Spring Cleaning Like a 1950’s Housewife: The Bathroom

I decided to start my cleaning mania with the bathroom, as it is the most annoying to clean. At least it is for me, personally. Our bathroom window opens up onto our dusty fire escape. Like many Chicagoans, our fire escape is actually more of a wooden porch structure, rather than a pull-down metal device. So let’s say our bathroom window opens onto our luxurious patio (which is about the size of a fire escape). Since my partner is on a constant mission to fight mildew and mold in the bathroom, he opens the window frequently. Regardless of weather. Regardless of the fact that this makes it very uncomfortable to get out the shower in the winter time. He does not care, he has a battle to win.

What I’m saying is that our bathroom is dusty. The dust combines with steam, and turns into grime. Sticky, icky, disgusting grime.

I should also tell you, up front, that our bathroom is tiny. Like, about the size of a queen size bed, maybe.

So to clean it like a dedicated woman of yore, I first removed everything from it. I emptied the shower caddy and took it down. I took everything off the shelves, and then took the shelves themselves out. I emptied the medicine cabinet.

And then, I cleaned it all.

This involved:

  1. Sweeping down the cobwebs and the walls.
  2. Washing the walls (more on that later).
  3. Washing the woodwork.
  4. Taking down the shower curtain to launder.
  5. Cleaning that dusty, dusty window.
  6. Cleaning the toilet and sink.
  7. Cleaning the radiator.
  8. Cleaning the tub.
  9. Polishing the metal fixtures.
  10. Cleaning the glass.
  11. Cleaning the floor.


Here’s how I did it:

  1. (Cobwebs) I took a broom, turned it upside down, and swept the ceiling, then down the walls.
  2. Washing the walls was a mistake. I had failed to notice that the paint was flat finish, and even my gentle homemade cleanser discolored it. The wall is now much cleaner, but looks much worse. I think painting is in its future.
  3. I washed the wood work by spritzing it with my all-purpose cleanser, and rubbing it with a rag. Tougher spots got washed with Murphy’s oil soap.
  4. I took down my fabric shower curtain to launder, but left the liner up, because it’s relatively new.
  5. That damnable window took forever. Proof that air pollution is real–the edges of my windows get sooty. Between the rag and a tooth brush, and the occasional baking soda paste in the corners, I got it pretty clean–but it took at least 30 minutes.
  6. I cleaned the toilet with all purpose cleaner. I clean my toilet regularly, of course, but this time I got the area behind it, the back of the tank, underneath the tank, and every little crevice. Then I gave the bowl a thorough scrubbing with baking soda and castille soap–especially under the rim. I also washed my toilet brush and holder, and plunger in the soapy toilet water.  I washed the sink with all-purpose cleaner, and dusted out the cabinet beneath.
  7. The hardware store was out of radiator brushes, which really set me back. The fact that they were out of both radiator brushes and Barkeeper’s Friend makes me suspect that I’m not the only one spring cleaning. Did I mention my neighborhood has a serious Eastern European grandmother demographic? Without a brush, I could only clean one side of my dusty, paint-chippy, rusty radiator. I couldn’t reach the back. Until I got a brilliant idea: I flossed it! I took an old t-shirt, threaded it between the pipes, and pulled it back and forth like dental floss. This was not a perfect solution, but it’s better than a half clean radiator. Note: This may not work if your hands are normal-sized. Also, do not attempt when radiator is hot.
  8. I cleaned the tub with a mix of castille soap and baking soda, enough to make a thick paste. I scrubbed it with a scrub brush, then rinsed by pouring water on it, then filling the tub and draining it, and then running the shower at it. It was not the most water-conscious I’ve ever been.
  9. It turns out, metal polish makes things incredibly shiny. I polished my faucets and the shower-head and now they are like mirrors!
  10. I cleaned the glass by dipping a paper towel in vinegar, rubbing it on the glass and then wiping with a dry paper towel.
  11. I swept the floor, then scrubbed out the corners with water with a touch of castille soap. Then I mopped it. And my mop began to disintegrate. And then I realized that a mop is probably not one of those things you buy once.


This took: A solid four hours, I’m guessing.

Things destroyed: Paint on bathroom walls.

Things I have never cleaned before: the back of the toilet tank, the shower head, the hinges of the cabinets, the toilet plunger.

Products/techniques never used before: Metal polish!

I feel: Exhausted! And kind of obsessed with grime.

Thoughts I Had:

  • This is why helicopter parenting wasn’t a thing in previous eras. I can’t imagine cleaning like this if I had kids. No doubt, I would send them outside to play with the neighbors, and not even really wonder where they were, if this is the kind of work I was doing.
  • We often joke about the unromantic notion of getting a vacuum cleaner for your birthday from your husband, but if I cleaned like this on the regular, gifts that made it easier would be super thoughtful, and probably make me want to make out with whoever gave it to me.

Next up…the kitchen!

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