always look their best by making cleaning efficient, effective and easy.

How to clean a bathroom

egg-shape bathroom in white and marble bathroom

(Image credit: BC Designs)

When considering how to clean a bathroom, the best method is to break the chore down into easily manageable steps. This will make the task less daunting and, by working logically from ceiling to floor, ensures you won’t mess up areas you have already cleaned in the process. 

‘It helps to do minimal maintenance cleaning day-to-day, too,’ adds Trinity Owhe, Design Expert, Victorian Plumbing. ‘Small things you can do throughout the week, like using a squeegee on the screen after showering and rinsing toothpaste off basins, will help make deeper cleans less backbreaking.’ 

We have more expert advice in our 10-step guide to giving your bathroom a deep-clean, below.

1. Declutter the surfaces

It’s much easier to clean a bathroom if you’re not working around a mountain of toiletries and other bathroom paraphernalia, so decluttering is always your first task. Clear everything off the surfaces – including around the bath – and put anything that isn’t in frequent use away if possible. Empty the trash and put any empty shampoo bottles and toilet rolls in the recycling bins. Put towels and the bathmat in the laundry basket.  

2. Check the drains

This step may not be necessary every time, but if you find yourself standing in an inch of water when showering or your bath is taking forever to empty, it’s worth flushing out the drains. 

‘The most common cause of these blockages is a build-up of hair, grease and soap scum. If left untreated, slow draining water can leave a slippery surface in your bath or shower, which could be a potential slip hazard,’ says James Roberts, Director, Sanctuary Bathrooms. ‘To solve the issue, first, clear any visible and reachable blockages free of the plughole and then test to see if this has worked by pouring water down the drain. 

‘If that doesn’t unblock your drain, try using vinegar and sodium bicarbonate. Mixing soda and vinegar creates a bubbling reaction that can really help shift build-ups. This simple household trick is a cheap and safe alternative to stronger chemicals,’ adds James. 

If the blockage still remains, try using a Plumber’s Snake (available from Amazon or your local hardware store) to dislodge it. For a really stubborn blockage, you may need to resort to stronger chemicals. 

3. Clean the toilet

Don’t put off cleaning the toilet until last; leaving toilet cleaner in the pan to soak while you clean the rest of the bathroom will ensure sparkling results. Start with the toilet rim and seat, using an old toothbrush to get right into the crevices around the seat hinges. Always keep separate cloths for cleaning the main toilet bowl and seat, and use rubber gloves. You can use your regular bathroom cloth on the flush plate/button. 

Squirt toilet liquid around the bowl, getting right up inside the rim, then pop the toilet brush in the water, and leave to disinfect for at least 10 minutes. Adding the toilet brush not only gives it a clean but also serves as a reminder to others not to use the toilet should you leave the bathroom unattended! Once the soaking period is up, grab the toilet brush and give the bowl a good scrub, going as deep into the U-bend as you can, before flushing. 

And if you encounter a blockage? You can unclog a toilet without a plunger in an emergency to get it flowing again, then clean it.

4. Bust the dust

As with other rooms, one of the first steps to cleaning a bathroom is dust-removal. A damp cloth is all you need to dust off horizontal surfaces and you can use a vacuum cleaner with nozzle attachment to suck up any cobwebs and remove dust from the extractor vent and light shades

‘You want to get rid of any dust and debris hanging around before you introduce liquid cleaning products, especially on surfaces like the basin and bath surround, shelves and any furniture,’ says Trinity Owhe, Design Expert, Victorian Plumbing. ‘If this precaution isn’t taken, it's likely you’ll end up with clumps of dust smeared around your bathroom which are now sticky thanks to your cleaning products!’ 

5. Tackle wall tiles

Working from the top down, spray your tiles with a non-bleach cleaner and give it a few minutes to work. Next wipe down with a damp cloth – or use the showerhead to spray tiles down inside the shower area. Any soap scum or toothpaste splashes may need extra muscle power to remove. A soft-bristled washing up brush can prove handy.  

When cleaning a shower, pay attention to cleaning grout if it is looking grubby by popping equal parts white vinegar and sodium bicarbonate in a bowl and combine to make a paste. Grab an old toothbrush and scrub the grout, then leave it to sit for up to 30 minutes. You can also use this mixture in the joint between shower tray and tiles if it’s discolored. Wipe or spray the mixture off and then dry the tiles with a microfiber cloth to prevent smears. 

6. Clean the remaining sanitaryware

The type of cleaning product you use to clean a bathroom sink and to clean a bathtub depends on the materials they are made from; most manufacturers will specify if there are specific cleaning products to avoid. Materials like composite stone and acrylic are particularly prone to damage from cleaners that contain abrasive ingredients. Ceramic basins are pretty bullet proof but if you want to play it safe, stick to non-abrasive, bleach-free bathroom sprays, or e-Cloths, which don’t require any additional cleaning agents at all. 

Once you have given the basin and bath a good scrub down – again your soft-bristled dishwashing brush will come in handy – rinse with clean water and wipe dry with a microfiber cloth.

You may need to know how to clean a showerhead, too – the clue that this need doing is if the flow seems slower, weaker or if the direction of travel of the water changes in some of the showerhead holes.

7. Shine glass and mirrors

Soap scum, toothpaste residue and limescale can all build up on the glass surfaces in your bathroom. So you'll not only want to learn how to clean a mirror without streaks, but shower screen glass, too.

‘There are a few different ways to clean glass shower screens – and the same technique works on both soap scum and hard water stains,’ says Belinda Everingham founder of Bondi Wash. ‘You need something abrasive to cut through to start. Make your own screen scrub by mixing dishwashing liquid, sodium bicarbonate and vinegar (one part of each), which will cut through the soap build up and water marks.’ 

Rinse and wipe down, then follow with your regular glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth, rubbing until the glass sparkles. 

8. Wipe down brassware

As you’ll use the taps and handshower to rinse down surfaces and rinse cloths as you go, the brassware should be one of the last items on your bathroom cleaning schedule. 

Most brassware will just require a wipe over with a damp cloth, followed by a buff with a microfiber cloth for shininess. Be especially careful to avoid cleaning products with bleach on all brassware finishes, and also swerve citric ingredients on any warm metallics like copper and brass. 

Many organic cleaning products use citric acid in lieu of harsh chemicals but on unlacquered brassware, a.k.a ‘living finishes’, they can burnish and blacken the surface in a very unattractive way.

Don’t forget to clean the nozzles of taps, wiping away any dirt build-up, and do the same on the showerhead. Most modern showerheads have easy-clean rubber nozzles that only require a quick wipe over to keep the water spraying smoothly.

9. Clean the floor

First vacuum to remove any dust, hair and other debris. Next, assuming your bathroom flooring is a solid material like tiles, laminate or vinyl, give it a mop with hot water and a suitable floor cleaner. If you have tiles and the grout is dirty, repeat the cleaning recommendation in Step 3. 

Try not to leave a mopped floor too wet by really wringing out the mop before the final pass over; any pools of water can be very hazardous. If you’re concerned, switch to a clean, dry mop head and use it to dry the floor.

10. Restore order

All that’s left to do now is replace the toiletries and toothbrushes you removed for cleaning and add fresh towels. ‘A few drops of your favorite essential oil in the toilet helps remove odours and will leave your bathroom smelling fresh and inviting,’ adds Belinda from Bondi Wash.

You may want to give towels a refresh too, making sure you know how to soften towels when you wash them to give your clean bathroom the perfect finishing touch.

How often should you clean your bathroom?

Once a week is the generally accepted number of times you should clean your bathroom but do use common sense. It’s generally very obvious when a bathroom needs cleaning, especially if there are children around who have yet to be trained in how to clean up after themselves. A guest ensuite that is not frequently in use will not need cleaning as often. 

What do professionals use to clean bathrooms?

Professional cleaners, especially those who work in hospitality, and therefore need to consider guests with potential allergies, tend to stick to old fashioned, natural ingredients when cleaning bathrooms. 

We are of course referring to cleaning with vinegar and cleaning with lemon juice. If you want to do a really professional job, check out the best steam cleaners, which take the muscle work out of lifting grease and grime off hard surfaces and are also chemical-free. 

Linda Clayton

Linda graduated from university with a First in Journalism, Film and Broadcasting. Her career began on a trade title for the kitchen and bathroom industry, and she has worked for Homes & Gardens, and sister-brands Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, since 2006, covering interiors topics, though kitchens and bathrooms are her specialism.