I keep a tidy, minimalist home, but my bathroom? Disgusting. In my defense, I live with three boys and it is heavily used with all of us at home more than ever.

Sometimes, you just have to admit you need professional help. 

I asked Javier and Haley Del Valle, the husband-and-wife team behind PNW Cleaning Services in Arlington, to teach me how to deep clean the grossest parts of the bathroom. Plus, I wanted a peek inside a pro house cleaner’s plastic caddy to see what tools they use to do the job efficiently.

So here’s the secret to a clean bathroom: lots and lots of elbow grease. Sorry.

“It’s not a matter of the cleaning supplies. It’s just a matter of scrubbing,” Haley Del Valle said.

While there is no magical potion that leaves your bathroom sparking clean, there are a few go-to products the Del Valles rely on. Their weapons of choice — Pine-Sol, Pinalen and Dawn dish soap — are cleaners that smell good and are good degreasers, they say.


“It’s all about letting them sit and knowing how to scrub it properly,” Haley Del Valle said. “Dawn is our favorite dish soap. It will take off almost anything.”

Back in my bathroom, the first thing the Del Valles did was dust the spots that typically get missed: the top of the shower, the tops of light fixtures, vents, baseboards. They used a vacuum on the vents and clean rags on the rest.

Haley Del Valle attacked my grimy tub with rags, Dawn, Pinalen and a little bit of Comet. Bathtubs often have a colored film on the inside, she said. “Sometimes it’s minerals in the water. Or” — glancing at my tub — “just not cleaned.”

Guilty as charged.

After finishing the tub (no more brown stains, yay!), Haley used a plastic scrub brush to scour the tile surround.

Grout lines looking dingy? Briana Short, president of Caliber Cleaning in Lynnwood, taught me a nontoxic, DIY trick for brightening the grout. I tried her recipe and can attest that it really works wonders.

You will need: a glass container, 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide. If you’d like, add a few drops of lemon or orange essential oil for a nice scent.


When you’re ready to clean, mix the ingredients and use a tile brush to apply the paste to the grout. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then scrub the grout using a fair amount of pressure to get the stains off. Rinse with water, and repeat the process if necessary.

Short wipes down any mold or mildew on the bathroom walls with a damp cloth and disinfectant cleaner. To finish the shower area, toss the shower curtain in the washing machine and hang it back up to dry. 

For stubborn toilet stains, Short recommends using a pumice stone. Make sure “toilet” is listed on the label, so you know it’s safe for your bowl, and wear gloves when you take on the task, she says.

Javier Del Valle from PNW Cleaning Services used powdered Ajax with bleach to reach the crevices in my toilet. Another of his trusted products: Sprayway glass cleaner for wiping down the mirror without leaving streaks.

In just 30 minutes, the Del Valles gave my super-gross bathroom a complete glow up. Their main tools were clean rags and dish soap — things you already have in your house, no excuses — plus a whole lot of muscle.