Your Bathroom Is a High Bacteria Zone—Here’s How Often To Clean the Floors
“Bathrooms are typically high-moisture areas that can promote the growth of bacteria, mildew, and mold,” says Angela Brown, cleaning expert and host of the Ask a House Cleaner show. Though you might not think of the floors as being subjected to much water, condensation from a hot shower or splashes from the sink can also make them wet breeding grounds for the above microbes, “which can cause unpleasant odors and even pose a health hazard if left unattended for too long,” says Brown.
What can make a bathroom floor dirty—and in need of regular cleaning?
Though a bathroom floor can accumulate dust and dirt like any other floor (and especially if you walk on it while wearing shoes that you also wear outside), it can also get grimy or mildew-laden with repeated exposure to moisture, as noted above. Additionally, all of the human activities that go on in the bathroom—from face-washing to teeth-brushing to, naturally, peeing and pooping—can coat the floor in a layer of microbes associated with the human body.
Indeed, it's likely that "some of the microbes found on your bathroom floor come from your gut or urogenital tract," says Erica Hartmann, PhD, microbiologist and associate professor of environmental engineering at Northwestern University. As for how? Consider the errant drop of pee that misses the bowl, for example, or the slight spray of toilet water every time you flush.
"Some of the microbes found on your bathroom floor likely come from your gut or urogenital tract." —Erica Hartmann, PhD, microbiologist
As a consolation for those who are already grossed out, know that the aerosols flying out of your toilet are likely not the primary source of germs on your bathroom floor, says Dr. Hartmann. In fact, a small 2022 study conducted across 10 households found that 40 percent of the microbes sitting on bathroom floors were associated with skin, compared to just 30 percent with "fecal, vaginal, or urinary" origin.
Before you run to clean your bathroom floor right now, also know that all those microbes, while gross to think about, don't necessarily pose a risk to your health. For starters, it's important to remember that every surface in our homes is teeming with microbes at all times; and while the bathroom floor might contain a particularly large and diverse quantity of them (thanks to all those body-based activities), exposure to microbes doesn't always lead to sickness, says Dr. Hartmann.
Also, it's possible that you're not even directly exposed to the microbes on your bathroom floor, given, well, you're not exactly licking it. Though some particles may be "resuspended" when you walk on the bathroom floor—meaning, they're kicked back up into the air—they also still may not make it into your breathing space, adds Dr. Hartmann. (Phew.)
All of that said, there's certainly a major ick factor to contend with: A big accumulation of human-associated microbes on the bathroom floor can make it appear dirtier and grimier more quickly. And that's certainly a reason to clean it regularly.
Exactly how often do you need to clean your bathroom floor?
How often your bathroom floor needs to be cleaned largely depends on who uses your bathroom, and how they use it. According to Cindy Inman, a housekeeping expert with more than 35 years of experience and founder of cleaning business and consultancy Ask Cindy Shop, someone who lives alone, doesn't wear shoes in their house (that they also wear outdoors), and generally keeps their bathroom tidy can vacuum and wipe down their bathroom floor with soap and water every two weeks.
By contrast, if you share a bathroom with other people or own a pet that you walk outside, or perhaps, you're often running into the bathroom with your outdoor shoes on, you should clean your bathroom floor more often—about once a week, says Inman. Doing these frequent cleans will also help minimize the need for longer deep-cleans by preventing excess accumulation of dirt and grime, "which can become more difficult to clean over time," says Brown.
Separately, it's also important to clean the bathroom floor—and the rest of the bathroom—with a disinfectant like bleach whenever someone in your household gets sick with food poisoning or a stomach virus (that leads them to vomit), or any other contagious virus, like COVID-19 or norovirus, says Dr. Hartmann, as all of these are microbes that can easily lead to sickness with exposure.
What should you use to clean your bathroom floor?
Dr. Hartmann suggests sweeping or vacuuming to remove dirt and dust particles, and then just using soap and water, or a detergent-based cleaning product, for normal maintenance. These products are effective at neutralizing most microbes—which is also why it's such a beneficial practice to regularly wash your hands.
For heavy-duty cleans, such as after someone is sick or if it's been a long time since you've cleaned, Dr. Hartmann says to use products that'll disinfect and sanitize, which include bleach- and alcohol-based solutions. Inman especially likes Clorox's Anywhere Hard Surface Spray and Multi-Surface Cleaner, which is bleach-based.
If you have young children or pets that crawl or hang out on your bathroom floor, however, it's important to take certain precautions around using these harsher chemicals, given the likelihood that these little ones could ingest or inhale them, adds Dr. Hartmann. In particular, if you need to use a bleach- or alcohol-based solution for a deeper clean, Inman recommends keeping kids and pets out of the bathroom until the area has totally dried and you've gone back over it with water.
It's also worth considering the type of bathroom floor you have when choosing a cleaning product. If you have a tile or stone floor, the regular soap or all-purpose cleaner and water will work well, according to Brown. But for vinyl and linoleum floors, she advises seeking out pH-neutral cleaning products formulated specifically for those surfaces. For marble, Inman suggests a mixture of a few drops of Ivory soap and water, "which will keep everything clean without compromising the floor's luster."
How to clean your bathroom floor
- Circulate air: Open the window(s) in your bathroom, if you have, to allow for ventilation (both to help the floor dry quickly and to filter out the chemical components of any harsher cleaning product you may be using). If you don't have a window, turning on a fan can help, too, says Inman.
- Get particles and dust off the floor: According to Inman, you want to start with either a vacuum or a broom and dustpan to get any particles off the floor and prepare it to be effectively washed. "I like vacuuming because when you sweep, loose particles tend to disperse in the air and then you have to recapture them," she says. She likes a slim-profile vaccuum that can swivel and move easily, like the models from Miele.
- Use water and soap to address dirt: After getting anything loose off the floor, Inman says to go in with a clean microfiber cloth and a mixture of soap and warm water (or any of the specific cleaning products noted above) for a maintenance clean. You can also use a mop with a telescopic handle to get in all the nooks and crannies without getting down on the floor. (For deeper cleans with an alcohol- or bleach-based solution, follow the directions on the package.)
- Let it all dry: Inman recommends staying out of the bathroom (and keeping others out, too) until the floor is dry, especially if you've used a chemical solution that needs more time to dry and dissipate.
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