will white paint make my bathroom look more clean or more dirty?
January 24, 2013 9:33 AM   Subscribe

we rent in an olllllllld apartment. the fixtures in our bathroom are white, but not matching. and some of them are um, dingy white. ie, white tub liner that's a bit stained from water damage and mildew (there's no mildew on it, but it still remembers a time when there was). the bathroom doesn't get a lot of ventilation so the walls get mildew on them. we want to attack! we have bleach-cleaned the walls and want to paint them with white mildewcide paint, but is this a good idea or will it make the old-and-off-white-ness of the fixtures stand out? our landlord won't replace the tub liner and we can't afford to either, so it is staying. our dream is this but we know we can't have that. can we get close or is it just going to end up gross? any ideas?
posted by andreapandrea to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Go ahead and paint the walls. Whites and offwhites actually do look good together. If you're really worried it won't look right, go with an off-white paint. Whatever colour you paint, the fresh paint will magically make everything look clean and fresh, because that's what a fresh coat of paint does.
posted by orange swan at 9:37 AM on January 24, 2013

I would say any color of fresh paint will help.

On the cleaning front, have you tried a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser? Depending on the type of staining, they can sometimes clean things even scouring pads, bleach, or scouring with baking soda cannot.

Also, anything you can do to improve ventilation would be huge. (A fan in the window could work during the warmer months, assuming you have a window. For the winter, maybe even a fan in the corner of the doorway that you can run during showers, so the steam vents to the rest of the apartment?)
posted by pie ninja at 9:42 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

A fresh paint job is a great idea, but I think a bright white will make the less-white fixtures look dingier. And I think pure white in a less than perfect room can look cheap and chintzy rather than smooth and expensive.

I'd go for a different colour, maybe grey, to keep the monochromatic, minimalist feel?
posted by looli at 9:56 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd go for a light, whitened version of a color. Gray, light blue, etc. You can still put mildewcide in it, but it will make the different colors of your fixtures less noticable.

Is it possible to refinish the tub or the other fixtures?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:09 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just in regards to the tub: there's no reason to factor it in; just cover it up with a nice shower curtain (like this). If by chance the tub has a sliding door on it, see if you can still put a curtain in front of it.
posted by yawper at 10:09 AM on January 24, 2013

The fresh white will bring out the fact that the different whites don't match, are dingy, are possibly not "white" but cream colored or pale gray, etc.

I have two gorgeous handloomed rugs with "white" accents. At least, I used to think they were white when I lived in an ancient building in dingy New York City. In my new freshly-painted all white apartment, the white parts of my rugs read as gray or taupe.

I'm OK with it, but that's because my rugs are beautiful works of art. Can you say the same about your bathroom grout?

That said, if you can only get your mildewcide paint in white, I guess the aesthetics don't matter so much.
posted by Sara C. at 11:07 AM on January 24, 2013

I hear where you are coming from. My olllld bathroom just got an overhaul, but some of the old fixtures had to stay put due to landlord issues.

My landlord painted my walls pure, blinding white, but left some of the old fixtures, which were dingy-not-bright-white. Urk, drives my eyes crazy. I would definitely go with a wall color that isn't white-white.

And yep, those Mr. Clean Magic Sponges are miracle workers. My dingy old toilet was brought to almost-as-new condition after a few minutes with the sponge, after none of the usual heavy-duty cleaners did a damn thing.
posted by nacho fries at 11:08 AM on January 24, 2013

that is all we need to hear! thank you all. i think we're going to first try to refinish the tub and sink as @ruthless bunny suggested, because we crazy like that. and we're going to magic erase the bathroom.

we're also looking into painting the grout. really, we're probably nuts.

but then, unless miracles happen, we'll probably go with some sort of tinted mildew paint.

thanks everyone!
posted by andreapandrea at 11:14 AM on January 24, 2013

You can buy "melamine sponges" on ebay and amazon for a fraction of the price of Magic Erasers. Just be mindful of the states dimensions - some are ridiculously tiny.
posted by barnone at 11:37 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

we're also looking into painting the grout. really, we're probably nuts.

As weird as it sounds, I used Grout Bully and I didn't hate the results.

It's not as easy as it appears in the commercials, but if you're diligent, it does work. I used it on the floor of my powder room in the basement. The grout looks 300% better!

Not a high traffic area, YMMV.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:41 AM on January 24, 2013

I painted my bathroom (including the ceiling) a very very pale grey, and it makes the white fixtures seem even whiter, and creates the same sort of pure/clean/modern impression that an all white bathroom would.
posted by Kololo at 11:55 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I put a very warm beige in my bathroom. Somehow this paint goes with everything. In shiny-mode, it works well for the trim upstairs (against white white walls). In the basement, it's great with multiple wood types and tile colors and fixtures in my bathroom in matte. Get the little paint buckets they sell for a few bucks a piece. My bathroom went through a yellow phase cause I wasn't smart enough to try it out in a small section first. Definitely worth the investment.

I mean, seriously. Edging a bathroom is a nightmare. Don't do it twice!
posted by nursegracer at 12:43 PM on January 24, 2013

Tea tree oil cleaners (get them at the health food market) are good for mildew.
posted by brujita at 1:07 PM on January 24, 2013

I like the idea of a completely neutral, light grey. It will seem white-ish, but not be whiter than the fixtures.
posted by gjc at 2:52 PM on January 24, 2013

Just FYI, the bathtub in my last apartment was professionally re-done and within 6 months it was looking blah and dingy again. The finish is more porous than the original enamel.
posted by looli at 3:19 PM on January 24, 2013

If you use a white primer, you'll be able to see what effect the white-vs-dingy has and decide at that point whether you want to do the top coat in white or not. So just don't buy the anti-mildew paint until after you've primed.
posted by lollusc at 5:43 PM on January 24, 2013

When I had a mixed lot of bright white toilet, dingy white vanity, stained tub, I polished all the chrome, got a plain white cloth shower curtain, painted the walls a very pale beige, and cleaned the tub. hot, hot water, bleach* & automatic dishwashing detergent. Let it sit, overnight even. Drain & scrub as needed. The floors were an old vinyl, white with flecks of beige and pale green. The bathroom was bland, but very calm and pleasing. Even in winter, open the window to let steam out.

*remember: never mix bleach & ammonia. Just use bleach.
posted by theora55 at 6:14 PM on January 24, 2013

You might be interested to see what Daniel over at Manhattan Nest did with his ollllld rental bathrooms: old place; current place.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 6:53 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

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