Weekend Projects

This 1-Minute Maintenance Tip Will Help Keep Pests and Smells Out of Your Bathroom

published Jul 17, 2020
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Credit: Cathy Pyle

Apartment Therapy Weekend Projects is a guided program designed to help you get the happy, healthy home you’ve always wanted, one weekend at a time. Sign up now for email updates so you never miss a lesson.

If you have more than one bathroom in the house, it’s possible that there’s a bathroom that gets used far less frequently than the other. Or maybe you have a sink in the basement, or a wet bar that’s falling out of use lately. You might think it’s fine to ignore that space if nobody is using it, but neglecting the water fixtures and drains in your home can have undesirable consequences that extend beyond just a little extra dust.

Sink and shower drains that go for extended periods without water running through them can run the risk of letting pests or sewer gas into the house.

The drains in your home, including those in your bathroom sink and toilet, have p-traps, which are u-shaped portions of pipe designed to always hold a bit of water. This water acts as a seal to keep your home insulated, in a way, from the larger plumbing system it’s connected to. If a drain is never used, the water in this trap can evaporate, potentially allowing drain flies (aka sewer flies) or noxious fumes to enter your living space.

There one easy way to prevent that from happening though: Occasionally turn on your lesser-used faucets and fixtures and allow the water to run for at least one minute. It’ll maintain that p-trap seal your plumbing needs to do its job, plus it helps prevent stagnant water from sitting in your faucet or showerhead, which can keep bacteria from taking hold.

All this is to say that your rarely used sinks, toilets, showers, and tubs need a visit every once in a while. This weekend we’re going to pay them one.

Credit: Lula Poggi

This Weekend: Check on unused bathrooms.

While we’re checking in on our rarely used bathrooms, we’re going to take the opportunity to briefly clean them, too. Grab your cleaning supplies and give the room a good once-over, top to bottom, as you would clean any bathroom.

Then, perform the following:

  1. Run water in the sink for about 1 to 3 minutes.
  2. Run water in the shower or tub for 1 to 3 minutes. If you have a shower head with a flexible hose, place the shower head near the drain while it’s running.
  3. Flush the toilet if it’s rarely used.

Put these tasks on your schedule to repeat weekly or monthly, depending on how often the bathroom is used and what conditions are like (for instance, hot, dry weather increased the rate of evaporation in the p-traps).

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You can catch up with weekend projects right here. Share your progress with us and others by posting updates and photos on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #atweekendproject.

Remember: This is about improvement, not perfection. Each week you can either choose to work on the assignment we’ve sent you, or tackle another project you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s also completely okay to skip a weekend if you’re busy or not feeling the assignment.