“He yelled at us about our towels and shower curtain. He’s crazy, you know that, right?”
I had made the mistake of suggesting that my boss hire my husband to renovate his bathroom. I nodded sympathetically.
“I know it’s hard to hear,” I say. “But he’s usually right.”
My husband renovates people’s homes. Which means he is part architect, part interior designer, plumber, electrician, engineer, contractor, carpenter, housecleaner and handyman – not to mention shrink, marriage counselor, and nanny.
And yes, he is a little crazy. Call him the Handy Maniac.
The Handy Maniac (HM) will yell at you about habits you have never questioned. But only because he cares (probably more than you do) about how often you clean your gutters, change your air conditioner filter, or drain your boiler. I, too, used to not care about those things. Or even know those things were things.
Now, whenever I walk into a bathroom I automatically turn the fan on. And if there isn’t one, I have been known to whisper to the Handy Maniac later: “Can you believe they don’t have a bathroom fan?”
It took more than a decade for me to internalize these habits. I don’t like being told to do stuff, so I can be stubborn. But eventually, his rants wore me down, and in order to avoid another lecture on the purpose of dishwashers and growing up in drought-ridden Texas where “people gave a sh*t about water!” I stopped rinsing the plates before loading. But don’t tell him that’s why. He’d hate that.
“I want to teach a man to fish!” he yells as we hurtle through Brooklyn in our rust-encrusted pickup. “I want people to understand why they should do these things. Not just do them. I want people to stop folding their damn wet towels!”
And so, in order to help him in his mission to empower the masses, I have decided to listen to each rant one more time. I shall spread the gospel of the Handy Maniac, translating his furor into advice even the most recalcitrant wet towel-folder can understand and take to heart.
You may be wondering how towels and shower curtains relate to home repair, and why they are any of HM's business. Because he is brought in to repair moldy grout lines, loose tiles, and all the things these bad habits lead to, that's why. And while he admits he should zip his lip, because your mistakes lead to his jobs, he has been at this awhile and he can’t take it anymore. He’d rather preach prevention. (See? He really does have your best interests at heart.)
Let us begin with HM’s first three rules of Bathroom Etiquette:
1. Don't Fold Your Wet Towels
HM has a very acute sense of smell. He’s a super smeller. He went to prep school, where there were no towel racks and post-pubescent boys wadded up their towels and tossed them in the corner of their dorm rooms. He smelled what happens when towels aren’t hung and teenage bacteria is allowed to fester. So: do not fold your wet towels or hang them on a hook. Spread them out over the full length of a 30” towel bar. (“Twenty-four inches is the downfall of most interior designers!”)
And if stinky towels aren’t enough to convince you, or you are a neat freak who insists on the visual aesthetic of a nicely folded towel, think on this: When you fold or hook a damp towel to use 24 hours later, that is moldy bacteria you are rubbing all over your body each time you get out of the shower.
2. Use a Liner and Never Leave Your Shower Curtain Open
If you have a shower curtain, you should also have a cheap vinyl liner. If you have a tub shower, make sure the liner is on the inside and the curtain on the outside of the tub, to provide a double layer of protection. When water sprays all over and drips onto the floor, it works its way into the tile grout, not to mention creates hazardously slippery floors. But why the nuttiness over open or closed after the shower?
“Wet folds of a vinyl or fabric curtain breed bacteria, mold and soap scum. Pull the curtain closed after use to dry it out,” explains HM in a calmer moment. “THAT INCLUDES THE LAST FLAP ON BOTH ENDS OF THE LINER!” (The Handy Maniac is a stickler.) Replace the liner several times a year. You know how much a shower curtain liner costs? $5.99. You know how much closing your shower curtain costs? $0. You know how much a new tile job costs? “A re-grout, re-caulk job to stop early leaks, water damage, and mold can be $250-$350. Tile removal and a re-tile job (not even replacing the tub) is $2- $3K.”
3. Always Use a Ceiling Fan
Don’t get the Handy Maniac started on the need for fans….”WITH TIMERS!! Turn your vent fans on during - AND LEAVE IT ON FOR TWENTY MINUTES AFTER - every shower to remove the steam and moisture from the room,” he says.
If you don’t have one? Get one. Pronto. If you let your tile walls and ceiling remain moist, you are creating an ideal climate for mold to start growing. Painted walls are porous and moisture works its way through walls into trapped areas over time.
It has taken me a long time to say, as I did to my (former) boss that day, “He’s usually right.” And I cede this point only in regard to all things home-repair related. Not all things. For instance, Buddy Ebsen did not ever win an Academy Award. But as the wife of a curmudgeon contractor, I have heard a lot about people making the same rookie mistakes over and over. Trust me. You will save a lot of pain, suffering, and money if you just listen to him.
This article originally appeared on Cafe.com 9-24-2014