Everyone wants a clean house, but who has time to do the job? Getting your home clean without spending a lot of time isn’t difficult; it just takes a little dedication. This guide will explain how to keep a clean house when your time is limited.
Keep It Picked Up
When your home is free of unnecessary clutter, cleaning is ten times easier. Clutter makes it look messy, breeds dust, and impedes the cleaning process.
Assign every object in your home a space to call its own.
Make “putting things away” a habit. When you’re done using the scissors, put them away. When you bring groceries home, put them away. When you get undressed, put your clothes in the dirty clothes hamper. In no time at all, you’ll be putting things away without giving it a second thought.
Make each household member take responsibility for their own stuff. Assign each person a basket and place stray items into the basket. If baskets are overflowing, hold the contents ransom until the errant party agrees to deal with their mess.
Purge unnecessary items on a regular basis. Keep a donation box in a prominent spot and make use of it.
Use baskets, bins, totes, shelves, or whatever tickles your fancy to keep your stuff organized and put away.
Kitchen cleanup: as soon as food preparation is done, areas that were used should be wiped clean. Constantly be alert to the state of your kitchen appliances. If the stovetop is dirty, wipe it clean. If the inside of the microwave has food splatters, wipe it clean. When you begin to notice fingerprints on keypads or handles, it’s time to clean them. None of these tasks, taken individually, requires much time. Spending ten or fifteen minutes each day sprucing up the kitchen means you’ll never have to spend an hour or more at one time cleaning everything.
Bathroom patrol: clean bathroom sinks, vanities, and the toilet when you notice that it needs to be done. If there’s toothpaste on the mirror, take a minute to wipe it clean. Squeegee shower walls clean every day so that soap scum doesn’t get the opportunity to build up. Keep rags, sponges, paper towels, and bathroom cleaner under the sink and make use of them as necessary so the bathroom never really gets dirty.
Laundry: do it as often a necessary to avoid a huge accumulation.
Sweep or vacuum entryways as soon as dirt is tracked inside. This prevents dirt from getting tracked further into the house.
Clean pet areas often. Mats under water dishes, pet beds, and other pet-related paraphernalia should be cleaned whenever you notice they’re dirty.
Floors: spot clean as needed. If something gets spilled, clean it up before it gets tracked anywhere else.
Commit to a Regimen
On a regular basis, preferably weekly or every other week, make a point of completing whatever other housekeeping chores need doing. When the kitchen, bathrooms, laundry, and pet areas are kept clean on a daily basis, there’s not much left to do. Change bedding, dust, vacuum or sweep, and mop (if necessary). Don’t clean anything that isn’t dirty. An hour or two at most, and your home will be spic-and-span.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Tried-and-true cleaning methods and tips are everywhere. The internet and magazines are loaded with cleaning advice. Put it to good use. House cleaning has been around for a long time. Cash in on the experience of others to save yourself time and trouble. A clean house doesn’t have to be a huge hassle, don’t turn it into one.
The ability to clean a house is a basic skill that everyone should have, yet there are many who don’t know where to begin. If you’re a member of this unlucky group, this guide will get you going in the right direction.
Cleaning is neither complicated nor difficult. It’s a skill that improves with time and practice, so if at first it seems like cleaning is hard for you to do or you’re not doing it right, have patience. Once you get the hang of it, keeping your home clean will be a breeze.
Step One: Clutter Control
House cleaning begins by putting away clutter, also known as organizing. Getting organized is a simple process of finding a home for all objects and then making sure to put each object away when it’s not in use.
In order to minimize clutter, it’s also important to purge objects that are no longer needed. Every so often, closets and cupboards should be reorganized in order to make room for new objects in need of a home.
Organizing and putting stuff away is the first step in cleaning because it’s easier to vacuum, dust, and wipe down areas that are as clear as possible. Dust also has fewer places to settle in environments that aren’t littered with clutter.
Start Cleaning From the Top Down
After getting organized, the next step in the cleaning process is getting rid of cobwebs and dust. Anything up high is done first, including ceiling fans, wall hangings, tops of cabinets and cupboards, etc.
Continuing to work from the top of the room downward, dust window treatments, window sills, chair rails, ridges on doors, lamp shades, furniture, baseboards, and baseboard heaters.
In the living room, den, family room, etc. vacuum upholstered furniture. Flip cushions and fluff pillows.
In bedrooms, change bedding as needed and periodically flip mattresses and sweep or vacuum under beds.
In the kitchen, wipe down countertops and backsplashes, stovetop, and inside the microwave. Spot clean table and chairs and cabinet fronts. Clean keypads and fronts of appliances like the dishwasher and refrigerator. Scour the sink.
In the bathroom, clean mirrors, sink and vanity, tub and/or shower, and the toilet. Tiled walls should also periodically be cleaned. Clean the bathroom often so that soap scum and other grime doesn’t build up.
Finally, in all rooms, vacuum, dust mop or sweep floors and damp mop, if necessary.
Laundry can be a big job that’s often easier by spreading it out over time. Rather than letting it accumulate, doing laundry as soon as you’ve got a full load makes it more manageable than facing the daunting task of doing six loads in one day. Plus, you never run out of clean towels using this method.
Different lifestyles call for different cleaning styles. House cleaning can be done every day, once every week or two, or whenever you have time. The key element is doing it. A house that’s never cleaned isn’t a pleasant place to live.
This is a basic overview of house cleaning. The process is made up of many more details, which you can learn about from other blog posts here. Don’t let cleaning intimidate you, it’s not difficult. Just get up, start doing it, and before you know it, you’ll be a cleaning master.
It can happen to the best of us: the house is a disaster and your mother-in-law just called to say she’s on her way over. You’ve got thirty minutes to get the mess under control (at least enough to pass this surprise inspection). Get busy and make the best use of your time with the following tips.
Pick Up Clutter
Grab a laundry basket and quickly pick up clutter on countertops, tables, and wherever else it’s accumulated. Don’t worry about sorting things or putting anything away. Fill your basket and stash it in a closet. Just be sure to go back and deal with it later on.
Focus on Areas that Visitors Will See First
Focus your attention on whatever spaces visitors will see first on entering your home. Clean window glass on the front door to immediately give the impression that you keep an orderly home. Clear clutter from entryways and make sure the floor is free of mud and footprints.
Use Your Vacuum Cleaner
Quickly vacuum floors, furniture, and whatever else is dirty. Your vacuum cleaner is a versatile tool that not only cleans floors but will quickly remove pet hair from furniture and baseboards, suck up dust bunnies and loose debris, and eliminate cobwebs.
Wash the Floor Fast with an Old Towel
Use a dampened towel to quickly clean hard floor surfaces. Swish it around with a mop, then toss it into the washing machine.
If bedrooms are a mess, shut the doors. Put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign to ward off curious wandering guests.
Dim the Lights
Use your dimmer switch to make it tougher to see cobwebs, dust bunnies, and other telltale signs of less-than-fastidious housekeeping.
Light a Candle
Use aromatherapy to create the impression of a clean home. Scents like tropical fruit, vanilla, or lemon make your home smell fresh.
Spot Clean the Kitchen
Clean fingerprints off of appliance fronts, wipe up countertops, load the dishwasher with dirty dishes, and look around for any other areas that might benefit from a quick wipe down.
Eliminate the Source of Bad Smells
Take out smelly garbage. Grind up lemons in the garbage disposal. Check the potato drawer and fruit bowl for less-than-fresh foodstuffs that might be emitting bad smells.
Tidy Up the Guest Bath
Clean the sink, countertop, and toilet in the guest bath. Put out fresh hand towels and soap.
Establish Good Habits
Finally, prevent this situation from happening again by getting into the habit of keeping your home clean. Minimize clutter and maintain a regular cleaning routine that fits into your lifestyle. It’s a little bit of effort, but the payoff is enormous. And you’ll never be embarrassed when unexpected company arrives at your door.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to cleaning a house. Everyone’s home is different. Everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s standards are different. There are, however, some basic steps anyone can take to simplify house cleaning.
Organize Your Possessions
Keeping your stuff organized is well worth the effort. Piles of clutter collect dust and waste time. Would you rather spend your time looking for lost items or doing things you enjoy? Establishing a system to keep stuff organized improves the quality of your life.
Organizing is simple, really.
Every object you posses gets assigned a specific place to live. Objects that are not in use live in their designated spots, so when you need them you know where to look to find them. When you’re done using them, they get returned to their designated spots. Taking thirty second to put the scissors back in their drawer, the hammer back in the toolbox, the keys on their hook, saves countless lost minutes trying to locate said objects.
And here’s the best part:
Cleaning a house is easier if there’s no clutter. Dusting and vacuuming go more quickly without having to work around a bunch of stuff. And the less clutter you have, the less dust.
The same goes for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc. Any surface that can potentially accumulate clutter should be kept as clear as possible. It’s easier to clean counters that have minimal objects on their surfaces.
Clean As You Go
Another method of simplifying your house cleaning routine is cleaning up as you go along. Spending a little time cleaning every day saves your weekends and keeps your home in tip-top shape every day of the week.
Clean as you go is a method that chunks up cleaning chores into smallish tasks that can be accomplished every day. It ensures that housework never gets so out of control crazy that you would rather burn the house down than have to clean it.
Plus, the more frequently you clean, the less time it takes because less grime accumulates. Taking a minute to wipe up messes as they occur prevents them from becoming hardened, congealed blobs of immovable goo.
A prime example is the microwave: cleaning up spills as they occur prevents them from turning into cement-like masses that require a chisel to remove later on. This same principle can be applied throughout the house, from messy footprints on floors to soap scum in the bathroom and everything in between.
Use the Right Equipment
House cleaning is easier when the equipment you’re using is suitable for the task at hand. Using the appropriate vacuum cleaner, dusting tool, mop, and cleaning cloths can significantly speed up the cleaning process.
While an upright vacuum cleaner is great on carpeting, a canister vacuum with a floor brush attachment will more quickly clean bare floors, spaces with combinations of bare floors and area rugs, and stairs. A canister is also the tool of choice for removing pet hair from furniture and cleaning underneath beds.
Once floors are vacuumed free of loose debris, an appropriate mop makes the removal of remaining grime easier. Often, a simple microfiber string mop and bucket of water is the quickest means of eliminating dirt. Wood floors that aren’t especially dirty can quickly and effectively be cleaned with a soft, flat-head spray mop. Likewise, any floors that are only lightly soiled can be quickly mopped up with a damp flat-head microfiber mop.
Along similar lines, using a good dusting tool, rather than a cloth, makes dusting simpler. Use a tool that will reach ceiling fans, baseboards and all areas in between. A versatile wand with a telescoping handle allows you to flow easily through dusting your home.
The right cleaning cloth, sponge, or scrub brush in the kitchen and bathroom makes cleaning countertops and bathtubs easier. Densely woven microfiber cloths are excellent for loosening dried-on spills in the kitchen as well as removing soap scum in the bathroom. Nylon scrubber sponges or scrub brushes are handy items for removing hardened, congealed messes, cleaning grout, and other tough jobs.
It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re cleaning your house. Do whatever you have to do to stay on track so that you’re able to accomplish whatever needs to be done today. There will always be more to do than there’s time for, and the dust bunnies will still be under the bed next week. Prioritize, put on blinders, shut off your phone; do whatever it takes to complete the job.
If you’re prone to noticing side jobs and getting distracted, keep a pad of paper in your pocket and make a list as you work. If you need to take a break, time it, then get right back to work. If you’re easily derailed, establish regular routines to keep on track.
Cleaning isn’t a whole lot of fun, but it can be made easier. Whether your home is a cottage, a mansion, or something in between, the simple steps outlined above can minimize the effort you’ll have to put into cleaning and leave you with time to do the things you’d rather be doing.
House cleaning requires some type of supplies, including cleaning agents. These are substances that help with the removal of grime or bacteria or bad smells. Things like dirty fingerprints on walls, grease on the stove, or mildew in the shower call for the use of detergents to help remove them. And using cleaning agents correctly maximizes their effectiveness.
Here are some hints for making the most of your cleaning agents.
Use the Right Amount
You may be tempted to use more than the recommended amount of a cleaning agent, or try to get by with less. The quickest and easiest means of achieving your desired results is to use the cleaning agent as it is meant to be used.
Using too much of a cleaner can result in unnecessary rinsing or residue left on the surface, which will attract dirt. Too little cleaner may not do the job.
Apply It Correctly
Follow the application instructions. If it’s supposed to be sprayed on and allowed to sit for fifteen minutes and rinsed, use this method. Don’t reinvent the wheel; the maker of the product already figured out how it should be used.
Use the Right Stuff
Use products appropriate for the surface that’s being cleaned. The wrong product may be ineffective or might damage whatever you’re trying to clean. For example use a degreaser to eliminate grease or a mildew remover to remove mildew and not vice-versa.
Let it Soak to Loosen Grime
Sometimes time is on your side. Letting a cleaning agent penetrate grime for a few minutes can mean less scrubbing.
Cleaning agents are substances that assist in removing dirt, grime, odors, and germs. When used correctly, they can make house cleaning easier. Knowing what to use where is the trick. Here are some pointers:
The easiest way to clean most kitchen counters is to wipe with a damp cloth or a cloth dipped in dish detergent and hot water. Alternatively, use multipurpose cleaner or sudsy disinfectant spray cleaner.
Remove countertop stains by applying a thick paste of baking soda and water and covering with plastic wrap overnight so it remains damp. The paste will draw the stain out of your countertop. The next morning, wipe the paste clean. If any staining remains, repeat the process.
Clean kitchen appliances with glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, or specialty cleaner.
Clean kitchen sinks with multipurpose scrub, baking soda, or all-purpose cleaner.
Wood furniture can be dusted with a slightly damped cloth, a specialty tool that grabs dust, beeswax, or furniture polish.
Showers and Tubs
Most showers and tubs, unless especially dirty, can be cleaned using any of the following: tub and tile cleaner, sudsy multipurpose disinfectant cleaner, multipurpose scrub, beeswax or shower wax, or with (daily) use of a squeegee and/or daily shower spray.
To eliminate a buildup of soap scum from bathroom fixtures use a tub and tile cleaner specifically labeled as soap scum remover. Alternatively, use multipurpose scrub made with a 50/50 mixture of baking soda and dish detergent or castile soap and scrub with a nylon scrubber. Rinse and repeat until all film has been eradicated.
To remove mineral deposits or stains from bathroom fixtures, use a specialty product targeting the specific type of mineral deposit type, or try an application of straight vinegar. On hard surfaces that won’t scratch, a pumice stone might also remove stains.
To most easily remove mold or mildew stains, spray with all-purpose cleaner containing chlorine bleach, allow the solution to work for a couple minutes, then rinse. Alternatively, spray with hydrogen peroxide, allow the peroxide to work for twenty minutes or more, then scrub with a toothbrush or stiff brush.
Granite showers or other natural stone should be cleaned with a specialty cleaner or multipurpose scrub.
Clean glass shower doors or walls with glass cleaner, beeswax or shower wax, or use bathroom cleaner and rinse well, then buff dry.
Clean your toilets using bathroom cleaner, toilet cleaner, vinegar, or all-purpose cleaner.
Wood floors can be cleaned with a mop very lightly dampened in plain water or a mild vinegar and water solution, or a specialty floor cleaner for wood floors.
Marble or tile floors should be cleaned with plain water or a small amount of ammonia in water.
Windows can be cleaned by spraying with glass cleaner and wiping clean with rags or paper towels. Alternatively, mix a little bit of dish detergent or vinegar or ammonia into a couple gallons of warm water and use a squeegee, or wash with a rag or sponge and buff dry. If windows are especially dirty, use the second method for best results.
Maximizing the helpfulness of cleaning agents is all about knowing when and how to use them. The wrong detergent or cleanser can slow down your cleaning efforts or even damage a surface. Using the right cleaner at the right time on the right surface speeds up cleaning and maximizes efficiency. Knowing what to use where is the trick. Knowledge is power.
House cleaning isn’t fun or easy, but there are lots of ways to streamline the process in order to improve efficiency. The following are some basic time-saving tips to help minimize the hassle on cleaning day.
Before you begin cleaning, make a plan. Figure out your goals and the best path to reaching them. For instance, you may want to focus on the areas that are dirtiest or clean whatever areas need sprucing up for a dinner with friends. Map out a cleaning strategy that makes the best use of every step you take. Set realistic goals that can be realized within the time frame you’ve allotted to cleaning.
Make a list, draw a chart, keep in mind a picture of what you hope to achieve. However you go about it, knowing what you hope to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish it is half the battle.
Develop Cleaning Flow
Cleaning on a regular schedule, for example spot cleaning as you go supplemented with a bi-weekly once-over, helps you to develop a routine that flows smoothly. Easy and logical transitions from task to task increase cleaning speed and efficiency. Vacuuming furniture would logically transition to vacuuming floors, for instance. Repeating the same process over and over again allows for refinements, so over time your routine will be streamlined to perfection.
Vacuum Everything to Eliminate Dust or Pet Hair
The best way to eliminate copious quantities of dust or pet hair is to vacuum them up. This method traps debris and locks it down so it doesn’t end up re-circulating back into the air. Many modern vacuum cleaners have long enough hoses to reach most areas high and low. Vacuum ceiling fans, window treatments, wall hangings, baseboards, baseboard heaters, grates, door sills, furniture of all types, and anything else that’s coated in dust or hair.
The more dust and debris that’s eliminated from surfaces is that much less to potentially be stirred up into the air later on, only to resettle somewhere else.
Use Eraser-Type Sponges
Eraser-type sponges are time savers for cleaning all kinds of stubborn messes, from bathroom gunk to cooked-on debris in the kitchen, streaks on floors, marks on walls, and many other tough jobs. Use in conjunction with cleansing powder to remove tough soap scum. Or use with an all-purpose cleaner containing bleach to eradicate mold and mildew. The only caveat: be cautious using eraser sponges on painted surfaces or they’ll take the paint right off along with the grime.
Use a Dusting Tool
Use a microfiber or microstatic dusting tool instead of a cloth to quickly dust furniture, baseboards, blinds, lampshades, and everything else. Don’t pick up every item; pass the tool over and around objects carefully. This method is ideal for areas that aren’t loaded with dust. It’ll take half the time as it would using a damp cloth.
Clean with Intent
Work purposefully, constantly thinking one or two steps ahead. Strive to minimize steps and maximize each movement to get the most bang for your buck. Don’t simply plod along, move steadily and as quickly as possible without compromising the quality of the job.
Don’t Clean What isn’t Dirty
If it doesn’t look dirty, doesn’t smell dirty, and hasn’t been used lately, don’t waste your time cleaning it.
Use Good Equipment
Sturdy, well-designed cleaning tools and equipment get the job done quickly. Invest in a decent vacuum cleaner, mop, bucket, brushes, sponges, and cleaning cloths.
Use Appropriate Cleaning Agents
Use cleaning agents formulated for whatever you’re cleaning, and in the correct concentration. Not enough won’t do the job. Too much is just as bad; you’ll waste time rinsing, or worse leave behind a residue that will attract more dirt. Using the wrong detergent can damage the surface you’re attempting to clean and/or fail to do the job.
Remember, the purpose of a cleaning agent is to assist in breaking down dirt and grime so it can be more easily removed from surfaces. Use them to your advantage by understanding their benefits as well as their limitations.
Don’t Rush the Job
Frenzied, rushed cleaning sessions cause accidents that cost time. Work steadily and purposefully, not manically.
Not only does this approach break a big job down into manageable parts, but it reduces the overall time you’ll actually spend cleaning. Attacking spills seconds after they occur makes cleanup a two-minute job instead of a twenty-minute job two weeks later, after the spill has congealed into a nasty, sticky mess.
However you choose to approach house cleaning, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way toward streamlining your processes so that cleaning day is as hassle-free as possible.
No one wants to spend hours upon hours cleaning their home. The key to keeping a home cleaning regimen short and sweet is simple: maximize efficiency. By making the most of your time and efforts, your house cleaning routine will be streamlined and you’ll have plenty of time left over to do more interesting things. The following are some house cleaning tips to maximize efficiency.
Begin With a Walk-Through
Before starting to clean, take a quick lap through your home with a laundry basket and large trash bag. Gather up loose items that should be put away and deposit them in the basket. Collect trash, and empty trash containers into the trash bag.
Pay attention to what tasks need to be done, what areas might require extra attention, and what places are in good shape and therefore don’t need any sprucing up. Mentally calculate how much time you’ll need for each area, keeping in mind how much time you have overall to spend cleaning.
Starting off knowing that there’s dog hair all over the sofa in the family room and the upstairs bathroom is a disaster makes it easy to allocate enough time to these areas. This way you know from the start that you won’t have time to vacuum under beds today.
Set aside the basket of lost items that you collected on your walk-through and deal with it later. Picking up and organizing are not part of house cleaning; they are prerequisites. Clutter control should be an ongoing process. Spending an hour picking up and putting away miscellanea before you can start cleaning means you’ll potentially run out of steam before the housework is done.
Working around, or worse, having to shift and replace, clutter while cleaning eats up time as well. Clear surfaces and spaces make cleaning quick and easy. Cluttered surfaces and piles of paraphernalia collect dust and complicate cleaning.
Have What You Need On Hand
Keep your cleaning closet stocked with whatever you need. Penalize household members who make off with the vacuum cleaner or the broom and don’t return it. Having to spend twenty minutes tracking down the mop is an inefficient use of time.
Wear an Apron or Tool Belt
Keep what you need readily at hand as you work so you don’t have to repeatedly stop to fetch supplies. Wear an apron with lots of pockets, or a tool belt, or carry a caddy with you. Reducing steps reduces time and maximizes efficiency.
If chatting with a buddy while you work isn’t a distraction, clean your homes simultaneously and cheer each other on. Exchange cleaning tips. If it keeps you motivated, go for it.
Pay Attention to What You’re Doing
On a related note, don’t allow your mind to wander off while you work. Pay attention to the job at hand. An efficient cleaner cleans only what is dirty, which requires mindfulness as you work.
Anticipate what’s next as you perform each task and work in such a way as to minimize unnecessary steps.
Don’t Get Sidetracked
Stay focused. If you’re easily distracted by side jobs, keep a small notepad in your apron pocket and make a to-list as you work. If you notice that the fridge needs to be wiped out or the kids’ closets are a mess, plan to tackle these extra chores as soon as your schedule permits, but don’t stop doing what you’re doing now. Completing one job from beginning to end is satisfying and motivating. Starting three jobs and not finishing any of them is frustrating.
Work in a Straight Line
Clean either room by room or in zones, and work in straight lines. Don’t backtrack.
Don’t sit down. Keep working until the job is done. If you must take a break, time it. When your ten minutes is up, so are you.
Focus on What Shows
Clean what’s dirty, focusing on areas that stand out. When there’s time, clean the dusty bookshelf in the corner. When there isn’t time because the sofa has to be vacuumed free of dog hair, leave it. The dust will be there next time.
Treat Cleaning Your House like a Job
Cleaning your home is a job, treat it as such. Make a schedule, stick to it, see the job through to the end.
Use an Eraser-Type Sponge
Eraser sponges have many uses throughout the home. Soap scum removal, tough kitchen cleanups, scuffs on floors, and fingerprints on walls are just a few. These sponges save time and effort, both of which maximize efficiency.
Forget dusting with a cloth; the quickest means of removing dust from surfaces is to use a tool, preferably a microfiber wand with nubs, because this will grab and lock down dust. Don’t belabor the task; working from the top of the room downward, dust ceiling fans and light fixtures, wall hangings, window treatments, window sills and grates, chair rails, baseboards and baseboard heaters. Then tackle furniture and lamps. Work swiftly, don’t backtrack, and make every movement count.
Keep a Spray Bottle of Water on Hand
A damp cloth cleans a variety of surfaces, from wall smudges to water glass rings to fingerprints on switch plates and sticky doorknobs. Avoid having to hunt down a cloth and find a faucet; keep a supply of cleaning cloths and a spray bottle of water on hand as you work.
Work Out a Routine
A regular, consistent cleaning routine works to your advantage in several ways. First, repeating the same tasks over and over increases speed and efficiency (the learning curve). Second, a regular routine gives you the chance to clean everything in your home on a rotating basis. From week to week some tasks can be deferred until next time, and others can get the attention they need right now. Third, working out a system forces your focus onto efficiency; over time your routine will inevitably become more streamlined as you work out the bugs. Finally, by making home cleaning a habit and a priority, it will get done. Period.
Stay motivated by finishing what you start. Each time you successfully complete your cleaning routine, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Take a little time to admire your handiwork. This feeling of pride in a job well done will inspire you to take up your broom next week and clean on.
Use the Right Cleaning Supplies and Equipment
Use whatever cleaning agents and equipment make you happy. If you use scented cleaners, be sure the scents make you feel good. Likewise, cleaning agents should do the jobs for which they’re intended, leaving you feeling satisfied that you’ve accomplished something by using them. Your equipment should be easy to use, not frustrating.
Spending a little more money on good cleaning supplies that you’ll look forward to using (or at least not mind using) is well worth the investment. You cleaning tools should be easy for you to use, perform well, and make you feel glad to use them.
Eat Right, Exercise, Get Some Sleep
Cleaning is hard work! Give your body what it needs to do the job. If you feel sluggish and run down, you’re not going feel overly enthusiastic about mopping and vacuuming and making beds. When you feel good and are energized, cleaning is a breeze.
If you’re the type of person who is motivated by crossing items off your list, write up a list of chores before you start cleaning. Staying on task is very important to cleaning efficiently, so if writing it down helps achieve this goal, go for it.
Don’t be a Perfectionist
It’s a waste of time to try to remove 100% of the dirt from your home. Perfectionism will turn a three-hour job into a six-hour job. The difference between 95% efficiency and 100% isn’t worth three hours of your time.
Set Realistic Goals
There’s only so much any one person can accomplish within a few hours. Don’t set the bar too high. Set realistic goals that you’ll be able to achieve. Accomplishing goals is motivating. Failing to achieve goals is not.
Don’t Make a Big Production Out of It
House cleaning is labor intensive but not overly difficult. Don’t make it harder than it is. Don’t’ clean what isn’t dirty. Don’t perform elaborate cleaning rituals that make no sense just because your grandma did it that way. Simplify your procedures and get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Over the years, I’ve tried a lot of different methods for cleaning dirty window blinds. In my experience, you have to really want to have spotless blinds to bother even attempting this, because blind washing isn’t a lot of fun. It takes time and elbow grease. I have found two methods that work well.
You need a bathtub for method one. If you don’t have a bathtub, skip to method two. Also remember these methods are for vinyl or metal blinds only. If you are cleaning vertical blinds, the slats can usually be removed from the headrail for cleaning.
Put some warm water and all-purpose cleaner in a bathtub and immerse the blind in the water. Kneel beside the tub (you may want a towel under your knees) and, using a scrub brush, rag, or sponge, scrub several slats at a time until they are all clean. Reverse the slats or flip the blind over and repeat the process on the other side.
Drain the soapy water and replace with clean water to rinse the blind. Carefully wrap the blind in a towel to catch dripping water, and take it outside. Drape the blind over a railing or hang it up somewhere else to dry. You can hang it in the shower to dry if you can’t take it outside. Wherever you hang it, bear in mind that it will drip water for a while.
Take the blind outside and find a clean place to lay it down, or place a tarp or some plastic sheeting on the ground and lay the blind on top. Spray all-purpose cleaner on the blind, then, using a long-handled brush, kneel or squat beside the blind and scrub the slats, working in sections.
When you finish one side, turn it over and repeat the procedure. Then take a hose or bucket of water and rinse the blind until all the crud and soap is gone. Hang the blind from a railing or clothesline or tree branch until it is dry.
Either procedure is time-consuming and tedious. The only consolation I can offer is that blinds always look really good afterward.
From time to time, situations get out of control. This can be especially true of housekeeping. People get crazy busy, stuff starts to pile up, dust accumulates, and the cobwebs take over. Maybe the bathrooms or the kitchen haven’t been cleaned in a few months, or even years. It does happen.
Maybe you’ve been sick for a while, or maybe you leased your place to someone while you backpacked through Europe, only to come home to a pigsty like you would have never imagined. Whatever went wrong, the issue now is that you have a huge mess to clean up.
Unless there’s been some kind of plumbing disaster or someone kept livestock in the living room, the problem is fixable. It will take a commitment of time and some serious elbow grease, but you absolutely can get the house cleaned up.
Right off the bat, here are a couple suggestions:
Don’t try to tackle it all in one day. What you don’t want to do is set the bar too high, run out of steam on the first day, and get discouraged. Like any big job, it should be broken down into smaller parts to keep it manageable and yourself motivated.
Next, prioritize. Decide what your main objective should be. Is the house just dirty but not messy? Is it just messy but not dirty? Is it both?
If you’re not sure what the difference between messy and dirty is, I will explain. Messy means there’s stuff all over the place: disorganized paraphernalia that belongs in drawers or hung up in closets or filed away somewhere is piled haphazardly on counters or in corners. Messy is clothes on the floor, cracker boxes on the coffee table, shoes and socks kicked under the sofa, toys strewn all over the house. You get the picture. It isn’t pretty.
Dirty, on the other hand, means a sink overflowing with unwashed dishes that are stinking up the kitchen, a sticky film on countertops, inch-thick dust everywhere, old pizza boxes growing mold, cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, toothpaste residue all over the bathroom sink, soap scum coating the tub like a layer of paint.
Figure out what you’re dealing with and then make a game plan.
If the house is both messy and dirty, your job has two phases: removing clutter, then cleaning the dirt. If it’s just messy, your job will be to eliminate and organize. If it’s just dirty, go straight to cleaning.
If there’s a lot of outright trash or stuff to get rid of, tackle that job first house-wide. Get as much clutter picked up and out of the way as possible. If it isn’t trash, but it’s in the way, box it up for now and store in the basement, the attic, the garage or a closet.
Organizing a house full of clutter can be a daunting chore. The first thing you want to do is get rid of as much unnecessary stuff as possible. Be merciless. Toss out trash, recycle what you can, donate anything you don’t need, have a garage sale. (For garage sale pointers, check out my post De-Clutter Your Home: A Guide to Hosting Your Own Garage Sale.)
Have a “giving-away” party: invite friends and neighbors over to help themselves to anything they can use. Place ads on Craigslist and Facebook. If you’re allowed to do so in your neighborhood, put good, usable stuff out by the curb with a “free” sign (don’t put out trash or old electronics). Get creative and do what you have to do.
After purging as much as possible, focus on grouping remaining items wherever they theoretically belong. For example, clothes in their closets or dressers, food and dishes in the kitchen, toiletries in the bathroom, linens in the linen closet or bedroom, etc.
Keep moving things around until you can start to see some sort of organization taking shape. If you’ve still got more stuff than space, get rid of more stuff.
From this point, it’s a matter of designing or refining your organizational system. If you need organizing advice, look to my post Home Organizing Guide.
After you’ve gotten clutter out of the way by tossing trash, purging, organizing, and/or packing stuff up to sort out later, you are ready to begin cleaning.
Assemble Your Cleaning Supplies and Equipment
You’ll need some stuff with which to clean. Here’s a list:
Vacuum cleaner and extra bags, maybe even a shop-vac if there’s significant dust or a lot of dirt.
Trash bags and some boxes for temporary storage of small items that you’ll need to get out of the way (if applicable).
Rubber or latex gloves, face mask if there’s a lot of dust, dirt or foul odors.
To begin, if it’s possible, open windows or doors to let the fresh air in. Don’t use any fans, including ceiling fans, to circulate air if there’s a lot of dust.
Next, if there’s substantial dust or loose dirt, you may want to make quick, crude pass through major passageways with a vacuum or a broom, both to cut down on tracking dirt back and forth and to reduce the recirculation of dust.
Plan to work either room by room or divide the house into sections.
Clean Each Area Or Room
Here’s a quick run-down of what to do. Modify as needed.
Remove small objects and either set aside in a box or wash (if they need it).
Pick up small rugs and wash or air outside. If they’re really dirty, you may have to toss them out.
Take down curtains and blinds that need to be washed. You can also take them down and air them outside, or vacuum them where they hang.
Dust from the top down: ceilings, ceiling fans, walls, light fixtures, wall sconces, chair rails, baseboards, baseboard heaters, air vent covers, all furniture, shelves.
If there’s lots of dust on furniture or shelves, it’s better to remove it with your vacuum cleaner than with a cloth or dusting tool. Vacuuming traps dust instead of allowing it to re-circulate.
Move furniture as much as possible to get into the corners and areas than you can’t reach otherwise.
Once the cobwebs and dust have been eliminated, begin washing woodwork as much as is necessary.
Wash windows and any glass doors.
Vacuum furniture and clean upholstery if necessary.
Extreme Floor Care
Don’t try to use a lightweight floor cleaning tool on a floor that’s extremely dirty; this approach will only spread the dirt around. Use a string mop and a bucket containing a cleaning agent diluted in water. The cleaning agent can be specialty floor cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, vinegar, or ammonia. (Don’t use vinegar or harsh cleaners on stone.)
When you’re mopping an extremely dirty floor, expect to change your mop water repeatedly. If the water reaches the point that it’s gray, drain it and get a fresh batch.
You can spray an all-purpose cleaner straight from the bottle onto a floor that’s extremely dirty, mopping in sections. Be sure to rinse thoroughly so there’s no cleaner residue left on the floor.
To remove scuff marks from flooring, try using a pencil eraser, eraser-type sponge, thick baking soda and water paste, toothpaste, WD-40, nail polish remover, or a nylon scrubber with a degreaser.
To clean grout that’s extremely dirty, use oxygen bleach mixed with water. Working in sections, spray or sponge your solution onto the grout and let it soak for ten or fifteen minutes, scrub with a stiff brush, then rinse the area with clear water.
Wood floors need special care. If you have to wash a wood floor, use as little water as possible. If the floor is extremely dirty, resist the urge to saturate it. Keep going over it with your mop until it’s clean. As you wash the wood floor, use rags to dry it so that there’s no water left standing. This step also helps remove leftover dirt. If the rags come up dirty, keep repeating the entire process.
For tough carpet stains, call a professional carpet cleaning service. In some cases, the carpeting may be beyond redemption. If you have a carpet shampooer or steam cleaner and the rugs aren’t too dirty, you can attempt it yourself. Vacuum thoroughly first, pre-treat stains, then have at it.
Extremely Dirty Windows
If your windows are too dirty to see through, you don’t want to tackle the job with a wimpy bottle of glass cleaner and some paper towels. This method would be an excellent way to waste paper towels, glass cleaner, and a quantity of your valuable time.
If windows are extremely dirty, get a bucket of warm water, mix in some ammonia or vinegar (1/2 cup to a gallon of water), and use a cloth or a sponge to wash the window. Keep wiping the glass and rinsing your cloth until the window is clean. Then use a dry cloth to buff the window surface. Switch off your drying cloth as it gets damp; your cloth should be as dry as possible to eliminate streaking.
If your windows repeatedly streak or have any kind of haze, wipe with straight vinegar then buff clean.
To remove gummy gunk of or dried on residue from glass, use a glass scraper.
Wood Furniture and other Wood Surfaces
If somebody has done really bad things to your wood furniture and you feel like it needs to be washed, wipe it down with a very lightly dampened (not sopping wet!) cloth. Rinse and repeat until you’ve achieved the level of desired cleanliness. Don’t leave any standing water on wood surfaces.
You could also apply a thin coat of beeswax or lemon oil and then buff with a soft cloth.
These same methods apply to wood cupboard doors, wood shutters, wood paneling, shelves, or anything else made from wood.
Any kind of laminate furniture or plastics can also be wiped down with a damp cloth. Don’t use any of the wood cleaning products mentioned above on laminates.
Washing walls is not a lot of fun. It’s not a little fun. It’s the exact opposite of fun. If it needs to be done, however, here’s how:
Clean all dust from the walls by vacuuming or using a dust mop. Don’t skip this step unless you would like dust smeared all over your walls.
Use a little bit of mild cleaning agent such as ammonia, vinegar, or all-purpose cleaner in a bucket of water (a quarter cup of cleaner per gallon of water). Don’t use too much cleaner; any residue left the surface will attract dust and dirt.
Also use a bucket of clear water to rinse your work area as you go.
Start at the top (do the ceiling first if you are washing the ceiling, too). Wipe back and forth horizontally, rinsing as you go.
Never spray any kind of cleaner directly onto dirty walls; it will streak. You will wish you hadn’t.
Cleaning an Extremely Dirty Kitchen
An extremely dirty kitchen takes a little time to bring up to code. Since it’s the room where you store and prepare food, you’ll want to do a thorough job.
Before you get too far into the project, check the oven. If it contains any baked-on messes, sprinkle baking soda generously onto the burned areas, then spritz lightly with water so a paste is formed. Let the paste sit to soften up the mess while you clean the rest of the kitchen.
Begin as in all rooms by removing rugs, window treatments, etc. as outlined above.
Do a thorough top-down dust and cobweb removal, as outlined above for all rooms, starting with the ceiling, ceiling fans, walls, light fixtures, etc. Don’t forget the tops of cupboards and the top of the refrigerator.
After you’ve removed as much dust as possible, wash woodwork, doors, cabinet doors, baseboards, window frames.
Wash the windows.
Put some water and all-purpose cleaner or dish detergent in the sink or in a pail and, using a sponge or rag, start cleaning everything that needs cleaning, inside and out. Change your water as necessary.
Clean outside thoroughly, then inside. Wipe down shelves, side walls, remove drawers and wash in your soapy water. Wipe gaskets. Clean door shelves. Also wipe out the freezer with a sponge moistened in warm water. Use a narrow dusting brush or yard stick with a rag tied securely around it to dust underneath.
Clean outside, paying special attention to fingerprints on the keypad and handle. Wipe clean the inside and remove the glass tray at the bottom to wash in the sink if it’s dirty. If there’s any kind of dried-on-gunky situation inside the microwave, heat a glass bowl or measuring cup of water to create a steam bath. This will loosen up the gunk so you can wipe it clean. You can even place a sliced-up lemon in the water if you want your steam to deodorize at the same time.
Not all kitchens have these, but for those that do: clean on top of the range hood using a degreaser. Remove the vent fan filter, if possible, and wash in hot, soapy water.
If it’s the type with drip pans, take it apart and wash the drip pans in hot, soapy water. If the drip pans are extremely dirty with cooked-on, blackened stuff, you can buy shiny new replacements. Sometimes scrubbing with steel wool pads, scouring powder, or baking soda will get them clean. Or you can try applying a baking soda and water paste onto them and letting it sit for a while to soak up the cooked-on mess.
If you’ve got a glass or ceramic cook top, remove any cooked-on messes with a plastic scraper. Apply a thick paste of baking soda and water to any residue and allow it to loosen up the mess. Wipe clean with a soft cloth and follow up with glass cook top cleanser, if necessary.
Go back to the oven and wipe up as much of the baking soda and burned-on goodness as you can remove. This may require more attention at a later date. For more info on oven cleaning, see my blog post Kitchen Cleaning Bonus Jobs.
Use specialty cleaner on granite, marble, or other surfaces that call for special treatment. Otherwise clean backsplashes and countertops with a solution of dish soap and water, all-purpose cleaner, or a stronger degreaser if necessary.
Clean countertop appliances, and shift small appliances side to side so you can clean the countertop underneath. Use a nylon scrubber or eraser-type sponge to remove any dried-on messes. Tackle stains with either an all-purpose cleaner containing chlorine bleach or an oxygen bleach and water solution.
Clean front, especially keypad and handle. If the inside is in need of attention, wipe clean whatever you can and then sprinkle a little bit of baking soda onto the bottom and allow it to set for a while. Then run the dishwasher on a hot cycle to rinse.
Wipe Out Cupboards and Drawers
Use your vacuum if there are crumbs, mouse droppings, spilled flour, oatmeal, cereal, sugar, or anything else that would vacuum up more easily than wiping with a damp sponge.
Clean with all-purpose cleaner or a little dish detergent. Scrub stains with powder cleanser.
Some additional hints in the kitchen
Degreaser is your friend in the kitchen. If you start wiping down cupboard doors or trying to clean the countertops and run into a sticky film of any kind, try using a strong solution of ammonia and water, dish detergent in water, or any all-purpose cleaner specifically labeled as a degreaser. Spray it onto the surface and wipe clean. If that doesn’t do the trick, try scrubbing with a nylon scrubber
Deodorize your garbage disposal by running a chopped-up lemon through it.
Clean the garbage can. If it’s really dirty, take it outside, spray with bathroom cleaner, let soak, then hose off later.
To clean inside the toaster oven: first unplug, then de-crumb, remove racks and wash, wipe down the inside. To clean residue on the glass door, apply a thick paste of baking soda and water and allow it to sit for half an hour, then scrub and wipe clean.
Pulling out the fridge and stove to clean under and behind is an optional job. The fridge might be on casters, the stove probably isn’t. Be careful not to hurt your floor or yourself. You can also use a long, narrow duster to get underneath or wrap a rag securely around a yardstick.
Remove the cutting wheel on an electric can opener and wash in hot, soapy water.
Clean coffee or spice grinders by grinding up a slice of plain white bread.
Cleaning An Extremely Dirty Bathroom
The toughest room in the house to clean when it hasn’t seen any recent attention is the bathroom. As in all other rooms, first de-clutter, remove rugs, textiles, window treatments, etc.
Take down the shower curtain, if applicable. If you wish, try washing it in the washing machine on gentle cycle with a couple of towels in warm water and a little bit of detergent and some vinegar. Don’t dry a plastic or vinyl shower curtain in your clothes dryer, however. Air dry only.
Dust the bathroom from the top down, including any furniture, shelves, etc. Clean woodwork, windows, light fixtures, etc. as in other rooms.
Sweep or vacuum the floor. Do this step before tackling the shower. No matter how careful you are, cleaning a shower usually results in water splashes on the floor. It’s easier to sweep dry dust and dirt.
Next, tackle the tub/shower. Make sure to ventilate the bathroom by opening a window or turning on the vent fan. Then generously spray some tub and tile cleaner on your tub or shower walls and use a nylon scrubber or eraser-type sponge to scrub the areas you sprayed. Rinse thoroughly.
If your shower is made of Granite or other materials, use a product specifically made for your surface.
If you have mold or mildew, use a cleanser containing chlorine bleach. Alternatively put some 3% hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle and spray onto the mildew areas. Allow to sit for an hour, scrub and rinse.
Remove rust stains with an eraser-type sponge or apply a thick paste of baking soda and water, allow to sit for an hour, then rinse.
Clean your sink with the same product you use on your tub.
Remove tough toilet stains with a pumice stone.
To remove a film on your bathroom mirror, spray with vinegar then buff clean.
Your bathroom should be in good shape at this point, with nothing left to clean but the floor. If it’s a small room, and the floor is extremely dirty, it might be easier to scrub it by hand, which allows you to reach into corners and clean the baseboards more easily.
Once you’ve gotten everything in the house clean, replace any objects that you packed away, replace scatter rugs, re-hang curtains or other window treatments. Vow to never again allow an extreme cleaning situation to occur, because that was a lot of work. Whew!