The dirtiest part of your bathroom

The dirtiest part of your bathroom

Toilets take a lot of abuse, and some people are phobic about touching them – especially those in public restrooms. Your bathroom (heck, any bathroom!) has a bad reputation for being dirty, and frankly, it’s well deserved. Yes, your bathroom is dirty, but it’s not entirely your toilet’s fault! Your bathroom habits can make a bad situation worse. Much worse.

Here’s what’s hanging around in your loo and what you can do about it.


Ah, mold. No one likes mold. It stinks. It stains. It can make you sick. Some molds can kill you. (On the other hand, penicillin – also a mold – can save your life.) It’s hard to get rid of. There’s not much to like about mold. Mold can thrive on porous surfaces, like grout, wood and plaster.

Mold is a fungus, so it reproduces by way of spores. Spores can remain dormant until they find conditions they like. Because your bathroom is a wet space, your battle with mold will pretty much never end. Ventilation is a good antidote to mold. Mold loves water, so if you can keep your bathroom dry, you can cut down significantly on any mold growth there.

Leaks of any kind will contribute to and support mold growth. Always address leaks immediately, whether they’re from the sink, toilet or bathtub.

If you have carpeting in your bathroom, you’re going to get mold growth there. If possible, remove carpeting and replace it with a hard surface flooring material – preferably a non-porous one. Wash the window curtains, shower curtains and rugs regularly, and use a small amount of bleach in the wash to kill any volunteer growth. At the minimum, clean your bathroom once per week and more frequently if it’s heavily used.

Important side note about mold: Many varieties of mold are black in color, but that doesn’t mean they’re “black mold.” Stachybotrys chartarum is the bad actor known as “black mold.” The black stuff that appears in your bathroom around the shower is probably Alternaria. Alternaria’s not totally harmless, since it can aggravate asthma and cause allergic reactions. The good news is that even though it’s black and it’s mold, it’s not black mold. A mild bleach solution will kill Alternaria. So will vinegar. Drying your bathroom walls and ventilating the bathroom after taking a shower will also discourage Alternaria from growing.


Mildew is actually white, so if something is growing in your bathroom that has a color other than white, it’s not mildew. It’s probably a mold of some kind. Mildew is also a fungus, so the same attack strategy for mold will work on mildew.


Another member of the fungus crowd. Vinegar or bleach will do the deed on yeast, but so will hot water – 122°F or better. (That’s a scalding temperature, so your water heater might not be of help here.)


Coliforms: Coliforms are fecal bacteria. Yes, they originate in poop. It’s entirely possible that you have more fecal bacteria on your toothbrush holder than you do on your toilet seat. How could that even be?

First, coliforms can’t really survive well outside the human body, so most of the coliforms in your bathroom will be dead. (Good.) Coliform bacteria gets aerosolized and distributed around your bathroom when you flush the toilet with the lid open. Second, it accumulates on your toothbrush holder when you don’t clean that regularly. Quick fix: close the lid when you flush the toilet and clean your toothbrush holder more often.

Staph: Common, and likes to hang out around the toilet and on faucet handles. Your bathroom could also harbor streptococcus, E. coli, Pseudomonas, etc. A disinfectant cleaner like Lysol will kill the overwhelming majority (99.9%) of these lowlifes.

“Pink mold:” “Pink mold” is not mold. It’s actually a bacteria also known as Serratia marcescens. It feeds on soap scum and shampoo residue, which is why it likes your bathtub so much. This bacteria has the chops to make you sick, so getting rid of it is a good idea. Avoid direct contact with it, but a good detergent or spray cleaner should neutralize it. Remove any buildup of soap residues by cleaning the bathtub regularly to inhibit the growth of this bacteria.

As plumbers, we don’t clean bathrooms (except our own), but we can help you address leaks and other plumbing problems. Call the plumbing experts at Boston Standard Plumbing at (617) 288-2911. We’ll help you find and eliminate water leaks and other plumbing problems!

Photo Credit: Tony Webster, via Flickr

If your toilet could talk…

If your toilet could talk…

Toilets are arguably the most unsung of workhorses around your home. We don’t just expect toilets to work; we need them to work. But sometimes, they don’t work. If only your toilet could talk, what would it tell you about taking care of your toilet?

Taking care of your toilet

We’re pretty sure that taking care of your toilet would be high on your toilet’s list of things to discuss. Taking care of your toilet goes beyond just cleaning it now and then. Here are a few things to consider, if you plan to help your toilet out.

Check for leaks now and then. Toilets can leak in a number of places. A “good” leak is one that allows water from the tank to leak into the bowl. This is a “good” leak because the water doesn’t end up where it’s not supposed to go. Leaking toilets can cost a lot of money over time, however. These kinds of leaks aren’t always obvious, either. If your toilet fills up the tank on its own periodically, you’ve got a leak. If your toilet takes forever to fill, you’ve probably got a leak. If you can hear water draining down into the bowl, or into the soil pipe, your toilet is leaking. You can buy replacement valves for your toilet at your local home improvement store. You can also adjust the amount of water your toilet uses.

A “bad” leak allows water to escape the toilet. A leaking toilet can either flow out the bottom of the tank, or out the bottom of the bowl. Tank leaks are clean. Bowl leaks not so much. If your tank is leaking (and not just sweating), you may have to replace the tank. Check for cracks in the porcelain and look for flimsy gaskets. If water appears on the floor following a flush, remove the toilet and replace the wax ring on the bottom. You may also notice a “sewer” smell when you have a bad wax ring. Wax rings are cheap but they can cause a lot of damage when they give up.

When does your toilet need maintenance?

There’s not much involved in regular maintenance, except for cleaning. Be sure to use cleaning products specifically intended for toilets. Standard household cleaners can stain porcelain and crack the glazing. This will decrease the lifespan of your toilet. If you have hard water, use products to soften the water in your toilet. This will help reduce or eliminate mineralization and staining. Check the filler adjustment now and then to make sure your toilet isn’t consuming too much water. Make sure the seat is tight and fits well. Also check the flange nuts to make sure the toilet doesn’t move when it’s in use.

These items qualify as abuse

Toilets are designed to take a particular kind of abuse, but sometimes people go too far. Here are a few things you should NOT flush down your toilet.

Paper that isn’t toilet paper. Toilet paper dissolves in water, which is why it’s ok to flush it down the sewer. Other kinds of paper – Kleenex, paper towels, etc., – don’t dissolve. If it isn’t toilet paper, don’t flush it.

Disposable … things… Toilets aren’t trashcans, but that doesn’t stop some people from flushing trash. Q-tips, cigarette butts, sanitary products, disposable wipes, condoms, dead goldfish – none of these things are toilet-friendly. They all belong in the trash. If these items make it all the way to the sewer, they need to be separated out before treatment. In most cases though, they don’t make it all the way to the sewer. They sit in your soil pipe or in your sewer lateral. Given the opportunity, they will return to you. Don’t flush these things.

You have been warned.

Grease and food waste. Flushing grease down the toilet is no better than washing it down your sink. In fact, it’s probably worse. Grease can clog your sink drain in no time. If it clogs a kitchen sink, it will do the same thing to a toilet. Don’t put grease down either the toilet or the sink. (But especially not the toilet.)

Hot liquids
Toilets (and bathroom sinks) aren’t tempered. A rapid shift in temperature between the water and the porcelain will crack it. (And things won’t get better from there.) Use the kitchen sink to dispose of hot, non-greasy liquids.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating is here to help with all of your toilet maintenance needs. We can also recommend and install low-flow toilets to help you save water! Call us at (617) 288-2911 to schedule an appointment.

Photo Credit: Scott Beale, via Flickr

Don't Miss This DIY Plumbing and Heating Workshop

Boston DIY Plumbing Workshop

Plumbing and heating are two of your home’s most important systems. When they don’t work correctly, they can jeopardize the comfort and safety of your home. The good news is that homeowners can manage many common problems that can arise with heating and plumbing systems, thanks to an excellent DIY plumbing workshop coming up this weekend.

Plumbing and Heating Workshop

Joseph Wood, owner of Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating will be on hand to deliver a great classroom-style DIY plumbing workshop designed just for homeowners who want to know how to maintain and repair issues like plumbing leaks and drain clogs, and perform routine maintenance on heating systems.

In addition to repair and maintenance tips, Joseph will share advice for homeowners who want to reduce their water consumption without sacrificing performance. He will also address questions and concerns about pipes and pipe replacement, heating and cooling system replacement, rebates and incentives for system improvements, and offer preventative maintenance strategies. Joseph will also show attendees how to spot more serious plumbing and heating issues that require professional attention.

The DIY plumbing workshop is also a great opportunity for anyone who’s considering a career in plumbing or heating and cooling. The next decade will see tremendous growth in employment for trained, licensed plumbers and heating and cooling professionals. As an apprentice, you’ll begin working immediately and developing the skills you’ll need to earn your plumbing license.

Joseph has been working in plumbing, heating and cooling for more than 20 years, and owns Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating in Dorchester. Boston Standard Plumbing and Heating has been recognized annually since 2010 with an Angie’s List Super Service Award. Boston Standard has also been recognized by the Better Business Bureau and the Best of Boston for its outstanding service.

The DIY plumbing workshop takes place Saturday, November 5 from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM at Boston Building Resources, 100 Terrace Street in Boston. Please visit the Boston Building Resources website to register for this workshop. The registration cost is $25. We hope to see you there!

Photo Credit: clement127, via

Happy World Toilet Day! You're pooping wrong

An Israeli study from 2003, which looked at the way adults poop, found that pooping from a sitting position really isn’t the best way to do it. The researchers asked adult participants to poop from a seated position using a standard height toilet and a low toilet. They also asked the participants to poop from a squatting position – the position we’d naturally use if we were… you know … natural.

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that pooping from a seated position (whether higher or lower) requires more effort and more time than pooping while squatting. Over time, researchers say that our unnatural pooping position can cause digestive problems and other physical maladies, like hemorrhoids.

Don’t get rid of the flush toilet yet, though! There are a lot of things to like about our porcelain thrones, but their ergonomics isn’t one of them. Coming to our rescue is a number of designers, who are bringing a number of friendly alternatives to the bathroom.

In fact, the University of the Arts in London held a contest to design a human-friendly toilet that was based on the idea of squatting rather than sitting and the results were not only artistic, but practical.

If you’re ready to go beyond concepts, for as little as $35, you could try the Squatty Potty, which isn’t really a potty at all. It’s a little step that elevates your feet and legs when you sit on a conventional toilet. The positional aid helps you to achieve a better, more natural posture during elimination.

If you are looking for something a little more hard-core, try the Lillipad Toilet Squatting Platform from New Zealand, which fits around your toilet and lets you squat on top of it. The Lillipad comes in two different heights and will set you back about $160, including shipping. You can also find other foldable or collapsible toilet platforms that range in price from about $80 to $160 that will also allow you to poop while squatting.

Squatting may seem unnatural to us, but two-thirds of the world’s population poops from a squatting position, and sitting while pooping has only been around for about 150 years. Just something to think about on World Toilet Day.

Sexist or Practical? The Two-Person Sales Pitch

A newspaper columnist in Detroit recently raised a question about a particular kind of sales pitch that initially seemed sexist. The writer was looking for a quote for home improvements, specifically window replacements. Each window company she called said they would only send a salesperson if her husband were also present at the appointment. “Single” appointments were available, but only at inconvenient times (mid-afternoon) that would require her to take time from work.

After doing a little more research, she found that other consumers had the same experience – but not just women. Men had also been told that sales appointments could only be set if their wives would be present. And the practice wasn’t limited to windows. Consumers also identified roofing companies, heating and cooling companies and other home improvement contractors that use the practice. The columnist’s view on the matter changed from being a “sexist” sales practice, to being a high-pressure pitch.

The window companies that would comment on the columnist’s sales experiences insisted that their approach was not sexist, but simply practical. Many homeowners will listen to a sales pitch, only to defer the decision to an absent spouse. (“Well, I’ll talk to my husband/wife about it and get back to you.”) To avoid that, the companies would only offer the sales pitch if both decision-makers were present.

While the tactic isn’t sexist, it’s designed to put the buyers in an awkward spot. This approach is likely to trigger uncomfortable discussions between the buyers, pit the buyers against each other, or force the buyers to reveal information that they don’t want to disclose. And in the end, it puts pressure on the buyers to make an immediate decision without considering other options.

At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we offer our product information to anyone who is interested! We understand that sometimes, it’s more convenient for one homeowner to hear the sales presentation and relay the information to their spouse or another decision-maker. We also know that replacement of a major heating, cooling or plumbing system in a home or business sometimes can’t wait, and that’s enough pressure to make a purchase decision! When a new system is a choice, every available option deserves some careful consideration.

Don’t get us wrong: we’ll always take an immediate answer, but we don’t expect one right away! We’re homeowners, just like our customers are. We don’t like being on the receiving end of high-pressure sales pitches, so we don’t treat our customers like that.

If you’re looking for information about replacement options for your heating, cooling or plumbing systems, but don’t want a high-pressure sales pitch, give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll lay out your options, costs and provide information about financing, rebates and tax credits that may be available to you.

Photo Credit: penywise, via

People Are Noticing Energy-Conscious Boston

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has recognized Boston’s energy saving efforts as first in the nation. This is the second consecutive year Boston has been given this designation. A host of state and local policies and initiatives that are designed to help residents reduce both energy and water consumption puts Boston on the top of this list.

Energy efficiency means that homeowners, commercial property owners and governmental authorities can heat, cool and light buildings, deliver clean water and provide more efficient transportation at a lower cost. Those savings can provide the opportunity to fund other quality-of-life initiatives that make an area more attractive to businesses and residents over the long haul.

Boston was awarded 82 out of 100 points, and was the only US city to score more than 80 points on the Council’s annual report card. One initiative that earned major points for Boston was the city’s requirement that medium- and large-sized buildings report energy and water usage, and undergo an energy assessment every five years. Beyond simply reporting consumption, buildings that don’t meet stated efficiency targets must make energy improvements.

Boston also scored favorably for its climate action plan, which aims to cut the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2050. A factor in this goal is the increased use of mass transit, in order to reduce the number of vehicles on the road in the city. Another part of the climate action plan involves engaging residents to make them more aware of their greenhouse gas emissions and to provide ways in which residents can make their homes and commutes more energy efficient.

Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating can help you reduce your home’s carbon footprint in a variety of ways. We currently participate in a number of rebate programs designed to reduce the cost of switching to more energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment. We can also help you reduce your home’s clean water consumption, and take advantage of federal and state tax credits designed to encourage energy efficiency. If you’re interested in switching to a cleaner, more cost-effective fuel source, we can help you there, too!

If you would like more information about your home’s current energy consumption, or would like to learn how you can save money and reduce your fuel consumption year round, please contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We can conduct energy assessments and help you choose the best, most efficient and most cost-effective heating, cooling and plumbing equipment for your home or business.

Fight Cancer At The 119th Boston Marathon

The Boston Standard Company is proud to support Rachel Wolfberg and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute marathon team in tomorrow’s 119th Boston Marathon. One person can run a marathon, but it takes an immeasurable number of people and a lot of financial support to hit cancer where it lives.

By supporting runners like Rachel and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute team, we can all do our part to fight this disease, which will impact more than 1.6 million people in the US for the first time in 2015 alone. Each year, more than one-half million people in the US lose their battle with cancer, but research into the disease and strategies to fight it are producing exceptional results.

Breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer alone will account for more than 40% of new cancer diagnoses in 2015, so finding new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat this disease is critical. Your support of people like Rachel Wolfberg and the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge can help achieve this goal.

If you would like to support Rachel, please visit:
Rachel’s donation page to make your pledge. Any amount – big or small – can help us all in the fight against cancer!

Storm Preparations For the Boston Blizzard

Preparing for a storm can be tough because no one knows exactly what to expect. With regard to the impending Boston blizzard, here are a few ideas to help you stay on top of changing conditions.

Basics matter. In an emergency, you may be coping with a number of tough conditions, including the snow, poor road conditions, power outages, falling temperatures, frozen pipes or broken water mains and other things that are simply out of your control. But the good news is that a little advance planning can help you cope with these things.

• Make sure you have enough food to last 3-5 days. The stores may be open, but the roads may be closed. Having a stash of the basics (which includes food, water, basic first aid supplies and toilet paper) can help keep you safe and sound indoors.

• Plan to have a power outage. The power doesn’t always go out in a major storm, but ice and snow accumulations on overhead wires can cause localized power problems. Large snowfalls can also hamper repairs. Don’t attempt to clear snow or ice off of your home’s service lines, even if the lines are sagging low enough for you to do so. If the lines are very low to the ground, call your local utility company to report the problem.

Along the same lines, consider making an investment in a generator that is large enough to keep your major systems online. “Major systems” minimally include your heating equipment, water heater, refrigeration equipment, and sump pump. If the generator is large enough, you may also consider adding your cooking or other kitchen appliances to the list.

A safety note about generators: they’re strictly outdoor devices. They burn fuel, emit carbon monoxide and must be vented to the outside. Do not run a generator indoors, even for a short period of time. A qualified electrician can help you connect and disconnect a generator, and show you how to operate the device safely. Stock up on spare batteries and light sources, but exercise caution when using or carrying candles or open flames. Do not attempt to use a gas stove or oven as a heat source.

• Don’t forget your car. Sometimes in an emergency, you have to relocate. Make sure your car has a full gas tank and a full wiper fluid reservoir. Stock the car with blankets, a flashlight, a small shovel and non-perishable food for both people and pets. Prepare a gallon or so of fresh water, but don’t store this in the car, since it will freeze. Have it waiting by the door in case you need to move.

Finally, make sure your cell phone has a full charge, and if you don’t already have one, invest in a 12v charger. That will allow you to plug your cell phone into the convenience outlet (or the cigarette lighter) of your car to power your phone if the battery dies.

If you have to leave your home during the storm and you still have power, make sure your thermostat is set to no lower than 60°F to avoid frozen pipes while you are away.

If you encounter any problems with your home heating equipment or your plumbing, contact us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 anytime. We offer round-the-clock emergency service throughout the Boston area.

5 Water-Saving Tips to Cut Your Usage

In honor of Water Week, we’d like to offer five suggestions for cutting your residential water use. Boston has an abundance of clean, safe drinking water, but that doesn’t mean that water conservation isn’t necessary. Conserving water can help reduce your water bills and make your home more safe and comfortable.

Eliminate leaks.

Leaks are a substantial source of residential water consumption. By eliminating leaks in your faucets and fixtures, you can reduce your water consumption and prevent health hazards (like mold and structural damage) from becoming a problem in your home. Check your faucets and fixtures for leaks, and replace seals, connectors and broken fixtures right away.

Use water-saving fixtures.

Low flow faucets, showerheads and toilets can significantly reduce your water consumption. In the past, homeowners were reluctant to use some kinds of low-flow fixtures, especially low-flow toilets. Modern toilet designs use less water and clear the bowl as effectively as older designs that use more water. If you need to replace toilet or shower fixtures in your home, low-flow is the way to go!

Don’t use your toilet as a trash can.

Some people flush tissues, cigarette butts, sanitary products and other “household” waste down the toilet. Sewer systems can manage the tissues, but other objects and discards should be thrown away. Toilet paper is designed to dissolve in water. Other household trash items will survive the trip through the sewers and could come back to cause other problems! In addition, each flush will throw as much as 5 gallons (or more) down the toilet. Use the toilet for its intended purposes, but find a more eco-friendly way to dispose of your trash.

Use a shower timer.

The average American shower lasts about eight minutes, but a five-minute shower could cut your water usage by nearly 40%. Buy an inexpensive shower timer – looks like the old fashioned sand timer and fastens to the shower wall with suction cups – to work your shower time down to just five minutes. You’ll reduce your water consumption and your water bill at the same time!

Turn the water off when you …

…brush your teeth or shave. You can also turn the water off when you’re preparing food in the kitchen. If you wash your dishes by hand, install a double-bowl sink and use a standing rinse to remove soap from the dishes rather than running water from the tap.

Enjoy Water Week and set a goal to save water this summer. If you would like professional assistance to install water-saving fixtures or toilets in your home, call us at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911 to set up an appointment. We can recommend a wide range of affordable, water-conserving products for your home. Visit Boston Standard Plumbing on Facebook!

You Can Participate In The Boston Marathon!

There’s still time to donate to Team MR8, a select group of runners, chosen to honor the memory of Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy who was killed in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. On April 21, Team MR8 will run the Marathon to raise funds for the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established by Martin Richard’s family, and dedicated to promoting peace through investments in education, athletics and community.

Lisa Jackson is a friend of the Richard family, and is one member of Team MR8. Boston Standard Company is proud to support Lisa, Team MR8 and the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation in their collective pursuit of this worthy cause. Lisa was chosen from among nearly 300 applicants to run for Team MR8 in this year’s Boston Marathon. Lisa eclipsed her initial goal of raising $9,500 for the Foundation. She adjusted her goal to $16,000 and is close to reaching that milestone.

We invite you to assist Lisa in her fundraising efforts. If you would like to help Lisa honor the memory of Martin Richard, and support the work of the Martin W. Richard Charitable Foundation, please take a moment to make a donation of any amount.