The holiday season is bearing down on us like a freight train. If your home is not quite ready for the time of year when people show up at your door and expect to be invited inside, now’s the time to get busy. This holiday-readiness action plan breaks down home holiday preparation into a simple five-week plan that’ll have your house in tip-top shape by Thanksgiving Day.
Week One: Cut Down on Clutter in Common Areas
Phase one calls for clearing out unnecessary stuff that collects dust and complicates cleaning in common areas like the living room, dining room, kitchen, and family room. The goal is uncluttered surfaces throughout: countertops, shelves, tables, and wherever else stuff has accumulated.
File or toss out stacks of bills. Recycle magazines that you’ll never read. Donate the box of baking pans that have been sitting in the corner since your mother-in-law gave them to you after she cleaned out her kitchen cupboards (and which don’t fit into yours either).
Look around your space with a critical eye and be merciless. If it’s not useful to you, get rid of it. Things that you don’t need can be used and appreciated by someone else if you donate them to a local community action center or church.
This de-cluttering phase is a fresh start. When it’s complete you’ll be able to clearly spot, and access, the dust on flat surfaces, cobwebs in corners, and dirt everywhere else. It’s infinitely easier to clean and maintain spaces that have minimal clutter, so this first step ensures that your subsequent cleaning endeavors will be successful.
Week Two: Tackle Dust and Cobwebs in Common Areas
Phase two is the time to clean up accumulated dust and cobwebs that are clearly visible and accessible now that the clutter has gone away. Get out your long-handled, telescoping duster to first tackle cobwebs and dust up high. If you don’t have one, secure an old towel over the business end of a broom. Areas where dust settles and cobwebs form: valances and window treatments, ceiling fans, the top of wardrobes and cupboards, recessed lighting fixtures, and corners where walls meet up.
After all the dust up high has been removed, move on to areas at eye level and below. Target chair rails, lampshades and finials, picture frames and wall hangings, window sills, shelves, door ridges and louvered doors, air exchange grates and covers, baseboards and baseboard heaters.
Dust also accumulates at floor level under appliances like the refrigerator and stove, under beds and couches, and in the corners behind furniture and in closets. Tackle these areas with crevice tools, a dust mop, a broom, or your vacuum cleaner.
Remove as much dust as you can from these typically overlooked areas. Eliminating dust from your ceiling fan and on top of the fridge reduces the overall amount of dust that can be stirred up and re-distributed later on. Once the lion’s share of dust is gone, a little bit of upkeep between now and Christmas Eve will guarantee a dust-free family bash, so Aunt Gertrude will have no cause to cast a critical eye at dust bunnies in corners.
Week Three: Deep Clean Guest Rooms
If you’re expecting out-of-town guests for the holidays, phase three of your pre-holiday cleanup involves getting guests rooms ready for occupancy. The nature and amount of work involved in this step depends on the state of the rooms: if they’ve become household catchall spaces, the task will be more complicated than if they simply need sprucing up.
Do whatever needs to be done to make them habitable. De-clutter, if necessary, dust and vacuum, freshen bed linens and window treatments. When this phase is completed, your guest rooms will be ready and waiting when Santa Clause and his compadres come to town and you won’t have to scramble at the last minute to unearth the beds.
Week Four: Thoroughly Clean the Kitchen
The kitchen typically sees a lot of action during the holiday season. For this reason, giving the kitchen a good cleanup is the goal of phase four of your holiday action plan.
This is the time to tackle tasks that don’t get done regularly: purge the pantry, re-arrange and re-organize cupboards, clean the oven and the fridge. Really take time to get into corners and underneath furniture.
When you’re done, the kitchen will be in prime condition for holiday baking as well as entertaining visitors. No cringing when Cousin Celia opens your oven door to pop in her green-bean casserole!
Week Five: Give the Whole House a Quick Cleanup
Phase five is the time to whip through the whole house: dust, vacuum, mop, clean bathrooms, and generally tidy up. Pay particular attention to the areas that will be visible to visitors. Since you’ve already de-cluttered, eliminated cobwebs and dust, plus cleaned guest rooms and the kitchen, this phase of the operation should be quick and easy.
Breaking down a big job into manageable segments is the key to successfully achieving any goal. This five-week action plan gets your home into shape just in time for the holiday season kickoff: Thanksgiving. So get busy, stay on track, and allow yourself the luxury of less stress at game time by implementing this preparation plan over the next five weeks.
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.
The thought of tackling big cleaning jobs can be intimidating, even overwhelming. Whether the project involves cleaning dirty windows, de-scaling bathroom showers, or dealing with out-of-control clutter, the key to getting it done is converting it into manageable pieces. This is best achieved through a basic process whereby the job is first defined and then broken down.
Define the Job
The first step is to define the issue at hand. In order to find a solution, the problem must be understood. This can be in the form of a simple statement, such as “my windows are dirty” or a detailed list, for example: the kitchen appliances and floor need cleaning, the whole house needs vacuuming, the showers have to be scrubbed, and the laundry has to be washed, dried, folded, and put away.
If the job is large, write out a detailed list. This will be the basis for determining how best to break down the large job into smaller increments, so think in terms of sectioning the job into manageable portions.
Make a Plan
Next, outline a plan to deal with the issue. For example, if your windows are dirty, the plan would be to clean them. Seems simple enough, but maybe not.
If you’ve got five windows in your home and they all tip in for cleaning ease, the plan will be straightforward: clean the windows. You’ll have a little bit of planning to do, for instance figuring out what supplies to use and whether you’ve got time to clean all the windows at once. Sorting out the details shouldn’t be a big deal.
If, however, you’ve got twenty-five windows, each with additional storm windows to remove and clean as well as screens, and none of them have been cleaned in ten years, this is a big project. You would want to break it down and complete the steps over a period of time. This would require some planning.
For instance, you might plan on cleaning the windows over the course of three or four Saturdays and enlist assistance so that one person could work inside while another works outside. The procedures involved would be somewhat complicated, and a variety of supplies would be needed, such as a ladder and squeegees and lots of rags or paper towels and a bucket. Cleaning window screens adds an entire step to the plan. Writing out some lists or flowcharts to help break the job down into smaller steps makes a lot of sense when the job looms large.
Understand the Job
If you’re not sure how to clean this type of windows, the planning stage would be the time to research the issue to understand what’s really involved. Any specific challenges would be addressed at this time, for example windows that are immovable in their tracks, or outside surfaces that are inaccessible from outdoors. Fully understanding the scope of the job and planning for the specific issues that need attention helps the job flow smoothly because you’ll know what to expect, have the proper supplies on hand, and have good ideas about how to successfully complete the job.
Break It Down
The planning stage is the point at which a large job is converted into a series of smaller jobs, which are both mentally and physically easier to manage. Always plan such that the goals you set are attainable. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to accomplish more than you set out to do. It’s not so great to complete only half the job before you run out of steam, time, or supplies. You want to end up feeling good about your day’s work, not be left feeling like a failure because you weren’t able to meet your goals.
Complete the Project
If steps one and two were completed thoughtfully and thoroughly, the final step, actually completing the project, will be a simple matter of following through on the framework of plans that were set up. By breaking the job down into smaller, manageable pieces and taking time to understand the process, you’ve set yourself up for success. When the job is done, you’ll feel great about having mastered not only the job itself, but the equally large challenge of making a big job manageable.
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.
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!
Dust bunnies are the Cleaning Pro’s prey. You know what I’m talking about: those globs of dust and debris that form under the couch and in corners. They’re the dead give-aways that their habitat hasn’t had a visit from the vacuum cleaner lately.
Dust is a funny thing. Not in the “ha-ha” way, but in the “it has unusual properties” kind of way. It’s in the air but is almost invisible. Even so, when you inhale any quantity of the stuff you know it from the stuffy sinuses it causes.
If dust is just lying around on top of your hutch, it doesn’t bother anyone. When that same perfectly innocent dust gets stirred up, it can be downright nasty. It makes you sneeze and can make you wheeze. At the end of the day, the best way to deal with dust is to get rid of it entirely.
Dust builds up in some areas and then relocates itself to others when you’re not looking. So the best approach to eliminating dust is to track it down when it’s settled somewhere and get rid of it then and there. Not giving it the chance to re-circulate stops dust in its tracks. And the more frequently you can manage to do this, the less dust you’ll have to deal with later on.
To track it down, it’s important to understand where dust likes to live. Dust loves to settle down on ceiling fan blades. It likes the tops of cupboards in kitchens and bathrooms and the laundry room; especially the laundry room, in fact. The whole laundry room is a dust trap due to the lint trap in your dryer.
Dust likes to cling to some electronics; computer screens for example. Dust loves the vent fan in your bathroom ceiling. It likes horizontal window blinds and the top of your refrigerator. Dust sometimes even likes to cling to your walls, if there’s enough of it in the air.
Any horizontal surface is a candidate for dust buildup: shelves and tables and the tops of books, even inside the piano, leaves on plants, both real and artificial, the top sides of picture frames, the ridges on doors, lampshades, finials, light bulbs, and under your bed.
Knowing where to look is just half the battle. The capturing of dust is equally important. Dust needs to be trapped and locked down so that is doesn’t live to fight another day.
The Cleaning Pro’s weapons of choice against dust: the vacuum cleaner and a microfiber dusting wand. One or the other will do the job. Both used in tandem will defeat the dust bunnies.
The best tactic is to work from the top of your room downward. First use your dusting wand to grab any dust you can. Use your vacuum to suck the dust off of your wand as it becomes saturated with dust. When you’re done, vacuum any leftover dust off the floor.
House cleaning is all about details. Lots of little details. Yes, you can do a quick cleaning job and it’ll be fine. Sometimes skimming off the top layer is all there’s time to do; it’s better than doing nothing at all. But a really detailed cleaning job shines bright.
Many little details comprise the finishing touches that transform your ordinary cleaning routine into one that makes your home the envy of the neighborhood. The following are some examples.
Get Rid of Cobwebs
Cobwebs hanging from your chandelier are unsightly and make your home look dirty. Look around for cobwebs on the ceiling, on light fixtures, in corners, and on the edges of furniture.
Take the time to use a dusting wand or your vacuum cleaner dusting tool to remove dust from baseboards, chair rails, window sills, window grates, and the ridges on louvered and paneled doors.
Spot Clean Doors and Walls
Use a damp cloth to eliminate fingerprints and smudges from door frames, doorknobs, walls, switch plates, and hand rails and banisters.
Clean Entry Door Glass
Make an excellent first impression on visitors by having spotless glass on your entry doors. If this area looks clean, people will notice.
Fluff Throw Pillows
For optimal presentation, fluff and artfully arrange throw pillows and throws.
Vacuum Pet Hair from Furniture
Having pets means extra maintenance for you. Don’t allow hair to overrun your furniture. Use your vacuum upholstery tool to thoroughly remove hair from cushions, the backs that you lean against, arms, and any other areas to which you see hair clinging.
Spot Clean Cabinet Doors
Wipe away spills, spots, and fingerprints on cupboard doors in the kitchen, bathroom and anywhere else.
Clean Appliance Fronts
If you do nothing else, cleaning fingerprints and spills from the fronts of your microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator, trash compactor, and stove give your kitchen a clean appearance.
Pick up Clutter
De-cluttering your space is one of the best ways to make it look clean. Surfaces that are covered in debris look messy and collect dust.
Eliminate Dust Bunnies
Be sure to clean up dust bunnies in corners. Noticeable globs of dust make your home look dirty, regardless of whether it actually is.
Spot Clean Insides of Windows
Clean any fingerprints and doggie nose prints on the insides of your windows. No one notices when they’re not there, but they do when they are.
Spring is the time to refresh and rejuvenate. It’s also an excellent opportunity to do those cleaning jobs around the house that you don’t usually get around to doing. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a major undertaking. Just a few minutes here and there can get the job done.
Vacuum Upholstered Furniture
The next time you’ve got the vacuum cleaner out, tackle upholstered furniture. Vacuuming and rotating sofa and chair cushions takes just a few minutes, freshens the furniture, and prolongs its life. Use the upholstery tool or dusting brush attachments, depending on your furniture’s composition. Be gentle on delicate fabrics.
Get Rid of Cobwebs
Use a telescoping dusting tool to reach cobwebs that form in high spots, like where walls and ceiling meet, on light fixtures and ceiling fans, along the tops of window and door frames, and in any recessed areas like skylights. While you’re at it, dust the tops of any cabinets or tall furniture.
Freshen Window Treatments
Dust horizontal blinds with a damp cloth or your vacuum cleaner dusting tool. Vacuum heavyweight curtains; take lightweight curtains outdoors and give them a good shaking to remove dust. Use a dusting wand to get into all the spaces on interior window shutters.
If you’ve got tip-ins, this tedious task goes quickly. Have a supply of dry rags on hand. Make a window cleaning solution by mixing a half cup of ammonia into a gallon pail of water. Use a sponge or rag to wipe clean your window surface, rinsing your sponge as necessary. When your surface is squeaky clean, buff with a dry cloth. Switch out your cloths as they become damp to avoid streaking.
Dust Your Curio Cabinet
Spend a few minutes dusting inside cabinets that aren’t routinely cleaned. This is an excellent opportunity to cut down on the free dust circulating in your air. The more dust you can eliminate from your environment, the less dust there is floating around, waiting to settle down on your grandma’s crystal.
Purge Your Pantry
Remove items from your pantry, sorting as you go. Discard expired foods or anything that looks suspect. Dust shelves and re-organize as you restock.
Wash Entry Mats
Rubber and rubber-backed mats and rugs can be sprayed with an equal vinegar/water mixture and then hosed off outside. Leave to dry in the fresh air and sunshine. They’ll look and smell like new.
There are lots of tasks that fall outside the scope of a typical house cleaning routine. For this reason, it’s important to watch out for any areas that are starting to look dirty or smell funky. Sometimes when we see things every day we don’t notice the gradual changes that are right in front of us.
One notoriously grungy and commonly overlooked area lies right below the epicenter of your kitchen: the sink. This space often holds things that are not food-related. Cleaning supplies are frequently stored here. Some people keep their garbage container in this space.
It’s also a spot that sometimes ends up with moisture problems due to leaks. From time to time, make it a point to take everything out, wipe up any spills or other messes, discard anything that isn’t useful, and rearrange what’s left.
Another kitchen hazard is the pantry. Food cupboards harbor spills that can easily attract insects or rodents. They also often contain outdated products that ought to be tossed out so they’re not inadvertently served to friends or family. Making it a practice to periodically remove all items, cleaning and sorting as you go, reduces the likelihood of attracting unwanted visitors or poisoning the ones you asked in for lunch.
Along similar lines, the refrigerator typically needs attention from time to time. Regularly get rid of anything that isn’t fresh. Any foul odor deserves your immediate attention. Every so often, wipe down the inside. Walls, shelves, the racks inside the door, as well as drawers, all need to be cleaned. Food spills, crumbs, and drips typically occur over time and won’t go away on their own.
Other areas of the house also need a little extra sprucing up on occasion. Light fixtures and lampshades often accumulate dust or cobwebs that we don’t notice. Dust lampshades gently with a clean paintbrush, a hair dryer, a microfiber dusting wand, or a clean, damp cloth. Alternatively, vacuum lampshades with your dusting tool attachment (use low suction). Light fixtures may be easily dusted with a dusting wand.
Glass shades that are cloudy from dust or dirt can be hand-washed with a little dish detergent in warm water. Glass prisms or shades that aren’t easily removed can be cleaned with a 50/50 mix of rubbing alcohol and water applied with a soft cloth and then buffed dry with a second, dry cloth.
Couch and chair cushions often harbor objects, crumbs, dirt, and pet hair. Periodically vacuuming this space easily remedies this situation. It sometimes pays off, too, if there are loose coins among the paraphernalia.
Fingerprints and smudges on walls, switch plates, door frames, and handrails often go unnoticed. Whatever doesn’t come clean with a damp cloth or sponge will easily be removed with an eraser-type sponge. Don’t scrub too hard or you’ll remove your paint along with the dirt.
Ceiling fans are the number one dust draws in your home, and are quite commonly overlooked on cleaning day. Dusting ceiling fan blades on a regular basis is an excellent way to remove dust from your environment. Use these dust traps to your advantage.
Hone your eye for detail by paying attention to things like dusty blinds and fingerprints on windows. Whatever house cleaning routine you generally adhere to, there’s always more stuff that needs attention. A little extra time spent here and there ensures that your home stays in great shape everywhere.