Today’s homes are easy to clean in comparison to homes of yesteryear. Yet we have more cleaning products at our disposal than ever before. What gives? Do we really need half a dozen different products to clean a bathroom? Do we use too many cleaning products?
Modern Homes Practically Clean Themselves
Most modern surfaces hold up to wear and tear extremely well; many actually repel grime. Floors don’t need to be waxed. Shower walls wipe clean in minutes. We have robotic vacuums and hand-held scrubbing devices.
Our indoor air quality is better than ever. HEPA filters remove dust and other pollutants. We have clean heating systems that don’t emit smoke, dust, or other byproducts, ensuring that homes have fewer indoor pollutants than in days past. Plus, new homes are airtight, so dust, pollen, smoke, and airborne pathogens remain outside as long as windows remain shut.
Given these facts, it seems a little strange that we use more cleaning agents and gadgets than ever before. Hundreds of products are available for every conceivable use, from cleaning ceilings to floors and everything in between. Do we really need all this stuff???
Most People Dislike House Cleaning
The fact is, 99 out of 100 people dislike house cleaning. These 99 people are interested in finding the magic elixir that will take the sting out of the job. And the people responsible for marketing the many, many cleaning products being manufactured take full advantage of this situation.
Smoke and Mirrors
Television infomercials make amazing claims about house cleaning gadgets and potions. Internet ads lead people to believe this is better than that or vice-versa, when in fact this and that are equally useless. Companies peddle cleaning tools that require endless accessories and refills, thereby guaranteeing future profits. It’s all smoke and mirrors.
Today’s homes don’t require the amount of upkeep that older homes did. Floors wash easily. Windows tip in for cleaning-ease. Showers can be kept clean with minimal regular maintenance. A simple roster of basic cleaning agents and tools will easily get the job done. Besides, using simpler products with gentler means is better for us and for our environment.
Cleaning Agents Pollute Our Homes
Ironically, because modern construction is so airtight, the fumes from harsh chemical cleaning agents used in homes these days become trapped, contributing to indoor air pollution. To boot, some of these cleaning products are known carcinogens.
Cleaning Agents Pollute the Earth
Furthermore, the residue from these strong chemical cleaning products finds its way into the Earth, contributing to the pollution already plaguing the planet. Equally problematic, disposable cleaning products add to the trash overflow also afflicting our society. And many of those wonder gadgets that we buy, use once, and relegate to a corner in the garage, likewise end up in landfills.
No one wants to spend hours upon hours cleaning their home. The key to keeping a house 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, leaving you plenty of time 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. Empty trash containers into the trash bag and pick up debris as you go.
Pay attention to what tasks need to be done, what areas might require extra attention, and what spaces 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 will know from the start that you don’t have time to vacuum under beds today.
Set aside the basket of lost items that you collected on your walk-through and deal with it later. Picking up and organizing are not part of house cleaning; they are prerequisites. Clutter control should be an ongoing process. Spending an hour picking up and putting away miscellanea before you can start cleaning means you’ll potentially run out of steam before the housework is done.
Working around, or worse, having to shift and replace, clutter while cleaning eats up time as well. Clear surfaces and spaces make cleaning quick and easy. Cluttered surfaces and piles of paraphernalia collect dust and complicate cleaning.
Have What You Need On Hand
Keep your cleaning closet stocked with whatever you need. Penalize household members who make off with the vacuum cleaner or the broom and don’t return it. Having to spend twenty minutes tracking down the mop is an inefficient use of time.
Wear an Apron or Tool Belt
Keep what you need readily at hand as you work so you don’t have to repeatedly stop to fetch supplies. Wear an apron with lots of pockets, or a tool belt, or carry a caddy with you. Reducing steps reduces time and maximizes efficiency.
If chatting with a buddy while you work isn’t a distraction, clean your homes simultaneously and cheer each other on. Exchange cleaning tips. If it keeps you motivated, go for it.
Pay Attention to What You’re Doing
On a related note, don’t allow your mind to wander off while you work. Pay attention to the job at hand. An efficient cleaner cleans only what is dirty, which requires mindfulness.
Anticipate what’s next as you perform each task and work in such a way as to minimize unnecessary steps.
Don’t Get Sidetracked
Stay focused. If you’re easily distracted by side jobs, keep a small notepad in your apron pocket and make a to-list as you work. If you notice that the fridge needs to be wiped out or the kids’ closets are a mess, plan to tackle these extra chores as soon as your schedule permits, but don’t stop doing what you’re doing now. Completing one job from beginning to end is satisfying and motivating. Starting three jobs and not finishing any of them is frustrating.
Work in a Straight Line
Clean either room by room or in zones, and work in straight lines. Don’t backtrack.
Don’t sit down. Keep working until the job is done. If you must take a break, time it. When your ten minutes is up, so are you.
Focus on What Shows
Clean what’s dirty, focusing on areas that stand out. When there’s time, clean the dusty bookshelf in the corner. When there isn’t time because the sofa has to be vacuumed free of dog hair, leave it. The dust will be there next time.
Treat Cleaning Your House like a Job
Cleaning your home is a job, treat it as such. Make a schedule, stick to it, see the job through to the end.
Use an Eraser-Type Sponge
Eraser sponges have many uses throughout the home. Soap scum removal, tough kitchen cleanups, scuffs on floors, and fingerprints on walls are just a few. These sponges save time and effort, both of which maximize efficiency.
Forget dusting with a cloth; the quickest means of removing dust from surfaces is to use a tool, preferably a microfiber wand with nubs, because this will grab and lock down dust. Don’t belabor the task; working from the top of the room downward, dust ceiling fans and light fixtures, wall hangings, window treatments, window sills and grates, chair rails, baseboards and baseboard heaters. Then tackle furniture and lamps. Work swiftly, don’t backtrack, and make every movement count.
Keep a Spray Bottle of Water on Hand
A damp cloth cleans a variety of surfaces, from wall smudges to water glass rings to fingerprints on switch plates and sticky doorknobs. Avoid having to hunt down a cloth and find a faucet; keep a supply of cleaning cloths and a spray bottle of water on hand as you work.
Work Out a Routine
A regular, consistent cleaning routine works to your advantage in several ways. First, repeating the same tasks over and over increases speed and efficiency (the learning curve). Second, a regular routine gives you the chance to clean everything in your home on a rotating basis. From week to week some tasks can be deferred until next time, and others can get the attention they need right now. Third, working out a system forces your focus onto efficiency; over time your routine will inevitably become more streamlined as you work out the bugs. Finally, by making home cleaning a habit and a priority, it will get done. Period.
Stay motivated by finishing what you start. Each time you successfully complete your cleaning routine, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment. Take a little time to admire your handiwork. This feeling of pride in a job well done will inspire you to take up your broom next week and clean on.
Use the Right Cleaning Supplies and Equipment
Use whatever cleaning agents and equipment make you happy. If you use scented cleaners, be sure the scents make you feel good. Likewise, cleaning agents should do the jobs for which they’re intended; leaving you feeling satisfied that you’ve accomplished something by using them. Your equipment should be easy to use, not frustrating.
Spending a little more money on good cleaning supplies that you’ll look forward to using (or at least not mind using) is well worth the investment. Your 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 to feel overly enthusiastic about mopping and vacuuming and making beds. When you feel good and are energized, cleaning is a breeze.
If you’re the type of person who is motivated by crossing items off your list, write up a list of chores before you start cleaning. Staying on task is very important to cleaning efficiently, so if writing it down helps achieve this goal, go for it.
Don’t be a Perfectionist
It’s a waste of time to try to remove 100% of the dirt from your home. Perfectionism will turn a three-hour job into a six-hour job. The difference between 95% efficiency and 100% isn’t worth three hours of your time.
Set Realistic Goals
There’s only so much any one person can accomplish within a few hours. Don’t set the bar too high. Set realistic goals that you’ll be able to achieve. Accomplishing goals is motivating. Failing to achieve goals is not.
Don’t Make a Big Production Out of It
House cleaning is labor intensive but not overly difficult. Don’t make it harder than it is. Don’t’ clean what isn’t dirty. Don’t perform elaborate cleaning rituals that make no sense just because your grandma did it that way. Simplify your procedures and get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible, leaving you free to spend the rest of your day on play.
Can you actually keep your home clean without using any types of chemicals? That’s a tricky question. The health conscious among us are rightly concerned about the effects of chemicals on our planet and our bodies. But strictly speaking, there’s no way to eliminate dirt, grease, and germs without using any chemicals whatsoever. However, it is possible to minimize their use.
Let’s break it down. Look at dish washing. You can’t clean a greasy pot without using a de-greaser. Dish detergent is a chemical. What about laundry? It’s not possible to remove the typical dirt from laundry without using laundry detergent, which is a chemical. How about bathrooms? Again, you’ll need some kind of chemical to get rid of soap scum, mold, and mildew. Are you beginning to see a trend here?
The good news: it’s absolutely possible to minimize the use of chemicals for cleaning. Dialing it way back is easy with a few simple tricks:
Reduce the messes that require chemical intervention.
Use the right tools for cleaning.
Use chemical products sparingly.
Cleaning frequently is the best way to reduce the need for strong cleaning agents. By controlling the buildup of dirt and grime on hard surfaces, you eliminate the likelihood of having to break out tough degreasers or lime-scale removers and other noxious chemicals. Simply wiping up the kitchen after each use and regularly cleaning your stove, oven, microwave, and other kitchen appliances will keep the accumulation of grime to a practically non-existent level.
Tip: Keep a small spray bottle with a 50/50 mix of water and rubbing alcohol plus a few drops of dish soap by the kitchen sink. Mist surfaces with the mixture and wipe clean for quick and easy cleanup.
Reduce the Messes that Require Chemical Intervention
Spot-clean your bathroom every day or two to hold soap scum or mineral deposit buildups at bay. Keep a squeegee in your shower and pass it over the shower walls after every use. This will make bathroom cleanup much easier. Make your own daily shower mist spray by mixing a 3:1 ratio of water to vinegar.
In the kitchen, get into the habit of covering things that might splatter when they’re cooking and don’t let pots boil over. If you’re baking a casserole that might bubble over, place a cookie sheet underneath so you don’t end up with a mess on the oven floor.
Apply these principles throughout the house to prevent and reduce messes and thus avoid having to use chemical cleaning agents.
Use the Right Tools for Cleaning
There’s a vast arsenal of scrubbers and sponges and cloths at your disposal these days. Rather than resorting to using chemical cleaning agents on bathroom or kitchen surfaces, use a nylon scrubber sponge or a scrub brush to apply a home-brewed cleanser mixed from baking soda and dish detergent to cut through soap scum or remove dried-on debris.
A scrub brush with a handle that you can grip firmly gives you added leverage for removal of really tough messes. Microfiber cloths are handy for eradicating a variety of messes from hard surfaces and are more effective than traditional rags because they’re more tightly woven. Just a little bit of elbow grease easily replaces chemicals if you use the right tools.
Use Chemical Products Sparingly
Finally, when you have to use chemical products, don’t use any more than is necessary. Plus, by cutting back on the application of cleaning agents to hard surfaces, you reduce the need to clean because cleaning agent residue that wasn’t thoroughly rinsed from any surface actually attracts dirt. So resist the urge to apply excessive amounts of any type of cleaner. Less is more.
Additionally, don’t use any products that are more powerful than what you need. Simple, basic products such as vinegar, ammonia, baking soda, and dish detergent can be used for cleaning 95% of the surfaces in your home.
You shouldn’t have to wear a gas mask when you’re doing routine cleaning chores. Keep it simple, clean often, use tools. These are the secrets to house cleaning using minimal chemicals.