Hello and welcome to Shufu Tips: the column dedicated to cleaning and organizing your life in the north of Japan!
This month’s article covers an important topic, especially for our new JETs–cleaning your shower and bathtub. Most people will have a shower room with a standing shower and a bathtub attached, but some people might have only one or the other. As always forever, ESID. What is not “ESID,” however, is the summer humidity in Japan. It is constant. It will drain your soul and spirit. It will also cause mold and mildew to grow at alarming rates in your bathroom and encourage bugs to camp out. Don’t worry, you are not that gross. It’s just Japan.
Dealing with the mold is really important because you don’t want to be breathing it in every time you go to shower. It’s bad for your health and it will only get worse as time goes on. So ideally, you want to clean your shower/bath every week or two weeks, depending on how fast mold and mildew develops in your bathroom. You can check for signs along the edges and corners of the room, or especially near the drain.
When you see this, it’s time to don the gloves and get to scrubbing.
Before you start to clean your bathroom, make sure the area is well ventilated and all the doors and windows are open. The products you will use to clean the bathroom are corrosive and can give off very strong, damaging fumes. Avoid breathing these in where possible and always stop immediately if you feel dizzy.
The first thing you’ll need is a cleaning product, and there are a few different options. Most people like to go for the “Kabi Killer” (カビキラー). It’s a bleach-based product that usually comes in spray form, and it’s the most common kind of bathroom cleaner. It is essentially just Clorox but in Japan. You can find this at any local grocery store. It works super well, but because it has bleach as its main ingredient, it is corrosive and therefore you should avoid direct skin contact. It is also not great for the environment, but it will definitely kill that mold. Any other brand or product that contains bleach as its cleaning ingredient should get the job done.
They often sell the refill containers next to the spray bottles, so make sure you pick up the right one.
You could also use a more environmentally friendly option, such as white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide (usually called Oxydol in Japan). A mixture of 1 part water and 1 part cleaning agent in a spray bottle is enough to get most jobs done, especially if you are cleaning regularly. Add a little dish soap to the mixture if you want soapy bubbles and a fresh clean smell. I have heard that vinegar, water, and lemon juice also works quite well, but don’t mix the vinegar with hydrogen peroxide or with bleach, because the resulting mixture will be too strong.
Lastly, you will need plastic gloves, a sponge or scrubbing brush, and paper towels or a rag. I personally like to use an old rag to wipe away mildew, and then just rinse and wash it afterwards. I find I end up using almost half a roll of paper towel, so I try to avoid that amount of waste, but it’s totally up to you what you prefer. As for the scrubber, I don’t always use one, but I prefer a brush for those hard to wipe corners and the small crack between my bathtub siding and the floor.
Next is the fun part. Spray everywhere in the bathroom. Spray all the corners and edges of the walls, spray the bathtub, spray anywhere with mildew buildup. Spray it all. Then the key here to not having to scrub for hours is just to wait 15-20 mins after spraying. Let it soak and do its work. When you come back, you should be able to easily wipe away most of the soap-scum/mildew/mold/gunk/whatever. If there is any particularly stubborn mold, use a little more spray and scrub with the brush or sponge.
For the drain, I have a special procedure. First, I recommend soaking the little cover piece as well as the hair catcher in a bowl with mostly water and a little bit of bleach (maybe a quarter to half a cup).
Leave it for ten minutes and then rinse, and most of the gunk should come right off. You could also use vinegar if you prefer.
Next, for the drain itself I always spray the inner part and leave it for a few minutes before scrubbing. Then, I use a drain cleaning puck that you can pick up from any grocery store, or possibly even Daiso. I use these about once a month, in the kitchen and the bathroom.
Lastly, all the is left is to rinse down everything in the bathroom. Now you’re done! Congrats, you are adulting in Japan.
Most of these are obvious, but they are still worth highlighting because it’ll really cut down your mold growth in most cases. If you feel that mold is growing back ridiculously fast, like in 2-3 days, then try to do some or all of these things regularly:
- Open the windows in your bathroom and keep the door open
- Keep the bathroom fan running
- Rinse the entire surface with cold water after a hot shower or bath
- Wipe down the entire surface after a shower or bath
- Use a preventative after-shower spray, or a diluted mixture spray after every shower or bath
I have heard of a sticky shower insert that contains good bacteria that discourages the growth of mildew, but I have yet to actually see it in stores. You can apparently stick it on the wall of a clean bathroom and leave it on until the next time you have to clean, which should be much longer than usual. Keep an eye out for any such products in the cleaning aisle!
TLDR: Get カビキラー, spray literally everywhere, wait 15 mins, then scrub and rinse everything. Keep the fan running and open your windows in the shower room.