painting dirty bathrooms is unsafe

About a Toronto Painter struggling to overcome her fear of painting dirty bathrooms.

The fear of painting dirty bathrooms

By Erin Stillaway, painter of Ecopainting.
Painting dirty bathrooms is probably the worst part of my job since I became a painter for Ecopainting. We have been painting a lot of downtown Toronto condos lately. These are usually small jobs and involve painting a bathroom or two. Most of the time, the customer realizes how close and personal we have to get to the toilet and cleans the bathroom before we arrive. Unfortunately that is not always the case. At a recent condominium job, not only the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned in a very long time, there was even underwear hanging on a hook on the wall we needed to paint. These days of painting dirty bathrooms are the bane of my painting career.

A close up of the toilet

I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like getting dirty. Many people have commented on the lack of paint on my hands at the end of a work shift because I scrubbed the paint off already. For me, getting up close and personal to a dirty toilet is absolutely frightening. Painting around the back of the toilet with the paintbrush forces your face to get nice and close to the toilet so you can see what you’re doing. And you get to see how good the person’s cleaning skills are (and whose cleaning skills are sorely lacking). Painting bathrooms is fine when the customer has cleaned the toilet and the rest of the room but painting them when they are not clean is very unpleasant.

Bathroom clutter is difficult to work around

Another issue with painting messy bathrooms is the clutter we have to work around. We need to paint carefully along the counter and it is difficult to do that when the counter is cluttered with a bunch of stuff we need to move. Then there’s often the issue of where to put the stuff. Most bathrooms aren’t that big to begin with and when you bring in a paint tray and a ladder, there isn’t usually a lot of room left for anything else on the floor. Having to move everything that is in the way from the counter to the floor isn’t really much of an option. Putting it in the cupboards (if there are any) could work but to me that  feels like invading the customers privacy. Most of the time I end up placing everything outside the bathroom door on a piece of plastic. Another option is to place everything in the bathtub then move it back after the counter area is painted. The problem with doing that is that if the person has jewelry or something that is small, it could end up down the drain? If a stranger was working in my own bathroom, I would much rather move my own stuff than having them moving it.

How to prepare the bathroom for the painters

In my opinion, we need to inform the customer that the bathroom must be clean before painting it. Its also very helpful when customers unplug everything from outlets so we don’t have to guess what can be unplugged or not.

To help the painters make your bathroom look great, please help with the following:

  • Clean the toilet so that painters can work around and behind it.
  • If you noticed any signs of mildew or water damage in the bathtub area, let the painter know so that they can treat it before painting.
  • Remove towels from the towel bars. We need to paint around towel bar and sometimes we mask it to protect it from paint splatter.
  • Clear the floor and give it a quick sweep. The painter needs to cover it with drop cloths and bring in a ladder, paint tray and other tools and equipment.
  • Clear your counters and remove any personal items before we arrive. Place everything in an empty box and store it outside the bathroom.

Spending a few minutes to clean the bathroom makes a world of difference to the painters. Painting a bathroom is a relatively small job and gets finished in one day. Bathroom paints these days dry fast, and your bathroom is ready to use when you come home from work.

Note: a clean work space is a safer space.

This blog was first written October 31st, 2013. The most recent update is April 17 2017

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3 thoughts on “Painting Dirty Bathrooms
  1. Seth says:

    My dad and I um just rescently, did paint the bathroom in our two bedroom. And it was pretty dirty above the shower erea so it was nescasary too blend the third coat wear it was cracking due too the steam, in all actuallality behind the toilet wear the tank rests there was a nice bear patch but luck was on my side when I discoverd it. It really looks great if you can overlook Some cracking bullhead tiles.

  2. Dave says:

    yeah. I just googled painters and dirty underwear and this page came up. I own a painting company that’s very busy. I mostly work alone as its hard to hire good painters where I live. Anyway, I have a customer who was a referral of a good friend whose quit wealthy as are the people she has referred me to. The only problem is that they are wealthy and never seem to do anything to prepare when I come. I always tell them I will move the furniture but you must put your personal items away. This customer has been the worse and if it wasn’t for my friend I would have walked off. They are in Germany for three weeks and wanted the job done the first few days so the smell would be gone and the cleaner could come in afterwards. No mention of course when they would actually pay me. Anyway most the job is the windows and weather has been crappy. On the inside I have one ensuite, two walls in a bedroom and an exercise room.

    First, they didn’t more or put away a thing. There is used kleenex, underwear and socks around the bed. Stacks of books, receipts, pictures, magazines, piles of change, vitamin bottles, make up and even a bra hanging on a window crank. Dirty dishes were left in the sink with glasses and bread crumbs and dried out pasta in front of the kitchen window. I mean nothing was done.

    Sometimes I do have to do more, but these people really make me feel that I am servant rather than a contractor hired to paint their home.

    Am I wrong that leaving their home like this is not acceptable?

    • georgezaro says:

      No, leaving your home like this for the painter is not acceptable. We also move the big furniture as a courtesy but expect small and private items removed or cleaned. I remember couple of time we faced situations similar to what you are describing and it is an uncomfortable situation. What to do about it? maybe painters can create a list of how the customer can prepare for the contractor and include it as part of the contract. If you don’t like how this specific customer is, next time they need painting you can politely decline the work. Thanks for commenting Dave.

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