How to Get Rid of Bathroom Mildew: A Complete Guide

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Hands in rubber gloves holding a sponge and spray bottle demonstrate how to get rid of bathroom mildew by spraying shower wallPin

Stubborn bathroom mildew can lead to unpleasant odors. If left untreated, mildew can also damage caulk, stain grout, and lead to mold problems that cause structural damage. Plus, it’s embarrassing because people will assume you aren’t cleaning your bathroom properly.

In this guide, I’ll explain how mildew differs from mold, where you’ll find it, steps to remove bathroom mildew with common household ingredients, and how you can keep mildew from returning once you’ve cleaned.

Understanding Mildew vs. Mold

Mold and mildew are common fungi that thrive in damp environments like bathrooms. While they may appear similar, there are distinct differences between them.

Mildew: Typically white or gray, mildew can also manifest as pink or orange slime. It grows on surfaces such as bathroom tiles, shower curtains, and window sills. Mildew is more prevalent in humid areas and emits a musty smell, but it rarely poses significant health risks.

Mold: Mold is black or green with a fuzzy or slimy texture. It develops on various surfaces, including walls, ceilings, and even food. Mold reproduces by releasing tiny spores into the air and can cause health problems, particularly for individuals with allergies or asthma.

When mildew keeps getting worse, it can create an environment where mold can thrive. This can cause damage to structures and health problems. It’s important to act quickly to deal with mildew so that it doesn’t lead to more serious issues with mold.

Pink or Orange Bathroom Mildew

Besides the more common white or grayish mildew, you may also come across pink or orange mildew in your bathroom. Often referred to as “pink mold” or “pink mildew,” this type appears on surfaces like shower walls, grout lines, shower curtains, and even toilet bowls and sinks. Pink mildew is caused by bacteria, rather than fungi. Although not as harmful as black mold, it can cause skin infections and urinary tract infections, and still creates an unhealthy environment.

Common Areas and Signs

You may notice these signs of mildew in your bathroom:

  • Discolored patches or spots on surfaces like walls, tiles, or grout lines
  • Patches can be white or grayish and may have a powdery or fuzzy texture
  • Orange or pink streaks along grout lines, in the toilet bowl, and around drains
  • Musty or unpleasant odor in the bathroom
  • A spongy or soft bathroom floor
  • Household pests like ants and silverfish coming in search of moisture

Steps to Clean Mildewed Bathroom Surfaces

Step 1: Prepare the area.

Turn on your bathroom exhaust fan or open a window for ventilation to help reduce cleaning product fumes and speed up drying. Clear all items from the area you’ll be cleaning, and use a brush or cloth to remove any loose debris so the cleaning product can penetrate more effectively. Perform a spot test before using any cleaning product for the first time. 

Step 2: Apply a Bathroom mildew remover.

Choose one of the following methods to remove bathroom mildew. Do not combine methods, as it can lead to dangerous combinations. If one DIY mildew remover does not work, rinse the area thoroughly and dry it before trying another. 

Rubbing alcohol: Combine equal parts rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. Shake well to combine. Saturate the area and allow the solution to sit for 15-20 minutes. Do not apply this mixture to paint, vinyl, acrylic caulk.

White vinegar: Fill a spray bottle with white vinegar, or saturate a paper towel with it. Spray or apply to the mildewed areas and let it sit for around an hour to break down the mildew. Do not use vinegar on natural stone, unsealed grout wood or laminate flooring.

3% Hydrogen peroxide: Pour into a spray bottle, or insert a clean spray nozzle directly into the bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Saturate the mildewed area and allow it to soak for 10-15 minutes. Do not apply peroxide to colored or tinted grout.

Step 3: Scrub after soaking.

After your mildew remover has soaked for the stated time, use a brush, sponge, or microfiber cloth to scrub the area using moderate pressure. Work in circular motions, then back and forth to thoroughly remove the mildew stains.

Step 4: Rinse and dry.

Rinse the area with clean water to remove product residue. Continue rinsing shower or tub floors to direct all residue down the drain. Finally, dry the surface thoroughly with a fresh towel since moisture can promote the return of mildew.

Illustration of steps to remove bathroom mildewPin


To keep bathroom mildew from returning, you need to follow a few preventative measures.

Ventilate your bathroom properly

Where there is poor ventilation, moisture from showers or bathing collects on bathroom surfaces, creating a damp environment where mildew thrives.

  • Run bathroom exhaust fans for 30 minutes after bathing.
  • Keep the bathroom door open to promote air circulation.
  • Open windows to allow in fresh air.
  • In small, enclosed bathrooms, use moisture absorbing boxes or Damp Rid.

Control bathroom humidity

Reducing humidity is key to preventing bathroom mildew. Here are some effective methods:

  • Shake shower curtains after use: Shake the curtain to remove water droplets and leave it open on both sides for better air circulation.
  • Squeegee showers and tubs: Remove water droplets from walls, glass doors, and tubs using a squeegee, directing moisture toward the drain. In humid areas, use a daily shower cleaner before squeegeeing.
  • Keep toilet seats closed: Closing the lid prevents moisture from toilet bowls from adding to the humidity level.
  • Limit shower time: Set a time limit or use a timer to control moisture buildup. This practice also helps conserve water.

Clean Your bathroom regularly

Routine bathroom cleaning helps eliminate moisture-trapping debris like soap scum, which creates a sticky film on surfaces and provides an ideal environment for mildew to thrive. Since mildew feeds on organic substances like dead skin cells, regular weekly bathroom cleaning helps prevent mildew by eliminating its food source. If you live in a humid area, add a daily quick wipe of bathroom surfaces.

Minimize clutter

Minimizing clutter in the bathroom is crucial for preventing mildew as it reduces hiding places and improves airflow. Clutter creates cramped spaces which trap moisture and prevent airflow, leading to mildew. With less clutter, bathrooms are easier to clean, too, which ensures moisture-prone areas stay mildew-free. Types of clutter that can trap moisture in your bathroom include:

  • Piles of decorative towels for display
  • Damp towels left on the floor
  • Toiletries on the counter
  • An abundance of containers in the shower or tub
  • Bath toys left in a pile
  • Damp bath mats left on the floor
  • Too many decorative items

Stay on top of routine maintenance

Many of the regular tasks for routine home maintenance will also help prevent bathroom mildew.

  • Clean bathroom exhaust fans: Every 6 months, use compressed air or a vacuum cleaner attachment to remove excess dust, ensuring optimal moisture extraction by the fan.
  • Maintain windows: Fix painted or swollen windows that are stuck shut, and open them regularly to improve air circulation.
  • Seal grout: Annually clean grout and apply sealant to prevent mildew. Promptly repair any cracked or missing grout to prevent water from seeping behind tiles, causing hidden structural damage.
  • Clean or replace caulk: Regularly inspect caulk lines, immediately cleaning any mildew or mold spots. Replace split or shrunken caulk promptly to prevent water damage.
  • Fix leaks promptly: Address leaking fixtures, dripping faucets, and moisture around the base of your toilet without delay. Ignoring plumbing issues can lead to bathroom mildew, dangerous mold growth, and permanent structural damage.

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  1. Patricia W Ferguson says:

    The last one to shower has to spray the shower with vinegar, water, and dawn solution. This helps keep down the need for heavy scrubbing. Now if I could get my husband to clean his sink after shaving, I would have it made.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      IF that happens, be sure to buy a lottery ticket the same day!