Fix-It: Better bathrooms

The bathroom is one of the most difficult rooms in a home to properly maintain.

The bathroom is one of the most difficult rooms in a home to properly maintain. The high level of moisture, from the bath or shower, can lead to a host of problems. If you cannot afford to install newer, "moisture-proof" materials in your bathroom, there are nevertheless several inexpensive steps you can take to keep your bathroom free from problems. Black mold and mildew are commonly found on bathroom walls and tiles, and can lead to health problems. They can be removed using regular soap and water, but I prefer using Clorox Clean Up Spray for this purpose. Once the mold has been removed from the walls, they can be repainted using a quality anti-mold paint. If soap and water don't do the trick on your tiles, try denture cleaning paste, which is inexpensive and works wonders. The next step is to clean the grout, the area between the tiles. If there are gaps in the grout line, new grout should be applied; make sure you choose a brand that contains acrylic and anti-mold agents. Since grout is sold dry, you will need to mix it with water to form a dough-like consistency. Let it sit for five minutes, then apply with your finger to the areas that need attention. After half an hour, wipe away any excess with a damp rag. The shower curtain is another frequent victim of mold. This can be remedied by soaking the curtain in bleach, then washing it in the washing machine. If this doesn't do the trick, it's time to buy a new one. As for the rest of the bathroom, the white, powdery mineral deposits often found on fixtures can be removed with vinegar. Care should be exercised when using vinegar, however, as it can dissolve certain types of Israeli marble. If there is an older-style wooden window in your bathroom that is getting "showered on," you may want to consider replacing it with a vinyl- or aluminum-framed window. Be sure that when a new window is installed, the inside is sealed with acrylic caulk and the outside is sealed with silicone (both should be mold-resistant), and that the "weep holes" on the outside are left open. Joe Sher asks, "A professional recently installed new tiles in my bathroom, leaving a little adhesive or grout in some areas. What is the best method to remove this?" I have always used a razor blade on a metal handle to gently scrape off excess adhesive from tile. To remove excess grout, I find a "grout rake," available in the paint department of most DIY stores, works well; this tool is specially designed to remove grout from between tiles without damaging the tiles themselves. Another option is to use a razor blade for the grout line and "scotch" (the rough pads used for cleaning dishes) to get rid of any excess that has dried on the tiles. Miriam Fleer writes, "I recently bought a beautifully renovated apartment. The architect who did the renovation wanted to preserve the apartment's original style, and redid many of the floors with the type of 20x20 tiles that were used in the 1950s. I have noticed that these tiles are very absorbent: spots tend to set in and are extremely difficult to remove. I have tried to remove some of these spots with acetone. Not only did the spots not come out, I think in one small area, I may have damaged the surface. What can I do to remove the spots safely and prevent new ones from setting in?" Many times, old tiles do not set properly or have small nicks. Most contractors will use a variety of fillers to remedy this problem. The only drawback is that a stain or dampness will look uneven on a multiple surfaced floor. The best solution is to have the floors professionally stripped, then covered with multiple coatings of wax. This should keep your floor looking even and will prevent staining. The writers can be reached for consultations at