Park City Home Master Class: Ultimate Bathroom Cleanse

This Scandinavian white bathroom with creative ladder shelf for towels? Masterful.

Renovating a bathroom is among the most expensive projects a homeowner can undertake. But giving a bathroom a fresh look usually requires no more than a good decluttering, sorting, scrubbing, and reorganizing.

In the bathroom, decluttering means getting rid of everything, from cosmetics to mismatched washcloths, which may have served a purpose in the past or that you might need at some far-off time in the future, but are not using now. That includes everything from the pain meds from when your daughter had her wisdom teeth removed to the face-lift-in-a-jar samples from a mall kiosk. If it sounds like a lot of work, remember that decluttering is the best way to start because when you are done, there’ll be less to scrub and less to reorganize.

To begin, go through every area where you store bathroom items, including the medicine cabinet, under-the-sink drawers and cabinets, vanity tops, bathroom shelves, linen closet, toilet tank top, and tub and shower organizers. Next, divide all of the bathroom items into categories.

Categories can include medications, first-aid supplies, dental care items, cosmetics, hair products, skincare items, shaving equipment, nail care paraphernalia, perfumes and lotions, and travel sizes. Bulkier items, such as washcloths and towels, boxes of tissue, toilet paper, kids’ bath toys, and bathroom cleaning supplies, should be similarly organized. Use baskets, bins, or dedicated spaces on the floor to keep each category separate.

Now assess each pile’s individual items and decide whether to keep, toss, recycle, or donate.

For anything with an expired use-by date, safely dispose of the contents (do not pour medicines down the drain or flush down the toilet) and recycle the container. Most importantly, this includes prescription medications and first-aid products. Many toiletries, such as shampoo, toothpaste, and deodorant, also have a use-by date, after which they can begin to lose their effectiveness.

If you have several opened containers of the same product, try to consolidate them (a kitchen funnel will help with liquids). If a container is recyclable, it will have a recycle symbol and a number, from 1 to 7, on the bottom. Containers with a 1 or 2 are almost universally recyclable, with acceptance of the others varying.

If donating, consider that not every charity will accept personal-care items. If they are accepted, items must be in their original, unopened packaging. On the other hand, many animal shelters will gladly welcome old towels and bathmats. Thrift stores such as Goodwill accept hairdryers and other small appliances in working condition.

Even if you travel frequently, keep only a minimum number of travel-size items on hand that you can grab and go. Nowadays, almost every hotel stocks its bathrooms with soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Homeless shelters are a good place to take your unopened overflow.

With all your bathroom items out of their storage areas, now is the time for scrubbing — the cabinets, drawers, shower, tub, toilet, countertops, and faucets. For the most satisfying results, commit to a truly deep cleanse: Use chrome polish on the bathroom hardware and scrub any stained grout. Specialized commercial cleaners are available for these, but a bristle brush or rag and some combination of water, vinegar, and baking soda can usually do a good job, too. While you’re at it, toss the shower curtain and liner in your washing machine.  

Because heat and humidity can damage them, some items typically found in a medicine cabinet, especially prescription medications, should be kept elsewhere. Store them instead in a bedroom drawer or, if you have small children, out of reach on a closet shelf.

Items you can keep in the medicine cabinet include over-the-counter vitamins and items you might want in a hurry, such as bandages or a thermometer.  

To keep soap, shampoo, loofas, and other bathing products from balancing precariously and unattractively on the tub and shower ledges, the most practical solution is an organizer hanging from the showerhead. If you have young children, store bath toys in mesh bags hung from suction cups on the side of the tub. 

If your under-sink cabinets don’t have shelves, use stackable clear plastic or labeled bins for keeping groups of products together. Likewise, organize drawers using silverware tray dividers for smaller items such as tweezers, hair clips, and makeup brushes. The goal is to keep almost everything hidden but handy.

Countertop space is best dedicated only to things you want at hand several times daily, such as soap, hand lotion, or tissues. But if you find it necessary, a small, tiered tray for miscellaneous items can prove helpful and, depending on what’s being displayed, a pleasing piece of décor. And a handsome countertop set of jars for cotton balls, swabs, and toothbrushes can make daily grooming feel like less of a chore.