Team Clean: Get Everyone in Your Home Involved in Cleaning

Keeping a home clean is a big job which gets bigger based on many factors, including the number of occupants in a household as well as the cleaning habits of each member. It’s only fair that all inhabitants participate in cleaning at least to the degree that they contribute to the mess.

The willing and able-ness of all occupants weighs heavily into their level of participation. Some people are natural-born cleaners, some not so much. Some may be too young or physically unable. And sometimes it’s just easier to take on the job without the group for any number of reasons.

Create a Team

Cajoling those who are able but not overly enthusiastic about cleaning can sometimes be accomplished through shame or bribery. Offering a reward (beyond the intrinsic satisfaction that comes from a job well done) or encouraging participation through praise might spur the loafers to action.

Alternatively, educate them: home care is the duty of all household members and the failure to participate indicates a lack of respect for others as well as self. As a last resort, present a bill for your time to anyone who willfully subjugates you to the role of live-in maid. The going rate for professional housecleaners ranges between $25 and $45 per hour.

Team Cleaning Plan

If you’ve managed to corral a willing and able team, the next step is formulating a plan. Creating an effective team cleaning plan promotes a successful cleaning experience for all team members. Breaking the job down by tasks or by areas in your home is one means of accomplishing this. Refer to this house cleaning checklist for a comprehensive list of common house cleaning tasks. Additional assignable jobs include dish washing and laundry as well as changing bed linens and bathroom towels.

Decide whether your team will clean all at once or as time permits. This decision will be based as much on the availability of various team members as the preferred cleaning methods of the household. Some break the job down over time, some tackle a portion every day, and some complete the entire job in one fell swoop every week or two.

Make Lists or Charts

Lists or charts outlining who is responsible for what are excellent organizational tools that serve several purposes. They make it clear to all parties what their jobs are. They also make it easy to identify who is pulling their weight and who isn’t. They give all team members a good idea of the overall makeup of a house cleaning regimen, which is valuable knowledge for young people to be exposed to. Lists also help the group facilitator keep track of what’s been done and what hasn’t.

Assign a Leader

Which brings us to the next point: your team needs a leader. This can be a fixed individual or team members can take turns leading. Either way, someone has to assign tasks and make sure each team member is completing their chores. Taking turns at being the team leader is a great way to expose all team members to the overall picture. Cleaning a home is a big job that’s comprised of many smaller tasks. Everyone on your team should understand its wide-reaching importance.

door window

A clean home is a happy, healthy home. It’s the responsibility of all occupants to keep their environment in shape. House cleaning chores are basic life skills that all children need to learn, and all adults should practice. Cleaning as a team might take a little time and practice to master, but in the long run this approach will pay off, both as a shared experience and as a valuable tool for teaching and productivity. Best of all, team cleaning makes the big job of cleaning a house manageable for all household members.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

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Cleaning Secrets: The Importance of Setting Goals

To get to where you want to be you need to know where you want to be. This statement seems obvious, but when it comes to house cleaning, we often fail to start out with any particular direction in mind. This is remedied by setting goals.

wiping a counter

Plan Your Job

A successful house cleaning regimen begins with planning. Setting goals ensures that your efforts are used for maximum gain. Approaching the job systematically, breaking it down, and understanding what you’re hoping to accomplish all increase the likelihood that every important task on your to-do list gets completed. Diving in without any clear plan makes for a haphazard result that may or may not get you where you want to be.

Spontaneous Cleaning

Here’s an example: suppose you wake up bright and early on Saturday morning, look around at your messy home, and decide this would be a wonderful day to clean it up. You dive right in, starting in the kitchen, but are quickly sidetracked by the mountain of laundry awaiting your attention in the adjoining laundry room.

While starting a load of wash you see that the laundry room cupboards are a disaster, so you start pulling things out to reorganize. Partway through this process, however, you take a load of trash to the garage and, on your return trip, are again sidetracked by a mess of backpacks, shoes, and other misplaced paraphernalia creating a hazard in the middle of the mud room floor.

After gathering the pile into a basket, you begin distributing items into their respective homes. In the course of this activity, you collect a large variety of dirty dishes that need to be transported to the kitchen. You return to the kitchen, where you unload the clean dishes from the dishwasher and reload it with dirty dishes.

By this point you’re feeling somewhat frazzled and can’t recall where you left off or what your original intention was. A neighbor calls and asks you if you want to go for a walk. With great relief, you accept the invitation and give up on the house cleaning job that’s become confusing and overwhelming.

Spontaneity is not your friend when it comes to house cleaning. Having a clear set of goals in mind along with a solid plan outlining how to achieve them keeps you focused.

Planned Cleaning

Adding clear goals and solid planning to the above scenario leads to a very different outcome. On Friday evening, you make a plan to clean your home the next day. With this in mind, you do some prep work by washing, drying, and folding the dirty laundry that’s piled up in the laundry room. You also put away the clean dishes in the dishwasher and restart it with the dirty dishes that you gathered up from around the house while tidying up the clutter lying around. With these side jobs out of the way, tomorrow you can get right to cleaning without distractions.

You write out a list of the tasks you hope to accomplish: clean the kitchen countertops and appliances; clean the kitchen and mud room floors; dust and vacuum the living room, dining room, and den; clean the bathrooms. You budget three hours overall to achieve these goals and break this down further by assigning time values to individual rooms to help keep yourself on schedule.

First thing the next morning, you silence your phone and get busy. Having completed the kitchen cleaning from beginning to end, you move right on to the dusting and vacuuming and finish up with the bathrooms. You complete the job on time and feel great that you’ve spent your morning productively and met your goals.

Goals Keep You On Track

Goals keep you on track. They force you to devise a strategy to get to where you want to be, and they narrow your focus to where it needs to be in order to get there. Goals motivate you to follow a job through to completion. Furthermore, the act of repeatedly achieving your goals motivates you to set new goals and follow them through to completion as well.

To get to where you want to be, you need to know where you want to be. Whether it’s cleaning a house or constructing one, the job is best achieved by setting goals and then formulating a plan to reach them. Treat house cleaning like the job it is and you’ll be on your way to knowing what you want as well as how to get it.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Cleaning Secrets: Make a Big Job Simple by Breaking It Down

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.

spray a window

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.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Home Cleaning Tips: Time Savers

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.

Strategize

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.

dust door

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.

Clean Continuously

Know that from the minute your house cleaning routine is wrapped up for the week, the creation of new messes begins. House cleaning is never really done. The number one time-saving cleaning tip is to clean frequently.

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.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Home Cleaning Tips To Maximize Efficiency

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.

Minimize Clutter

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.

Use Minimal Supplies

Use as few cleaning agents and tools as you can; the less stuff to have to tote around and keep track of, the better.

Clean With a Buddy

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.

Think Ahead

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.

Work Continuously

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.

vacuum ceiling fan

Dust Your Ceiling Fans

Make it a point to regularly dust areas that accumulate dust such as ceiling fan blades, under beds, on top of the refrigerator, tops of cupboards and wardrobes, and any other places that are not part of your regular dusting regimen. Removing as much dust as possible from surfaces means there’s less dust to end up re-circulating in the air.

Use a Dusting Tool

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

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.

Delegate

Make house cleaning a team effort. Many sets of hands get the job done quicker. Make a chart, assign chores, do whatever gets the job done quickly and efficiently.

Make a List

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.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Washing Dirty Vinyl or Metal Blinds

dustblindOver 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.

Method 1

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.

Method 2

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.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

 

Basics of Laundry and Fabric Care

Laundry and fabric care are a part of housekeeping that we tend to overlook until a problem pops up. We usually don’t worry about clothing stains or wrinkles until it’s too late. The best time to consider how to wash your silk blouse isn’t after you’ve ruined it.

Today’s post will cover the basics of laundry and fabric care, including an overview of laundry care products and instructions for washing and drying fabrics, as well as suggestions for de-wrinkling and storing your clothes.

First, an introduction to the marvelous machines that make it easy for us to wear multiple changes of clothes every day: the washer and dryer.

Your Washer and Dryer

Depending on the model, your washing machine might be more complicated to operate than your car. Seriously. So, while I can provide some general information about washers, your particular machine may have different features or guidelines for use. Happily, there’s a YouTube video for everything, so if in doubt…

To begin, washing machines are either front loaders or top loaders, which means dirty laundry goes into the top of the machine or into the front of the machine, depending on where the door is placed. Front-load washing machines tend to be more efficient than top loaders. Top loaders are generally less expensive and their run cycle is shorter.

High efficiency washers are a variation on traditional machines. HEs use less water and clean clothes via a different process than traditional washers. They don’t have a high agitator in the center of the tub like traditional washing machines, so, theoretically, they should be less likely to damage your clothing. HEs also spin out more moisture from clothing, so articles require less drying time.

High efficiency washing machines have received bad press because of issues relating to mold and odors, as well as complaints about clothes not getting clean. If you are in the market for a new washer, do some research first.

Expect a different user experience from a HE than with a traditional washing machine. Some machines have a cleaning cycle that should be run once a month or so. HE machines also require HE laundry soap.

Most newer washing machines have quite a wide variety of features and options for run cycles, speeds, adjustments for how dirty the clothes are, and whether you want fries with that. So it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with your particular machine in order to get the most out of it.

Dryers, on the other hand, tend to be a little more straightforward. Damp clothes are tumbled around in a warm environment until they are dry. They are not difficult to operate, although you should have an idea of what settings to use on which fabrics.

A clothes dryer is not nearly as important as a washer, since items can always be air dried. Washing clothes without a washing machine is much more difficult.

Laundry Care Products

Washing laundry calls for some kind of laundry detergent. Basic laundry detergent comes in the form of liquid, powder, or single-use pods. Which of these to use is a matter of personal choice.

Generally, powder detergents are cheaper and the packaging tends to be easier on the environment. The drawback is that powders sometimes don’t fully dissolve and can leave trace evidence of this on laundry.

Liquid costs more than powder, as a rule, and usually comes in plastic bottles, which are not enviro-friendly. Liquids are easier to use than powder, but the convenience comes at a cost.

Single-use pods eliminate the need to measure out your detergent, but are usually the least cost-effective option.

Laundry detergents comes in all different scents, concentrations, sizes, and combinations. Personal preference with regard to scents will be a major consideration when deciding which to use.

Another important factor to consider is how dirty your laundry actually is. We tend to wash textiles more frequently than they need to be washed. Most of the time, it’s not necessary to use a super-strong laundry detergent because clothes simply aren’t especially dirty. My advice: break out the big guns when you need to, otherwise don’t waste your money.

If you have sensitivity to soap, use one of the many additive-free varieties of laundry detergent.

It’s also best to use a mild detergent on delicate fabrics because strong detergents can break down the fibers in your sweet little nighties or your spandex swimwear.

The fight against grime on dirty laundry extends beyond laundry detergents. There are also stain fighters, chlorine and non-chlorine bleach, fabric softeners including dryer sheets, plus color boosters and other additives.

Chlorine bleach is good to use when washing things like smelly gym socks or anything (white) that you want to disinfect and deodorize.

Oxygen bleach, or color-safe bleach, is safe to use on most colored textiles and also has disinfecting properties. If in doubt, test a small area of the item with the color-safe bleach by applying and letting it sit for a few minutes, then rinsing the area.

Laundry boosters are things people add into the wash load to help their laundry detergent do a better job. These include washing soda, vinegar, baking soda, and dish detergent. Boosters are completely optional and usually not necessary.

Again, most of the time we tend to over-wash clothing. Don’t add to the madness by using too much laundry detergent or a stronger soap than is necessary. Soap residue on clothing will actually attract more dirt.

Washing and Drying Clothes: The Process

Washing clothes is a process. Clothes should be sorted, pretreated for stains, washed using the correct settings, and dried using the correct drying method for the correct period of time. Following the right procedures ensures that your clothes will be clean, undamaged, and wrinkle-free.

What you don’t want to do when washing laundry is jam all your clothes into the washing machine mixed together, regardless of weight or color, until the machine is stuffed like a turkey. This is a great way to ensure that your clothes don’t get clean, possibly get ruined, and your machine gets subjected to wear and tear beyond what it’s designed for.

Sorting Laundry

The process of washing clothes begins with sorting. Group clothing and other textiles by weight and color: darks, whites, lights, delicates. You can get away with washing medium-weight articles with heavier articles, to a point.

Lightweight items should be washed in a delicates bag, which is a mesh bag that zips closed. Washing delicates in the same load as heavier items can be done, if you use a delicates bag and there’s nothing in the load that will snag on anything else.

Delicates are things like underwear, nightgowns, lightweight sweaters or tops, anything with lace or sequins, silk, cashmere, and tights. Make sure to check care tags – some things like silk or cashmere should be dry cleaned or hand washed. If in doubt, hand wash, or take the chance of ruining the item.

There’s a learning curve to sorting laundry correctly. You want to create large enough loads to fill, but not overfill, the washer. Generally, shoot for filling the washer with loosely packed clothes so that it’s no more than 3/4 full. Running a load that’s too small is a waste of energy, so try to strike a balance between a full load and an overstuffed load.

Keep white/light and dark items separate so that colors don’t bleed onto your whites or lights and discolor them. A red top in a load of white towels will absolutely turn the towels pink.

If you’re not bleaching your whites, it’s ok to combine them with lights to create a full load. If using chlorine bleach, don’t wash anything that isn’t white in the load. Doing so will cause colors to bleed so that your whites turn gray or blue or purple, and your colored items will take on a mottled appearance.

It’s best to wash really heavy items like jeans in a load by themselves. You might get away with washing jeans with towels or heavy sweatshirts, but another practical thing to consider is how much weight your washing machine can handle. Almost all machines go off balance easily if they’re loaded up with heavy things.

Off Balance Loads

If you have no idea what I mean by “off balance”, you’ll get the idea the first time you hear sounds coming from your laundry room that make you think there’s an elephant in there dancing on a set of extremely large drums.

When a heavy load of laundry shifts so that more items are on one side of the washer basin than the other during the spin cycle, the machine may start to dance around. If the washer isn’t perfectly level, this happens more easily, but it can happen even if the machine is level and your laundry was loaded into the machine to perfection. Over time you will get a feel for the limitations of your washing machine. It’s a deeply personal relationship.

Sheets can be washed with other similar color and weight items, just be careful to load the washer loosely. Sheets have the tendency to wrap themselves into knots if they’re packed in too tightly. Sometimes they do it anyway, even if they’re loaded correctly. This would also fall under the category entitled: things you will learn to hate about your washing machine.

Don’t load up a machine with items that are completely different weights, like, for instance, your comforter and a half load of shirts. This will also cause your machine to go off balance.

Heavyweight Items

On a related note, be sure that your machine can handle heavy items before trying to wash, say, a comforter or pillow. Check the user manual to be sure. You can actually ruin your washing machine by loading items that are too heavy into a machine that isn’t up to the task.

HE machines might shut off mid-spin if they’re loaded with items that are too heavy, which is one of the drawbacks of some of these machines. It’s good to have an idea what you can and can’t wash in your particular machine so you aren’t stuck with a sopping wet comforter that’s only half washed.

These types of special needs items can be taken to a laundromat that has larger machines to accommodate oversize, heavyweight items. Many laundromats have attendants in-house who can wash your items for you (at a cost) if you don’t care to hang around and do it yourself.

Pre-Treating

Anything greasy like soiled tablecloths, napkins, pot-holders, or kitchen towels should be pre-treated with stain remover and washed in hot water to break down the grease. Likewise, greasy work clothes should be washed separately in hot water. It’s probably not a good idea to combine the greasy work clothes in the same load as the cloth napkins.

While you are sorting the laundry, zip zippers and check pockets for change and tissues and pens. If you’ve ever washed a tissue or a cell phone, you’ll understand why this step is important. Also keep an eye out for stains that need to be pre-treated.

Any drawstring ties should be tied together. This step prevents the strings from getting tangled with other items or the ends from getting lost inside the garment. To keep dark items from fading, turn them inside out.

Once you’ve gotten your laundry sorted, pre-treated, and otherwise prepared for the big dive into the pool, it’s time to load your washing machine. Again, don’t over-fill the machine. Your laundry needs to have room to move around somewhat, not be packed in so tightly that is doesn’t get cleaned.

Adding Soap

Ideally, your machine will have dispensers for adding soap, fabric softener, and bleach. If not, here’s how it’s done. Load your laundry into the machine, add water, then add detergent. You can usually get away with adding the detergent right onto the clothes, too, but don’t tell anyone I said so. Any other additives go in the washer at this time, too.

If, for some reason, there’s no bleach dispenser, wait for the water to fill the tub before adding bleach. Don’t pour the bleach directly onto your laundry.

Fabric softener gets added to the final rinse cycle, so if there’s no dispenser, you need to catch the wash load at the point that the water is draining into the machine for the final rinse and add softener then.

It would be unusual for your washing machine not to have bleach and fabric softener dispensers. It’s also not always necessary to use either bleach or fabric softeners, although many people like to use either or both.

You’ll also need to figure out what temperature water to use, how much water to use, and what settings to use on your laundry adventure.

There will be lots of variations at this stage, depending on differences in washers. Some machines automatically select certain settings, some have more than others. Some machines have options for every fabric type under the sun as well as how dirty the laundry is.

Some machines have steam cycles to help remove stains or to freshen up wrinkled clothes. There may be a pre-wash cycle for help with stains. Generally, dirtier clothes and heavier fabrics will need a longer wash cycles than lightweight items or things that aren’t especially dirty.

Some general rules of thumb:

  • Use the permanent press cycle for synthetic fabrics.
  • Use the heavy-duty cycle for towels, jeans, and other heavyweight fabrics.
  • Use the whites cycles for whites – this will release bleach from the bleach dispenser at the right time.
  • Use the delicates cycle for delicates, and wash in cold water.
  • Cold water is best for darks that don’t have any greasy soiling or sweat stains, otherwise use warm or hot.
  • Use warm or hot water for towels, again depending on how dirty they are.
  • If you’re washing dirty socks and underwear, go ahead and use hot water.
  • Pay attention to fabric care tags.
  • Don’t use hot water or the hot dryer setting on wool unless you are trying to shrink it.
  • Silk and linen require special care, be sure to check labels.
  • Anything with sequins, beads, or lace should be handled with extreme care and is probably best hand-washed.
  • Cotton fabrics are subject to shrinkage, so use the coolest water for washing that will clean the item, and consider air drying.

Pay attention to the washing machine, the load may need to be re-distributed if the machine goes off balance.

Doing laundry is a lot like making a sandwich. You can make a plain old sandwich with white bread, and it’ll be OK. But a really good sandwich requires really good bread. That’s how laundry is, too.

Pre-treating, sorting, setting up your machine properly are all the things that, if you do them right, lay the foundation for an excellent laundry outcome. That’s your bottom piece of bread.

In the middle, the laundry gets washed. Ho-hum. Go make a sandwich while you wait for the machine to do it’s thing. Slather on a little mustard, if you wish.

Then comes the other piece of bread: the drying process. If done well, your laundry will be wonderfully soft and wrinkle-free. If not, your laundry can end up a wrinkled mess, looking and smelling less-than-fresh.

Drying

Laundry can either be air-dried or machine-dried. Most folks use a clothes dryer for the majority of their drying needs, however some items shouldn’t go into a dryer, such as delicate fabrics like silk or things that are lacy or beaded, wool, bras and pantyhose, bathing suits, and anything with rubber backing such as bathroom rugs.

A drying rack can be used for things that need to air dry, or drape them over a shower curtain rod, or hang things on clothes hangers and hang them up somewhere. Get creative.

Most items can safely go into your dryer, just be sure to select the proper heat setting. Many machines tell you which setting to use for what. Generally, the permanent press cycle is a safe bet for most fabrics. Delicates should probably air dry, however they can be dried on a low (warm) setting. Cotton shrinks when exposed to heat.

It’s good practice to remove items as they dry to prevent excess wear and tear and wrinkling. Keep an eye on sheets, which may need to be adjusted or untangled partway through the drying process.

If you’re fastidious about removing your laundry immediately from the dryer when it’s dry, you will have wrinkle-free, fresh laundry to fold, hang up, and wear.

An alternative to using an electric clothes dryer is a clothesline. It uses no electricity, causes less wear on your clothing, and leaves laundry smelling fresh. It’s also better for the environment.

Some neighborhoods do not allow clotheslines, so check first. Citizens in some areas are lobbying for the right to hang their laundry outside to dry in so-called “Right To Dry” movements.

Hand Washing

Very flimsy or delicate items can be hand washed. It’s not difficult or time-consuming. Simply fill your sink or a basin with some cool water, add laundry and a little mild laundry detergent, and swish the laundry around for a minute or two until the water is sudsy. Allow the laundry to soak in the water for a few minutes, then swish it around for a couple of minutes more and rinse in cool water until all the soap is gone.

Don’t wring or twist the items. Place on a towel to absorb excess moisture, then either hang or lay flat to dry. Knit items like sweaters should lay flat, everything else can be hung up.

Ironing and Steaming

Ironing isn’t a big part of our laundry routine these days. Wrinkle-free fabrics make it unnecessary to iron most articles. Should you find yourself challenged with having to iron something but aren’t sure how, it’s pretty simple.

First, check the iron’s water level, then pre-heat it to the appropriate setting. Delicate fabrics are ironed at cooler settings, heavyweight fabrics get hotter settings. Irons have indicators as to which temperature to use on what fabric.

When your iron is warm, lay the wrinkled garment out flat on an ironing board or a couple of towels and pass the iron back and forth over the wrinkled area until it’s no longer wrinkled. Adjust the fabric and repeat the process until the entire garment has been de-wrinkled.

An alternative to ironing is steaming. A clothes steamer is easier to use than an iron. Just put in some water, turn it on, wait for the steam to start materializing, pass the steamer head over the wrinkles and watch them disappear. Presto!

Storing Clean Laundry to Minimize Wrinkles

Avoiding most wrinkles is easy if you keep an eye on your laundry as it dries. Retrieving items from the dryer at the point just prior to their being completely dry and still warm, and then immediately hanging up or folding them, ensures they will have little to no wrinkles.

If air-drying laundry, easily de-wrinkle it by tossing it into the dryer for five minutes while it’s still slightly damp.

Properly storing your clean laundry ensures that it remains wrinkle-free. Hang items like shirts and dresses and skirts, preferably while they’re still very slightly damp. Fold knits neatly. Don’t overstuff drawers.

Fold sheets and towels and stack in neat piles so they don’t topple over and become transformed into a wrinkled mess.

Keeping textiles in excellent condition takes a little bit of know-how. By taking the time to follow the correct processes from pre-treating straight through to removing items from the dryer at precisely the right time, your laundry will always come out looking and smelling its best.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

 

The Ultimate Extreme Cleaning Guide: How to Clean a Really Dirty House

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

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.)

basket with papers

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.

Cleaning

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.
  • A broom and dustpan might come in handy.
  • A dusting tool for cobwebs, one that’s telescoping or long-handled if you need to reach high spots.
  • Microfiber cloths or rags, sponges, eraser-type sponges.
  • Cleaning agents: all-purpose cleaner or ammonia or vinegar, degreaser for the kitchen (dish detergent is fine), glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner for tub and sink, baking soda, cleansing powder.
  • A bucket, mop, toilet brush, scrub brush, nylon scrubbers, possibly steel wool.
  • 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.

gloves

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.
  • Vacuum floor/carpet.
  • Wash floor/carpet.

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.

mopp

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.

clean a window

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.

Walls

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.

Refrigerator

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.

Microwave 

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.

Range Hood

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.

Stove Top

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.

Oven

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.

Countertops

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.

wiping a counter

Dishwasher

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.

Kitchen Sink

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.

Alternatively, use cleansing powder and a non-abrasive scrub brush to scrub your tub/shower.

  • 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.

clean bathroom sink

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.

For more bathroom cleaning tips, see my post The 7 Day Deep Clean Challenge: Bring Your Home Up to Par in a Week, Day 5 Bathrooms.

Finishing Up

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!

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Dust Bunnies Aren’t Funny: How To Clean Up Dust in Your Home

dustfanDust 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.

Knowing where to look and how to capture dust is all there is to it. Repeatedly eliminating dust where it lives will pay off over time. You’ll notice less dust in your air and in its hiding spots. As your dust bunnies begin to die off, they will cease breeding. Before you know it, the hunt will be over!

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.

Cleaning Secrets: Details Matter

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.

dustlight

Dust Baseboards

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 switchplate

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.

throw pillows

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 cupboard door

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.

clean a window

There are countless little details that can make or break your house cleaning efforts. For more ideas, see my post Don’t Forget to Clean Under the Kitchen Sink.

We often don’t notice things we see every day, so hone your skills of observation. Learning to clean is a hands-on endeavor and there’s always room for improvement. That’s what makes it interesting.

Whenever time permits, give the job the attention to detail that’ll make your home stand head and shoulders above the rest.

Want more house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my book Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, available on Amazon.