5 unhygienic bathroom mistakes to avoid – to limit bacteria build-up and infection risk

From your towels to your toothbrush holder – this is what you need to watch out for in the most intimate room of your home

Marble floor, metal bath base
(Image credit: Drummonds)

When hearing about bathroom mistakes to avoid, you would be forgiven for initially thinking in terms of design. 

Whether you're looking at paint colors, tiles, lights, or mirror placement – your interior design choices are important. However, while bathroom design mistakes can have an impact on your home's aesthetic, the concept of hygiene remains even more critical – both in terms of bacteria prevention and infection risks.  

Knowing how to clean a bathroom effectively (and how often you should clean your bathroom) is the best way to prevent bacteria build-up and maintain a fresh-looking space. Though, experts warn that no matter how 'clean' your bathroom may appear – there are some mistakes that may cause you problems over time. 

5 most unhygienic bathroom mistakes – and what to do instead

Are your bathroom ideas in need of a refresh? These are the most common problems that experts come across – and how to avoid them in your home.  

Small bathroom with white metro tiles, bath and rainwater shower

(Image credit: Leanne Ford Interiors / The Albion Bath Co)

1. Not washing your towel every week 

Learning how to wash towels is one thing, but knowing how frequently to clean them is another. Consequently, as Dorian Alves, the founder, and CEO of Silent Maids, explains, having an unclean towel is one of the biggest mistakes you can make.

'Your towel can hold a lot of germs and dust and needs to be cleaned once or twice a week,' Dorian says. 'Many people neglect their towel and only wash it when it starts to smell, but at this point, so much bacteria is on your towel and is unhygienic to use.'

The expert explains that unclean towels can spread bacteria, fungus, and even viruses that will lead to irritated skin and sickness, in some cases. 'Always wash your bath towel once every week and use hot water to ensure it is being disinfected,' he adds. 

Bathroom with blue tiled floor, white double hand basin against white tiles with blue garden scene with birds.

(Image credit: Future)

2.  Forgetting to clean your toilet brush

It is perhaps unsurprising that your toilet brush and plunger are among the dirtiest objects in your home, but the idea of cleaning them is often less common. 

'No one ever remembers that you need to clean the cleaning items you use in the bathroom in order to have a hygienic bathroom,' Dorian says. 'Your toilet brush and plunger can be full of germs and can also smell over time if not properly cleaned. These items should be bleached in a well-ventilated area twice every month or more, depending on how often you clean your toilet.'

3. Neglecting your toothbrush holder 

Aside from the apparent toothpaste stains, you would be forgiven for believing that your toothbrush holder is reasonably clean. Though, Dorian explains that this is not the case. 

'Your toothbrush is used to clean food and plaque from your teeth, which means these particles are often on your toothbrush and can drip down into the holder,' he warns. 'Many people don't think to wash this as you often can't see inside. However, this is where bacteria can hide as it's dark and moist. You should be rinsing out your holder every time you clean your bathroom and ensure no toothpaste is left behind.'

Traditional wooden unit with two round sinks in a bathroom with Victorian floor tiles in blue and yellow.

(Image credit: Future)

4. Leaving your bath mat for a prolonged time

In a similar way to your towel, your bath mat can also harbor a lot of bacteria and dust, especially after several showers or baths. Therefore, it's important to change your mat almost as often as your bath and hand towels. If not, you may face mildewy smells and even fungal infections. 

'You need to bang out your mat every week and wash it as well to make sure it is nice and clean and able to absorb the water after you take a bath or shower,' Dorian adds.

5. Ignoring a clogged shower head 

'A clogged shower head is often due to mineral deposits, soap scum, and scale build-up, which you don't particularly want to be showering in. Never ignore a clogged showerhead, and always make sure to clean it when you clean your shower or tub,' Dorian says. 

Your shower head is one of the many things you can clean with vinegar, baking soda, and hot water – all of which will fight nasty build-up when paired together. 

white bathroom with sheepskin rug, wood flooring and white walls with freestanding tub

(Image credit: James Merrell / White & Faded)

How do I prevent bacteria in my bathroom?

You can prevent bacteria by keeping on top of your bathroom habits – most prominently, flushing the toilet and washing your hands carefully. However, Beatrice Flores from Living Pristine adds that maintaining your bathroom surfaces is also important. 

'First, always clean up any hair that you leave behind. Second, wipe down all surfaces after using them,' she says. 'Finally, don't forget to wash your hands thoroughly before leaving the bathroom. By following these simple steps, you can help keep your bathroom clean and hygienic.'

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.