Preventing Bathtub and Shower Mildew and Mold

I’ve written about how easy and money-saving it is to wash shower curtains and liners in the washing machine, which does a good job of removing mildew, mold (I can’t tell which is which), soap scum, and the dreaded serratia marcescens bacteria.  Then I got to to thinking: if only there were a way of preventing those gross nasty things!

Some sort of shower spray would probably do the trick.  A DIY homemade shower spray would probably be cheaper than a special store-bought product.

Several websites have recipes for homemade shower cleaners vinegarthat include ingredients such as vinegar, rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, among other things, mixed with water.  I decided to start with plain vinegar, mainly because it’s the least expensive.  Costco sells a jug of vinegar, more than gallon, for about $3.  Regular (sometimes called white) vinegar is usually 5% acidity.  Cleaning vinegar (which isn’t intended to be safe for food use) is usually 6% acidity.  So far, I’ve been using the 5% food-safe vinegar, mainly because it’s more readily available.

All I do is fill a spray bottle with plain straight vinegar.  Once or twice a week I give the bathtub and shower area a thorough spray.  I usually do it after I take a shower and when I’m sure no one else will take a shower for the next several hours.  Before I spray, I give the shower curtains a quick shake to remove most of the clinging water droplets — I don’t want my vinegar spray to be diluted as soon as it’s applied.  I spray the entire tub area, the walls, both sides of the shower curtains and liner, paying particular attention to areas where I’ve seen mildew and mold in the past, which tends to be the corners and lower parts of the shower curtain, liner, and tub walls.  Then I just leave it alone.  I assume that prolonged contact with vinegar is bad for mildew and mold, which is good for me.

So far it’s working, and it’s cheap.  The only disadvantage is the smell of vinegar, which can be overpowering in an enclosed space (remember, bathroom ventilation is important), but I can put up with that for a few minutes each week.  You might want to wear rubber gloves, because contact with vinegar isn’t good for your skin.


Washing Shower Curtains

shower_curtainAccording to the internet, when confronted with a shower curtain or shower curtain liner that has become icky with accumulated dirt, limescale and hard water deposits, mildew and mold, soap scum, and serratia marcescens bacteria (!) … many people will just throw it away and buy a new one.  Even members of my own family would do this!

However, a spin in the washing machine will make shower curtains and liners as good as new and repeated washings can add months or even years to their useful lives.  Just put them into the washing machine with a few heavy towels (especially for top-loading machines, which can tear up shower curtains without the towels to act as padding and buffers) and add the usual amount of detergent.  As a booster, add about a half cup of ammonia (my favorite), or some baking soda, borax, vinegar,  or bleach.  [Of course, never use ammonia and bleach together.]  Run the machine on the longest cycle with hot water.  You might pause the machine for some additional soak time.  There’s no need for a high-speed spin.  Don’t put the shower curtain in the dryer.  Just re-hang it in the bathroom and admire it as it dries.

You can also admire the money that stays in your bank account each time you do this.  A new shower curtain might cost at least $8.  Washing it in your home washing machine costs about 50¢.

If you have a mildew, mold, and serratia marcescens problem in your bath and shower area, a fan in the bathroom might help.

The Salux Washcloth

The Salux washcloth is one of those things that made me wonder, “how did I not know about this before now?”, when I became aware of it a few months ago.  After using a Salux washcloth, I now feel that when it comes to showering, “I’ve been doing it wrong”, at least for my whole pre-Salux life.

saluxWhat is a Salux washcloth?  Materially, it’s like the bath pouf (“pouf”, yes I guess that’s the word) that is common in showers in North America and probably elsewhere.  Both the Salux and the pouf are made of nylon and polyester or similar synthetic fabric.  But while the traditional bath pouf is bunched up into a spherical shape (usually with a cord loop for hanging), the Salux washcloth is shaped like a scarf, flat, about 10 inches wide and 35 inches long.  You might not assume this difference in shape would make much difference in performance, but … you’d be wrong— it really does.

The Salux washcloth has a bit more texture than the pouf, so the Salux does a better job cleaning and exfoliating.  After I’m done, I feel really clean, cleaner than I’ve ever felt after showering any other way.  (Although I should mention that I don’t think I need that much cleaning every day; I use the Salux once or twice per week.)

How to use it:  While you’re in the shower, skin wet, you put a small amount of soap, body wash liquid, or shower gel onto the Salux washcloth.  You should turn the water off, so that you don’t rinse away the soap before it’s had a chance to do its work.  Then, holding the Salux by the ends, one end in each hand, you wash yourself with a back-and-forth “shoeshine” motion.  This is especially good for washing your back.  (See the picture.)  The Salux makes lots of suds — more than the pouf, probably due to the quick back-and-forth motion.  You can also bunch it up and use it as you’d use a pouf or old-fashioned (cotton terry) washcloth, but I mostly use it fully stretched out between two hands pretty much everywhere: my back, underarms, legs and feet, even between toes.  (But not my face, the Salux experience is a little too intense for face cleaning.)

How it saves money:  The main advantage to using the Salux washcloth is that it allows you to use less soap.  With the Salux I use only about 1/3 the amount of body wash liquid as I normally use without it.  Getting cleaner while using less soap means that the Salux will pay for itself long before it wears out.  One reviewer on Amazon mentioned that after a Salux washcloth is too worn out for use in the shower (because it begins to fray at the ends and loses some of its texture), he saves it and uses it for household cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom.

Another nice thing about the Salux is that because of its shape it’s easier to rinse clean after use and it dries quickly and completely, thus making it more sanitary.  Poufs don’t dry as well because the bunched-up shape doesn’t allow as much contact with air.  You can also wash the Salux in a washing machine (same for the pouf), but this doesn’t seem necessary.  They get clean just by rinsing them well after use.  The need to launder cotton washcloths is one of the main reasons they are inconvenient and inefficient.  (If you launder your Salux washcloth in your washing machine, do not put it in the dryer.  Heat is not good for synthetic fabrics.)

A couple final notes.  (1) Some webpages use the word “towel” to describe the Salux.  I think that’s a mis-translation (given that these are made in Japan).  The Salux is a washcloth, intended to be used with soap and water for cleaning, not drying.  It wouldn’t be good for drying off after a shower.  (2) It’s been reported that Chinese-made fakes and knockoffs are common, but the consensus seems to be that these are inferior and that the real Japanese-made Salux is much better than any imitator.

Hand-Powered Washing Machine

wonderwashFor a long time, I’ve wondered if maybe some day I might take an old washing machine and hook it up to a stationary bicycle such that peddling the bike powers the washing machine.  Maybe some day.  While thinking those thoughts I searched the internet for inspiration and I discovered a hand-powered washing machine called the Wonderwash.

Basically, it’s a bucket with a watertight top that is attached to a base that allows the bucket to spin on an axis when a crank is turned.  Put dirty laundry in the bucket, add water and detergent, close and spin, … you get the idea.

Recently, the goddess of good luck smiled on me and I found a Wonderwash machine at the local Goodwill.  As it was only about 1/5 of the normal price, I couldn’t resist buying it.  After using it a few times, here are my thoughts.

First, most people will probably find that it won’t replace a full-size washing machine.  You will still need your regular washing machine to do large loads, especially for things like blankets or towels.  But for small loads, the Wonderwash is a good alternative to using a regular washing machine — especially if that would require transporting clothes to a laundry room or laundromat (as apartment dwellers often need to do).  I can easily see how someone could save time and money by using the Wonderwash for washing loads of small things like underwear, tee-shirts, and socks.  It might also be useful for camping trips or in a cabin or vacation house that doesn’t have a regular washing machine.

Most videos of people using the Wonderwash show them using it in a kitchen.  I thought it made more sense to use it in the bathtub.  I did a load of 3 tee-shirts, 3 shorts (underwear), and a fitted sheet, which seemed like a good-sized load for the Wonderwash.  I filled it about half way with hot water, using the bathtub’s handheld shower.  I added just a small spoonful of liquid laundry detergent.  After screwing on the top, I turned the crank a few times to spin the bucket, then let the laundry soak for a minute or so.  I should mention that the bucket is well-balanced on its axis and spins quite easily.  I continued to crank few times each minute or so for about ten minutes.  (During this time I took a shower, with the Wonderwash right there in the tub with me.)

The machine has a drainpipe at the bottom (which you need to attach to use, but need to remove to spin the bucket), but as I had the machine sitting in the bathtub I thought it was easier to just dump the water out the same way it went in, by removing the top and tilting the bucket.  Then I added fresh water for the rinse cycle, closed the top and spun it a few times.  I like my clothes well rinsed, so I repeated the rinse cycle.  After dumping the rinse water out, I removed the clothes, wrung them by hand to get out most of the water, and hung them up to dry.  The next day, the clothes were dry and seemed just as clean as if they had been washed in a regular washing machine.

Overall, I’m glad I have the machine.  Even though we do most of our laundry in a regular washing machine in the basement, this is a good alternative for small loads or when the regular washing machine is unavailable because someone else is using it.  And, as already mentioned, if I lived in an apartment and didn’t have my own washing machine, I’d certainly consider getting one of these so as to minimize trips to the laundry room or laundromat.  Using the Wonderwash in a apartment would save all the time (and perhaps money) it takes to transport clothes to a laundry room or laundromat.

No Hot Water Not So Bad (in the Summer)

shower_every_dayThe gas company has been installing new gas meters on my street and because of some miscommunication (probably someone in my house not paying attention to a note that was left on our door), we’ve had no gas for the past couple days.  That means no cooking on the stove and no hot water.  Coincidentally, we weren’t doing any stove cooking these past couple days, so we only noticed the no-gas situation when the water in the shower stopped being hot.  A call to the gas company got everything sorted out.  My house didn’t actually need a new meter, so the gas will be turned on and we will be able to cook and shower as normal starting tonight.

But a couple days without gas-heated water made me think:  It’s really not too bad to shower with only cold water in the summertime.  (Obviously, it would be a different thing in January.  I’m very glad the gas company is replacing the meters in the summer and not during the winter.)  The water is a little cooler than I’d like, but I got used to it.  It might even be good for a body to get cooled off a little more than is comfortable.

So, the thought struck me:  Regularly showering with cold water (in the summer) might save some money.  Not much, considering the summer gas bill is less than $25 per month.  Aside from showering, we still cook with gas and use hot water for clothes washing and doing the dishes.  So, at most, maybe half of the bill goes for hot-water showering.  You have to ask yourself: $12 for hot water used for showering … or $12 towards being mortgage-free.  It’s a question worth thinking about.  Even if the answer is “hot showers”, it’s good to always be working at finding ways to save money.


One of life’s general principles is that you can save a lot of money by avoiding convenience. Make your own juice or iced tea at home and take them with you in the car and to work.  Make your own oatmeal for breakfast.  Use a cast-iron waffle maker.

And so it is with mopping the floor.

Years ago we bought a floor-cleaning machine.  It squirted water onto the floor, its brushes spun and scrubbed, and it vacuumed up the dirty water and collected it in a tank.  It worked great.  It got our floors really clean.  The only problem was that it didn’t last.  After a couple years, it stopped working.  I bought another one.  And it soon stopped working.  Seemed like a pattern was developing.  mopnado(It also needed a new part occasionally; a rubber gasket that helped it maintain a vacuum against the floor needed replacing about once a year.)  I didn’t want to continue spending a couple hundred dollars every couple years for a machine to clean the floor.

So I bought a mop.  A modern mop that comes with a microfiber mop head and a bucket that spins it dry.  Much less expensive.  Will probably last much longer.  The only maintenance cost is the microfiber mop heads, which are re-usable and can be cleaned in the washing machine.  All in all, a human-powered mop is much more economical than the mopping machine powered by an electric motor.

Use a Shower Shutoff Valve

shower_valveSave water and save money.  I’ve seen people showering, applying their soap, body wash, or shower gel while the water is running and rinsing the product off their skin and down the drain as soon as they start to use it.  Or they leave the water running while they shampoo or shave.  The better way is to

  1. Get wet,
  2. Turn the water off using a shower shutoff valve (even when I using a shutoff valve, I still turn the hot water completely off),
  3. Apply your favorite shower product, lather and scrub (a Salux washcloth works well),
  4. Give the lather time to work,
  5. Shampoo or shave,
  6. Turn the water on, and
  7. Rinse.

The problem is that it’s a bother to turn the water off the usual way, especially once you have the hot-and-cold mix adjusted the way you like it.  Solution: Get a shower shutoff valve.  It installs above the showerhead (or handheld shower connection) and gives you another way to turn off the shower.  Turn off the valve, and the faucet handles stay on (keeping the water temperature as you like it), as the shower flow is reduced to a drip.  Lather, scrub, shave, let the soap do its work, take your time, and then — after you’ve saved a few gallons of water — rinse as normal.

Save even more: take cold showers.