Improving a Rental Bathroom: Part 1, the Easy Stuff

Ah, the bathrooms in rented apartments. Now, I’ve read about how you can spruce up your ‘boring rental’ with a new shower head or a coat of paint, but it’s been a while since I lived somewhere where the problems were that purely cosmetic. I’d be quite happy with ‘boring’ if it were clean, fixtures worked, there was no rust, no indelible mould, no weird tile, no crevices that were impossible to clean… I suppose this is a result of the type of budget I’ve always been working with. Well, now we are in a new apartment that has much to recommend it, but I wouldn’t say its bathroom finishes were one of those things.

I want to share a few small projects I’ve undertaken to spruce up our bathrooms. Maybe I should say just to ‘rectify some problems’, as I don’t think any of my activities really qualify as great decor. Rather, I wanted to have a bathroom that functioned efficiently, was easy to clean, and looked clean when it was clean.

Living in a rental place can make you depressed or complacent about fixing small annoyances, because it feels like investing time and money in someone else’s property. However, one thing I learned in our last rental flat was that whenever I took the time to clean or repair something, however unfair it might have felt, I was always glad I had done it. In the end, I now think of these projects not as ‘investing in someone else’s property’ (grumble grumble) but rather as doing nice things for myself to enjoy. And after that, why should I begrudge a future tenant some small benefit? Perhaps it’s better to view it as passing on a kindness rather than a wasted investment. So here you go.

Messy paint jobs

Honestly, I could have done a better paint job here than whoever did paint it. All along where the bathtub tile joins the wall, there is wall paint streaked onto the tile, in both bathrooms.


Fortunately tile is fairly durable. I took a metal scraper (palette knife) and just scraped the paint away. I say ‘just’, because the action was simple, but it did take a while. I’ve finished in the master bath, but need to tackle the second bathroom. However, in the master bath, having a cleaner edge between tile and paint made a huge difference in the place looking tidy.

If you are at all uncertain about using a metal scraper on a surface for fear of scratching, a credit card works well as a plastic scraper. I’ve also had luck with the clear plastic from those packages that small electronics often come in, you know, the ones with fused edges and plastic moulded around the item inside, which you can only open with scissors and rarely without cutting yourself on the plastic. But the plastic works well for scraping.

Icky cabinets

Now, I hesitate to complain about our bathroom cabinets because, hey, we have bathroom cabinets! You don’t realise that this is special until you live in the UK where bathrooms seem to have no storage whatsoever. So I am very glad to have some bathroom cabinets. However, ours are like black pits inside, because they are so dark.

A layer of white contact paper on the bottom made a huge difference by just reflecting the light so you could see what was sitting there!


I didn’t say it was pretty! (Organisation there is yet to come – the rest of our stuff needs to arrive before I know all the space needs to contain. Shoebox lids suffice for now.)

Wimpy toilet flush

Now, I didn’t fix this issue myself. I mention it merely to inspire you. One of our toilets had what I would describe as a weak flush – it just had a floppy handle and not much oomph, sometimes requiring quite a lot of flushing. I did look inside and fiddle with the chain and the water height, but it didn’t seem to help, and after a lot of Googling I still wasn’t really sure what the issue was. What I did notice was that the other toilet, which worked better, had the same manufacture date stamped inside the cistern, but a different set of innards. So it was the same type of toilet, but had a different (and it seemed newer) mechanism.

Finally, I emailed our apartment office and explained the problem. Duh! I did ask specifically that the insides be replaced to match the toilet that worked, and I don’t know if phrasing my request so specifically helped, but they didn’t give me any hassle. Someone came the next day and replaced the wimpy innards, and the toilet now works great.

So the moral of that story is, even if you think your landlord is lackadaisical and won’t help you out, it’s worth asking! Obviously this wasn’t a super easy fix for the repairman…but it was easy for me, hence why I mention it here with the other easy stuff!

Stay tuned for the slightly harder projects next week.

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