Come hang out in your bathroom with me as we talk about how to make your bathroom healthy and stink-free! Stephen will discuss the areas of concern and how to ensure you create a mould-free and bacteria-free bathroom for your whole family.
The transcript for the episode:
Welcome to Your Healthy House. I’m Stephen Collette. In this podcast. I explore your indoor environmental quality concerns and opportunities. We look at the facts and debunk the fiction. We will discuss examples you can relate to and the doable actions you can take in your own home or apartment. We will also look at the history of how our homes are, the way they are and the future of healthy housing for everyone. I promise to make this fun and interesting for both of us.
Episode number nine What is that stink in my bathroom?
So in this episode, we’re gonna walk through your bathroom together, so grab yourself a beverage. Wander up with your headphones in, lock the door behind you. Let’s have some peace and quiet and go through your bathroom and make it as healthy as possible. So first thing we want to keep in mind within the bathroom is the fact that it’s one of the two major sources of moisture generation within your house. The others, obviously the kitchen. But this is the single largest one where the occupants impact the house with the moisture generated. We shower, we bathe, we’re washing. We’re flushing toilets all that kind of stuff when we’re generating a lot of moisture. Now, if you look up in your bathroom, you should hopefully see a bathroom fan. And first and foremost, that’s the thing you really want to take a look at. So we’re gonna do a real cool science experiment here from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. You’re going to rip off a piece of toilet paper, and you’re going to stand carefully on your toilet or your tub if you can. And you’re gonna put that piece of toilet paper on your running bathroom exhaust fan now, if all goes well and you haven’t slipped and fallen, which I’m glad to hear if it works well, the bathroom fan should hold that single square of toilet paper. And if it does, that means that the bathroom exhaust fan is able to remove the typical moisture generated during an average shower. This is not a teenager shower. This is a human shower. We’re not talking about 45 minutes tank draining showers. So if it’s not holding that toilet paper, it’s not exhausting effectively. So a couple things we can do to improve things first clean it. So while you’re up there, pull, they’ll pull the cap off and have a look. I can almost guarantee it’ll be sticky gulke yucky, full of dust and debris, because the dust is sticking to the moist surface because it’s drawing moist air out. So get in there. Give it a good clean. Oh, maybe you should turn the fan on first, but give it a really good clean. Once we’ve got it clean, you can see between the fan and the drywall on the ceiling. If there’s a large gap around there that’s actually pulling air from your attic or from your ceiling cavity if you’ve got a second floor above. And so, if we were to use some, uh, tape between the fan itself and the drywall, you’ll actually improve the suction because now it’s actually gonna draw more air from the bathroom than it is from the ceiling cavity, just trying not to do a terrible job of it. We don’t want to see Tuck Tape red tape or air barrier tape or anything like that sticking out from the fan cover once you put it back on while we’re looking at bathroom fans, if it is old and noisy. I do recommend you switch it out, especially if it’s not holding the toilet paper. It’s not doing the job it needs to do. I recommend thes new bathroom exhaust fans. They’re available everywhere. They have a built in humidistat so they actually can sense the humidity themselves, and you set it up during installation. There’s some little switches inside it, and what it does is it will come on automatically when the humidity gets high enough and it’ll shut off automatically when the humidity gets low enough. So what I really like about this is it removes the worst part of the equation, which is you or your family members, because if you’ve got the fan powered on, what happens is, sometimes people forget to turn it off or, more likely, people forget to turn it on. And when they walk out of the bathroom after their shower, the bathroom fan actually still needs to run because there’s still super human in there and we turn the fan off. So we’re we’ve lost the opportunity to actually extract the moisture safely and effectively, and so we get buildup of moisture, a buildup of dust, and that’s where we’re gonna get our mould. So I really like the one with the built in humidistat, if you don’t have that or you have, switch of separate from the light switch just for the fan, you could put it on a timer instead so that when you turn it on, it’s on for 20 minutes at a minimum. Longer than that would definitely help. And that way we don’t have to worry about someone coming back up later and turning it off because it’s annoying. So the bathroom fans, really your key place to manage your air moisture.
Next, you’re going to look at the tub and because that’s where we’re generating the liquid water. So I really recommend a good flashlight. So if you’ve got a tub slash shower combination, which most homes do, you may have them separate, but most people are going to have a least one tub shower combo set we really want to do is make sure that where the wall system ends and the tub starts, you wanna have a really good inspections were gonna flashlight in there, Get down in there, have a really good look and you’re looking at the caulking between the tub surround with showers around in the tub itself. Because these expand and contract in different directions. The tub actually settles a little bit when we stand in it and fill it full of water when we’re having a bath. No, it’s not inches of flecks, of course, but there’s some flex, and the tub or tar showers around will expand in different direction because it’s installed vertically, of course. And so that separation is the weakest point because some water constabulary stand on that tub edge and we can get some waking up now if you have ah, acrylic tub finish. If you have a tile with grout, that doesn’t really matter. This is always the weakest point. So get in there. Make sure the the tile grout, if you have it, or the caulking or both along that joint. If you just gotta shower stone the exact same detail get in the corners down at the bottom and look there. If you find that the ka kings failed, which is super common, I recommend you scrape it out. So best practices to get that caulking out and put in new cocking. Don’t put old cocking over top of new cocking. That’s just gonna make a mess, because now you’re adhering to something that’s not properly adhered, and that’s not gonna work for you. So scrape it out. There’s these cool tools. They’re little pencil hand tools, and they’ve got 90 degree angles on both ends. One’s a sharp and one’s a curved 90 degree, and the sharp one is to pull the caulking out, and the other one is to put the caulking in and push the bead of caulk deep into the corner. Now what you really want to do, because there is some settling with the tub. If you have the tub is actually wait down the tub. So what you want to do is fill the tub right, stink full of water and actually get in the tub. So the more weight you’ve added, the greater the drop. And again we’re talking millimeters here. But the greater the stretch. And when we put the caulking into that, what we’re going to get is tthe e biggest gap possible, and it’s only ever going to get tighter after that. Now, if you don’t want to use the water, maybe you can use sandbags or heavy weights or something. Just be sure you’re not going to scratch the tub, obviously, but the more weight you can put in there while it’s curing the better. And remember for using the water. It will take a little longer to dry because we’re adding water to the mixture, but you’ll get a much better, more resilient cock. In the end. While you’re in the tub, let’s talk about a bit of ah, the grout. If you do have tile work, whether it’s in the tub or in the um, shower, you want to look for hairline cracks in the grout. Hairline cracks will suck water back behind. And so we definitely don’t want that low hanging like dirt cheap. If you’ve got hairline cracks in your growth and maybe the maybe it’s old 19 seventies, you know, harvest gold tiles, and you want to tear it out anyway. But that’s not gonna happen for a couple months. Tape it over. Now that’s ugly as sin. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want any designers reaching out to me and tell me that’s a terrible idea because it is a terrible idea, but it will stop the water from getting back behind there. If you have a bit of time, you could caulk some of the grounds again. Definitely a Band Aid approach ugly, and it’s gonna make things worse. The only way to do that to get it off afterwards, you’re looking at potentially chipping, which is OK, if again you’re gonna be removing it. The best practice is to dig out the grout and re grout, and that’s obviously a costly process. I’m not trying to blow all your money in one go. But what happens is those hairline cracks can really draw water back behind the tile work. And if we have older bathrooms, an older shower tub surrounds its potential. You have dry wall back there, not cement board, not plastic. You know, sheeting and and membranes and all that stuff that we have now, like the Schluter system. And there’s a lot of other great systems out there. But you could actually have drywall back there, and that was super normal and super common and super stupid, because back there you can have moisture with a leak and you can have it on going and it just gets wet and it gets moldy and you have no idea until your family’s sick. So keeping that in mind while you’re also doing the inspection, make sure that your faucets your tub spoke from your shower head all those air nice and secure, and you’re not getting water back behind them as well.
You’re Healthy House with Stephen Collette is sponsored by the Building Biology Institute, a nonprofit educational institution dedicated to creating healthy homes, schools and workplaces free of toxic indoor air, tap water pollutants and hazards posed by electromagnetic radiation. Through a combination of online learning and in person seminars, we offered professional certifications, including Building Biology, Environmental Consultant, Electromagnetic Radiation Specialist and Building Biology New Build Consultant. For more information, visit our website at www.buildingbiology.org
While you’re still standing in the shower in the bathtub. There we should talk about your water quality because it plays a huge role. Now a lot of us will be filtering our own water, especially for living in the city, trying to get the chlorine out of our drinking water so we might be using, like a Brita filter or something more complicated. I’ll have podcast on at some point. But 70% of our chlorine absorption actually happens within our showers, and that’s because we’re volatilizing the water. We were actually ripping the water apart, making that mist. Those water drops so we can have that enjoyable shower experience. And so when we do that, our pores air open because of the heat because of the moisture, and we’re actually inhaling and absorbing a lot of that chlorine most of our chlorine absorption during the day so you can put a whole house sort of filter system carbon filter on the shower. The chlorine exposure. Certainly that works. That’s gonna require a plumber. And so there’s a cost involved in that you can also look at just like a shower filter. There’s such a thing, and that’s a It’s kind of like a Britta for your shower, and you can buy them at hardware stores. And some health food stores will sell them, and what it is is you want. Screw your showerhead. You screw in this filter and then you screw your shower head back on and away you go. That’s it, that you change the filter every three or four months. Stuff like that, and it’s a carbon filter. So it’ll take out all that chlorine for you, and you’ll have a nicer, softer water. And that’s an easy solution. Usually, you know, they’re going to be under 50 bucks for something like that. So certainly accessible for everybody. If you’re worried about chlorine absorption in the tub, especially with younger kids, which is reasonable, I would actually recommend overheating your tub. So putting hotter water in it, then you’re then you can tolerate and give yourself some time. Now it’s a large surface, so we have a lot of volatility coming off. That large surface area is, so there’s a lot of evaporation, and with that, you’re going to get a lot of chlorine coming off of it. So making it hotter than you need and having to wait. You know, a couple minutes you’re going to get a lot of that volatility occurring just in that process. And if you’ve got really young kids, well, you know you’re going to be chasing around the upstairs trying to hog tie them and get him in the top anyway, so it’ll probably work out just fine from a temperature perspective. The next thing Once we, you know, step out of the tub will look at the toilet, and we want to obviously be conscious of water conservation. So we do have climate crisis. We do need to think about how we’re using our resources and toilets. Use a lot of water, a lot of water if you are still rocking an old 13 leader toilet, it is a huge amount of water consumption to flush a cup of tea. So we really want to think about ultra low flow toilets. We want to think about dual flush toilets. There’s no reason the modern designs and the modern technology put into those. They are effective toilets and they really work well. And there’s no reason we can’t be throttling or water consumption. While you’re looking at your toilet, put your legs on either side of the bowl and try to give it a wobble. Doesn’t wobble side to side. Does it rock back and forth on the floor? If it does that, we want to be really cautious about the fact that your toilet is not actually directly connected to the plumbing system to the drain. So when you put a toilet on, there’s a flag on the floor for your sewage, and what we do is we put this wack, soldering this wax doughnut on top of that and then drop the toilet rate on top, and then the toilet is bolted to the floor, so there’s not actually a plumbing connection between the toilet and the house. It’s this wax donut, this wax over. And so if the toilets rocking, you could in fact be squishing that wax over ring. And if it rocks enough and you squish it long enough, you’ll create a gap. And if you create a gap, that means the sewage can scooch out instead of going down the drain. And that is super gross, and it’s also going to happen under your floor, so you’re not going to see it. It’s going to happen under your floor, and the only time you’re going to see it is when it drips out the ceiling on the floor below you. But I’ve seen that happen a lot, and it’s really, really gross. And it’s a mess when it’s obviously a huge disruption, because ceilings have to come out, floors have to come out. Bathrooms have to come out and It’s a lot of work, so make sure it’s always tightened. Remember, you can snug it down. Do not over tighten those bolts because you can potentially crack them. And that would make everybody crabby as well, Making sure you’re cold water line. Everything’s secure back there. If you’re getting a lot of sweating around your toilet in the summertime, that’s because the water coming in is very cold, especially if you’re on a well. You may have that. So you want to just really think about The idea of a newer, low flow toilet is going to be more insulated and you’re gonna have less wedding for sure. So consider that when we look at the bathroom sink, I don’t have a whole lot of concerns with the sink itself because usually they’re all in one. So either the sink in the end, the counter or one piece, or if we do have a sink separate from the counter. The tap sets air always built into the sink. It would be really rare if you’ve got your taps that attached to a counter proper. That said, have a look under the bathroom sink. I know it’s been a long time since you’ve got under there, Empty everything out once in a while. Check for leaks because of its jam packed full of toilet paper and cleaning products and personal care products and everything. Hair dryers and curling irons. If you can’t get in there, you have no idea if it’s leaking. So do yourself a favor. Clean it all. I get in there. Look up. Make sure like look up at the bottom of the types. Make sure the tops are secure. Make sure all the pipes certain we don’t see any stains on the cabinet. And while you’re in there, just have a purge. For goodness sake, if you can’t see the back of it, you’ve got too much crap in there. So unloaded personal care products. Obviously, your concern. Um, we have a lot of chemicals within our personal care products. And if you’re not willing Thio eat your personal care products. You really shouldn’t be putting them on your body. So keep that in mind because it’s a huge issue and it’s a huge chemical burden. So thinking about healthier personal care products and last personal care products, really where you should be going Finally, your flooring. You know you can be an issue. I don’t really see it too much. I’ve only been in a couple of houses that had carpet in the bathroom yet. Yes, carpet in the bathroom. On a scale of one to stupid. It’s really high. I don’t recommend it. You want to think about cleaning the bathroom. So is much solid surface is possible. I’m not a huge fan of the sort of toilets you know, little math that goes around it. Ah, it’s a mess if you have the opportunity and you have boys in your house who stand up while they pee. If you have the opportunity to get a black light that shows you’re in and go into a dark bathroom and turn the blacklight flashlight on, you’ll make sure all the boys in your house start cleaning or at least take target practice because it’s gross, all right. It is a mess, and that’s with the larger, especially with the larger water bowls. So some have a small water spots. Some toilets have a large water spot. The larger water spots create bigger splash is for sure, So cleaning around that toilet. Yes, please. Three bags full because it’s gross having any sort of soft goods around there as long as you’re laundering them. But I’m just not a fan because year getting urine into it, and that’s just extra gross. So get rid of that. Certainly a match of the tub is good idea, and just keeping it clean. So weekly cleaning, you know your toilets around the toilets, your sinks, stuff like that and getting the tub as well. Bacterial exposure. So we talked about mold. The idea of managing all the water. We can manage all the water. We’re not going to get a whole lot of mold growth. We can’t so because it needs food, water in a warm place. And if you haven’t listened to my mold podcast, check that one out that episodes up live now but for bacteria. So the largest exposure for bacteria in your house is flushing your toilet with the seat lead up. So there is splashing and it has been measured. And the bacterial plume I know you’re cringing now the bacterial plume is actually rising up into the bathroom, and that is grody mcgross. So put the lid down before you flush the toilet. Pretty please. And depending on your significant others and Children, you may have to have strong conversations with them. Ah, automatic air, not automatic but slow closing toilets. He lids are a godsend so that there’s no more slamming of toilet seat lids in the house. So having those knowing that the toilet seat and the lid are always closed and down before you flush is a really good idea. So that’s your bacterial exposure. Your largest one. There is bacteria exposure through your showerhead, so I do recommend cleaning it out now. Certainly the Britta filter will help a lot. It’s not a Britta brand. I don’t mean to be flogging, Britta, but your carbon filter in your shower head is a really will take some of that bacteria out on Lee because, uh, well, the bio slime will stick to its super gross. But that’s a fact, Uh, and so that’s another reason you need to change. It is get rid of the bacterial exposure, but you do get some bacterial through the taps. Um, but that’s normal. I don’t want you to lose sleep or start freaking out, but cleaning your showerhead once years probably really great idea.
All right, so that’s your bathroom. There’s a lot of really great opportunities to make your bathroom healthier. There’s a lot of easy solutions we’ve covered, so I hope you’ve taken notes. You’ve got questions. Reach out to me. I’m happy to help. If you ever want help on consulting or looking at your house, feel free to reach out to me through my website. And thanks for listening.
If you enjoy the show, please leave a review and subscribe to the podcast, and you will be doing your part to help others create their own healthy homes. If you would like to learn more about me, Stephen Colette and what I do, please check out my Web site at www.yourhealthyhouse.ca Music for the podcast is by Brian Pickett of Voodoo Highway Music Audio. Technical support is by Mike Pickett. Editorial support is by Eric Rosen. I’m your host, Stephen Collette. Thanks for listening and enjoy your day. Cheers