Bathroom Headaches 10 easy fixes

a plumber repairing a broken sink in bathroom

Bathrooms headaches always seem to occur at the worst moment; whether it’s a house, condominium, or apartment. Most bathroom fixes are easily done by anyone with basic repair skills.

Here’s how to keep ahead of most common bathroom problems.

1. Slow draining sinks

Slow moving water in the bathroom sink is most likely from; hair, grease or soap residue in the drain. It is easy to clear. Most blockages occur in the sink trap. Open the doors of the vanity cabinet and unscrew the gooseneck sink trap. Wash it in a bucket of clean soapy water using a small brush. A toothbrush will work too. Replace the trap washers to prevent future leaks and reassemble the trap. To confirm the drain is clear, run hot water down the drain for several minutes.

If the trap is not accessible, use a drain cleaner such as Drano or another commercial drain cleaner. For those of you that are concerned about using harsh chemicals in the drain, a homemade drain cleaner is simple 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. This 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.

2. Clogged or sputtering showerhead

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. 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 it in a solution of equal parts vinegar and hot water until the calcium and lime deposits peal away. Disassemble the showerhead to adequately expose all parts to the vinegar solution.

3. Low water pressure water in faucets

Faucets with slow flowing water may only require changing the aerator.  That is the screen just inside the faucet mouth. Remove the aerator by twisting it counter clockwise and 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. There are several sizes of aerators both in American Standard and Metric threads. Take the old aerator to the hardware store and match the size and threads.

4. Clear a 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, first try using a plunger. If that is unsuccessful, then a snake is needed. A snake is a long piece of flexible wire that burrows into the waste drain line and trap to dislodge the blockage material. Snakes are available in a number of lengths. If the hand-driven versions are not successful the next step is a longer motorized version available at most rental yards.

5. Quiet noisy toilets

Toilets that make 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 many 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 watertight seal.

6. Removing mildew from a bathroom

Bathroom mildew is a continuous battle during wet or damp months. Removing mildew can be challenging. There are commercial sprays and cleaners that promise to eliminate mildew. 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 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.

7. Cleaning tarnished brass fixtures

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

8. Removing mineral deposits on faucets

Before bedtime, saturate several paper towels with white vinegar. Wrap the towels around the mineral encrusted faucet like a mummy. In the morning, remove them. 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 remaining bits of mineral deposit.

9. Removing mildew from grout

Once mildew gets a foothold in grout its tough to get remove. But, simple household vinegar will remove it. Just pour a little white vinegar into a small container, apply with an old toothbrush and scrub away the mildew. Or, pour the vinegar into a spray bottle, squirt it on the mildew. Allow the vinegar to remain on the grout for ten minutes. Then, rinse with water and scrub with an old toothbrush if needed. Bleach is another effective remover for 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.

10. Stop rock & roll toilets

Some toilets 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 good incentive to repair this toilet quickly.

A loose and rocking toilet bowl can damage the wax seal under the toilet and cause water to leak and possibly rot the subfloor in the bathroom.

Usually, the cause is simple: loose toilet mounting bolts. Remove the small plastic caps, at the base of the toilet, that 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, which is high-fired clay. 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.

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