Thursday, January 3, 2008

I Stuck My Hand Where?!

I had an embarrassing situation with my toilets, specifically one--the half bath. It had a permanent stain around the water line. I'd say that it was the inevitable Southern California hard water deposit, but this mark was black. Looked like a dirty toilet. I would scrub that sucker and blast it with bleach. I even used the best toilet cleaner that I've ever come across, the new Clorox one. Squirt it in, return a few minutes later, flush. Viola, a clean toilet. It didn't work on my nasty, nasty stain, though.

It got to the point where I was considering having the toilet replaced. But, as you now know, we couldn't afford it. We have people over here all the time and I didn't want to have to explain the ring every time someone walked into the bathroom to do their business: "Oh, just a minute, I need to let you know that the toilet bowl is clean. Really, I just cleaned it. But it has a stain that I'm not able to remove. But, don't worry it's clean. Really."

The house is only seven years old, so it's not like there's mold and mildew growing out of every edifice. It's a new looking house. We owned a 50 year-old house by Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego in the early 90's. That one had a tub that was so stained it looked like it smoked three packs of cigarettes a day for five decades. That was really embarrassing because you know that every person who walks into your bathroom peeks behind the shower curtain. Ain't no way we could scrub that puppy clean!

Anyway, back to my toilet. So, over Christmas, my sister and her family stayed with us. I gave her the "my toilet is really clean" spiel. She casually mentioned that she had the same problem in one of the houses they lived in and she told our brother. Now, my brother can fix ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. He told her to use fine sandpaper on the stain because it was porcelain and it would take it off. She said it worked like a charm. I couldn't wait until she left (not really) so that I could get to work on the commode.

So there I was. Fine sandpaper in hand. Looking down at my toilet. The first thing I did was clean it with the new Clorox cleaner that I love. I even gave it an extra scrub. Then I wondered if sandpaper worked when it was wet. Then I realized that getting it wet would mean that my hand would actually be in my toilet. Hold on here! My hand has to be in my toilet? I have seven children who have spit up, pooped, vomited, and rubbed their snotters on me. I even watch as they dig their fingers into their collective noses and, in one fluid motion, scoop it directly into their mouths. But as I stood gazing into my permanently stained bowl, with raised sandpaper in hand, I never bargained for this.

This is the place where everyone's unmentionables happen. Where visitors go when they have to go. With my five boys, it happens everywhere in the bathroom if they don't concentrate on what they're doing. It's where they run when they have the runs--or the stomach flu. And I'm supposed to stick my hand directly in it? OK, if it'll save me some money, I'm game.

I had another problem, though. I decided that the sandpaper would work better if the toilet drained and I dried it out with a rag (I'm actually still gagging as I write this). As I gingerly peered behind the toilet, I found that the water shut off valve was in a very hard-to-reach place. I, literally, had to stick my head part way into the toilet to turn off the water. I held my breath. Not that I expected to take a dive, but I didn't want to risk smelling anything--even the Clorox. Way too close for comfort here. (Now I know why plumbers are so expensive and how they manage to show their crack while they're working.)

Once the water was off, I flushed the toilet and wiped (still gagging) the inside of the bowl with a utility rag (fancy name for an old kitchen towel). I started to scrub with the sandpaper. What do you know? The stain disappeared!

There was a little bit of water left in the bottom of the bowl. I was so enthusiastic about getting the black off that my hand slipped under the water line (I'm going to puke just thinking about it) a couple of times. End result--sparkling toilet! Just don't expect me to do the same for any of my rentals.

By now, I was mesmerized by the magic of sandpaper. I decided that I would use it to clean the front underside of the toilet seat. Guess what? It's not porcelain. It's painted wood. Do you know what that means? Yes, my husband is going to Home Depot tomorrow to buy a new toilet seat. You live and learn. At least we didn't have to go through the expense of changing the entire bowl. I actually tried to repaint the toilet seat. It didn't work.

I did have another idea, though. I called out to my son to get me another sheet of sandpaper. (I don't even know where it is in the garage.) Our third bathroom is another one that's accessible for guests to use. When the house was custom built, someone didn't put the vanity on exactly level. It looks good and all, but a small amount of water tends to pool in the corner--we usually keep a folded up utility rag there--except when we have people over. This has caused dirt and water deposits to stain the fake marble. I have scrubbed it to no avail. I even used a straight razor which helped a little. But then it just looked like dirt that had been scraped away with a razor blade.

I took the new sheet of sandpaper and attacked the vanity and the sink. The result was amazing! It looks brand new. My only question is: how often can I do that until the vanity finally disappears into a massive ball of powder?