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Bathrooms are where we clean and relieve ourselves, and whether you use the toilet, shower, bathtub, or faucet, they all require water to function. If there are no windows or adequate ventilation in your bathroom, it won’t take long for moisture to accumulate in there. Moisture can create all kinds of problems, especially for your bathroom walls.
When moisture condenses and evaporates from bathroom walls, it can leave behind yellow mineral deposits, which stain the wall. Some humidity-loving mildews are yellow in color. Heat or by-products from heating appliances can cause yellow discoloration. Soap scum can cause yellow wall stains. Smoking can stain walls.
A well-maintained and ventilated bathroom won’t experience mildew and dampness very often. However, you may still see yellow sweat on your bathroom walls after hot showers or baths. The yellowish color does not form overnight, but it will pick up if the proper precautions are not taken. Before you can stop this from happening, you must understand how water gets onto your bathroom walls in the first place.
The Primary Causes
You already know that hot showers and baths are the primary causes of yellow bathroom wall stains. But why do hot showers and baths have this effect? Let’s examine the reasons below.
The number one cause of yellow bathroom walls is condensation.
Hot showers and baths emit warm moisture into the air. When this moisture touches the cold surfaces of your bathroom walls, it produces condensation on them. Mineral deposits get left behind after this moisture evaporates, and these mineral deposits are the yellowish substance that you see on the walls.
You must remove this condensation quickly to prevent the yellowish stains from forming. Opening the bathroom window while you shower and leaving it open for a while afterward can help with this.
Mildew is a type of fungus that loves warm and moist environments. Some environments have natural humidity, such as the tropical regions of the world. But you can still recreate these conditions inside of your bathroom, regardless of whether you’re in a tropical region or not.
When mildew strikes your bathroom, you’ll see more than just yellow growth on your walls. Everything from the shower curtains to the sink could have colorful substances growing on them too.
Mildew has the following colors:
Each type of mildew has a unique color. Yellow mildew is the most common type found in a bathroom. That is why so many people have to deal with it.
Mildew can be tricky to get rid of, so the best course will be preventing the growth of mildew in the first place (or taking steps to ensure it does not return). I speak more about preventing yellow stains on your walls in a later section.
If you don’t have a condensation or mildew issue, but your bathroom walls are still yellow, it could be due to your heating appliances. A gas heater or electric heater can weaken the paint or hard surface of your bathroom walls. Either the surface will start to crack or it will develop a yellowish discoloration.
For example, a central heating system sends warm air straight into your bathroom. So even if you don’t produce warmth from your showers or baths, the central heating system could cause your bathroom to warm up anyway.
It is not always the warmth itself that is the problem. These heating appliances transmit various by-products and soot in the air. It depends on whether you have a good air filter or not.
Have you ever heard of soap scum? It is the soap film that forms on the walls of your bathtub or shower stall. If you don’t use natural soap products, then don’t be surprised if soap stains show up on your walls.
So many retail soap products contain unnatural chemicals and ingredients which could discolor your walls if they were to splash onto them. Try using less foamy soaps with natural oils in them.
Yellow wall stains in the bathroom are not permanent. Although certain types of yellow stains are more challenging to remove than others, nothing is impossible. It just requires the correct cleaning technique.
Scrub the Walls
Take a soft-bristled scrub brush and gently scrub your bathroom wall surfaces with it. If the yellow substances have already dried, feel free to apply clean water or a formulated cleaning liquid to loosen the yellow particles. That should make it easier to scrub away the particles and restore your walls to normal.
Not all yellow bathroom walls are salvageable with a scrub brush. If you cannot remove the yellow stains through traditional cleaning methods, then you’ll have no choice but to bleach or repaint your walls.
Bleach works best on wall paneling. Make sure you’ve already cleaned the walls as well as possible. Mix one cup of bleach and a gallon of water inside of a bucket. Dip a clean sponge into the mixture (wearing gloves to protect your hands!) and wipe down the yellow surfaces with it. You should start to see the yellow change color.
Now that you understand what the yellow substance is and why it forms, you can take the necessary steps to prevent it from coming back. Prevention is the best way to stop yellow bathroom walls before they cause permanent discoloration or damage to your bathroom walls.
Dehumidifiers are handy appliances to have for humid indoor environments. They can remove the moisture and humidity from a single room in your home. Most people use dehumidifiers to dry out their bedrooms, closets and kitchens. Surprisingly, they don’t use dehumidifiers in their bathrooms too often.
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The bathroom is the best place to have a dehumidifier. If you activated it after every shower or bath, it would stop condensation and hard water deposits from building up on your walls. If you do see any yellowish substances afterwards, they would not be too significant at all. You could easily clean them away with minimal effort.
Open the Door or Window
Not all bathrooms have windows, but they have doors. If you have the option to open a bathroom window during your showers and baths, then take advantage of that option. It is a simple way to release moisture from your bathroom and avoid getting it on your walls.
No bathroom window? In that case, you’ll have to keep the bathroom door open during or immediately following your shower or bath. If the warm air can escape the bathroom through an open door, it can be almost as effective as an open window.
Wipe Down Everything
Use a dry towel to wipe off the condensation and water droplets from the surfaces of your bathroom. Ensure every surface is dry, including the walls, shower stall, windows, doors, countertops, and cabinets.
It will be extra work to dry everything manually, but it is better than being forced to clean mineral deposits and mold off your bathroom surfaces. If you have a small bathroom, it should not take that much time to dry everything.
Take Cool Showers and Baths
Eastern medical practitioners believe that cool showers and baths are healthier for your body. You might feel more relaxed soaking in hot or warm water, but is it worth the aggravation of dealing with the humidity and mildew?
Cool showers and baths do not cause humidity because no warm air is present. If you can learn to tolerate cool water on your body, perhaps you could develop a new appreciation for cooler bathing. Then you’ll never have a yellow wall problem ever again.
An Alternative Explanation: Cigarette Smoke
As most people know, cigarette smoking is not a healthy habit, and you hear stories of blackened lungs and stained fingers and teeth.
Well, just as the nicotine- and tar-filled smoke of cigarettes can cause the fingers and teeth of chronic smokers to turn yellow or brown, so too can it affect the walls in your home.
The presence of an extractor fan often leads smokers to smoke in or near their bathrooms when they are not able to access an outside area or if it is too cold or wet to open a window.
Furthermore, when the extractor fan is turned on, it will pull in a “fresh” air supply from adjoining rooms. In a chronic smoker’s house, this air is likely to contain cigarette smoke, and the bathroom walls are thus exposed, even if the cigarette was not smoked in the bathroom itself.
When the bathroom walls are perpetually bombarded with the tainted smoke, the particles settle onto the surfaces, and over time, the build-up will become more and more noticeable as a yellow/brown stain.
As most bathroom walls are painted in light colors, this discoloration is going to become obvious quite soon, and when condensation settles over the stains, it can look like the walls are sweating yellow.
Cleaning Up Smoke Stains
Cigarette smoke stains can be removed using warm white vinegar. For dark stains, use it neat or undiluted; for minor stains, you can mix up equal parts warm water and vinegar. It is important for you to use warm vinegar (or vinegar solution) because the yellow stains caused by cigarettes can become sticky or hardened.
Alternatively, you may be able to remove the cigarette stains using a household detergent, preferably one designed to combat grease, such as a dishwashing liquid. This method is particularly effective if you invested in a high-gloss bathroom-specific wall paint.
If the degreasing detergent is not working effectively on its own, you can try adding some baking soda. The quantities would be 0.5-0.7 fl. oz. (15-20 ml) of detergent and approximately half a cup of baking soda for every gallon of water you use.
Removing stains will also always involve time and elbow grease, so don’t get disheartened if it takes a while or even a few cleaning sessions to see significant results.
Preventing Smoke Stains
Now, after all that work removing the smoke stains from your bathroom wall, you would probably be quite motivated to prevent them from recurring. While smoking is a difficult habit to overcome, many have done so, and it will certainly have more important rewards than a yellow stain-free wall.
However, not everyone is in a place to make a life change like this. For chronic smokers who cannot confine their smoking to outside areas only, you should clean your walls using one of the above methods once or twice a week.
Don’t let yellow sweat consume your bathroom walls. Take the necessary steps right now to stop and prevent the formation of yellow substances on your walls. Start by identifying the cause of the yellow formation. Once you know how it forms, you can prevent the cause from ever being a problem again.
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