By Lindsay Cohn

Published on September 13, 2018

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Whether in the a.m. or p.m., every moment matters. What’s an annoying problem everyone has to deal with on a regular basis? That frustrating period after your shower before you can see yourself. A steamy mirror is a major time suck.

Think we’re being overdramatic? Well, that’s just not the case. What seems like a minor aggravation is actually a total drain on your daily routine. (And beyond being an inconvenience, it can also be dangerous. Just try tweezing your eyebrows without looking. Can you say perilous?

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Illustration by Phuong Nguyen

You wake up in the morning, rinse off, and have 20 minutes to get out the door—and, of course, a polished appearance is a must. Perhaps, you rush home to prep for a big date or drinks with the girls and have half an hour to transform your look from day to night. Either way, you’re on a tight schedule. And you know what steals valuable time? Sitting around waiting for your mirror to un-steam.

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Photography by Bradey Tolbert

Oh sure, you could just wipe away the fog with your hand or a towel, but that doesn’t really do much—at least, not for more than a few seconds. (Plus, the former leaves streaks of water droplets. And if the air in the room is still full of moisture, the glass will only fog up again. The latter will help…but not for long, unless the bathroom door is opened or a fan is turned on.) Leaving you to twiddle your thumbs and wait until you can commence your getting-ready process.

It’s an issue that we all face. And though fog-proof mirrors do exist, there are also a few simple hacks that are proven to aid in eliminating the misty situation (AKA make it possible to check yourself out quickly after bathing).  

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Photography by Home Depot
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Photography by Home Depot

Before we dive into the fix, let’s take a step back and address the actual problem. Why does this happen? “The steam you see is the condensation of warm water vapor as it touches a colder surface,” reveals Julie Finch-Scally, a hygiene management and cleaning consultant with more than 25 years’ experience. “If a space is enclosed, moisture in the air can’t escape and becomes denser, causing tiles and glass to get moistand, in the case of a bathroom mirror, coated with fog.” It can also cause other issues such as mold, mildew, and peeling paint.  

There are several relatively easy ways to avoid these issues from happening, so you can have the most enjoyable shower experience possible.

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Photography by Bibica via iStock

How to avoid a steamy mirror:

Keep the door open

Did you know older bathrooms often had windows for ventilation? Nowadays setups in apartments (and even many houses) are without. So, it’s essential to leave the door open when rinsing off. “This is my go-to method that I find always works,” says Brady Tolbert, interior designer and creative director at Emily Henderson. “My vintage-inspired oasis is pretty small, so it gets misty in just a few minutes. This trick allows the steam and moist air to flow out, thereby preventing the mirror from becoming fogged up.” Super simple, yet effective!

Be mindful of temp and time

Don’t run the water at a high temp for too long. Sounds pretty intuitive, right? But there’s actual science behind it. Without getting too much into it, “the warmer the water, the more steam is generated,” explains Finch-Scally. We all take lengthier showers when it’s cold or when washing your hair, but if you learn to lower the temp just a little, you will find the problem of foggy glass is alleviated. If you’re craving extra heat, you can turn it up for the final few seconds. By then your bathroom will be warmer, so it won’t have such an impact.

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Photography by Bed Bath And Beyond

Use an anti-fog spray

There are quite a few options on the market that are specifically designed to prevent this issue by creating a film that minimizes surface tension, such as Z’Fogless or Rain‑X Bathroom Mirror Anti-Fog. (Basically, the same idea as using an automotive formula on your car windshield.) Be sure to purchase a product intended for indoor use, cautions Tolbert. Spray on a cotton rag or paper towel, wipe across the glass, and then do a once-over using the dry side of the cloth for a streak-free finish that lasts up to three months.

Run the extractor fan

Finch-Scally recommends an extractor fan. “Turning it on as you enter the space starts to circulate the air. Once you run the water, the heat and moisture rises towards the ceiling and is removed through the fan, thereby stopping the source of condensation on the cold mirror.” Just be sure to keep it running for at least 15 minutes after leaving your spa sanctuary.  This is definitely a heavier lift as it needs to be installed, but is something to consider when designing or renovating a bathroom. Also, it’s important to note that because it needs to be vented to the outdoors, it’s not really feasible for apartment dwellers.

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Photography by Aaon Bengochea

Drape a towel

“If you have a mirror that protrudes from the walllike I have in my bathroomyou can drape an extra towel over it while you shower,” notes Tolbert. The fabric will act as a barrier against the steam.

DIY vinegar spray

Vinegar is one of those ingredient that serves myriad purposes. Well, now you can add another to the list. Instead of using a chemical-laden anti-fog spray, go the natural route by mixing equal parts vinegar and H20. Spritz the elixir on your mirror (before showering) and wipe it down with a cloth. This will render it steam-resistant (AKA prevent the condensation from forming in small droplets) for a couple of days. Truth be told, the solution does have a bit of an odor, but you can always add lemon juice for a more pleasant citrus aroma.

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Photography by AntonDarius via Unsplash

Heater lights

Perhaps you’ve noticed, this scenario rarely seems as extreme during those humid summer months as it does in the winter. And that has to do with temperature. By balancing the climate of the room, the surfaces are not as cool and thus not as prone to being affected by the moisture in the air. Heater lights in the ceiling warm the air. Though, truthfully, they aren’t quite as effective as some of the aforementioned hacks.

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Photography by Aaon Bengochea

Blow-dryer

If all else fails (or you forget to take any preventative measures), your trusty blow dryer will do the trick in a pinch. And, hey, if you’re planning on styling your coif after you shower, it’s probably already plugged in and ready to go. Two birds, one stone.

Don’t have the patience to deal with this annoyance any longer or just want to avoid it all together? You can buy an anti-steam mirror. Home Decorators Collection offers an array of wall-mounted styles, from classic white and brushed nickel to oil rubbed bronze and glamorous silver, that feature fog-free technology. And the price point is excellent—on average $60.

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

A steamy mirror may be the most annoying shower dilemma, but it’s far from the only one that irks us. Here are pro-approved solves to other bothersome bathroom situations.

Other common shower dilemmas:

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Photography by Pexels

Low Water Pressure

Struggling with low water pressure? There’s probably buildup, most likely nasty limescale. The way to keep your shower running smoothly is a good cleaning. Your toolbox should include a bucket, screwdriver, pliers, and elixir. You can buy CLR Calcium Lime and Rust Remover at your local hardware store or a homemade recipe. Warning: It takes longer and is more labor intensive, but if you’re prefer something sans chemicals, it’s a good idea. Mix equal parts of distilled white vinegar and water in a plastic bag. Put it over the shower head, so it’s completely submerged, and tie off at the top. Let soak for a few hours before removing. Then scrub with a brush and finish by running the water. You should be good to go! P.S. This also works on faucets.

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Kitchen sink, running water (light blue)Photography by rkafoto via iStock

Clogged Drain

A clogged drain immediately conjures images of “The Ring.” If you haven’t seen the 2002 horror movie don’t; it’s freaking terrifying. Then again, dirty water and digging for goopy hair are equally nightmarish. So how do you prevent this frightening ordeal in the first place? It’s shockingly simple. Get into the habit of giving your drain screen a quick clean after every shower.

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Photography by Billie

Properly storing a razor

I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me how to store a razor in the shower. “It always seems to slide off the shelf or fall through openings in my storage unit,” my friend said with dismay the other day. Having dealt with such headaches for years, finding Billie—which I bought after being served a very persuasive Instagram advertising—has been a godsend. I’m totally obsessed. Beyond shaving like a dream and leaving my skin oh so smooth, the ergonomic design comes with a magnet holder that sticks to the tile.

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Photography by Aaron Bengochea

Discolored Grout

Discolored grout can make tiles look old, dingy, and dirty. This is another instance when a little, err a lot of, TLC goes a long way. And no, replacing it isn’t required. Though you do need to put in some effort—in other words, serious elbow greaseto get it spick and span. The main causes of stains are exposure to moisture, hard water, minerals, and mildew. Sodium bicarbonate, commonly called baking soda, and stiff nylon brush is a dream team. This duo breaks down buildup and remedies discoloration without damaging the surrounding area. If all else fails, you can always dye grout darker to conceal your woes and give it a fresh appearance.