Ask Wirecutter, an advice column written by Annemarie Conte, explores the best approaches to buying, using, and maintaining stuff. Email your biggest product-related problems to email@example.com.
My girlfriend and I maintain a fairly clean apartment. However, the hair that regularly appears in the bathroom—the sink, the floor, the tub, the everywhere—after her morning hygiene routine has not been an issue that I have been able to solve without an uncomfortable discussion, the clogging of our handheld vacuum, or the (inevitable) picking up, by hand, of wads of strands. How can I get my partner to stop leaving hair everywhere?
You and my husband should start a support group, because he definitely has the same complaints about me. I have long, thick hair, and a terrible, mindless habit of raking my fingers through it, and dropping the loose strands on the floor. I dropped some on his leg the other day, and he was quite displeased with me—for good reason. So I totally understand your frustration in having to clean up after her. That is most certainly not your job, and if your girlfriend is losing an average amount of hair per day (50 to 100 hairs), it can add up quickly.
One thing to consider is that your girlfriend might be losing more than the average amount of hair per day. Hair loss—also known as alopecia—can have many causes, from the natural life cycle of the hair to pandemic stress. If your girlfriend’s hair loss is due to a condition, it’s particularly important to be thoughtful and sensitive. Amy Schumer recently spoke about the shame she felt connected to her trichotillomania (hair pulling), and of course, it’s no secret the effect alopecia areata can have on self-image.
Whether your girlfriend is dealing with something medical or the typical hair loss a person can expect each day, hair all around the house still presents a hygiene issue that you’ll both want to deal with as efficiently and effectively as possible. Some tips:
A regular brushing
If she is okay with brushing her hair (I hear some of you curly heads gnashing your teeth right now), gently brushing it before bed or right out of the shower with something like The Wet Brush can help clear out the dead weight, and then she can pull the wad of hair off the brush and throw it in the garbage.
I also asked Ellen Airhart, associate staff writer and one of Wirecutter’s cleaning experts, for her thoughts. She reached out to Joseph Guinto, school director of Arrojo Cosmetology School, who spends his days surrounded by hair. “Guinto recommends combing or brushing when you’re actually standing in the shower,” Ellen says. “That way any hair that does escape is corralled in a semi-contained area, making cleanup easier.”
Dry surface cleaning
Cleaning up hair that falls on dry bathroom surfaces, like the floor or counter, is relatively simple.
You mention your clogged handheld vacuum, and it sounds like it’s not quite up to the task. If you own a robot vacuum, set it to a daily sweep of the bathroom floor. We’ve found them to be effective at picking up all types of hair (including pet hair). The regular cadence helps prevent a little bit of hair from turning into a lot of hair, and if you don’t want to touch the hair it picks up, you could opt for a self-emptying model, like our top-pick iRobot Roomba i3+ EVO.
iRobot Roomba i3+ EVO
This is the Roomba i3+ EVO, packaged with a charging dock that automatically sucks all the debris out of the robot after a cleaning session. It works, and it makes owning a robot vacuum even easier.
But the solution might really be as simple as a microfiber cloth. “Your hair will stick to the cloth, and then you can shake the majority of the hair into the trash can without having to touch it,” Ellen says. Keeping a small, handheld dustpan and broom under the sink for frequent sweeps is another great idea, Ellen says, as long as it has bristles with intentionally frayed tips: Our tests found that they’re much better at capturing hair than ones with straight ends . And natural fibers, like corn and horsehair, aren’t good for the task either.
Wet surface cleaning
Wet areas like showers, sinks, and bathroom floors are a little trickier because the hair really sticks to them. That can be worked to your advantage. Many people with long hair separate their loose hair in the shower, bundle it, and stick it to the wall to be cleaned up later (just remember to grab the hairball before your partner has to encounter it).
Hair is easier to pick up when bundled, and it’s those long, single strands that you end up chasing around the sink or wet tile. To tackle those, Guinto says a damp sponge does the trick.
And while we’re at it, those short bristly hairs from beard and leg shaving over the sink are no picnic either. Place a couple of strips of toilet paper at the bottom of the sink to catch everything, then fold the squares up and tosses them in the trash when you’re done.
Clogs can cause all sorts of problems besides backed-up water. “I spoke with Robert Whisnant, the continuing-education plumbing instructor from Cleveland Community College, and he explained that blockages can create a vacuum that causes sewer gas to spill into your bathroom,” Ellen says, “which both smells and can be hazardous to your health.” It gets worse. “He also said that sewage and fecal matter can end up in your sink pipes, where you might be brushing your teeth or filling a glass with water.” To prevent these problems, we have a guide on how to deal with clogged drains.
The TubShroom looks like a vintage hair roller wearing a wide-brimmed hat, but the odd shape works well for wrangling hair in the shower and keeping it out of your pipes. Designed to fit inside standard-size open drains that range from 1.5 inches to 1.75 inches in diameter, the TubShroom’s flexible bottom creates a tight seal to catch hair. Holes around its column allow water to pour through, so loose strands follow the water’s downward circular path, creating a tidy, easily removable ring of hair. I ordered one on our cleaning team’s recommendation, and while you may need to control your gag reflex, it’s very easy to maintain: After showering, pop the TubShroom out, pull the hair off, dispose of it in the trash, and give the shroom a good rinse before placing it back in the tub. Make sure the stopper gets a more thorough clean as part of your normal tub-cleaning routine.
If touching the hair after showering gross you out (because it can feel a bit slimy when mixed with soap and shampoo residue), do what I did and use a bit of toilet paper to pull the wad off. Just be sure not to flush it down the toilet: Hairs don’t break down and can clog your toilet pipes.
The only caveat we’ve heard about the TubShroom is that you do need to clean it regularly. One Wirecutter staff member owned one for several years without cleaning it out and didn’t realize there was an issue until the moldy, hair-packed shroom caused water to back up. Let that be your cautionary tale to keep on top of it.
If your tub has a trip lever to stop and start drainage, the hole likely has a fixed-in-place cover with wide gaps. These covers are useless at preventing hair clogs, and the OXO Good Grips Bathtub Drain Protector solves the problem by covering the drain with a disc made up of smaller holes that allow water to slip through while catching hair. (OXO also makes a larger version for shower stall drains.) A silicone rim keeps it in place, and while a firm nudge with your foot can dislodge it, it easily slides back into place. One Wirecutter editor, who uses both sizes of the OXO in different bathrooms, said he clears the hair off with his toe as he’s finishing up in the shower, places it on the side of the tub, then tosses it afterwards. Do it for your girlfriend the next time you want to show you care.
This article was edited by Annemarie Conte and Jason Chen.