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How Often to Clean Your Shower Curtain — and These 6 Other Bathroom Items

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Tuesday, January 30th, 2024
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Let’s face it: Cleaning the bathroom probably isn’t anyone’s cup of tea. Whether it’s scrubbing gunk out of the bathtub drain or swishing a brush around the toilet bowl, it’s not exactly a fun. Of course, a mucky, smelly bathroom isn’t a great alternative, so, as they say, it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

You likely already know you should sanitize the toilet and other bathroom surfaces fairly regularly to prevent them from getting grubby. But if you’ve ever wondered how often you really need to clean your shower curtain, your bath towels, and other common items in your bathroom, we spoke to microbiology and public health experts to get the lowdown.

Why It’s Important to Clean and Replace Bathroom Items for Wellness

Because of the nature of the activities performed in the bathroom, these spaces are breeding grounds for bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that can make us sick.

Such pathogens include enteroviruses, such as the norovirus (commonly referred to as the “stomach bug”), as well as influenza and rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold. And since the bathroom is a high-touch area, with most people needing to use it multiple times a day, these illnesses have a good chance of spreading there. “Without proper cleaning and sanitation, germs are more likely to infiltrate our immune defenses.”

Additionally, the moisture caused by hot showers and baths can lead to dampness and the growth of mold. Exposure to mold can cause a variety of health effects, particularly for those with allergies or asthma, including wheezing, stuffy nose, and itchy eyes or skin, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Because of these health hazards, bathroom items need to be cleaned regularly — typically daily or weekly, depending on the number of people in your household and how the room is used.

7 Bathroom Items to Make Sure You’re Cleaning Regularly

From your shower curtain to the toilet bowl, here’s how often to clean common bathroom items.

1. Shower Curtain and Liner

You come face-to-face with your shower curtain and liner nearly every day and likely don’t give it much thought. But it’s important to keep these bathroom items clean for the sake of your health. In fact, home-test and survey results recently published by SafeHome.org found the shower curtain to be the germiest item in the bathroom, harboring 60 times more bacteria than the toilet seat.

One of the biggest health concerns when it comes to your shower curtain and liner is mold, Dr. Studer says. She advises changing your shower curtain every six months, or sooner if it becomes moldy or visibly dirty to a point where it can’t be cleaned.

In between changes, Schmidt advises wiping down your shower curtain and liner regularly with a disinfectant. “Clean it more often if you routinely are bouncing water off the curtain and it lands on you,” he says. “Odor and your eyes can be your guide. If it looks dirty or smells funky, you have likely waited too long.”

2. Bathroom Towels

The American Cleaning Institute advises washing your bath towels every three to five uses and ensuring they are completely dry before they’re used again. This means making sure your towel is hung up so it can properly lose moisture. If your towel doesn’t fully dry between uses, grab a new one, Studer says.

“A different towel is recommended to use on your buttock area because of the varying bacteria that naturally reside near there,” she says. “You do not want to spread anal bacteria to other parts of your body, especially for women.” Accidentally transferring this bacteria to the vaginal area can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) and other infections, Studer notes.

3. Toilet

It’s an unpleasant task, but it’s important to make sure you’re giving your toilet a good scrub regularly. According to research, salmonella bacteria, which cause food poisoning, can colonize the underside of the rim of toilets and live up to 50 days. The CDC estimates that salmonella is responsible for 1.35 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and 420 deaths in the United States every year.

“Toilets are some of the filthiest spots in the bathroom, obviously, because that is where poo and pee go down,” Banjoko says. “Seats should be disinfected daily or weekly, depending on the number and frequency of use.”

And if anyone in your household is suffering from diarrhea, a GI illness, or a cold or flu, it’s crucial to disinfect more frequently to prevent the spread of infection, she says.

When it comes to how often you should replace your toilet brush, there’s no hard and fast rule, but Studer advises tossing yours and getting a new one if the bristles start to wear down or get discolored.

4. Shower

How often you clean your shower or bathtub will depend on your family size and how often it’s used. “With some households, weekly or even monthly cleaning may suffice, especially if you have adults only and no kids who could mess up the tub,” Banjoko says. “Ideally, planning for weekly or biweekly cleaning or disinfecting is advised.”

Other households may need to do daily cleaning if the frequency of use of the bathroom or bathtub warrants it, she notes.

5. Sink and Other Surfaces

Like the shower or toilet, your bathroom sink and other surfaces can harbor illness-causing germs.

“If someone is displaying any sort of symptoms of an illness, rule of thumb is to clean those surfaces often, especially if they are vomiting or display symptoms of diarrhea,” Schmidt says. “When it’s not cold or flu season you can consider scrubbing surfaces at least once a week to be an important safety measure, and of course if you notice that the surfaces are soiled.”

6. Bath Mats and Rugs

Studer recommends cleaning your bathroom rugs at least monthly, though weekly is ideal. If you clean them regularly, replacing them can be at your discretion, she says, though if they show signs of wear and tear or are falling apart, it’s probably time to toss them. Scrub and disinfect any shower mats used to protect against slips and falls anytime you clean your bathtub.

A particular concern for rugs and mats in the bathroom is athlete’s foot, an itchy, scaly skin infection caused by a fungus. “Dry skin or cracks in the skin can allow any number of dermatophytes (fungi that infect the skin) to attach themselves to your foot,” Schmidt says. An important way to prevent athlete’s foot is to keep surfaces you step on barefoot, including bathroom rugs and mats, sanitized. Also make sure your feet are completely dry before you put on socks, as moisture aids the production of fungi, Schmidt notes.

7. Doorknobs and Light Switches

Doorknobs and light switches are high-touch areas, making them fomites, or objects that can serve as an intermediary stopover for infectious germs.

“I recommend a daily wipe down of sink faucets, doorknobs, and light switches,” Studer says. “This can easily be accomplished with a premoistened disinfectant wipe.”

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