We all prefer a clean bathroom over one that is disorganized, dusty, or straight out gross. For obvious reasons, the bathroom is one of the harder rooms to keep clean, and if you own an old house or an old bathroom additional challenges will present themselves over time. The good news is that you don’t have to drop $100 when walking through your local grocery store to get everything you need to keep a clean bathroom.
There are multiple ways to keep a bathroom relatively clean without having to bust the budget. And if you are in a place where you are just beginning to learn all the basics, then going the budget route just makes sense as you learn the ropes.
The good news is that with a little bit of information, a few key tools, and a little bit of experience and this will be just another thing that’s easy to take care of among all the other parts of keeping up a home.
Why Bathroom Clean on a Budget?
There are many good reasons to make sure the bathroom supplies are a non-moveable item on even the tightest of early budgets. Aside from the fact a grungy bathroom is just gross and bad smells are bad smells, it’s amazing how the overall vibe of a room that you spend time in each morning and evening makes a major difference in little ways to how you feel about yourself and the day ahead (or behind).
There are a lot of bathroom products that are over the top, or if you don’t like the overly flowery or traditionally more feminine aesthetic, this can further reinforce bad habits with not keeping the bathroom in tip-top shape. Especially when you look at the price tag on some
And look, there no reason to feel bad if you’re Googling this information because you don’t have it. Even for those of us who grew up in homes where chores were a major part of life (hello country farm), bathroom chores were very rarely a part of that.
There’s a reason that the channel “Dad, How Do I?” has been a (and rightfully so) smash hit on YouTube. You don’t know what you don’t know, but taking those first steps can make a world of difference in so many areas of your life.
There are plenty of reasons you might need some guidance.
Just a few examples include:
- Living in your first apartment
- Living alone for the first time
- Just out of college (or moving out after high school)
- Didn’t handle these types of chores growing up
- Grew up in challenging conditions
- Want to level up the environment you live in
Hopefully this guide specifically, and this blog in general, will help give you the information you need to keep the bathroom looking great with a minimum amount of effort and a minimum hit on the budget.
Make Sure You Have the Right Type of Plunger
The first advice in many different money management courses is to have an emergency fund, because you need to be prepared for worst case scenarios. The same applies for bathroom maintenance.
So step one is to make sure you have a toilet plunger not a sink plunger. Because 95%+ of first-timers will have a sink plunger and not even know it, because they don’t know the difference in appearance and function between the two.
Simple stick with a small, sad, rubber head at the end of the plunger? That’s the general design that is best used for sinks and other simpler plumbing. The best toilet plungers have a more advanced plunger head that is designed to cause more of a vacuum for suction to deal with the really bad potential clogs that a toilet is far more likely to have.
This was a mistake I made well into my 30’s. I grew up in a poor household so we just had the lowest cost solution which was often a mediocre solution when we had a problem, but that’s because we had a glorified sink plunger.
Just a few bucks more and you can have a much more effective plunger that gets the job done without having to crack the budget. Not to mention the fact that these tend to be built better than the cheap traditional red rubber plunger.
If you’re still not quite sure which is which, take a look at the picture below for a clear look at what you want.
As for which one is the best? Honestly, when you’re trying to keep to a budget, there isn’t a big difference between a lot of toilet plungers in this price range, to the point where I have often gone to a new apartment or house when I moved across country and just grabbed whichever one was at the local hardware store or grocery store (again depending where you live, where you go for a decent plunger can change).
Currently the Yandex bathroom plunger is the one I use and can recommend as after 6 years in an old farm house with a very old upstairs toilet it’s worked like a charm.
This is a solid choice for a bathroom plunger that will do much better than that cheap red cup plunger that so many of us grew up using, or you can grab any other comparable one and are likely to be fine. If they are made from good materials and properly designed there honestly shouldn’t be a big difference between any two toilet plungers that you’re comparing.
You just want to make sure you have the right designed with the the extended outer plunger tapering in to the suction at the end. It’s a unique look compared to the cheap basic rubber suction cup plunger,
Dealing with Bathroom Smell on a Budget
When it comes to keeping a bathroom above the ordinary, it’s important to deal with the obvious issues and one of those is going to be the smell. Not only immediately after, but we’ve all been to those bathrooms where it’s clear that the stink has been stacking up for way longer than you want to admit.
First and foremost, if there is mold damage in the wall, ceiling, or an exposed space, there there is only so much that any type of air freshener or other solution can only do so much. The base problem in those situations need to be addressed first not only because of the smell but also because of the long-term health effects that exposure to mold (especially black mold) can cause.
Solution One: Coffee Grounds
This is going to sound strange at first but stick with me. This has a proven track record behind it, and I have a story to prove it.
Coffee grounds have an extraordinary ability to absorb odors over time. While most people are very familiar with the strong smell of coffee from brewing it, and it’s true that coffee can simply overpower some subtle smells in the same space, dry coffee grounds act as sort of a long-term odor eliminator. They take odors from the air, pull them in, and trap and eliminate them.
A small tray of coffee can do weeks’ worth of work.
- Don’t put the tray where it’s easy to spill
- Don’t get the coffee grounds wet (minimizes effectiveness for absorbing odors)
- Change out every two to three weeks
- In my experience especially dark roast or especially fragrant grounds do best
And no, I’m not kidding, this is an inexpensive way to keep the smells within reason. This was an old trick that I actually learned early on in college because Dad learned it while working for a small town used car dealership and mechanic shop.
Real Life Story Time:
When I was in high school Dad worked as a mechanic for a car dealership. They bought a used Pontiac Bonneville in fantastic shape, low mileage, well taken care of, but with one important problem: it was owned by a hog farmer and no matter how many times they used heavy duty chemicals to try to clean the inside and get the smell out, the car could be spotless and the smell wouldn’t fade.
And as someone who grew up in Iowa, aka serious farm country, no disrespect to farmers of any kind, but I understand that the strong and impossible to ignore odor of pig manure on an industrial scale is not what most people want to smell when taking a drive.
This meant a used car that even nearly 30 years ago had a blue book value of the time around 5K couldn’t move even for less than half. Dad offered them $500 for it and the dealership took the loss just to free up the space.
He went to the bar the next day, talked about the problem, and a farmer who was there for his noon time coffee and meal had the answer. When in doubt, ask the farmer. He told my dad to use an open tray of coffee grounds, place it on the back under the rear window and in a few weeks the smell would fade. Change out the old grounds for new ones until there was no hint of a bad smell left.
Dad was dubious, but the farmer swore up and down this worked…and it did. About five weeks and the guys at Dad’s work couldn’t believe it. There was no hint of a deep earthy smell in that car at all. No sign of pig manure, no sign of smell at all.
Weeks of industrial strength cleaners of (sometimes) dubious legality couldn’t get the smell out…but rotating out an open tray of coffee grounds on a weekly basis for five weeks did it.
The coffee ground trick is one they’ve used for three decades now, so needless to say they’re believers.
Solution Two: Frebreze Spray
There are a lot of “make bathroom smell better” products and while there are arguments to be made for some of the long lasting options, they need to be consistently rotated in, which gets expensive. So why make things complex? Febreze is inexpensive, comes in 3-packs for sale quite often, and it’s potent enough to get the job done.
One or two sprays gets the job done, and one bottle can last for months much less multiple bottles, so why complicate things?
Febreze gives the best consistent bang for your buck, doesn’t have to be restocked as often
I’m personally a fan of Forest or Hawaiian Aloha, but to each their own. Forest is on the musky side so its not for everyone, Hawaiian Aloha is the right amount of flowery without being too floral, in my opinion.
Hand Broom & Dust Pan
This is not only good for bathrooms, which are often small and hard enough to work around, but are also useful in a pinch for crumb covered counters before a proper wipe down. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
A cheap plastic dust pan and small hand broom will get the job done and give you the versatility needed to reach corners, clean up counters, and quickly and efficiently clean up a small space. They’re also small enough that they can fit easily into the cabinet under the sink, or any small cabinet space in the bathroom, in a hallway closet, or anywhere else with even a small amount of storage.
Nothing fancy here – this is one of the places where going heavy cheap/budget gets the same results, this is all about just having the right tools.
One of the best parts about having a small hand broom and dust pan? They are universally sold as a pair.
This is my personal choice because it’s inexpensive, reliable, and mine has worked without issue for years.
A simple plastic bin for refuse. Instead of buying garbage bags just use any plastic bags from the grocery store to save some money. These bins are necessary for toilet paper rolls, wrappers, used feminine hygiene products, empty soap boxes & shampoo bottles, etc.
I prefer small bins and bags without a top. When it gets towards the top, pull the bag out, tie the tops, jam it into the larger garbage bag downstairs before trash pickup, put in a new grocery bag, and then go on with your day.
Best Plastic Bins for the Bathroom
There isn’t any huge secret here. A small plastic bin lined with a plastic grocery bag for garbage from one company will be the same as another. Pick a simple white one, pick one that’s your favorite color, it doesn’t matter that much.
Pro Tip: After tossing out a bag of refuse use the shower/bath faucet to rinse out the bin. A quick scrub with the sponge is also a good call if there are any obvious discolorations and stains. Taking even 60 seconds to do this right away makes a huge difference in keeping it nice, clean, and avoiding “griminess” issues that can become really gross over time.
Most people let trash really stack up in these, I don’t recommend that. If you get in the habit of letting it overflow then that’s how corner griminess happens. Some used Q Tips roll off onto the tile. A used tissue falls behind the bin. Loose hair and dust starts spreading outward.
Yuck. Just stay on top of changing out the bags and keeping the area clean. A small amount of maintenance upfront can save a lot of frustration and work down the line.
If you grew up in heavy poverty, worked on a farm, or otherwise were raised with the same type of background as my childhood was, then you are probably fine with just getting it done and thoroughly washing the hands afterwards. And in fairness, this never failed me.
While it might seem odd at first to those types, for others the idea of cleaning a bathroom without rubber gloves is cringeworthy at best.
Even if they are weird or uncomfortable at first, trust me, give them a few chances. Rubber gloves make cleaning a lot easier, more sanitary, and are just a good idea all around.
Besides, good rubber gloves are really cheap so you should be able to afford them at any budget. They’re a good investment and if/when there’s something that really goes sideways you’ll be glad you had them on hand.
Basic Cleaning Agents
There are certain basic cleaning agents that you are just going to rotate through over time and it’s important to have these. While things like bleach or special cleaners can certainly be a part of a good arsenal for cleaning a bathroom, they aren’t necessary for the bare minimum reasonable upkeep.
Basic cleaning agents and equipment can get the job done 95%+ of the time, and since this is all about the budget side of getting started, we’ll start with these and go from there. After all, when it comes to the more advanced cleaners, the type of bathroom and age of the home you have can make a difference, as well.
The array of cleaning agent supplies I’d recommend
- Plastic bucket
- Toilet brush
- Sponge (I’m not even huge on this one, but it does make sense over constantly using wetted TP)
- All-Purpose cleaner
Your Budget Bathroom Check List
- Anti-Bacterial Hand Soap
- Toilet plunger
- Coffee Grounds (You can even go for cheap coffee in this case)
- 3-Pack of Febreze spray
- Hand broom and dust pan
- Plastic bin (use plastic grocery bags)
- Rubber Gloves (these can be annoying to get used to at first but trust me, you want them)
- One all-purpose cleaning spray (should work for cleaning glass)
You Now Have the Knowledge & the Supplies
There you have it! Keep in mind that over time as your budget grows, your experience grows, and your familiarity with the tools and practices needed to keep a good-looking bathroom that way there are definitely more products and tools that you’ll want. But in the same way that an awful lot of handyman issues can be solved with a wrench, a hammer, a knife, two screwdrivers, and duck tape, there’s a whole lot you can do with what’s been reviewed in this article.
You now have the knowledge, the supplies, and the tools to make sure your bathroom is looking good, and smells less offensive at worst and halfway decent most of the time at best.
When you have a better environment you tend to be less stressed, feel better, and those are things that can be built off of not to mention the simple fact that a better bathroom will make you feel better about yourself.
And going with the theme of the site: if you’re recently out of high school or college, especially if you’re a dude, it doesn’t take much to stand out from the competition when having friendly female company over.
So in many ways, and for many reasons, spending the small part of your budget to get the bathroom in tip-top shape can give you returns many times over and in many forms.