Bathroom - 2/13 - Bob Vila

Category: Bathroom

Solved! What to Do When the Toilet Won’t Flush

If one of the most frequently-used fixtures in your home isn’t doing its job, don’t call the plumber just yet. Here's how to do your own toilet tune-up without flushing extra money down the drain.



Q: Help! My toilet won’t flush. The handle moves freely, but nothing happens when I press down. Can I fix it without calling a plumber?

A: For what it’s worth, you’re experiencing an issue that happens at least once in almost every home. Luckily, it’s easy to narrow down the cause and find a fix that works for you! So, if your toilet won’t flush, just follow these steps to send your problem out to sea.



First, check to make sure the water shut-off valve is turned all the way on. Occasionally, friction from a nearby object or a deep-cleaning session can nudge it to the off position, preventing water flow to the tank. This leaves just one or two flushes before the water level gets too low for the toilet to work properly. To see for yourself, look just behind the base of the toilet, a few inches from the floor. The valve should jut out slightly from the wall and be turned all the way to the left; if it’s not, twist the head counterclockwise, and then give it a minute to reset before trying to flush. Once you’ve restored the flow, your issue should be water under the bridge.

If your valve has been wide open the whole time, it’s possible you’re dealing with a clogged pipe. Heavy paper products are usually the culprit here, and they can be dealt with easily. To clear things up, first make sure the water in the bowl isn’t high enough to overflow when you insert a plunger. (If it is, use a disposable plastic cup to ladle the contents into the bathtub. Follow up with 2 to 3 capfuls of bleach and a stream of hot water to wash everything down the tub drain.) Next, take a plunger and place its flange directly into the drain opening. Hold it in place to seal the drain while pumping up and down for 20 seconds. If the clog has cleared, you should be able to remove the plunger and flush right away. Prevent another problem by switching to a lower-ply toilet paper, and remember that flushing paper towels or other heavy products is pretty much asking for trouble.

Still nothing? No big deal. Carefully remove the top of the tank and set it aside for a moment so you can check if your flapper—which is shaped like an inflated balloon and often red—is causing the backup. One that looks warped or damaged likely needs replacing. Luckily, this part usually costs less than $10 at your local hardware store and isn’t hard to swap out yourself.

While the top of the tank is lifted, take a look at the lift chain that connects the flapper to the toilet handle. If your flapper shows no signs of a problem but there’s too much slack in the line, it won’t react when you try to flush. You can adjust the length easily for a better connection by slipping a different link over the hook at the lever end—leave just enough length so that the flapper can close completely, and nothing extra. Now, pushing the handle should cause the flapper to whisk water through the tank, into the toilet, and down the drain like it should.

If your toilet still won’t flush, it’s probably time to call in a pro. Even so, you’re not necessarily in hot water. There are plenty of small issues a plumber can solve without much fuss or financial strain. Good luck!

DIY Lite: Double Bathroom Storage with Easy-Build Box Shelves

An empty wall is one more opportunity to stash your spare toiletries. Build and mount this simple set of wooden shelves to easily double—if not triple—the existing storage in your bathroom.

DIY Wall Shelves - Hanging Storage for an Organized Bathroom

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The bathroom can be a nightmare to organize, with all of its towels, soap bottles, grooming supplies, and other toiletries—and when you’re sharing the space, that’s double the stuff to store! To keep everything at arm’s reach while still clutter-free, try assembling an open storage system. Boxy wall shelves can be a good option, providing double the ledges for with each unit in case supplies start to overflow. The best part? Assembly is easy. Just follow those simple steps to set yours up ASAP.


DIY Wall Shelves - Supplies

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

– 1×6 lumber, 8-foot-long (4)
– Wood glue
– Clamps
– Drill
– 1-½-inch screws (36)
– Sandpaper
– Wood stain
– Varnish
– Brush
– Level
– Pencil
– 2-½-inch metal brackets (6)
– ½-inch screws (24)
– 4-inch-wide tins (optional)


DIY Wall Shelves - Step 1

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

The dimensions for these 6-inch-deep shelves are easily adaptable, so you can shorten the length if necessary. To make three, we cut our lumber into the following dimensions: six pieces at 4 feet each, and six more at 9 inches each. (You can get these right at your home improvement store where you pick up your wood, if you don’t want to handle a saw.)

Position a 9-inch piece perpendicular at each end of a 4-foot length plank, then join them with wood glue.



DIY Wall Shelves - Step 2

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Apply glue to the exposed ends of each 9-inch plank, then lay a 4-foot board across. Maintain pressure at the glued joints of this box until the glue dries. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 to construct two more boxes.



DIY Wall Shelves - Step 3

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Glue alone will not be strong enough to support the weight of all items to be stored on your shelves: guest towels, toilet paper rolls, spare shampoo bottles, and more. Once the adhesive has cured, reinforce the shelves with three 1-½-inch screws at both ends of each 4-foot cut. Tip: Pre-drill small holes and then insert screws in order to prevent the wood from cracking.



DIY Wall Shelves - Step 4

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Sand all of the new boxy shelves, particularly along the edges, to remove splinters. Start with a coarse 100-grit sandpaper, and finish smoothing the surface with a finer 150-grit paper.



DIY Wall Shelves - Step 5

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Color your assembled shelves with a wood stain of your choice, following the package’s instructions to a tee. After one or two coats have dried, seal with a coat of acrylic varnish. If you’d rather, you can paint the shelves a color that blends your shallow shelves in with your bathroom walls—just be careful to choose a satin or semi-gloss finish that resists water, as the bathroom will likely to be very damp after steamy showers.



DIY Wall Shelves - Step 6

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Time to hang your new wall shelves! Determine where you’d like to position the set, exactly how high above the floor and how far apart from one another. (Our lowest shelf is 30 inches above the ground, and we left 4 inches of space between each level.) Hold the first shelf in place, checking that it is completely horizontal using a level. Mark the inside of the two top corners on the wall. After you set the shelf down, affix a 2-½-inch bracket to the wall at each mark using ½-inch screws. You will need one bracket at each corner of the box.



DIY Wall Shelves - Step 7

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

Lift the box shelf so that its top rests on the brackets. Pre-drill through the brackets’ holes into the wooden shelf, and secure with screws.



DIY Wall Shelves - Step 8

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

When you go to hang the second shelf, try this trick: Place three emptied tins that are the same size as your desired distance between shelves (ours are 4 inches wide each) across the lowest shelf, then rest the next shelf atop of them. These helpers will keep your hands free!

Rest a level on the whole stack to ensure the second shelf is horizontal and also aligned with the one beneath. Mark the inside top corners, remove the second shelf, and screw the brackets into the wall at these marks. Hang the shelf over the two brackets, and screw it into place.

Repeat this step to hang the third shelf at the top, and you’re all set to fill the 6-inch-deep ledges with all of the toiletries that you can’t cram underneath your sink any longer.

DIY Wall Shelves - Bathroom Storage

Photo: Ohoh Blog for Bob Vila

DIY Projects Anyone Can Do

All of the Best Hands-on Tutorials from
Get the nitty-gritty details you need—and the jaw-dropping inspiration you want—from our collection of the favorite projects ever featured on Whether your goal is to fix, tinker, build or make something better, your next adventure in DIY starts here.

Solved! What To Do About Black Mold in the Bathroom

Discolorations in your bathroom's tile and grout aren't just unsightly—sometimes they're downright dangerous. Once you determine which type of mold you're dealing with, you can wipe it out with the appropriate plan of attack.

Black Mold in Bathroom - Mold Around Tub


Q: I just went to clean our rental property after the tenant moved out, and I found black mold in the bathroom. Yuck! How do I get rid of it?

A: Yuck, is right! Black mold is gross. And depending on which variety it is, it could be very dangerous. If the space has been flooded or a long-term leak only recently revealed itself, what you see might be the black mold: Stachybotrys chartarum. This highly toxic mold should only be removed by a professional. But, more than likely, an accumulation of grossness along your bathtub or shower tile indicates the presence of a more generic bathroom mold. The only way to tell for sure is to test it—either by asking professionals to collect samples or sending some away via a do-it-yourself kit—and wait for results. Once you can confirm that it’s the latter, garden variety grody bathroom type, you can get to work ridding it yourself.

In general, mold is a fungus that’s plentiful in the natural environment and, when conditions are right, indoors as well. Take the bathroom: Its damp, dark, and often warm interior makes growth a perennial problem there. Without adequate ventilation or routine towel-drying after each use, black mold can easily take up residence and thrive. Here’s how you can give it an eviction notice.

Black Mold in Bathroom - Cleaning Black Mold Between Tiles


Remove the mold. Use an antifungal surface cleaner and a sponge or cloth to wipe mold off of non-porous surfaces like tile and porcelain. Follow up with a scrub brush on any stubborn areas, and thoroughly rinse with water. This process should remove the mold, even if some dark coloring remains.

Clean up the stains. To remove the black stains that mold leaves on non-porous surfaces like grout, mix equal parts of bleach and water in a spray bottle and spray it over the stained area, allowing it to sit for several minutes. Return and spray the area again, and use a scrub brush to scrub out any remaining discoloration. (Tip: An old toothbrush aptly reaches rout’s narrow lines.)

Wipe out whatever mold remains. While bleach is superb at removing dark stains caused by mold, it’s not the most effective way to eliminate mold spores. Instead, spray straight vinegar onto the area and allow it to dry so that the cleanser can finish off any remaining mold spores.

Finally, prevent mold from growing in the bathroom by employing a few preventative measures.

• Keep vinegar on hand. Store a spray bottle of vinegar in the bathroom, and apply and air-dry after every shower or soak. (You might consider add several drops of your favorite essential oil—tea tree, peppermint, or lavender—to the bottle to make the vinegar’s smell less offensive.)

Reduce the humidity. If you don’t have one, install an exhaust fan. Running one every time you shower or bathe and several minutes following should remove any residual steam and dry the air out.

Wipe dry after every use. Squeegee and then towel down glass doors and tile to remove extra moisture from those surfaces. While you’re at it, wipe out sinks after each use, too, so that mold and mildew have nowhere to go (and grow).

Clean regularly. Be sure to do a thorough cleaning of the bathroom weekly; if all else fails, this consistent regimen should keep mold spores from taking hold and running amok. Rotate an anti-fungal cleaner into the routine at least once a month.

If it’s not black mold, but mildew, that’s infiltrated your bathroom, there’s an easy fix. Take a quick look at the video to learn how to combat this fungal growth.

Buyer’s Guide: Showerheads

Make sense of pressure, efficiency, and more in order to purchase the best device to transform your bathroom into a home spa.

Best Showerhead - Master Bathroom with Shower


There’s nothing quite like the sense of clean and calm that comes with a great shower after a long day’s work. One of the simpler pleasures in life, it washes away the stress of the day both literally and figuratively. Yet whether you’re fine-tuning choices for a bathroom remodel or just fed up with a drippy drizzle, you may need some assistance choosing the perfect showerhead. This guide, which includes recommendations of some highly rated models, will streamline the process and help you determine what you really want in terms of functions and features.

Pick your pressure. There was a time when showerheads merely sprayed—and over their lifespan, the plastic or metal nozzles were prone to blockages. Today, most are manufactured with silicone or a similar polymer far more resistant to scaling. Not only will you enjoy an uninterrupted stream, there are a host of mist options available to help you customize your cleanliness.
Aerating showerheads mix air and water to produce a misty, substantial spray, yet they may cool the water by as much as 15 degrees.
Laminar-flow showerheads offer a mighty yet less misty experience, through individual streams of water. They tend to be a bit pricier.
Rain showerheads have a large head and a wide, low-pressure spray pattern to give you the sensation of gentle precipitation.
Multi-setting models let you customize flow, with up to 12 shower experiences—from a trickle to a pulsing massage.

Choose your placement. Aside from spray options, the biggest difference between showerheads is wall- or ceiling-mounted and handheld. The mounted variety is more popular for its clean-lined look and ease of use. Handheld versions attached to a hose can be a real boon if you’ve got mobility issues, or if you’ll be bathing small children or pets. If you don’t wish to choose, you can have both, either a wall-mounted main head and an optional, often smaller handheld, or even a shower tower, with a number of wall- and ceiling-mounted heads plus a handheld.

What about water waste? No one wants to pour money down the drain, so for both economic as well as environmental reasons water efficiency is worth considering. Since 1994, federal law has required showerhead manufacturers to limit flow to 2.5 gallons of water per minute. Fortunately, even those that meet the EPA’s WaterSense guidelines by keeping flow under 2 gallons per minute can offer satisfying showers. (Note: In California, due to stricter water use regulation, WaterSense is a state law.)

Showered with Praise

We combed customer and critical reviews to help you narrow your choices. Here are three shower experiences that go to the head of the class:

Best Showerhead - Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying Showerhead with H20Kinetic Technology


Delta 75152 Adjustable Water-Amplifying Shower Head with H2Okinetic Technology ($21)
With an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, this Delta showerhead creates a wave pattern from the water flow, producing the effect of more water being used than actually is. For households with varying water pressure preferences, its dual settings offer both a conservative high-power spray and an even more efficient setting with a slight adjustment. It meets the EPA’s WaterSense requirements, so it may reduce your water bill, too.

Best Showerhead - Toto TS200AL65 Showerhead


Toto TS200AL65-CP Showerhead ($49)
The Sweethome team put this rain shower model through nearly 20 tests in a 240-shower exercise comparing nearly a dozen showerheads before declaring it the best of the best. It includes a high-pressure mist setting that’s both comforting and efficient, while a temporary-shutoff option further conserves water beyond its 2-gallon-per-minute flow. And its easy installation—under a minute, using only an adjustable wrench—is another plus.

Best Showerhead - Moen 5-Spray 4-Inch Hand Shower


Moen Banbury 5-Spray 4-Inch Hand Shower ($32)
For those seeking the flexibility of a handheld, this model—which overwhelmingly impressed Home Depot reviewers—offers five spray settings, from an energizing narrow-stream massage to a relaxing wide-stream option. Bonus: It’s available in a chrome, bronze, nickel, or white finish to blend with nearly any existing bathroom fixtures. But with its 2.5 gallon-per-minute flow, it’s not as water-conservative as some units.

Now that you know your options, don’t spend another day settling for an inferior spray. Purchase and put in the showerhead that suits your needs, then jump in and enjoy!

How To: Cut Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile affords a durable, attractive surface for floors and walls alike. If there's a ceramic tile job in your future, ensure quality results by first learning what tools you'll need and how best to use them to make a variety of cuts in tile.

How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Prep for Cuts


A small- to medium-size ceramic tiling job is a project that’s well within the grasp of most DIYers. With careful measuring, the right tools, and conscientious attention to detail, a determined homeowner can achieve satisfying results. But doing things right can be time-consuming. Case in point: Even the most straightforward tiling job will require cutting a few tiles, whether to complete the edges of the surface or to work around obstacles. Cutting tiles is a task that demands accurate measurements and precise use of tools. To make sure your project goes smoothly, it’s best to figure out ahead of time how you’ll handle all those cuts.

Different jobs require different types of cuts. For some, you’ll be able to get by with just straight cuts; for others, you may need to cut on the diagonal or carve a corner or curve out of a tile. And each type of cut entails different methods and tools. As you lay out your tile design, determine what kinds of cuts you’ll need, then check below for the situation that best describes your job to find out how to proceed.

– Eye protection
– Gloves
– Pencil
– Glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers
– Square
– Rubbing stone
– Tile nippers
– Tile cutter
– Wet saw


Whatever cuts you’re making, the general process is the same: Measure and mark the tile on the top (glazed) side, snap or cut it, then smooth the edges. If you’re doing a one-time job that will require a tile cutter or wet saw, you may want to rent instead of buy; these tools are available for rental from home improvement stores. If you have never used any of these tools before, it’s a good idea to practice a little on some spare or scrap tiles before you get started in earnest.

Note that the divisions below are just general guidelines: For some tiles, you may need to use a combination of tools and techniques. Most important, before starting any project that involves cutting tile, put on your eye protection and gloves!


How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Glass Cutter



If you need to cut just a few tiles and you don’t need to make any curved or corner cuts, you can probably make do with just a square and a glass cutter or tile-cutting pliers.

• Measure and Mark. Measure, then use a pencil to mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile on a flat surface, such as a workbench or a piece of plywood. Set your square slightly off your marked line so the glass cutter (or the scoring wheel on the pliers) will hit the right place. Then, starting at the edge of the tile, place the scoring tool on the line and press down firmly as you drag it across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. If you’re using pliers, open them and slide the tile all the way into them, with the scoring wheel sitting directly under the line you’ve scored on top of the tile. Squeeze the pliers while gently supporting the tile as it snaps. If you’re used a glass cutter, place a length of wire hanger or other appropriately sized material beneath the scored line, then push down on either side of the tile to snap it; alternatively, grab the tile nippers and snap off the scored piece.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.


How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Tile Cutter



If you have lots of tiles to cut, or if you need to make cuts from corner to corner, use a tile cutter. Whether you plan to invest in the purchase or rent one to save a few bucks, just make sure you pick up a tile cutter that’s big enough for the tile you’re cutting! Then, as mentioned above, practice on a few spare tiles until you’re comfortable with this tiling tool.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Score. Place the tile into the tile cutter. Make sure the tile is pushed snugly up to the fence and that your marked line is directly under the scoring wheel. While applying slight pressure on the handle, slide the wheel forward across the tile. You should hear a scratching noise, which is the sign that the tile is being scored.

• Snap. Once you’ve scored the tile, move the handle back slightly from the tile’s edge and let the breaking feet lie flat on top of the tile. Apply downward pressure on the handle, and the tile will snap.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.


How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using a Wet Saw



If you’ll be cutting lots of tiles for a big job, or if you need to make corner cuts around door jambs or wall outlets, you should either invest in or rent a wet saw. As with any power tool, read the instructions before you begin and use all recommended safety precautions—and take a few practice cuts before jumping into the project.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Cut. Follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for the wet saw, and make sure you’ve put enough water in the tub. Turn the wet saw on, confirm that water is flowing over the blade, then proceed to make your cut the same way you would cut wood on a table saw.

• Smooth. If the cut edge of the tile is rough, smooth it with a rubbing stone.


How to Cut Ceramic Tile - Using Tile Nippers



To make curved cuts, or to remove small pieces of tile, use tile nippers. Have patience, as you can successfully cut tile this way only a little bit at a time.

• Measure and Mark. First, measure and mark the tile where you want to make the cut.

• Nip. Starting at the edge of the tile, place the tile into the tile nippers and squeeze, removing just a small amount of tile. In this fashion, continue to work your way toward your marked line, taking off only a little bit of tile at a time. If you try to remove too much at once, you will end up cracking the tile. As you get closer to your marked line, take smaller and smaller nips.

• Smooth. The cut edge of a nipped tile will be rough, so be sure to smooth it with a rubbing stone.

Solved! What to Do About a Leaking Toilet Tank

Faced with a leaky toilet? To dry things up, you'll first need to track that leak down to its source. Pinpoint the culprit with these quick troubleshooting tips.

Toilet Tank Leaking - What to Do


Q: Help! My toilet is leaking all over the bathroom floor, and I haven’t yet located the source. How can I find and fix the cause of the leak before any real damage occurs?

A. Some of the biggest problems homeowners encounter start small and then suddenly spiral out of control—and this is precisely the path that leaks tend to follow. A hairline crack or chip that allows even a few drops to seep out can become a much bigger (and costlier) problem if not dealt with right away. The following troubleshooting tips run through the most common causes of leaky toilets. These should help you both pinpoint and fix the problem, so you can stop the water from seeping from your toilet—and prevent cash from seeping from your wallet.

Toilet Tank Leaking


The most common type of leak occurs at the bottom of the toilet tank and is usually associated with the emptying and refilling of the tank after flushing. The culprit? Oftentimes a worn-away spud washer (the big rubber washer, sometimes called a tank-to-bowl gasket, that seals the opening at the bottom of the toilet tank) or crumbling rubber washers at the bolts on the underside of the tank. Any of these washers can deteriorate over time as a result of exposure to hard water or minerals, but all are relatively easy to replace. Begin by turning off the water supply at the wall and then emptying the toilet tank with a flush. Disconnect the water supply from the tank, and then use an adjustable wrench to remove the bolts, nuts, and their washers from the underside of the tank. Lift up the tank (get a friend to help!), turn it on its side, and remove the spud washer from the bottom.

Another potentially troublesome mechanism is the ball cock, which is responsible for filling the toilet tank. It, as well as its fill valve, can fail over time. As it’s secured to the tank with just a nut and washers, replacing the ball cock mechanism is easy and usually costs about $10. But before you start emptying the tank to make a switch, first check for any loose connections between the water supply line and the existing ball cock. You may be able to fix the problem with a simple tightening—which is much simpler than making a trip to the store.

If a toilet leak seems to be coming from the bottom of the toilet itself, you might look for a failed wax ring affecting the seal. This is a much bigger issue than replacing washers and checking water lines, if only because it involves total removal of the toilet itself to inspect foundation items. First, confirm that the wax ring is to blame: Make sure the water is turned off and the tank is drained properly. Then, remove the cover caps and unscrew the toilet from the floor, carefully moving it (again, you might want to grab a friend) to expose the flange area for inspection. If the wax ring has failed, you can purchase a new one to replace it; the same goes for any obviously corroded bolts. Once the new parts are in place, caulk the base of the toilet to serve as one last DIY safeguard against leaks for (we hope) years to come.

How To: Remove a Tub Drain

If your tub drain just isn't doing its job, you may need to take it out to clean or replace it. Rest assured that in just a few simple steps you'll have the drain out and be on your way to resolving your tub trouble.

How to Remove a Tub Drain

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Los Angeles, CA

It’s unfortunate but true: Over time tub drains clog and sometimes even corrode. After all, your bathtub is put to the test every day as you and the other members of your household bathe, forcing all sorts of body care products—and copious amounts of human hair—through the drain and into the pipes beyond. The day may come when your drain ceases to function. When that happens, you’ll probably need to remove the drain for inspection, followed by either a careful cleaning or a complete replacement. The removal process isn’t particularly difficult or time-consuming, taking anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours from start to finish, depending on the type of drain you’re dealing with. Yet, as with all things DIY, a few simple instructions will help the task go more smoothly.

While bathtub drains vary by type, they can be sorted into two broad categories: simple drains (including foot lock, roller ball, and lift-and-turn types) and drains with a trip lever (such as pop-up and plunger drains). Instructions for removing both types appear below. Just find your drain style, and follow the step-by-step to remove it yourself.


Type #1: Simple Drains (Foot Lock, Roller Ball, and Lift-and-Turn)

– Rubber gloves
– Screwdriver
– Wrench
– Vinegar
– Baking soda
– Mild cleanser (optional)
– Blow dryer (optional)
– Drain key or smart dumbbell (if you’re e moving the entire drain, including the flange)

Before you disassemble your tub drain, it’s important to note its condition. Excessive amounts of rust, mildew, or decay may indicate a larger problem, in which case professional assistance may be needed. Otherwise, if the drain is in good shape, pull on a pair of rubber gloves and continue on your mission.

• For a foot lock or roller ball plug, simply rotate it counterclockwise until it separates completely from the drain shaft.

• In the case of a lift-and-turn drain, lift the plug and free it by loosening the setscrew underneath. If you find that the setscrew on your lift-and-turn drain is stuck, a series of light-to-medium taps may help to loosen it. Use your wrench or screwdriver to nudge it into motion if necessary, but be careful not to use too much force, which could damage the drain.

Once the drain basket is fully exposed, use a mild cleanser or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part baking soda to wash it off. Also clean the plug or stopper if you’re planning to reinsert it rather than replace it.

Now, fill the tub with an inch or so of water and watch it drain. If the water still drains too slowly, move on to a stronger drain cleaner (one that specifies that it’s suitable for tubs) or turn to a tried-and-true DIY drain cleaner that uses materials you already have on hand. Fill the tub again with about an inch of water, and watch it drain. Repeat as necessary until the tub empties at a reasonable rate, then proceed to reinstall or replace the part(s) you’ve removed.

If you’re removing the entire drain apparatus, including the basket (also known as the flange), insert your drain key or smart dumbbell into the opening. Turn it counterclockwise and continue turning until the drain flange is released, then remove the flange while it’s still attached to the drain key.

Tip: If the flange is stuck, use a hair dryer to heat it up and loosen the putty, then try again.

Once the drain flange has been removed, be sure to clear out any old putty residue from the base of the opening before replacing the flange or installing a new one.


Type #2: Drains with Trip Levers (Pop-Up and Plunger)

– Rubber gloves
– Screwdriver
– Wrench
– Drain key or smart dumbbell (if removing the entire drain, including the flange)
– Blow dryer (optional)
– Vinegar and baking soda, or mild cleanser (optional)

Before you begin, check the drain for excessive rust, mildew, or decay, which may indicate a larger problem that may require the services of a professional. If the drain looks to be in good shape, it’s probably fine to proceed.

• If your drain has a visible stopper, then set the lever to the open position and use a screwdriver to remove the trip lever faceplate as well as the lever and linkage.

• If your drain has a trip lever without a visible stopper, use a screwdriver to remove the screws on the trip lever faceplate and move it away from the tub wall; the attached plunger should come out along with it.

Once the drain has been disassembled, use a mild cleanser or a mixture of one part vinegar and one part baking soda to wash it off. Also clean the plug or stopper if you’re planning to reinsert it rather than replace it.

Now, fill the tub with approximately one inch of water and watch it drain. If the tub still drains slowly, try your luck with a stronger, tub-specific commercial drain cleaner or a homemade cleaner and repeat the drain test.

When the tub again drains properly, reinstall the cleaned drain parts or replace them with new ones. If you choose to remove the entire drain apparatus, including the flange, use a drain key or smart dumbbell as described in Steps 3 and 4 above.


Although a number of DIY plumbing projects fall outside of most homeowners’ comfort zones, removing a tub drain is a relatively accessible task. The best rule of thumb when you’re tackling any new plumbing job is to proceed with an abundance of caution and remember that if complications arise, a professional plumber is just a quick phone call away.

How To: Clean a Jetted Tub

Don't let your relaxing soak in your whirlpool tub be cut short by unsightly debris floating in the water! Use these steps to get both tub and jets squeaky clean so you can again relax in your crystal-clear oasis without fear of filth.

How to Clean a Jetted Tub


Let’s be honest here: No matter the touted health benefits of its massaging hydrotherapy, a jetted tub can be only as restorative and relaxing as it is clean and sanitary. Therefore, in order to enjoy the soothing effects of a whirlpool bath, you need to get your hands dirty now and again. True, it doesn’t take hours of punishing labor to clean a jetted tub, but it’s not a quick and easy process either. After all, cleaning even a regular tub takes some time, so it stands to reason that with its many components and hard-to-reach crevices, it’d be even more work to clean a jetted tub. Fortunately, the joy of having such a calming respite from a stressful world makes the cleaning well worth the effort. Keep reading now for a step-by-step tutorial on how to clean a jetted tub with a minimum of hassle. Before you begin, though, note that while the process below provides a useful guideline, you should always follow the care and cleaning instructions provided by the manufacturer of your specific tub model.

– Baking soda
– Vinegar
– Dishwashing powder or liquid (optional)
– Bleach (optional)
– Measuring cup
– Soft cloth
– Toothbrush
– Bucket
– Dental floss (optional)

How to Clean a Jetted Tub - Modern Bath Detail


Start by flushing the accumulated gunk and worrisome bacteria out of the internal tub plumbing. To begin, wipe up any hair or other debris from the basin or rim, then fill the tub until water stands at least a couple of inches above the jets. (If it’s been a while since you last cleaned the tub, it’s best to fill it with hot water.) Once the tub is full, you have a few options in cleaning agents (as always, first consult the manufacturer’s instructions). Option one is to add about two cups of vinegar into the water. Because it’s acidic, vinegar dissolves buildup effectively but unlike many commercial cleaning products, it does so without damaging tub components. As an alternative, try 1/2 cup of bleach along with a few teaspoons of powdered or liquid dishwashing detergent. (Some manufacturers do not recommend bleach, which can dry out the gaskets over time.) Or you can purchase one of the many commercial products formulated specifically for cleaning jetted tubs, following the instructions on the packaging.

Now it’s time to activate the jets, but before you turn them on, turn off the air-induction valves (unless the manufacturer of your tub specifically recommends leaving them open). Closing the induction valves forces water to circulate only through the internal plumbing of the tub. This concentrates the flow, resulting in a deeper cleaning. With the valves closed (or not), run the jets on high for 10 or 15 minutes, or until debris from the internal plumbing stops washing into the water in the tub.

Drain the water from the tub. Now, after coming to terms with the disgust you feel over the amount of filth that’s probably lining the tub basin at this point, fill it up again with warm water a few inches above the jets. Run the tub on high once more for another 10 to 15 minutes in order to flush out even more gunk. Drain the water.

OK, it’s time for some good, old-fashioned scrubbing (regrettably, no one has figured out how to clean a jetted tub in a completely hands-off, no-effort way.) Grab a soft cloth and some baking soda; the latter works great to break up mold, mildew, and soap scum. Sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda inside the tub, let it sit for several minutes, and then use the soft, dampened cloth to scrub away the grime. Conveniently, you can also use the baking soda on the faucet and drain too. Try not to scrub too vigorously as you go along. Most whirlpool tubs are made of acrylic, a material that can be scratched or gouged, not easily, but sometimes, if you’re not careful.

You’ve come a long way, but there’s still one last thing to do—that is, address the muck and bacteria that may be lodged in and around the water jets. With a toothbrush that you use only for cleaning, gently scrub the jet nozzles and the contoured trim around those nozzles. If you can see buildup on a nozzle but can’t reach it with the toothbrush, try to dislodge it with a length of dental floss. Also, remember to clean the air-intake cover by unscrewing it, giving it a soapy brushing, rinsing it off, and screwing it back into position. Finally, give the tub a thorough rinsing.

At last, you’re finished! Reward yourself with a leisurely soak, because hey, you deserve it. But remember: If you want to get the most out of your jetted tub, a once-in-a-blue-moon cleaning isn’t enough. Routine maintenance is key. If your tub is used only occasionally, you may be able to get by with cleaning it four times a year. But if you enjoy frequent whirlpool baths, follow the procedure described above at least once a month. Now that you know how to clean a jetted tub, you can expect the process to go much more speedily the next time.


Your jetted tub isn’t the only thing in your house needing routine maintenance. Learn how to tackle other cleaning projects with these tips.

3 Fixes for Hard Water Stains

These quick and clever cleaning techniques can banish hard water stains with a few special ingredients and almost no elbow grease.

Remove Hard Water Stains


Shiny new faucets, showers, and toilets add as much polish and sophistication to the bathroom as they do utility. But if your home has hard water, these bathroom essentials are at risk of accumulating unsightly stains from mineral deposits and soap scum. The natural buildup of alkaline deposits in hard water makes it difficult to completely prevent these spots from appearing, but you can wipe them clean with these simple, nontoxic approaches that utilize common pantry items.



Remove Hard Water Stains - Sink


While many homeowners turn to store-bought products to break up the crusty limescale that often plagues chrome faucets, you can harness the same buildup-busting properties with a few everyday equivalents. The next time you’re trying to perk up your chrome, first make a beeline for the kitchen to collect a lemon, a bottle of white vinegar, and a roll of paper towels. Rub the rind of the lemon over the faucet, then soak the paper towels in vinegar and drape them directly over the coating of lemon. Let the combined acids in this cleaning duo work for about an hour to attack and loosen the mineral deposits on the fixture. Remove and discard the paper towels, rinse away any residual gunk from the faucet, and wipe the chrome clean with a soft cloth to restore its shine.



Remove Hard Water Stains - Shower

Photo: via chewy87100

Good for more than simply washing down a delicious meal, the alcohol and acidity of white wine can also help to wash away hard water residue in the shower. Prepare to work wonders on your bathroom by filling an empty spray bottle with leftover vino—one glass’s worth should do the trick. Then, generously spritz the wine over the shower head, floor, faucet, drain, doors, and tile, including any grout and caulk. Give the wine about 5 to 10 minutes to disintegrate the stubborn scum; this will save you the time and effort of scrubbing it manually. Wipe the shower clean with a nonabrasive cloth, and finish with a quick rinse to send loose debris down the drain and out of sight.



Remove Hard Water Stains - Toilet


The same tingle-inducing, frothy concoction you unleash when you crack open a can of pop can clear tough water stains in your toilet. The secret to soda’s cleaning success is its carbon dioxide, which makes it both more acidic and more effective than scrubbing with plain water. Applying this technique is almost as simple as enjoying a can of Coke: Simply pop open the tab and pour the contents around the bowl wherever the stains are set. To help the soda dislodge and dissolve any buildup, leave it in the bowl for least an hour (feel free to reward yourself with a bubbly beverage in the meantime). Then, give the bowl a quick swipe with a brush, and flush to send stains—and your worries—down the toilet!

The Dos and Don’ts of Tiling a Small Bathroom

There are a number of design and installation considerations when incorporating tiles into your small bathroom. Sidestep costly mistakes with these best practices, and, in turn, you'll find your bath looking more attractive and spacious.

Tiling a Small Bathroom

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Phoenix, AZ

Thanks to the abundance of design and colors on the market today, choosing tiles that can visually expand a small space is easier than ever. Whether you select mosaics, large tiles, or a combination of sizes, keep in mind tile installation is usually permanent and can be costly in terms of both materials and labor. Choosing the correct tile for your small bathroom requires careful planning. As projects go, tiling a small bath isn’t exactly a quick and easy task, but if you are patient and diligent it can be a very rewarding experience. Before you invest in any materials, consider the following guidelines to help avoid an expensive mistake.


Accurate measurements are a crucial first step in any tile project, but especially in the likely awkward layout that is your cramped bathroom. Any mistakes here can lead to conspicuous design problems. When calculating the amount of tile needed for floors or walls, multiply the length of the area you are covering by the width to find the square footage. Then you’ll want to add extra footage for waste. The exact amount of waste will depend on your tile size and the configuration, but 15 percent (up to 20 percent, in cases where the space has lots of corners or a diagonal layout) of the calculated square footage is a safe bet. Double-check your numbers before ordering.


Tiling a Small Bathroom - Mosaic Tile in a Small Shower

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA


Why invest in so much tile as part of the waste factor? Remember: Running out of materials on any job can be very frustrating. Having to stop mid-job to regroup is bad enough, but—in an even worse case scenario—you might find that the store is out of your particular tiles. Ordering tiles 15 to 20 percent more than you expect to use will help ensure against miscalculations, breakages, and cutting odd sizes to fit the space. It’s also a good idea to have spare tiles in reserve should any tiles become cracked or damaged in the future. Check to see if your retailer will allow refunds for unused tiles or unopened boxes, or start dreaming up projects to make with the spares.



In addition to injecting your bathroom with the look and feel of a professional spa, covering your space in mosaic tiles also visually expand limited square footage in the bathroom. One-inch tiles on walls, floors, shower enclosures, and even ceilings fool the brain into thinking the space is larger just because there are so many round or square tiles lined up. When choosing mosaic tile from the wide variety of colors and styles on the market, consider glass. Glass mosaics will reflect light around the walls and ceiling, which in turn creates the illusion of a deeper, wider, and overall larger room.


Tiling a Small Bathroom - Floor Pattern

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Brooklyn, NY


We don’t mean to suggest that you can’t fit large tiles into the scheme of your small bath. Quite the contrary! Just like small, 1-inch tiles, large tiles can actually make the small space appear larger. Here’s how it works: Our brain associates big tiles with a large space, so seeing them in a smaller setting tricks us it into thinking the room is larger than we know it to be. If you’re ready to adopt an extra-large tile treatment on your floors, consider, for additional impact, continuing them up the walls to the height of a chair rail.



Tiling with several colors and bold patterns in a small bathroom can overwhelm the space and make it seem even more cramped than its actual size. Choosing a single light color for the floors and walls, however, makes the tiny room appear more spacious. If you prefer variety, select soft-hued colors that are a few shades lighter or darker than each other and consider smaller-scale design to keep with the size of the room.



Be sure that the surface on which you are working is clean, smooth, and solid. Otherwise, soft floors cause tiles to crack or loosen and uneven walls allow moisture to get behind tiles causing them to loosen and fall off—not exactly what you want to see soon after completing a labor-intensive project. In addition to leveling any uneven surface, also be sure to always remove wallpaper from walls and sand the surface before applying tiles.



Here’s another optical illusion that can work in your favor: Tiles set in a diagonal pattern across the floor can help a small bathroom be perceived as larger than its actual size. This layout places emphasis on the length and width simultaneously. Intrigued? Just know that diagonal tile patterns require more planning, precise measuring, and cutting—especially around the perimeter of the room. Before starting, you’ll use graph paper to lay out a scaled diagram of your floor. After measuring, marking the floor, and cutting the tiles, installation is fairly straightforward.



While glossy tiles and polished stone can look very luxurious in a bathroom, skip these materials for flooring. The sheen of these surfaces are slick to the touch—add a splash of water outside the tub or excess soap in the bottom of your shower, and they can be downright slippery. Fortunately for you, tiles are rated according to their slip resistance so that you know exactly what belongs where in order to minimize risk of falls. Check with your retailer before buying to make sure your choice is suited to the purpose.