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10 Things Nobody Tells You About Bathroom Storage

Mankas Inverness Lodge Photo by Andria Lo

Next to the kitchen, the bathroom might be the most hard-working room of the house. In my home, it’s where we bathe, practice good dental hygiene, put on makeup, apply Korean face masks (me), catch up on the news (my husband), and prepare for “Crazy Hair Day” (our kids). Given the bathroom’s multifunctionality, it’s critical that the room have proper storage. But proper storage in the bathroom doesn’t just mean having enough shelving.

There are three issues unique to bathrooms that need to be considered when planning storage for this space.

  1. Heat and humidity: Particularly for bathrooms that don’t have proper ventilation (windows, fans), hot showers and baths can lead to mold and mildew.
  2. Lots of little things: Toiletries and makeup products can make organization difficult.
  3. Electrical bathroom tools: Electric toothbrushes, razors, and hairdryers can be a challenge to store and/or charge.

Here, 10 things to consider when figuring out what to put where in the bathroom.

1. Closed storage works best in a small bath.

A vanity that has it both ways—ample storage and an airy feel. Photograph courtesy of Rory Gardiner, from Steal This Look: A London Bathroom Clad in Dinesen Wood.
Above: A vanity that has it both ways—ample storage and an airy feel. Photograph courtesy of Rory Gardiner, from Steal This Look: A London Bathroom Clad in Dinesen Wood.

We love open shelving in the kitchen, but in the bathroom? Not as much. That’s not to say it’s impossible to pull off an organized bathroom with open shelving, but having doors and drawers to hide the bits and bobs and the unattractive necessities of your get-ready routine can be a godsend.

2. Concealed isn’t the same as organized.

The Organized Home Book Under Sink Cabinet, Image by Matthew Williams
Above: An inspiringly organized under-the-sink bathroom cabinet. Photograph by Matthew Williams, styling by Alexa Hotz, for Remodelista: The Organized Home.

An addendum to the first tip: Closed storage is great—as long as you don’t use it as license to clutter it up. Take time to create another layer of organization via baskets, bins, buckets, and bags. For more ideas on how to rein in the mess in the cabinet under the sink, see 5 Tips for Under-the-Sink Organization.

3. Towel warmers are actually not meant for warming towels.

Soho House Berlin Bathroom with Towel Warmers
Above: Photograph via Soho House Berlin, from Steal This Look: Soho House Berlin Bathroom.

Here’s a clue: Towel warmers are also known as heated towel rails, heated towel bars, and drying racks. Yes, they will heat up towels so that you can enjoy a warm one post-shower, but what these products are really meant for is drying your towels. So, though a towel warmer may seem like an unnecessary luxury, it actually has a very utilitarian purpose. See Remodeling 101: Towel Warmers for a primer.

4. Rods dry towels better than hooks.

Mankas Inverness Lodge Photo by Andria Lo
Above: A hotel bath that isn’t lacking for towel storage. Photograph by Andria Lo for Remodelista, styling by Alexa Hotz from Steal This Look: Manka’s Vintage Bath in Inverness, California.

I will always advocate for using hooks in a kid’s bathroom; little ones are much more likely to hang up towels on a hook than to drape them neatly over a towel rod. That said, if your bathroom is windowless, go for towel bars. They will dry your towels faster than hooks.

5. An electrical outlet inside a built-in cabinet is a necessary luxury.

The Organized Home Book Medicine Cabinet, Image by Matthew Williams
Above: An enviably uncluttered medicine cabinet featuring an electrical outlet inside. Photograph by Matthew Williams, styling by Alexa Hotz, for Remodelista: The Organized Home. See Steal This Look: The Medicine Cabinet as Vanity for shopping info.

If you use an electrical tool that needs to be charged (toothbrushes, razors, etc.), having an outlet inside the medicine cabinet is super-useful. That way, you can keep all those items—and their unsightly cords—out of the way and behind closed doors.

6. Finding a dedicated spot for your hair dryer can be life-changing.

The Organized Home Book Hair Dryer Holster, Image by Matthew Williams
Above: We love Yamazaki’s line of storage and organization products, so much so that their Blowdryer Holder ($14 at West Elm) was featured in our book. Photograph by Matthew Williams, styling by Alexa Hotz for Remodelista: The Organized Home.

Another electrical tool that needs designated storage: your hair dryer. You can buy holsters or hooks designed to store the item, or you can simply hang it up in a pretty basket or a French net market bag (see Economy Class: Is This Ikea’s Best New Bargain Find? for an inexpensive version).

7. You need more than just one hand towel within reach.

A pile of pretty towels at the ready. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista, styling by Alexa Hotz, from Expert Advice: 10 Tips for Transforming a Rental Bath.
Above: A pile of pretty towels at the ready. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Remodelista, styling by Alexa Hotz, from Expert Advice: 10 Tips for Transforming a Rental Bath.

Experts say that hand towels should be washed every couple days, and since I’m not convinced that all members of my household use soap when they wash their hands, I’m going to follow that advice. You should, too. Wet towels in the bathroom are breeding grounds for all sorts of pretty nasty bacteria. Keep a stack of hand towels in the bathroom so it’s easy to swap in a fresh one.

8. Medicine should never be kept in the medicine cabinet.

The White Arrow New York City Bathroom
Above: A bathroom cabinet stocked with beauty supplies and nothing more. Photograph courtesy of The White Arrow, from Before & After: A Trend-Proof Bath Remodel in Brooklyn.

File this under: Irony 101. One of the worst places to store medicine is in a bathroom’s medicine cabinet. That’s because heat and humidity, both of which are common to places where we shower and bathe, can affect the efficacy of many drugs.

9. Toilet brushes need to be disinfected.

An Iris Hantverk toilet brush and holder. Photograph by Jonathan Hokklo, from A Fashion Buyer’s Danish-Inspired Getaway on Shelter Island.
Above: An Iris Hantverk toilet brush and holder. Photograph by Jonathan Hokklo, from A Fashion Buyer’s Danish-Inspired Getaway on Shelter Island.

Chances are, you do what I do after cleaning with the toilet brush: flush the toilet and rinse the brush under the running water. Problem is, you haven’t truly cleaned it. To do that, you need to disinfect the brush, either with a bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide, as recommended by one of our favorite eco domestic scientists, Clean Mama. Go here for her tutorial (plus a genius tip on how to dry the brush).

10. The bath mat shouldn’t be left on the floor.

Celia Williamsburg, Brooklyn Remodel Photograph by Brian Ferry
Above: Photograph by Brian Ferry for Remodelista, styling by Alexa Hotz, from Before & After: A French-Inflected Townhouse Renovation in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

I have many domestic pet peeves, but chief among them is leaving a sopping wet bath mat on the floor. (On the spectrum of household annoyances, it’s worse than using multiple water glasses a day and equal to wearing shoes indoors, I’d say.) If you have a tub, simply drape it over the side to dry; if you don’t, consider adding a towel rod for this purpose.

For more on bathroom storage, see:

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