Updating and Reviving a Mid-Century Modern Bathroom: Cleaning Techniques

My husband and I are on a mission to preserve many of the antique touches in our newly purchased home, even in each mid-century modern bathroom. Not everything in our bathrooms is original nor in good enough working condition to keep.

For example, we had to switch out the toilets for reasons we won’t go into in this article. We were, however, very careful about selecting new toilets that would not clash with the style of the mid-century modern bathrooms, but would instead compliment the vintage fixtures and décor.

1 Old New Toilets

Our bathrooms came with chrome fixtures. We plan to restore as many of the fixtures as we can. We will find matching chrome replacements for those fixtures that are too damaged to restore. The two bathrooms will be rather shiny in a retro way.

Cleaning Chrome Fixtures

Cleaning chrome bathroom fixtures is not as difficult as one may think. I did some online research and found some great tips for revitalizing rusted, grimy chrome fixtures. One method is to use lemon juice with steel wool to effectively and naturally scrub away rust and grime. Having these items on hand, I decided to give it a try.

I did a trial run with the two faucets in our full bath. One half a lemon squeezed and strained into a bowl did the trick. I put on gloves and got to work. I had a metal scouring pad in lieu of steel wool. I dabbed the pad in the lemon juice, picking up just a few drops each time, and used some elbow grease to rub off build-up, soap scum, and rust.

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The Tools

2 Fixture Cleaning Items[/one_third] [one_third]

Before

3 Before Lemon Juice[/one_third] [one_third_last]

After

4 After Lemon Juice[/one_third_last]

My husband had thought that the faucets were goners, but I insisted on at least trying to clean them up. After giving it a go, and showing my husband our just like new faucets we may keep them after all! The transformation is very impressive.

Cleaning Linoleum Floors

If you own a mid-century modern home you may have vinyl or linoleum flooring. Linoleum, a natural material made from renewable sources, has historically been the standard flooring material in kitchens and bathrooms. Vinyl flooring, a synthetic material, became popular after its invention in 1947.

 

Before cleaning your floors, you will want to deduce which material your floors are composed of. There are two ways to find out. The first way is to examine the depth of the color of the pattern in the material. To do this, examine an exposed side of the flooring and see if the color of the pattern extends throughout the material. If you cannot find an exposed side, take a utility knife and scrape away at a portion of the material in a hard to see area, such as under a cabinet or in a corner of the room. Again, look to see if the color of the pattern reaches into the layers of the material. If the color exists throughout all layers then your flooring is linoleum. If the color is only present on the top-most layer, then you have vinyl.

Another way to determine the material of your flooring is to light a match near the material and look for any reaction. Choose an inconspicuous corner for this test. If the material melts next to the flame of a match then you have vinyl. If there is no reaction then you have linoleum.

You can always ask a flooring expert if you don’t feel like damaging even a small, inconspicuous bit of your floors.

Once you have established which type of flooring you have you can then research cleaning methods and get to work. I found out that we have sheet linoleum flooring in both baths. Our large bathroom has the most wear and grime in the floors so I started in there.

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The Tools

5 Linoleum Floor Cleaning Items

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The Results

6 Before After Cleaning Floor

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I added 4-5 drops of natural hand-wash dish soap into a small tub and filled it halfway with hot water. I only did a spot test to start with. I dipped a corner of the sponge lightly into the hot sudsy water and promptly wrung it out. I mainly used the abrasive side of the sponge to buff out the grime settled into the dimples in the flooring. For the entire floor I would add 8-10 drops of soap into a gallon of hot water and use a mop. A scrub brush is best for deeper cleaning.
This, like cleaning the faucets, requires a lot of elbow grease but over a much larger surface area. Make sure you spare enough time and energy to clean an entire room, especially if neglected as in our case. The results of the floor spot test are surprising. It’s clear that I have a lot of hard work ahead of me in both our mid-century modern bathrooms. Wish me luck!

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