Cleaning the bathroom: a primer for the uninitiated

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This past week, as you may remember, my kids unwillingly took on the task of trying to clean the house room-by-room before Friday. They were not excited by the list I produced on butcher paper and hung prominently in the kitchen. After all, it’s summer, and for some reason our kids think that means long, lazy days of doing nothing more than what the wind drifts them to do. Since we seem to have been doing that as far as housecleaning goes since my first herniated disk almost a year ago, I knew that enough was enough and some spring cleaning was more than overdue. We’d been keeping things manageable, but it was time for some extra TLC in just about every room, with some getting a good ole fashioned deep cleaning. While some rooms can skate along with just a wipe up or a quick once-over, the hall bathroom is not one of them. In fact, the hall bathroom–the bathroom that all the kids use except for Hannah–is perhaps one of the most high maintenance spaces in our entire house.

Under normal circumstances, the boys are in charge of cleaning this windowless room. It is scheduled to be cleaned once a week, even though it easily could be power washed daily. If you have boys, you know what I’m talking about. In fact, just last week I laughed (and cried) my way through a blog post by Alpha Mom that had gone viral confirming what I had been trying to hide…or at least cover up in my own home. In a post entitled “23 Tips for Maintaining Your Sanity While Raising Children,” she offers wise advice for focusing on the important parts of life with littles and letting the rest go. To read this hilarious and witty post, click here. Without a doubt, the tip I honed in on and related to almost more than any other was this:

9. If you have boys, your bathroom will always faintly stink like pee. Invest in some Febreeze and count down the days until they move out and you can go visit them and pee on their bathroom floor.

I can totally relate. Oh, that bathroom. It ranges from the faint stink of pee to the rankness equal only to the neglected outhouses of yesteryear. It runs the gamut between fairly presentable to downright embarrassing. As in, if someone comes to visit, I would rather them use the grass behind our garage before they set foot in that bathroom if it is just before the scheduled cleaning day….or any time after twenty minutes past the time it was cleaned.

Every so often, then, it makes me feel better if I tackle the cleaning in that room. Sure, the plan is to train the boys to eventually have the same standard of clean that I do, but so far we’re still quite divergent in our definitions. Some days, it seems that their “clean” definition is “running a semi-wet optionally clean rag over most surfaces at rapid speed with the hope but not necessarily guaranteed results of removing any ick or uck.” In the early days, I created a poster that walked them through the step by step process of properly cleaning the space.

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We have found varying success with this list, and I’m thinking of adding a “Proper Bathroom Behavior” poster next to it. I wonder how long it would take to find it spattered with toothpaste.

In any case, it was my turn to take on the space, especially since it did not have the faint smell of pee, but the overwhelming wall of pee smell to it. Every so often, we gotta work to knock it back down to faint smell status. I delegated other jobs from the massive list to each child with the hopes of directing them away from the bathroom and leaving me in the peace of the job before me. With my handy dandy microfiber cloth in one hand and spray cleaner with bleach in the other, I was ready for whatever I would find in there. For those of you cringing at the thought of me using something as harsh as bleach in my bathroom, let me set your mind at ease: it was only because we didn’t have something radioactive on hand. Fight fire with fire, I say.

While spraying and scrubbing and wiping all by myself, I had some time to reflect upon life as seen through the eyes of a bathroom cleaner, and I thought I would share.

1. I believe we are grossly ignoring a free and extremely potent potential weapon of mass destruction in day-old-or-more urine. Why are we not conquering nations or freeing oppressed people with this stuff? It is capable of bringing anyone with an olfactory bulb quickly and wholly to his or her knees. (from what I’ve heard.) If we could somehow harness the evil power of pee for good, we could do great things.

2. Even with all of our scientific advances, it is still not a good idea to mix ammonia and bleach. I really do not recommend trying this foolishness in a room without windows. If you’re looking for that “the room is spinning” sort of experience, I suggest riding a roller coaster or falling in love. Just saying.

2.7 Unlike Nevada and the catchy phrase we all know: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” what happens when little people use the facilities behind closed doors is soon on display for anyone with a nose once the door opens. How can we be so distracted in the middle of a relatively quick and easy process? However mind-boggling this is to me, I do not ever wish to follow them in to figure it out. It will have to remain one of the mysteries of the universe.

3. Don’t automatically assume that it’s only your boys who contribute to the carnage under the toilet seat and around the commode. A while back, while running bathwater for Chloe, she hopped up on the toilet. The problem was, with her short legs she literally only hopped up and didn’t scoot her bum back at all. What resulted was a sprinkling all over the toilet…and under the toilet…and near the toilet…. I was both amazed and horrified. All my previous preconceived notions trickled away like the liquid I just witnessed. In the midst of my shock, we had a little “talk” about how the design of the toilet works best when the waste products actually make it into the bowl. Near is simply not good enough.

4. According to my scientific studies, it is unclear at this time as to whether pee or cleaner (or a toxic combination of both) can strip the paint off of quarter round, but in that dark and scary back corner of our bathroom, the trim no longer has paint on it. That surely adds a finished look to the overall 1974 theme of our mint green bathroom with cream (and natural wood) trim. At least that’s what I’m shooting for. AT LEAST SOMEONE IS SHOOTING WITH PURPOSE IN THAT ROOM!

5. The saddest part about cleaning a bathroom in a house of eight people is that at best, the odds of said room staying clean for any length of time are roughly 45,936,495 to 1. Roughly. Odds are better that any one of the eight will have a potty emergency within five minutes of me turning off the light and spraying the air freshener one last time. It’s a quiet realization that the job of bathroom cleaning is not only a thankless but constantly recurring one. Unless we have a museum bathroom that nobody uses….pardon me, I took a laughing break to think of my mint green tiled bath with the Angry Birds shower curtain making it in a museum!….it will be like it will be. It will either smell like pee with the harsh overtones of bleach and Glade Fresh Linen, or will it be full on just urine. What a happy realization.

Honestly, I’ve started to resign myself to just buying time until I can go visit my boys and pee on their floor.

I wouldn’t really ever do that…. Would I???

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One response »

  1. ROFL! The only thing keeping me from taking revenge on my family, is that I once cleaned the bathroom my brothers shared. That one chance experience was perhaps the best thing my mother did to prepare me for my future role.

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