9 Eyesores, Annoyances, and Issues That Never Belong in an Adult Bathroom

published Sep 3, 2020
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You’re an adult now, and it’s time to face the music: There are things in your bathroom that simply don’t belong there. You can either hang onto them, and continue projecting an adolescent, seat-of-your-pants kind of vibe. Or you can take a step forward into the light of adulthood—and a clean, working, fresh-smelling bathroom.

It’s really up to you, though. Maybe you’ve grown rather attached to the ever-present background noise of your running toilet, or the rust ring in your sink. Maybe you’re actually fond of the hard water stains on your hardware, or the cracks in your caulk. Maybe it doesn’t bother you that these tiny little annoyances can snowball into something bigger and more costly. Or that the solution to the original problem is a shockingly quick fix.

Or maybe… it does, in which case, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the nine things it’s time to kick out of your bathroom—plus info on what causes the issue in the first place, why it’s bad, and exactly how to fix it.

A running toilet

Every time you flush your toilet, you should hear running water as the tank refills, and then sweet, blissful silence. If you’re hearing anything beyond about 30 seconds or a minute, you likely have a running toilet, and it’s time to go catch it. (I’m sorry.) 

It might not seem like that big of an issue, because the sound can quickly fade into the background. But not only is all that running water wasteful, but it’s also expensive. Even a silent leak can tack an extra $500 onto your water bill every single year, so it’s worth fixing.

A plumber is always an option if you start to feel overwhelmed, but there’s a good chance you can handle a running toilet on your own. It will probably come down to a simple adjustment of one of five parts: the flush lever, rubber flapper, float, pump, or overflow tube. Sound intimidating? Not to worry: Here’s an easy DIY guide for how to fix a running toilet.

If you suspect a leak but don’t actually hear one, a few drops of food coloring can give you all the proof you need. Just lift the lid on the tank, dribble in some food dye, and leave it alone for fifteen minutes. If when you return, the water in the bowl has become tinted, you know you’re working with a leak.

Credit: Franke Chung

A leaky faucet

There’s a reason that slowly dripping water is considered a torture method, because just the sound of it can drive you mad. And like a running toilet, a leaky faucet can cause your water bill to skyrocket every month. 

But before you call a plumber or waste time <a rel="noreferrer noopener" href="waiting%20around%20for%20your%20landlord%20to%20address%20the%20issue,%20try%20resolving%20it%20yourself.%20There%20are%20four%20different%20types%20of%20faucets%E2%80%94cartridge,%20compression,%20ceramic%20disk,%20and%20ball-type%E2%80%94and%20no%20matter%20which%20you%20have,%20the%20drip%20is%20caused%20by%20a%20faulty%20seal.%20Whether%20it%E2%80%99s%20a%20rubber%20washer,%20an%20O-ring,%20or%20a%20neoprene%20seal%20that%20needs%20replacing,%20swapping%20it%20out%20isn%E2%80%99t%20as%20intimidating%20as%20it%20might%20sound.</p>%0A%0A%0A%0A<p><a%20href=" https:>This Old House has an excellent step-by-step explainer of the process, broken down by faucet type—and all you’ll need is a few basic tools like a wrench, a screwdriver, and a utility knife. (Key point: Remember to turn off the water valve under the sink before getting to any work.)

Rust rings

It turns out there’s a name for that rosy little halo that appears around the drain in your sink or bathtub. It’s called a rust ring, and it’s caused by dissolved iron oxidizing on the porcelain surface. It could be from water passing through older galvanized pipes, or because you live in an area with hard water with a high mineral content—but either way, it isn’t dangerous.

It is, however, unsightly, and it gives the impression of a neglected, never-cleaned bathroom, even if that isn’t strictly the case. Luckily, it’s an easy fix, with all-natural materials that you might already have lying around the house.

All you have to do is cover the stain with table salt, squeeze half a lemon over it, and scrub the mixture with a clean cloth or a nylon sponge. For particularly tough stains, try leaving the paste on for an hour, then squeezing on more lemon juice before scrubbing and rinsing clean. This should erase the marks like a dream, leaving your tub positively gleaming. If you reach for store-bought products, make sure to check that they’re compatible with porcelain and enamel, or you risk corroding the finish on your sink or tub.

Credit: Anna Spaller

Hard water stains

Speaking of hard water, it can stain more than just your porcelain or enamel. You may have noticed some ghostly splash marks on your stainless steel hardware or glass dividers that start out pearly and can build up into brown or green stains. 

Again, it doesn’t mean anything bad about the water, so don’t worry. But it can turn elements of older bathrooms into a bit of an eyesore, until you learn how to fix it.

Once again, there’s a DIY solution. Don Glovan, a franchise consultant with Mr. Rooter Plumbing, recommends spreading baking soda on the affected area, then spraying it with a bottle full of vinegar. Let the gentle foam sit and do its work for 15 minutes, and then rinse with warm water.

Cracked caulk

It can be tempting to ignore the cracked caulk in your shower, reassuring yourself that it’s purely an aesthetic issue. But you’re an adult now, so you know that addressing an issue while it’s still small can save you tons of time, money, and energy down the line… right?

If you don’t know, this is the perfect issue to learn on, so listen up. Caulking is meant to serve as a watertight seal, so leaving it in cracked condition allows moisture to seep between the wall and the tub. That in turn leads to mold, then full on water damage, and if things get to that point, you’ll have to rip the whole shower out and replace it. 

You probably don’t want to deal with that kind of a headache, so arm yourself with some water-resistant caulk, a caulk gun, and a utility knife, and let this post guide you through the process. Once you have everything all set up, it will probably only take you part of a weekend day, and save you mountains of time and stress later.

Shower curtain without a liner

On the topic of water damage, installing a liner in addition to your shower curtain is a great way to head it off at the pass. If all you have is the curtain, you may have noticed some brown or gray discoloration along the bottom, or cloudiness if your curtain is made of vinyl instead of cloth. Or maybe you’ve become aware that a significant amount of water is making its way onto the floor every time you shower.

A shower liner is the solution to both issues, doubling your defense against leakage with a single wallet-friendly purchase. (Amazon reviewers love this option, which will run you just $14.)

Once you’ve installed it, remember to keep the liner tucked inside the lip of the tub while you shower. (The fabric shower curtain, if you have one, should remain outside the tub.) And of course, you’ll need to keep your liner clean, wiping it down with a clean cloth when necessary, and doing a deeper scrub whenever you notice any buildup.

Garbage can without a lid

The whole point of a garbage can is that you use it for things that you’re done with and not hoping to see again, right? So having an open air trash can is a little counterintuitive. Not only can you see in, which puts the contents on full display, but a lack of lid allows all manner of odors to escape, leaving your bathroom smelling like a locker room. 

It’s a tiny little upgrade—IKEA offers a stylish option for just $10—but getting yourself a closed-top garbage can with a liner and a pedal is a game-changer. At the very least, the menstruators in your life will thank you.

Credit: I Spy DIY

Open drains

There’s nothing quite like taking a shower in standing water, is there? Not only is it impossible to feel truly clean afterward, but the rising water can leave soap scum on the walls of your tub that require extra elbow grease to scrub away.

Your slow-emptying tub or sink is likely caused by a clog, and unless you absolutely adore pulling clumps of hair all gunked up with product out of your drain, you don’t have to live like this. The solution is a hair catcher, a simple and discreet product that requires zero installation, allowing water to pass through, but snagging strands before they can clog up your pipes.

Not sure where to start? Apartment Therapy contributor Cat Meschia swears by the TubShroom, a well-rated, $13 product she says she quite literally can no longer live without.

Stinky towels

Even if you don’t detect an odor, there’s a good chance that you aren’t washing your towels frequently enough. (Experts recommend a wash every two or three days.) So if things are starting to get a little mildewy up in here, it’s definitely time to take action

The good news is, there’s a good chance your towels are salvageable, so there’s no need to toss stinky ones on spec. Try running them through a few wash cycles, first with a cup of white vinegar instead of detergent, and then with a cup of baking soda sprinkled over the top. This should neutralize any odors, especially if you’re able to air dry towels in the sun afterward. 

If this is an ongoing issue no matter how often you do laundry, it can mean that the ventilation in your bathroom isn’t ideal, and it isn’t allowing your towels to dry between uses. So if possible, try to allow for more airflow, whether by opening a door or window, or turning on a fan.