Easy Fixes For 10 Common Bathroom Problems

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Whether you live in a house, condominium, or apartment; bathrooms always seem to need some level or repair or maintenance. Most of these tasks are easily done by anyone with minimum repair skills if caught in time. Here’s how to keep ahead on 10 of the most common problems in the bathroom.

Clogged Showerhead

Simply cleaning the showerhead to remove lime and calcium deposits may repair showers that are slow flowing, or sputtering. There are a number of effective products on the market to remove lime: CLR, Lime-A-Way and others. Or, make your own solution with 1-part vinegar and 8-parts water. If the showerhead is metal, place it in a pan with the solution. Next, place the pan on the stove and let it boil for 15 minutes. For plastic showerheads, soak those in a solution of equal parts vinegar and hot water until the calcium and lime peels away. It may be necessary to disassemble the showerhead to adequately expose all parts to the vinegar solution.

Faucet Problems

Faucets with slow flowing water may only need a new aerator. That is the screen just inside the faucet mouth. To remove the aerator, twist it counter clockwise and it should unscrew. This may require using a pair of pliers if it is covered in lime or calcified. Occasionally these become clogged with small bits of sand and debris and can be simply washed out to clean them. There are several sizes of aerators both in American Standard and Metric threads. To choose a proper replacement, take the old aerator to the hardware store and match the size and threads.

Slow Draining Sink

A slow moving drain in the bathroom is most likely from a buildup of hair, grease or soap film. A sink drain is the easiest to clear. Most blockages will occur in the sink trap. Open the doors of the vanity cabinet and unscrew the sink trap. Wash the trap in a bucket of clean soapy water and a small brush. A toothbrush will work as well. Replace the trap washers to prevent future leaks and reassemble the trap. Confirm the drain is clear by running hot water down the drain for several minutes.

If the trap is not accessible, use a drain cleaner such as Drano or other commercial cleaner. For those of us that are concerned about using harsh chemicals in the drain, a homemade drain cleaner is easy to make. Pour ½-cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by ½-cup of white vinegar. This creates a foaming acidic reaction not unlike the volcano science project in elementary school, which will eat away at whatever is clogging the drain. Follow up this procedure with 1-cup of lemon juice or diluted lemon juice extract to neutralize any odors that may linger.

Stopped-Up Toilet

If water from a flush rises to the rim of the toilet and then drains slowly, the toilet trap or drain is blocked. To unblock the toilet, try using a plunger first. If that is unsuccessful, then a snake is needed. The snake is a long piece of flexible wire that burrows into the waste drain and trap to dislodge the blockage. Snakes are available in a number of lengths. If the hand-driven versions are not successful there are longer motorized versions available at most rental yards.

Noisy Toilets

A toilet that makes unusual sounds after flushing may have a damaged fill valve. The fill valve is located inside the toilet tank. Turn off the water supply to the toilet and drain the toilet tank. Remove the fill valve and replace it. Fill valves are available in a dizzying number of models. It’s a good idea to bring the old fill valve to the hardware store and match the style and height of the valve. Be certain to replace the washers for a water-tight fit.


Mildew is a constant battle during wet or damp months in the bathroom. Getting rid of mildew can be challenging at best. There are any number of commercial sprays and cleaners that promise to eliminate mildew. Or, make your own from simple household supplies. In a plastic bucket, mix 1-gallon of warm water and 1⁄2-cup of household bleach. Use plastic gloves and soak a sponge in this cleaning solution. Apply the solution to the mildew and it will vanish. Use an old toothbrush for corners or hard to reach areas. Rinse bathtubs or showers using the showerhead or clean water from a second bucket.

Tarnished Brass Fixtures

Brass fixtures will tarnish over time. A convenient way to save time and money is by making a brass cleaning paste with equal amounts of baking soda and lemon juice. To clean the fixture, use an old toothbrush and dip it into the mixture and lightly scrub the fixture. Allow the solution to dry for a few minutes then, polish or buff the fixture with a clean cloth.

Mineral Deposits On Faucets

Before retiring for the night, saturate several paper towels with white vinegar. Wrap the towels around the mineral encrusted faucet like a mummy. In the morning, remove the towels. Fill a basin with warm water and a squirt of mild dishwashing liquid. Dip an old toothbrush in the solution and scrub the faucet to remove any residual bits of mineral deposit.

Mildew In Grout

Once mildew gets a hold on grout it’s tough to get out. But, simple household vinegar will likely remove it. Just pour a little white vinegar into a small container, apply it with an old toothbrush and scrub away the mildew. An alternative way is to pour the vinegar into a spray bottle, squirt it on the mildew. Allow the vinegar to remain on the grout for 10 minutes. Then, rinse with water and re-apply with an old toothbrush if needed. Bleach is also effective in removing mildew from tile grout. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts of household chloride bleach and water. Spray the grout; let it remain for a few minutes. Then, wipe with a clean white cotton cloth.

Rocking Toilets

Some toilets will loosen and rock back and forth after years of use. A loose toilet bowl isn’t going to cause personal harm, although, King George II did die after falling off his toilet in 1760. So, maybe there is a greater incentive to repair this quickly.

A loose and rocking toilet bowl can damage the wax seal under the toilet and cause water to leak under the toilet and possibly rot the subfloor in the bathroom. Usually, the cause is simple: loose toilet mounting bolts. Begin by removing the small plastic caps, at the base of the toilet, which cover the bolts. If the nuts are loose, tighten them finger tight for a snug fit. Then, give the nuts a quarter turn with a wrench or slip-joint pliers. Do not over tighten these nuts. Toilet bowls are made from porcelain (basically high-fired clay) and they are easy to crack and break under too much pressure.

If either mounting bolt is broken, it will need to be replaced. Hardware stores have a simple toilet bolt kit to replace the bolts, washers and nuts. Always choose solid brass hardware for these kits for the best reliability and longest life.

Last Updated: November 18, 2012
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About Bill Washburn William "Bill" Washburn has a BA in advertising from the Art Center College of Design and has taught at the University of Southern California and Northrup University. Writing from a well-connected studio in the rural foothills of the west coast, he is a frequent speaker at local art associations and has published numerous articles discussing periods of art history and the fundamentals of drawing and painting. William is a master gardener who grows his own culinary herbs, organic heirloom vegetables and a variety of fruits. He writes frequently about his gardening experiences on his website Pioneer Dad. He is an accomplished advertising writer, fine art painter, and art director with more than 20 years' experience. 

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