40 things you can clean in a dishwasher

Got a dishwasher? Did you ever think its powerful cleaning capabilities could be used on other things than plates, cups and pots? Here are 40 things you can clean in a dishwasher:

Bin lids

Put them on the bottom shelf at the highest temperature for maximum cleaning.

Small plastic rubbish bins

If you have those little bathroom or bedroom bins (the 8 or 10 litre ones, or smaller), you can wash it in the dishwasher, if it fits. Just check the dishwasher’s cleaning blades still spin once it’s in.

Your kitchen compost collector

If yours is anything like mine, it gets completely disgusting with mold. Run it through the dishwasher regularly to sanitise it.

Fridge shelves

If the glass shelves of your refrigerator fit, you can clean them in the dishwasher regularly to keep them spotless.

Fridge drawers

For some reason, my vegetable drawers in the bottom of the refrigerator regularly get food residue on them. It’s easy to clean them up by placing them in the dishwasher, on either the bottom or top rack. Remove the dishwasher’s cutlery holder if you need a bit more space to fit these in!

Hobs

Those metal things that hold your pan off the heat on a gas cooker can usually be done in the dishwasher carefully. Check your manfacturer’s manual if you’re concerned about damaging your hobs. I’m more concerned with having a hygienic home and removing that impossible-to-shift grease that builds up. If that means the finish on the hobs gets a little less pretty, I can live with that. Put them through with half a tablet for peace of mind, and don’t do them more often than twice a year.

Grill tray

See the advice about hobs. The shiny metal part goes into the dishwasher no problem, but the grease-catching tray may rust if it’s not made to withstand intensive cleaning.

Oven rack

The shiny metal oven rack on which you put oven trays and casserole dishes can go in the dishwasher too. Position it on the bottom shelf carefully and check the dishwasher’s blades still spin. Don’t put cheap flimsy replacement oven racks in unless you don’t mind them getting a little rusty. Only use half a dishwasher tablet for oven racks.

Plastic laundry pegs (bag them first)

If your pegs have cobwebs or algae build-up on them, or just dirt from being outdoors, put them in a mesh bag and leave on the top shelf of the dishwasher to get them clean!

Safety child plugs

Those plastic plugs that stop toddlers sticking their fingers in electrical sockets? If they get dropped in treacle or paint, don’t worry, it’s easy to run them through the dishwasher. Just place under a cup to stop them moving around or getting lost.

Some lampshades

If your lampshade is plastic, you may be able to clean it in the dishwasher (carefully). I’d only use half a tablet and I’d also put the temperature to its lowest setting (such as a “quick wash” at about 50 degrees celsius. In theory, a lampshade should be able to stand higher temperatures (because they are next to light bulbs) but with modern energy-saving bulbs, some lampshades might not be up to the standards they used to be.

Glass mirrors (be careful)

Some glass mirrors can go in the dishwasher, but they need to be a) a sealed unit that can dry out b) non-electrical (don’t ever put illuminated mirrors in the dishwasher) and c) The backing needs to be protected. You can do this by covering the back with foil. I’d only do this as a last resort to try and fix a VERY dirty mirror (e.g. it has crayon or paint on it) as the best way to clean normal household dirt/dust off a mirror is using window cleaning spray such as Windowlene or Windex. There is a chance this could still ruin the mirror’s backing so do take care!

Glass from picture frames

Again, take a LOT of care and only put the glass in (not the frame). These can be laid flat on the top shelf. Small picture frames might not be heavy enough to stay put so I’d avoid putting in any that are lighter than an egg cup as I wouldn’t like to clean broken glass out of the bottom of the dishwasher. A better way to clean very delicate glass picture frames for ordinary household dirt/dust is to use window cleaning spray (see mirrors, above).

Toothbrush holder

Does the bottom of your toothbrush holder get a white or faintly yellow residue building up sometimes? Sort it out by chucking it in the dishwasher on the top rack with your cups.

Plastic cars

If your toddler has been feeding biscuits to his plastic cars, run them through the dishwasher to get them squeaky clean. Don’t put toys with very small parts (such as Matchbox-sized diecast cars with tyres) in the dishwasher.

Lego

Put dirty, sticky and chocolate-covered Lego (and derivatives) into a mesh bag such as the ones for washing powder tablets and put on the top shelf of the dishwasher or in the cutlery compartment if yours has an open area where you could put this.

Mega Bloks/Duplo

Bigger than Lego, I’d still put these in a mesh bag if they’ll fit, or place each individual block under a cup on the top shelf to get them clean.

Breast pump (cleanable/non-electric parts)

This can go in with your usual wash. Don’t put the tubing in. The basic rule is: if you can clean it in a sterilizer, you can safely put it in the dishwasher. Regarding hygiene, I would probably wait until your baby is about 6 months old before using the dishwasher, as before that, you need to use the sterilizer to properly obliterate the bacteria that your baby has no immunity to, yet.

Vases

Some vases can go in the dishwasher, if they’re either crystal/cut glass or glazed/fired pottery (such as Emma Bridgewater). Don’t run them through too often, but if a plant died in your vase while you were on holiday, this is a great way to properly clean it out.

Glazed pottery ornaments

Be very careful, especially if these are expensive. Small ornaments can be quite light and might get washed around the dishwasher, potentially damaging them. You need to be sure they are held down e.g. under a cup or in a (dishwasher-safe) net bag that’s anchored to something. I’ve had good results using the dishwasher to clean up cheap second-hand Jasperware I bought on ebay.

Plastic phone cases

If your phone case is plastic (not fabric or leather etc) you can spruce it up in the dishwasher. I put mine in the top rack, laid flat, and I put a cup on top to stop it escaping.

Dummies/pacifiers

These can go in your normal household dishwasher load. I hold them down by putting them under a mug so they don’t get washed around the dishwasher and end up in the bottom and dirty.

Children’s potty

If you’re toilet training your little angel, you might want to freshen up the potty every so often instead of rinsing it out all the time. Pop it in the dishwasher on a high temperature (follow the directions for the toilet brush, below, and remember the potty and toilet brush can go in together safely).

Toilet brush

Gross, right? Some people swear by it! I’m not entirely brave enough to try this one as I’d be scared of getting poo on my cups in the next wash, but if you’re going to try this, be sure to rinse off any brown bits in the toilet and put this through the dishwasher on a separate wash to anything you eat off. Use a wash temperature that’s over 65 degrees celsius to be sure to kill any bacteria (this is usually the 70 degrees celsius intensive wash option and has a picture of a pot with a lid).

Dish brush

All scrubbing brushes can work well in the dishwasher. Just don’t put them in with lots of pots and pans covered in thick sauces or other food residue, or the bristles will catch the residue. These could work well going into the dishwasher at the same time as the lint filter of your tumble dryer (see below).

Washing machine’s powder drawer

Have you ever pulled out your washing machine’s powder drawer? Were you horrified to discover that it was mouldy at the back? Maybe yours just has a build-up of powder/detergent residue in the compartments? Put the drawer in your dishwasher and watch it magically become clean! Be sure not to do this if you use a highly foaming detergent (most washing machines don’t) or you may end up with a dishwasher full of bubbles.

Tumble dryer’s lint filter

Put it on the top shelf of the dishwasher after removing as much lint as you can, to get rid of fabric dust and other ingrained yack. The dishwasher will clean it like any other fine-meshed sieve. Don’t put any papery filters in the dishwasher, or they will pulp!

Vacuum cleaner’s dust collection compartment (if no electrics in this bit)

If you need to get rid of all the dust in your bagless vacuum cleaner, put the dust collection compartment in the dishwasher; it will be sparkling in no time! Avoid putting paper-based vacuum filters in the dishwasher as they may turn to pulp.

Crocs

They’re plastic, so if you’re trying to remove ingrained dirt from your Crocs, you can run them through the dishwasher (not at the same time as your dinner plates, you don’t want cross-contamination). Remove any of those charms that you can stick to them, you wouldn’t want them getting lost!

Garden trowel

If it’s quality stainless steel or plastic, it can go in the dishwasher. Be wary of wooden handles, however, as these can be damaged if they’re left in water for too long (just like wooden spoons)

Empty plant pots

It’s easy to clean out your old plant pots (plastic or ceramic) ready to re-use for next year, just plonk them in the dishwasher together (in a separate load to your kitchen ware), add a tablet and hit “start”.

Beauty blender

Put it under a mug so it doesn’t wash away. Don’t put it in with an exceptionally dirty load of stuff because it’ll absorb the grease and grime instead of being cleaned.

Artists’ painting pallettes

Water and oil-based paint should come out in the dishwasher (dishwasher tablets are designed to cut through grease, after all). Acrylic is a bit trickier and cleaning dried-on acrylic paint in the dishwasher is less likely to produce a perfect result as acrylic paint is plastic-based.

Food trays (not ones which are cushioned)

These can go in your usual dishwasher load if there’s room.

Empty glass jars for recycling

Remove the labels first, or you’ll be scraping them out of your dishwasher filter later. If you want to reuse the jars for another project, running them through the dishwasher is a great way to clean them up. On the other hand, if you’re just putting them out to recycle, a quick rinse in the sink is far less effort.

Plastic fly swatter

The water jets in the dishwasher can get into all the crevices and get rid of those disgusting dead flies.

Paint roller drip tray

The dishwasher can remove water-based paint such as Rust-o-leum Chalky Paint but it can’t remove gloss or emulsions as these are usually designed to be resistant to water.

Paint roller handles (but not the fluffy part)

If they’ve gotten dusty or are otherwise manky from being left on a shelf for months, run them through the dishwasher.

Blender jug

Only if the jug separates from any electrical components, nothing electrical can go in the dishwasher. I find it’s particularly useful for cleaning the lid of my Kitchen Ninja (the rest of it can’t go in) which has the most awkward shape and is really uncomfortable to clean in the sink.

Hairdryer diffuser

Remove the diffuser attachment from the rest of the hairdryer and put it in the cup rack to get rid of product build-up

Hairbrushes (non-cushioned ones)

Plastic vent brushes, most combs, Tangle Teezer-type brushes (not travel ones) can all go in the dishwasher to get them effortlessly clean.

And some important exceptions:

Take care putting anything metal in the dishwasher. Cutlery is usually treated and alloyed to make it resistant to cleaning products and rust. Many other metal items are not. Metal oven cooking trays seem particularly susceptible to this.

Avoid putting anything electrical in the dishwasher. If your blender jug is like the Kitchen Ninja where the electrics are all attached to the jug, it cannot get wet so it can’t go in the dishwasher.

Never, ever, ever put anything aluminium in the dishwasher. This includes those continental coffee pots that heat coffee on the hob. I ruined a brand new one of these recently by trying to wash it in the dishwasher before using it. The inside is blackened and no amount of scrubbing gets it clean. Sigh.

Got any more ideas for things you’ve cleaned using your dishwasher? Let me (and everyone else) know in the comments!

Caution

Follow these tips at your own risk. The author takes no responsibility for damage to items washed in your dishwasher. Results could vary based on make/model/age/state of the things you’re trying to wash. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Installing a high raised bed: Garden update

I’ve decided to put in a high raised bed on one side of the back garden. We are still working on the drainage problem and I will write a lengthy article about this once it’s all sorted. Part of my waterlogged clay drainage plan is to build a high raised bed (30cm tall by 2m wide by 1m deep) which can accommodate a whole load of the displaced soil from other areas of the garden (it should take about 0.6 metric tons of soil, if you put those measurements into a calculator).

This came about because we have about 3 tons of soil that’s been displaced from digging 50 metres of drainage trenches around the garden. The soil type we have is heavy clay soil, and although we have a south-facing garden, the fence at the bottom is 4 metres high so that part of the garden is in shade for most of the morning, and even in this heat (I measured a 45 degree ground temperature two days ago) the clay soil just can’t dry out because behind the 4 metre high fence is a huge garden whose ground level is 2m above our ground level.

This means all the water from their garden comes to ours. Their garden is the lowest on their street (the street goes uphill from there) so we’re getting water from about 20 houses percolating into our back lawn.

It’s squelchy.

Even with the drainage ditches (which have created a beautiful stream water feature in our garden), it’s too waterlogged to grow anything useful or interesting. And I can’t have a pond and a water garden because I have a toddler (and will soon have 2 under 2) who can drown in an inch of water.

So instead I’m building up. The positive about clay is, it’s fantastic for holding nutrients in the soil for plants. It’s just the drainage that’s an issue. So I’m making adjustments to the soil (more on that later) to make it drain better.

The plan is to grow onions over winter in this raised bed, or to plant green manure (to fertilise it naturally), and dig that in, ready for squash or pumpkin planting next year.

Being quite pregnant, a very raised bed is great because it means less bending over to work with my plants. I used offcuts of recycled wood and built each side separately (long sides are 2 metres by 30cm, short sides are 1m by 30cm). Once each side has been made, you can nail them together using square chunks of wood in each corner to give them stability and strength.

First of all, I prepared the site by laying down some thick (but not waterproof) weed control fabric (aka weed proof membrane) to kill the grass and weeds that were already here. The membrane stops the sunlight getting to the grass and it dies because it can’t photosynthesize.

There was a lot of moss in this area and weed control fabric isn’t much use for that. However, iron sulphate works well for moss. Usually, iron sulphate is used to acidify soil (to make so-called ericaceous soil, suitable for erica, heather, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, citrus plants and other acid-needing plants). Since moss thrives in waterlogged alkaline conditions (especially in shady areas), acidifying the soil can help with this.

My problem with this method was, when the soil is this waterlogged, all that will happen is the water will dilute the iron sulphate until it’s not very effective (any pH of acid or alkaline can be neutralized when diluted with enough water). We would need to drain the area before using that remedy on the moss. Instead, I dug over the whole area after removing the weed control fabric so the moss was dug into the soil. It needs light (even a little bit) and oxygen to survive so this was another effective way of getting rid of it.

The wood needs to be thick enough to hold a ton of soil and remember, that soil will be wet, which will shorten the life of the wood if it’s untreated. However, untreated wood is better for your plants because the chemicals from treatments can leach into the soil. With a large bed this is less of an issue.

The structure was easy to make and here’s instructions, if you want to make one, too.

Instructions for making a high raised bed:

You will need:

6 pieces of wood (length 2m, width 2cm, height 10cm)

6 pieces of wood (length 1m, width 2cm, height 10cm)

4 square corner posts (length/width 5-ish cm, height 30cm)

12 screws or nails

Method:

Step 1: Attach 3 pieces of 2 metre wood to 2 of the square corner posts, using one corner post at each end of the wood. Repeat this step with the other 3 pieces of 2 metre wood and the other two corner posts. These are the two long sides of the bed.

Step 2: Attach 3 pieces of 1 metre wood to one square post at the end of each long side. These will make the short sides of the bed. Repeat with the final 3 pieces of 1 metre wood. See diagram above (the green lines are the square posts and the grey dots are nails or screws).

Step 3: Put your bed where you want it. That’s it!

Once the whole structure was complete, I sited it in the ground. I left a 6-inch (15cm) gap between the end of the bed and the fence, to protect the fence and to ensure better drainage from the higher garden behind ours (I don’t want their garden draining into my onion bed haha). In the images below, the bed isn’t in its final resting place, yet.

Because I used recycled wood, one of the long sides has an extra piece of wood nailed on the inside that doesn’t appear on the plans.

Next, I filled it with soil. This soil was all extra stuff from digging drainage trenches all around the garden, so if we didn’t find a use for it, we would have to figure out how to dispose of it, which seemed weird, because it’s soil.

The soil needed to be adjusted to it useful for growing plants, which involved adding sand and manure. The sand will improve drainage and the manure will increase the nutrients available for plants. You can’t use just any old sand, however, and there are several ways of adjusting soil.

You also need to take care not to use the soil too soon after you’ve made adjustments to it, because the repaired soil needs time for its structure to change after you’ve worked on it. I’ll go into detail on how to adjust your soil in another article.

I removed the turf all around the bed, too, and replaced this with gravel for better drainage and access to the bed. Clay soil suffers badly from compaction when it’s waterlogged, and walking on it will literally damage the peds (the individual cells of soil) by making them platy, so they can’t absorb water, which makes the waterlogging worse.

Compacted soil also makes it hard to grow anything. You can see this out and about if you’ve ever walked past a farm gate where cows have stood around, compacting the soil with their hooves. In summer, when that soil dries out, there will usually be a bare patch around the gate where things don’t grow so well. Compacted soil can produce dangerous conditions around farm animals (especially cows) as their feet can get stuck in it and then they might get injured.

In a garden, the main issue with compaction around walkways (where you’re not growing your flowers or vegetable crops anyway) is that it looks really unsightly. It also usually produces a very sticky mud that attaches itself to your shoes and refuses to let go, resulting in lots of scrubbing to get them clean!

Overall, then, soil compaction is not great for a number of reasons, and it’s best to avoid it wherever possible.

Switching the turf for gravel around this bed should also reduce the chance of excessive grass/weed growth around the edge of the bed, which has been a problem with my much smaller (120cm by 120cm by 15cm high) bed which is currently housing most of my crop for this year.

Also, the gravel looks pretty and will mean I can work on the bed without having to wear wellies to keep my feet dry!

So there you have it, that’s how we changed this dark, squelchy corner of the garden into a large high raised vegetable bed.

DIY chalkboard magnets crafting

So after I did my chalkboards (tutorial here), I had some very small offcuts of chalkboard stickyback vinyl just sitting around, looking sad and lonely. When I got another Amazon delivery, I finally had a box I could turn into these super-cute DIY chalkboard magnets!

If you want to make your own, you will need:

Chalkboard stickyback vinyl (UK Amazon) (US Amazon)

Some cardboard (the corrugated brown stuff works best)

Magnet tape (UK Amazon) (US Amazon)

Scissors

Chalkboard pens (UK Amazon) (US Amazon)

You can make the little chalkboards by following my easy DIY chalkboard tutorial. For magnets, make them small (2×3 inches or 5x7cm rectangles work perfectly but other shapes and sizes are also good).

Write a cute message on your tiny chalkboards. If you suck at calligraphy/lettering as much as I do, draw the outline of your chalkboard onto a piece of paper first and plan out where to place the letters. My first chalkboard worked perfectly first time and all the letters went exactly where I wanted. The second one took about 7 attempts of cleaning it off and starting again because I just kept messing it up. Drawing out a plan helped me a lot.

Let the chalkboards dry thoroughly before doing anything else with them. This should take about 5 minutes. I made a little door sign for my baby’s bedroom out of a slightly bigger piece at the same time (I’ve skewed the bottom line to the left slightly on the room sign as he is getting a brother or sister in 6 months’ time so I will want to change it to “little ones” but not yet):

Once you have the chalkboards ready, turn them over and cut 3-4 strips of magnet tape (you might want to use less but I like them to stick really well to the fridge when they’re holding up baby art). The magnet tape should be about 1cm smaller than the edge of the magnet. Peel back the protective film and stick the magnet tape onto the back of the chalkboards. Press down firmly.

Voila! You’re ready to put up some baby artwork. Or a shopping list. Or your favourite postcard. The sky is the limit!

You could even use these for gifts, although I will say I’m not 100% happy with the finish, because it scratches easily. To figure out how to make these into gifts, I will do some experimenting with varnish spray to see if it preserves the writing. However, the flipside of that is once the writing has been fixed to the chalkboard, there’s no option to wipe it off and change it to something else.

I loved making these chalkboard magnets for the versatility and they’re an easy way to bring a classy look to your refrigerator. I’m using mine to display baby art that my little one made with these Crayola Finger Paints (here in the US, in a bigger pack).

Our shower caught fire! Total DIY bathroom renovation

We renovated our whole bathroom including doing the plumbing. Here’s what we did and how we did it, so you too can DIY renovate your bathroom!

Navigation:

Introduction

Complications

Removal of the shower enclosure

Removing two layers of tiles

Removing the plastic strip from enclosure

Removing the damaged wall

Change of plans

Removing the shower base

Putting a cupboard above the stairs

Repairing the damaged wall

Installing a new shower

Replacing a tiny bath with a bigger one

Redefining the bathroom

Making an upcycled X-shaped towel store

Flooring

Result

What I learned

Introduction

At our first house, we discovered a significant issue with the bathroom. The people who had the house before we did were experts at DIY bodge jobs. We found this out when we replaced the shower after it caught fire while I was getting ready for work one morning.

I kid you not, the shower LITERALLY caught fire. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that situation but there’s this terrifying moment of “Whaaa?? There’s water pouring out of something that’s on fire?!” It was like a bad dream. It was also the first day of my new job, barely four weeks after my mother died (and not long after I started this blog) in the dark ages of 2015.

When it stopped burning, I didn’t know if we needed to call a plumber or an electrician. We went with an electrician. He cut the wire to the shower from the fuse box to make it safe. We were left in the difficult situation of having no money to fix this. Add to that, we found out the bathtub was actually child size and my husband looked like a beached whale in it. He is not overweight. With no functioning bathroom, I did what any sensible person would, and attempted to get three quotes from plumbers.

I got a quote from a plumber and he reckoned £2500 to do it.

I tried to get another quote from a second plumber but he never even turned up so that was a waste of time. A third plumber came and looked at the bathroom then didn’t bother emailing us the quote. So that was our three quotes.

Stumped (and with no shower) we knew we had to do something, so we took on the huge job of doing a DIY bathroom renovation.

The entire shower enclosure was in a bad state, the white plastic parts were stained orange from years of iron-rich water being poured on it. The shower tray was chipped, revealing dark patches, and also stained. There was disgusting black mold underneath the shower enclosure door and the whole unit was very dated and falling apart with cracked plastic. The wood around the shower tray had gone rotten in places and the floor-to-ceiling plain white square tiles looked like they belonged in a prison.

We had known about some of these issues when we bought the house, but we had put every penny into our deposit and couldn’t even afford a sofa for over a year after we moved in. So it wasn’t until the shower caught fire that we were able to give ourselves permission to do something about this (also, we were finally both working by this point, where we’d just had 18 months of one then the other of us getting short contracts, never at the same time as each other). Ahh… buying a house in your twenties. It’s an adventure.

We also weren’t happy with the lack of an airing cupboard (hot press in Ireland, linen closet in America) in our house. So I spent hours and hours looking online for inspiration, and jotting down ideas. After about a week of this, I started to get a coherent plan for how to completely renovate our bathroom space.

It took about two years for us to complete this project while we were working full-time. My husband did all the plumbing work (he is not a plumber). Here, finally, is a write-up of what we did.

We started out by measuring everything and drawing a plan of the existing bathroom. From this, we could see the space we had to work with and also what complications there might be.

Complications

We discovered several issues that were going to limit our bathroom renovation.

First, the wall to the right of the bath is not an original brick wall finished in wet plaster, it’s a plasterboard (drywall) one. These are more susceptible to damp permeating the outer layers in a bathroom.

Second, the sewage stack (the black square between the sink and toilet) was unmovable without paying a plumber. We had already had problems getting a plumber, so this had to stay where it was. That meant the bath couldn’t be placed anywhere else.

In my original idea for the bathroom, I’d hoped to get a larger bath (this one didn’t fit adults in it) or a double-width shower enclosure and put it in the space where there was currently a shower and a toilet. Due to the sewage stack we had to put the new bath where the old one was.

The third complication was the unusable space over the stairs, especially with the radiator hanging in front of it, because it rendered the space in front of it completely unusable, too, as that was where the door arc was. Bathrooms are steamy and have to have a door.

There was a floor to ceiling wall between that unusable space and the shower, and two very dated plywood cupboard doors on the front, creating what should have been an airing cupboard, but it was so high off the ground, and the radiator prevented you from standing in front of it, so no one could put anything at the back of the cavernous, flat first shelf, never mind getting anything on the second shelf! This was also where the shower wiring and off switch were situated. It was so much dead space!

The fourth complication was the wiring for the bathroom light. It ran from the switch beside the door to the light, which was partly above the bathtub. Building regs state the minimum distance between an electric light and a shower (this same building regulation also meant the way the old shower was installed was dangerous and caused the fire), and this meant we couldn’t put a shower over the bath due to fire safety.

The fifth complication, not clear in my diagram, was that this 1930s house had a sloping ceiling on all external walls. The wall where the original shower was, and the wall with the window by the toilet, were both external walls, so we had two feet of sloping ceiling around those walls, which reduced the height of the walls, limiting things like where to hang a shower curtain rail or the height of any shower enclosure or glass panel.

We thought these were all of the complicating factors when we planned our bathroom renovation. In reality, that was just the start of our problems. As work began, we realized the true extent of the issues we were dealing with.

Removal of the shower enclosure

The first task we needed to accomplish was to get rid of the entire old shower enclosure. Aside from being very old and damaged, it was really tiny, at 75cm square, and our original plan was to replace it with a more modern 90cm squared shower, with room for elbows.

The glass enclosure had plastic around the sides and this was attached to the wall then filled in with lots and lots of sealant. The internet said there would be nails to remove with the back of a claw hammer. This was not the case. We actually couldn’t figure out how this was attached because it was nothing like anything I could find a tutorial for on the Internet.

Taking it apart bit-by-bit, first, we removed the aluminium frame from around the top of the glass. With a crowbar we lifted the glass shower enclosure away from the wall and off the shower base. The sealant was really solid, so we used a kitchen knife to cut it away (a Stanley knife wasn’t long enough to reach) while applying pressure with the crowbar.

The glass was put in the back of my car and taken to the recycling centre. I hope it became ketchup bottles or something.

The plastic strip that held the glass to the wall was attached with screws, we finally learned once the glass was out. Unfortunately, we couldn’t remove this tall plastic strip from the wall because the previous owners had tiled over the sides of the plastic strip so it was impossible to remove until the tiles were off the wall.

Before tackling the shower base, the next job was to remove the tiles because they had also attached the tiles to the shower base using shower grout. Crazy, crazy people.

Removing two layers of tiles

This should have been a relatively simple job for a careful person with a chisel, hammer and some goggles. If the tiles had been put on properly. How does someone put tiles on wrong? Oh, boy, I’m glad you asked.

See, when they tiled the shower enclosure, there were already tiles there. Instead of removing these, as any sensible person would do, they tiled over them. There were two layers of tiles (which didn’t have edges in the same places) for us to remove.

That’s a cream tile beneath a white one.

Wait, I hear you say, tiles have a really smooth surface, they wouldn’t give a good surface to stick another tile to.

Yup. The previous owners of the house figured that out, too. But instead of thinking, “let’s just remove the old tiles” like sensible people, they used an almost-solid layer of tile grout to attach the second layer of tiles to the first.

Because of what they had done, we had to chip the top layer of tiles off the wall in tiny pieces that shattered and flew everywhere. This took us weeks because doing this at ceiling height is exhausting.

Once we had the top layer off, we started on the layer underneath. These were relatively easy, and had definitely been put in properly, with little blobs of tile grout behind them. However, removing them left us with a wall full of holes in the plaster where the plaster came off along with the grout. This is fairly normal for removing tiles.

Looking at the extreme damage, I thought we were going to have to admit defeat at this point and call in a plasterer to remove and replaster the entire wall.

It got even worse. The tiles on the left hand wall turned out to be on a fake plasterboard wall. When we removed the electric shower unit, we found a huge 8-inch hole behind it, where someone had ham-fistedly made the hole for the plumbing and electric wire. When we removed the tiles from this wall, we found out they hadn’t put in a waterproof membrane behind them. A waterproof membrane is essential to protect the plasterboard from water damage. The wooden joints holding up the single layer of drywall were black and completely rotten and the drywall was soaked so the paper on the outside had disintegrated.

Between the hole, the water damage and the rotten wooden frame, the wall was so bad, it had to come out. At this point, we were deeply worried about whether water had gotten down to the floor level, in case the floorboards needed replacing beneath the shower tray.

Unfortunately the only photo I have of this is a bit out of focus. I thought it was worth including anyway to show the extent of that hole in the wall. Where the wood touches the wall, it’s black and rotten. It’s also black in other places such as immediately to the right of the hole, and the plasterboard was badly damaged too.

We ultimately removed the entire wall on that side, floor-to-ceiling, even the part that was an enclosure for the top of the stairs.

Removing the plastic strip from enclosure

Now the tiles were gone, we could finally remove this plastic strip which had been quite a nuisance while trying to get the tiles out because it got in the way of the chisel.

It just unscrewed, which was a bit anticlimactic after all the work I’d done to excavate it from under the two layers of tiles, but I was happy to take the win.

Removing the damaged wall

When we finished removing the tiles from the left hand wall, we discovered that the tiles were attached straight to the plasterboard (no waterproof membrane down here, either) which meant the bottom half of the plaster wall came away with the tiles. The top half came away with careful application of a crowbar and once the plasterboard was gone, we could take out the wooden joints carefully. Finally, we had completely removed the wall. It hadn’t been on our original plan, but sometimes DIY is like that.

We were amazed when we discovered what was behind the wall.

Change of plans

See, we had thought that the reason this boxy enclosure next to the shower was taking up so much space in our bathroom was because it had thick joists behind it, holding up the house structurally. We were surprised to find out it was basically an empty space and that none of it was needed to protect the diagonal staircase ceiling.

When we found this, it inspired us to change our plans a bit, because we realized we had all this unused space.

We sat down and talked about what we might do with this space. First, I wondered about removing the boxy area completely, only, that would mean our radiator would need to be moved, and there was nowhere to move it to because the wall opposite it was a plasterboard DIY job, and given the quality of the work these clowns had done around the shower, I didn’t want to move the radiator and discover that wall was actually a portal to another dimension or something.

I had an idea to put a floor-to-ceiling cupboard in on the side of the space that went almost to floor level, but we decided not to because the access to the cupboard would be blocked by the shower enclosure, rendering it totally unusable.

All the same, I really wanted to use this awesome empty space we had found. It seemed insane to just put drywall back over it.

Removing the shower base

Next we had to remove the shower base, which was hard because it obviously had a drain attached at the bottom and we didn’t want to pour icky drainwater through the ceiling below. I didn’t know that shower bases are made of concrete covered in fibreglass (it makes sense, so it doesn’t move around when you stand in it, but I didn’t know).

This one was also surrounded by wooden skirting (which was partly rotten). We removed the wooden skirting with a crowbar and my husband eased out the shower tray, disconnecting its plumbing as he went.

When we removed the shower tray, we found this amazing newspaper article that dated the shower tray installation to September 14 1984!

Putting a cupboard above the stairs

I had this crazy idea that maybe we could cut a hole in the diagonal ceiling of the staircase and install a storage area that was fixed inside this big empty space, accessible from the stairs. I looked up houses with hidden storage but nothing was even vaguely close to what I wanted to do.

My husband understood what I was imagining, and he promptly measured and cut a perfect rectangle. He drilled a hole in one side then used a jigsaw to cut the rectangle.

This led to a hilarious but slightly embarrassing few days when we had a 2 foot square hole between the bathroom and the staircase while my husband sourced the wood and made the custom cupboard insert to put in the hole. Thankfully, none of our visitors at that time needed to use our loo!

what to do with dead space above the stairs

The view from the staircase :O

After the cupboard insert was made, however, the problem we had was the space was obstructed by the third diagonal piece of wood (in the centre of the last pic) and the cupboard couldn’t go in. We had planned to wiggle it in past the beam and use that beam as the centre of two cupboard doors, but alas it wasn’t to be.

The diagonal beams hadn’t looked very thick from the bathroom side, especially when compared with the horizontal and vertical beams, but when we looked more closely, we were concerned that the diagonal beams might be holding up the ceiling above our front door and supporting the wall above the hole we had cut. We didn’t want these to fall down but we really wanted our cupboard, so we did some careful structural work to make this happen.

My husband ensured the middle beam was still supportive by attaching the top and bottom of it to the two other wooden beams either side of the hole using horizontal pieces of wood. Once it was supported like this, he cut out the middle so we could get the cupboard in.

We put the cupboard in and anchored it to the thick beams. I sadly never took a photo of this because we shifted our focus to the rest of the bathroom almost immediately. I always thought we were going to finish it with some doors (or hide it behind a painting) but we decided to leave it open and then moved to China in 2017.

Repairing the ruined wall

To repair the ruined wall, I used spackle (Polyfilla, although I didn’t use that brand). I actually had a lot of fun filling the holes in. You have to do the deeper holes in thin layers of under 5mm of spackle at a time and leave them for about 12 hours, sand them flat, then add the next layer. Some of the holes took three or four layers to repair (I know they don’t look that deep in the photos, I was learning how to use my first-ever DSLR and I really struggled to show depth in these pictures). It took about two weeks to fill all the holes (bearing in mind I was doing other things, too, like going to work).

How to repair a damaged wall without replastering spackle on a wall polyfiller

Once all the holes were filled, the next job was to sand them flat with the rest of the wall. This is important so the paint or wallpaper has a smooth surface to adhere to, otherwise you will end up with lumps and bumps.

Then, we covered the wall with liner paper and painted it all. We didn’t want to paint dozens of coats (remember, this whole time we had no shower and an inadequate bath with no shower attachment) as this was where we were going to install the new shower. The previous owners had painted this room an obnoxious fluorescent yellow which was showing through the liner paper (as were the white patches of spackle, which are making the wall look lumpy in the picture below when it was actually smooth). We painted over everything with a cute lemon yellow.

repaired wall after tile removal DIY bathroom renovation

Installing a new shower

We decided for our new shower that one of the fully-enclosed units from Better Bathrooms would be best. It has glass panels on all the sides (except the doors) so there’s no need for tiling or other wall-work like plumbing. There were several reasons we chose one like this.

First, it was cheaper than buying all the components like tiles, shower enclosure etc. Second, it was going to save us a lot of time because I hadn’t tiled before and so it was going to take me a while to learn. My husband hadn’t tiled, either, but he was adamantly against doing it. Third, the self-contained shower unit would minimize the chance of water leaking into the house beams ever again, something I was now concerned about with a regular shower. Fourth, we wouldn’t need to work out how to hide the pipework going up to the shower control unit.

The fifth reason? The shower unit we had fallen in love with had an overhead drench head as well as a regular shower head and six body jets, as well as a thermostatic control. And it required no electricity, something I really liked to save money on our electric bill which had mysteriously been through the roof since we moved into this house until the moment the shower caught fire. We were paying double in electricity what we had paid at any of our old houses and this house was only half the size of our last place – a badly-insulated Victorian townhouse spread over three huge floors.

So we were very excited to get one of these. It cost £300, which was a lot less than the cost for the enclosure, shower tray, pipework, boxes of tiles, tile grout and electric shower unit if we had bought it all separately, even without using a professional tiler.

Our excitement sputtered a bit when it arrived in six ginormous and very heavy boxes. We hefted them up the stairs and read the instructions. Putting this shower together was possibly the hardest DIY job I have ever done.

After we put it together, the first time we used it, it leaked through the ceiling downstairs. It turned out that a normal amount of sealant was nowhere near enough to stop the water escaping and we had to put so many layers on, it started to look like the bottom joints of the shower enclosure had survived a collision with a Vaseline factory. It was still leaking. Arrgh.

At one point, we were catching the water in old margarine tubs and emptying them down the toilet after showering. We tried sealing it one more time and we were out of clear sealant, so we used white stuff this time. Guess what? White sealant is (for some bizarre reason) better than clear sealant. It stopped the water getting out and finally our shower was trouble free.

Replacing a tiny bath with a bigger one

The next job for our bathroom renovation was to remove the tiny old bath (in a stylish 80s cream colour) and replace it with a normal-sized bath. We had gone to five local bathroom showrooms and at every single one, I climbed into the baths I liked, to see whether they were big enough. We settled on a great model with the taps and drainage in the centre. It was 1700 long where our old one was 1200 long, so we had to take care that it would fit.

Removing the old bath while leaving the cream tiles in situ was less of a mission than we thought. My father-in-law came up one weekend and he and my husband took out the old bath tub and fixed the new one in place. We had used modern plastic pipes to plumb the shower unit in, so we decided to use these to do the bath, too. My father-in-law didn’t like this idea but my husband had researched all the options extensively beforehand so we went with it anyway and guess what? It was cheaper than copper, easier to work with, quieter when the pressure changed, and it caused no problems at all.

Re-defining the bathroom

The end of the new bath lined up precisely with the end of the big boxy area that covered the ceiling of the stairs. I wanted an airing cupboard (linen closet, hot press) and storage that wasn’t going to get damp when the bathroom was in use. It needed to not be in the bathroom. No one wants moldy bedding.

We decided to build a thin plywood wall at the end of the bath and cover it in vinyl to make it splashproof. We built another wall stretching to the ceiling where we had removed the damp, rotten wall. Between the two, we put a wooden lintel and above this, some frosted perspex to allow light to get to the new airing cupboard storage space which was also an atrium between the bathroom and the landing.

Beneath the perspex, we hung a thin folding door, which we found on sale for £20 at a local DIY store because one of the landlords of one of York’s many student rentals had ordered it then decided he didn’t want it. It was a custom size of 60cm which was exactly the width between the two new walls. We could have left it open without building a wall and effectively making our bathroom smaller but it was worth it for that extra storage space.

By doing this, we were able to remove the original bathroom door, maximising the storage space in this new area of the house.

My husband built shelves up the wall that was closest to the original bathroom doorway. There was 6 inches between the door frame and the wall, and beneath it, we put the laundry basket (for dirty clothes) and this wooden storage thingy his dad had made for us.

On the other side, above the big boxy area, we added a shelf at a height of 160cm. It didn’t come all the way to the front of the space, to make it hard for anything to get lost in there. It was made of wooden planks for air circulation.

Making an upcycled X-shaped towel store

Beneath that, using some MDF we had salvaged from an old shelving unit we had found under the stairs when we bought the house, we made an X-shaped towel store in which towels could be rolled up and stored. We took the sides off the storage unit to use as the main X-shaped part of the towel storage rack. There were four quadrants, and we used two for bath towels, one for hand towels and one for tea towels, so we could always find the right type of towel.

Before, we’d had the towels all folded flat and stacked on top of each other which meant playing a guessing game of unfolding towels and folding them up again to find the right size towel for any given thing.

Our new X-shaped towel store was efficient and it also meant we didn’t need to ever reach the back of that big cavernous space, because we could slide the towels in horizontally and pull them out from the front. I got the idea from some kind of supermarket magazine and between us, we reverse-engineered how to build our own, but I’ve never seen anything like it before or since.

Here’s a drawing of how I designed it (imagine the grey things are towels sitting in an X-shaped rack). Wood sizes were length 50cm, width 80cm, depth 15mm (the depth of your wood is the exact same size the cut needs to be):

DIY how to make a towel rack X shaped

In front of the X-shaped towel store, we attached storage containers to the walls for cosmetics and we had a nice shelf made of more wooden slats. This was a great spot for mixing hair dyes which was really important to me at the time as this blog covered a lot of hair tutorials back in 2015 and I was Youtubing new hair videos every week as well.

Flooring

We used wood-effect vinyl flooring in the bathroom because it was waterproof and easy to clean, which is ideal in a bathroom. We cut it to size and nailed it down to the floor.

Result

So that was how we finished it all off and this was the incredible result:

DIY renovations bathroom shower enclosure how to completely replace a shower
DIY renovations bathroom bathtub how to completely replace a bath
Our airing cupboard bathroom storage. The X-shaped towel store is on the far left.

What I learned

Bathroom renovations are hard work but they are the perfect opportunity to learn new skills and a great way to save a lot of money. You don’t need to rely on professionals if you do your research.

Total cost: Under £500.

DISCLAIMER: Don’t DIY electrics, we got a professional to disconnect the dangerous old electric shower. Mama Adventure is not liable for any injuries or losses arising from your inability to fully research or learn skills prior to taking on a big project like this. Turn your water off before doing any plumbing task and check it is definitely off!