Shortcuts to Spring Cleaning

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. Using these shortcuts to spring cleaning can get the job done.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wash Windows

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.

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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.

These are just a few ideas to give your home a spring boost. Look around and see what else needs to be cleaned, polished, or freshened up. Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it can make a big difference in the way your home looks and smells.

Want more organizing and house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my author page. My books include De-Clutter and Organize Your Home in 7 Simple Steps, Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, and How to Become a Cleaning Pro: the Ultimate Guide to Starting and Operating Your Own House Cleaning Service.

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The Art of Modern Housekeeping

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Has the art of keeping house truly been lost, or has it simply evolved to meet the demands of modern-day life? Those who keep house in our day and age have the same goals as homemakers of yesteryear: providing a safe and clean environment in which to live, raise families, and entertain.

The Modern World

These days, machines make house cleaning easier than ever before. The variety of available cleaning products is staggering. Appliances clean themselves. Surfaces resist stains and repel pollutants. Fabrics are wrinkle-free, food comes ready to cook, gadgets and gizmos galore assist in all phases of running a household.

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The Modern Family

The modern homemaker is an entirely different animal than the homemaker of the past. The traditional male/female head-of-household pair consisting of a beleaguered female pulling double shifts every day while her wayward spouse spends his time on the golf course or in a barroom has evolved into something quite different.

Modern households are made up of diverse family units, many headed up by non-traditional couples whose genders may be registered on a spectrum rather than defined by fixed labels. This blurring of gender lines makes for a variety of interesting differences between the homemakers of today and the career women of the eighties who did double-duty as the family housekeeper or the stay-at-home housewives of the fifties.

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Manager versus Laborer

Today’s household members increasingly share the burden of keeping house or simply bring in outside help. The modern homemaker is often more of a manager than an actual laborer. Machines must be operated, programmed, maintained, and replaced when necessary. Hired help has to be given instructions and feedback. When homemaking is a group endeavor, someone has to set goals, make a plan, and generally lead the group.

Challenges Have Changed

The challenges faced by today’s homemaker differ vastly from those of the past. Today’s family manager has to, first and foremost, be concerned with the security of family members. The world seems much more dangerous than it used to be and is certainly more sophisticated, often in undesirable ways. Children can’t be simply sent off to walk to school on their own or left to their own devices in the afternoon. There are far too many perils and pitfalls.

House Cleaning is Still Important

House cleaning isn’t the top priority for today’s homemaker, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a priority. No one wants to live in a dirty house. People are busier than ever before living their best possible lives, trying to reach their full potential, and generally trying to accomplish everything on their bucket lists. Toilet cleaning comes in slightly lower priority-wise than soccer practice and rock climbing.

House Cleaning Is More Hit-and-Miss

House cleaning today is much more chaotic than in days of yore. It’s more hit-and-miss, with less concern about cobwebs and dust bunnies. The good-enough approach is the rule of the day. This world has so much to offer that there’s little time left to worry about whether or not there’s dust under the bed.

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Homemakers Have More Choices

Modern homemakers face myriad choices with regard to products and methodology. Use-this-don’t-use-that alarmists and here-today-gone-tomorrow trends, as well as a dizzying array of products, pull consumers in all directions.

No one has to do it the way their mother did; there are so many choices and YouTube videos that any chore can be performed fifteen different ways. Cleaning a bathroom shower can be approached from so many angles that it becomes almost impossible to hone the process down to the one, perfect method that will get the job done quickly and effectively every time. There are just too many choices and it’s too tempting to keep searching for the easiest method rather than settling on one that’s good enough. It always seems like there’s a better way.

Silly Details Matter Less

Modern homemakers don’t concern themselves overly much with silly little details that no one cares about. They don’t waste hours upon hours dismantling things in order to clean them, or color-coding the linen closet, or researching new ways to clean grout. Our disposable world makes it easy to throw it out and buy a new one rather than try to get it clean, whatever it may be. Whether this is right or wrong isn’t the point; it’s just how our modern world is.

The Modern Homemaker

The homemaker of the past is, indeed, dead and buried. But the role has been replaced with a much more interesting, well-rounded, satisfied homemaker whose job involves less drudgery and more spice. Housekeeping, while still important, plays a less important role in modern families. Sure, the toilet still gets cleaned, but not in a “Saturday is cleaning day above all else” kind of way.

Today’s homemaker is fluid; the role constantly evolving along with the technology in our world and the availability of better and more advanced gadgets and gizmos to make housework less work-y.

Housekeeping as an art form is alive and well. It’s just different than it used to be. And so are today’s homemakers.

Want more organizing and house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my author page. My books include De-Clutter and Organize Your Home in 7 Simple Steps, Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, and How to Become a Cleaning Pro: the Ultimate Guide to Starting and Operating Your Own House Cleaning Service.

The Seven-Day Spring Cleaning Challenge to Get Your Home in Shape

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It’s spring cleaning time! This is the time of year when dedicated homemakers dive in and do a thorough home cleaning, tackling jobs that aren’t part of their regular cleaning routing. It’s also a great time to take control if you’re the type who doesn’t have a regular cleaning routine and want to whip your home into shape.

Either way, this seven-day plan will arm you with all the information you need to deep clean your home in seven days. Day one will start you off right by purging of all the unnecessary clutter eating up your valuable space. Day two will get you organized by taking deep dive inside your closets. Day three will be all about window washing. Days four and five will bring bedrooms and bathrooms up to code. Day six will get your living room and family room into tip-top shape. Finally, on day seven the kitchen will be targeted.

Once you’ve gotten your home into shape, keeping it that way will be easy if you establish a regular cleaning routine. Even if your housekeeping hasn’t been so great up ‘til now, this is your fresh start, a new beginning. And isn’t that what spring is all about?

Day 1: De-cluttering

The first step to house cleaning of any type is de-cluttering and organizing. It’s just plain easier to clean spaces that are free of unnecessary objects. De-cluttering isn’t difficult unless you have years of clutter to clear out. In the event that this is your situation, this step may take longer than one day.

Hopefully you don’t have that much clutter, so the task won’t be that big of a deal. It’s a simple process: throw things away, give things away, and put things away.

The key principle of organizing is that all items have a permanent spot where they live when they’re at rest. This allows you to put things away when you’re not using them and readily recover them when you need them again. The end result: everything you own doesn’t end up on the island in the middle of the kitchen and you have nowhere to eat breakfast.

The first step to de-cluttering is tossing out anything that’s just plain trash. Take a good look around, and I mean really look around. Often we overlook stuff that’s right in front of us because we’re so used to seeing it. Piles of old newspapers or magazines or Amazon shipping boxes that you think you’ll use sometime are trash. Toss ‘em (or recycle ‘em).

Get real, be honest, and if it’s something that you might use but probably won’t, don’t let it keep taking up valuable space that you could be using for the things that are of value to you. Be ruthless.

Once you’ve got the outright trash out of the way, take another look around for stuff that’s not trash, but that you’re not using. These are things that have value, and that someone else could use. Again, be honest with yourself. If you’re never going to use it, isn’t it better to pass it along to someone who will?

Put together a donation box and pat yourself on the back for doing your part to help others while also doing yourself the favor of eliminating stuff you don’t need. Win-win.

At this point, whatever clutter you’ve got left is the stuff that you want to keep, so put it away somewhere. If you’ve already got a great system for organizing your stuff, this step should be easy.

If not, get busy. Find a logical place to store each object and put it there. Your storage spaces should be places that make sense to you and that you will remember so you know where to look when you want to retrieve the object for later use. Do this over and over again until everything is put away. It’s very easy once you get the hang of it.

If you’re finding that you haven’t got space for your stuff, don’t worry, because tomorrow you’ll clean out some closets. Set it aside for now and keep in mind how much room you’ll need.

Day 2: Clean Closets

Closets are often the spots where we hide things. All kinds of things. Stuff we don’t know what else to do with, stuff that we no longer want, stuff that we tell ourselves we’re going to use some day. Getting into your closets from time to time to take a good look at what you’ve got is a great way to free up space. Without fail, there’s some stuff in there that can be gotten rid of.

Your day two deep-clean challenge is to clean and re-organize closets. Bedroom closets, linen closets, entry hall closets, laundry room closets, the closet in the family room with all the board games. Make it a fun family day activity and split up the job. Whoever has the best organized closet at the end of the day wins!

Closet cleaning can be a simple process or it can be quite involved. If your closets are small and there’s not a lot of stuff inside, it shouldn’t take long. If your closets are walk-ins packed full of stuff, the job may take a while.

Either way, the basic steps are the same.

First, clear some space for a work area. If you are cleaning a bedroom closet, lay an old sheet over the bed so you can use the space to temporarily place things. Next, pull everything out of the closet. As you remove items, quickly decide whether each object is worth keeping. Have a box ready for things that you will be giving away, or designate a separate area if you are getting rid of a lot of things.

After you’ve got the closet cleared of its contents, dust all areas, remove cobwebs, and sweep or vacuum the floor.

Next, replace the things you’re keeping, reorganizing and cleaning as you go. Dust off any boxes or other containers before replacing them in the closet. Introduce new boxes, bins, baskets or whatever storage containers will help you store things so that you can easily find them again. Label boxes, make lists of contents and tape them to the outside, or use clear storage containers. Don’t waste any space. Arrange articles so that taller things are behind shorter things.

This is a great time to bring in new organizational systems. There are all kinds of shelving and racks to help you create your dream closet, so get creative. Have fun with it. You’re aiming to create well-organized spaces that will make your life easier by helping you keep track of your stuff.

At the end of your day two challenge, your closets should have nothing to hide. You will be able to immediately lay your hands on whatever you’re looking for because your closets will be free of unnecessary stuff and well organized. Pat yourself on the back and get some rest. Tomorrow will be window washing day.

Day 3: Washing Windows

No deep-cleaning project would be complete without a day devoted to windows. It’s best to avoid washing windows when the sun is shining directly on them, so the first thing to think about is what time of day is the best to tackle your project. Observe the sun’s position to make this determination.

The second thing to consider is whether your windows are really dirty or just a little dirty. This will determine what cleaning method is most appropriate in your situation.

If your windows are only slightly dirty, a spray bottle of glass cleaning solution will be the quickest way to go.  Use commercial glass cleaner or mix your own using equal parts vinegar and water or three parts water to one part rubbing alcohol.

Spray the cleaner on the glass and then use dry cloths to wipe the glass clean. If you see streaks when you’re finished, repeat the process using a fresh cloth. Sometimes you can buff away streaks with a dry cloth without having to re-apply glass cleaner. If you’re doing a lot of windows, have a lot of cloths on hand because the key to avoiding leaving lint and streaks on your windows is using fresh, dry cloths for buffing.

If your windows are really dirty, the above method will take forever. Instead, mix a window washing solution in a bucket. A simple, effective window washing mixture can be made using a few drops of dish detergent in a gallon of warm water. Alternatively, use a cup of of ammonia or vinegar in the water.

Using a cloth or a sponge, wash the window with your solution, rinsing your cloth as often as needed, until all the dirt has been removed. Then buff the window dry. Switch off your drying/buffing cloth as it gets damp to avoid streaking.

Depending on the type of windows, you may be able to clean them on both sides (inside and outside) without setting foot outside your house. Tip-in windows can easily be cleaned on both sides from inside the house. That’s a no-brainer.

To clean the exterior surfaces of windows that slide or crank open, open the window and see if you can reach your arm around to the exterior side far enough to wipe the area clean. Sometimes this works, sometimes not. This method might be your only option for cleaning upstairs windows, and in this case you’ll have to do the best you can.

Cleaning window exteriors outdoors is sometimes challenging, and sometimes impossible, depending on the nature of your landscaping.  Steep grades or dense foliage are typically deal breakers.

If it’s a question of distance, for example awkwardly placed windows or windows that are just beyond reach and impractical to get at with a ladder, a squeegee with a long or telescoping handle comes in handy. Use a squeegee with an attached sponge on one side. Apply your cleaning solution to the window with the sponge side and then pull the squeegee back and forth across the window surface horizontally working from the top down.

Window screens should be removed and cleaned at the same time you clean your windows. They can be vacuumed or wiped clean with a damp cloth.

Window sills and tracks can also be cleaned while you’re at it. If they’re really dirty, first vacuum up loose debris, then wash with a cloth or sponge dipped into a solution of water and all-purpose cleaner, or use your window cleaning solution. Use a toothbrush to get into the edges.

There aren’t any hard and fast rules about window cleaning, so improvise as necessary. When you’re done, take satisfaction in how nice your windows look. Window washing is hard work. Job well done!

Day 4: Bedrooms from Top to Bottom

Deep cleaning your bedrooms is a great opportunity to target accumulated dust under beds and on window treatments, as well as behind furniture.

To begin, temporarily remove any lightweight objects like lamps or knick-knacks to make it easier to move furniture around without fear of breaking anything.

Any small area rugs should be removed and washed or shaken outside and left to air.

This is a good time to wash or air textiles like bed skirts, duvet covers, bedspreads, decorative pillow shams, etc.

Start cleaning from the ceiling down, dusting away cobwebs and dust on ceiling fans, ceilings, light fixtures, and walls. Use a dusting tool or a dustmop.

Pictures, wall art, wall hangings, or anything else on the walls should be cleaned or dusted.

Vacuum or dust louvered doors, ridged doors, door frames, window frames, shutters. Work your way downward, dusting any chair rails, baseboards, and baseboard heaters. Vacuum or dust air vent covers.

Move furniture around as necessary and if possible, to get to all the walls and other surfaces that need to be dusted.

Take the opportunity to vacuum or clean areas of floors which are normally underneath furniture and not easily accessible. If furniture can’t be moved, try to get under and behind it as much as possible using a dustmop, broom, or your vacuum cleaner.

Thoroughly vacuum upholstered furniture. Vacuum your mattresses and flip them over.

Dust or vacuum lampshades and window treatments.

Dust furniture and begin re-assembling your room, dusting objects before replacing them.

Replace throw rugs and any textiles that you washed or aired.

Smell the clean air. Good job!

Day 5: Bathrooms

Deep cleaning bathrooms might take some time, depending on the state your bathrooms are in to start. If you’ve neglected them, this is a great opportunity to bring them up to snuff.

First pick up any area rugs and mats. Wash them, if you’d like. Also take down shower curtains and wash, if necessary.

This is a good time to go through the medicine cabinet and other cupboards. Move everything so that you can wipe off shelves and dust. Get rid of outdated medicine, toiletries, etc. Replace everything in an orderly fashion.

Dust ceilings, walls, baseboards, wall hangings, any furniture or shelves, and whatever else might need dusting. Clear any dust or cobwebs from your vent fan cover if you have one.

Clean woodwork, cupboard doors, sides of vanities. Wash walls if you’re so inclined. Wash any tile on walls and buff dry for a nice shine.

Clean the sink and vanity. If there’s any type of buildup, use all-purpose scrub and rinse thoroughly. Otherwise, clean with all-purpose cleaner or tub and tile spray cleaner. To clean discoloration or gunk from around drain, faucets or other areas, use all-purpose scrub cleanser and a toothbrush or other small scrubbing brush. Remove mineral deposits with vinegar, or use a specialty cleaner.

Clean the mirror, top to bottom. If your mirror has a film or residue that won’t come off, clean with straight vinegar and buff well. Dab rubbing alcohol onto stubborn spots, such as hair-spray overspray.

Clean tub/shower using tub and tile cleaner, all-purpose cleaner or scrub, or the appropriate cleaner if it’s a surface that calls for special care, such as granite.

To eliminate mildew or dark-colored discoloration on your shower walls or tub, use an all-purpose cleaner containing bleach. Be sure to follow safety instructions: never mix chlorine bleach with other products, use proper ventilation, wear gloves, rinse thoroughly.

To eliminate heavy-duty soap scum buildup in your shower, spray your cleaning agent on the shower surfaces liberally up to an hour prior to cleaning the area so it has time to break down the grime. Then use your cloth or a nylon scrubber to remove the buildup.

Using a good commercial tub and tile cleaner specifically formulated to break down soap scum is the quickest way to eliminate heavy buildups. Likewise, for any type of mineral deposits or stains, a product targeting the specific type of stain will be the quickest way to get rid of it.

Don’t forget to run your bathroom vent fan or open a window if you’re using cleaning products that produce fumes.

If you have any type of buildup or mildew but you’re averse to using strong chemicals, here are some ideas for more natural cleaning agents:

~Use an equal mixture of baking soda and Castile soap. Scrub with a nylon cleaning pad to remove soap scum buildup. Re-apply and rinse until you are satisfied with the results.

~To remove mildew from grout, spray liberally with hydrogen peroxide and allow it to sit for 20 minutes, then scrub grout with a toothbrush or scrub brush and rinse. Re-apply peroxide to areas that don’t come totally clean and repeat the process.

~Try straight vinegar on areas with mineral stains or deposits. Spray on, allow it to sit for an hour or more, and then scrub the area with a stiff brush or nylon scrubber. Rinse, and repeat the process, if necessary.

Clean the toilet. To remove toilet stains, try using two or three cups of straight vinegar; pour in and let it sit for a while.

Clean the floor. This is the time to really clean areas behind the toilet and in corners.

Reassemble your room. Take satisfaction in knowing that the toughest cleaning job in the whole house is now over and done. Excellent work!

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Day 6: Living Areas

Today your deep cleaning challenge is your family room, living room, and other common areas. Because these are the spaces where we usually entertain company, they tend to be kept in pretty good shape. Your prime objective is getting to areas that aren’t usually in the line of fire when you clean, like under and behind furniture.

Start out by setting aside any objects-de-art or other bric-a-brac so they don’t get broken in the throes of your cleaning frenzy.

Remove small area rugs to wash or shake outside and left to air.

This is a good time to wash textiles like throws that you snuggle under in cold weather.

Dust ceiling fans and light fixtures, ceiling and walls. Clean or dust wall sconces, pictures, wall art, wall hangings.

Dust or vacuum louvered doors, ridged doors, door frames, window frames, shutters.

Work your way downward, dusting any chair rails and baseboards.

If you have baseboard heaters, don’t forget to clean ridges and spaces underneath, not just the top edge.

Vacuum air vent covers with a dusting brush or use your dusting tool.

Dust or wash woodwork. Spot clean walls, switch plates, door frames.

Move furniture around to get to all the walls and other surfaces that need to be dusted and washed. Be careful not to scratch the floor when moving furniture. If you can lift a piece of furniture enough to slide soft cloths under the legs, then you can shove it around on a bare floor.

Thoroughly dust any built-in shelves. Either remove objects completely or shift them so you can dust behind and under them. Dust other areas that you don’t normally clean, like inside of china closets, if necessary. If it’s not dusty inside, don’t bother. Free-standing bookshelves or other shelves that hold objects-de-art should be thoroughly dusted or vacuumed. It’s sometimes easier to vacuum the top side of books with a dusting brush attachment. If there’s a space behind books, pull them out and dust back there.

Thoroughly vacuum upholstered furniture. If cushions are removable, turn them over. You can use upholstery cleaner if you feel the need. Test the upholstery cleaner on your fabric first. Spray on, then blot with a clean, damp cloth. Keep rinsing the cloth in clear water and blotting at the upholstery until it’s clean.

Vacuum lampshades carefully, if they’re dusty. Or use a clean, damp cloth to dust them off.

Vacuum window treatments.

Clean the floor.

Reassemble your room. Replace objects that you removed earlier. Replace throw rugs and any textiles that you washed or aired.

Smell the clean air. Admire your handiwork. Well done!

Day 7: The Kitchen

This is it, day seven of your seven-day challenge. This is the home stretch. The kitchen is the one room in the house that most people tend to keep pretty clean. If this is the case in your home, deep cleaning your kitchen shouldn’t be too difficult.

Start out by getting rid of stuff that’s been sitting around for a while. Clean out closets, cupboards, and drawers. Then reorganize. This is a good time to rearrange those plastic storage containers that you can never find the lids for or to rearrange your pots and pans.

Clean out food cupboards. Take stuff out or shift it around so you can see what you have and get rid of anything with expired dates or that is obviously no good. Don’t forget cupboards up high that you never use.

If you have a drawer under your oven, clean and reorganize that too.

After all your closets, cupboards and drawers are in good shape it’s time to clean.

Temporarily remove knickknacks while you clean. If you have a collection of plates hanging on the walls or salt and pepper shakers on a shelf, this is the time to wash them.

Remove any throw rugs and wash or shake outside and leave them to air. Remove window treatments, if you are washing or airing them.

Eliminate cobwebs and dust from the ceiling, ceiling fans, light fixtures, walls, wall hangings, tops of cupboards.

Dust any furniture. Thoroughly wipe down kitchen table and chairs and any kitchen stools.

Wash or spot clean woodwork, doors, doorknobs. Kitchen doors and doorways attract dirty fingerprints, so pay special attention to these areas.

Clean cupboard doors and drawer fronts.

Clean the stove vent fan cover.

Clean appliance fronts and inside the microwave.

Clean inside the refrigerator thoroughly: wipe down walls, shelves, remove drawers, clean inside the door.

Clean under the refrigerator. If your fridge is on wheels, pull it out to clean the floor underneath, and clean any dust or cobwebs from the back of the fridge and the wall behind it.

Clean the stove top: remove drip pans, if applicable, and scrub. Clean the oven, too, if necessary.

Clean countertops, backsplash, and countertop appliances. If they haven’t been done in a while, take your time and get into all the corners.

Clean garbage container.

Clean the floor.

Reassemble the room: replace curtains, blinds, rugs, knick-knacks, etc.

That’s it! You’ve completed your seven-day deep-cleaning challenge. Your home is now clean from top to bottom and well-organized to boot. It will stay that way if you stick to a regular cleaning routine from here on out. Since you’ve gone to the trouble of whipping your home into shape, why not give it a try? Keeping a clean home is all about maintenance. Set up a regular schedule to routinely clean your home and then stick to it. Once you get going, you’ll see how easy it is.

For today, pat yourself on the back because you’ve done a lot of work and a really great job. Congratulations!

Want more organizing and house cleaning tips and ideas? Check out my author page on Amazon.   My books include the titles De-Clutter and Organize Your Home in 7 Simple Steps, Clean Like A Pro: Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Your Home Like a Seasoned Professional, and How to Become a Cleaning Pro: the Ultimate Guide to Starting and Operating Your Own House Cleaning Service.

 

Get Your Home In Shape for the Holidays: a Week-by-Week Action Plan

 

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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.

leather chair

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.

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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Make the Most of Your House Cleaning Agents

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.

spray kitchen sink

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.

Do Your Homework

Understand what products to use on what surfaces and for what tasks. Anyone who cleans should have basic knowledge about cleaning agents.

It’s smart to use cleaning supplies as effectively as possible to reduce the time and effort you’ll have to spend to make your home shiny and fresh. Work smarter, not harder.

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.

 

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 door

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.light fixture

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.

 

Is It Possible To Clean Your Home Without Using Chemicals?

clean a keypadCan 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:

  • Clean frequently.
  • Reduce the messes that require chemical intervention.
  • Use the right tools for cleaning.
  • Use chemical products sparingly.

Clean Frequently

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.

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. For more info: https://www.amazon.com/author/darlenephillips

Cleaning Secrets: The Versatile Vacuum Cleaner

House cleaning is challenging. Keeping up with the dirty footprints and the spilled cereal, the dust that never seems to stop settling onto surfaces high and low, plus the other two-million myriad tasks that are part of day-to-day housekeeping, requires tenacity and resourcefulness.

One of the most versatile tools at your disposal is your vacuum cleaner. A good vacuum cleaner is useful for a wide variety of jobs beyond removing dirt from carpeting.

Vacuum Cleaner Attachments

Most vacuum cleaners come with an assortment of tools for dusting, getting into tight spots, vacuuming upholstered furniture, and vacuuming bare floors. Most modern machines also have extendable wands that will allow you to reach high spots and get into corners.

So what can you do with all of these tools? The sky’s the limit. Well, the ceiling anyway.

If your wand will reach, use the dusting brush to tackle cobwebs up high where the wall and ceiling meet, or on light fixtures or wall-hangings. Use the dusting brush to tackle interior window shutters, window grates, window sills, curtains and valances, louvered doors, chair rails, baseboards, heating grates and vent covers, lampshades. Remove dust from the top sides of books on shelves. Dust knickknacks and picture frames and everything in between.

The dusting brush also does an excellent job of removing dirt and dust from uncarpeted stairs. Its versatility allows you to get into all the corners and in between spindles, as well as removing dust from any other surfaces in the vicinity while you’re at it.

Tackle baseboard heater dustouts with this double-duty-duo: your dusting brush for horizontal surfaces and crevice tool to get to areas inside and underneath.

Use the floor brush to remove dust accumulations from the top of ceiling fan blades. This handy, wide tool also quickly removes dust and cobwebs from walls. Use the floor brush to eliminate accumulated hair in the bathroom, and not just on the floor. As long as surfaces are dry, use it on countertops and other horizontal surfaces.

Vacuum Pet Hair

How about furniture? Pet hair on upholstered furniture is easily removed with a small rotating brush attachment, if your machine is equipped with one. Otherwise, use the upholstery tool. Don’t forget to get underneath cushions and tackle the edges, too. Use the dusting brush attachment on leather furniture.

Your vacuum cleaner is also handy for cleaning loose debris inside of cupboards and drawers, like spilled rice and the crumbs at the bottom of your bread drawer. Spilled powder and the 1001 sequins that broke free in your craft supply bin are no match for the almighty vacuum cleaner.

Got pet hair all over your suit jacket and no lint brush in sight? Use your vacuum cleaner to quickly solve the problem.

Be creative. Have fun with it. Allow your imagination to run wild thinking up new uses for the superstar of cleaning tools, the oh-so-versatile vacuum cleaner.

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. For more info: https://www.amazon.com/author/darlenephillips

House Cleaning Checklist: How A Pro Cleans

Who out there wonders what everyone else does when they clean their homes? Do you secretly worry that you’re not doing everything you should to keep your house in order? Do you want to know the process a professional house cleaner uses when cleaning a home? If so, you’re in the right place.

To help you achieve the best results from your cleaning routines, I’ve compiled a comprehensive checklist breaking down the tasks which make up a typical house cleaning job. Completing every item on the list each time you clean isn’t necessary, so don’t be intimidated.

The trick is in establishing a rotation that’ll ensure all items are done on an as-needed basis. And “as-needed” is a pretty loose timeframe. Some things might have to be done every six months and some every week. Each home is different. Customize your cleaning routine to fit your situation and keep it as simple as possible.

Tasks that are done in all rooms:

  • Working from high to low, eliminate cobwebs or dust along the edge where the walls and ceilings meet, on the ceiling itself, and in corners.
  • Dust ceiling fan blades, light fixtures, and anything else up high.
  • Dust the top edges of curtains and valances or other window treatments, window blinds, window sills, window grates, shutters inside windows.
  • Dust the edges of picture frames and wall-hangings.
  • Dust ridges on multi-panel doors, louvered doors, tops of door frames and doors, chair rails, air-vent covers.
  • Dust free-standing floor lamps, lampshades, finials, light bulbs, floor lamp bases.
  • Dust baseboards, baseboard heaters.
  • Spot clean fingerprints and other marks on walls, switch plates, doors and door frames.
  • Clean doorknobs, handrails, banisters.
  • Clean exterior glass doors and spot-clean insides of windows if necessary.

Tasks in the living room, family room, foyer, den, dining room, bedrooms, similar rooms:

  • Dust tables, shelves, stands, curios, dressers, chests, and other similar furniture, as well as the stuff on top, such as bric-a-brac, electronics, books, clocks, lamps, pictures.
  • Dust the sides, legs and feet of furniture. Eliminate any cobwebs along bottom edges.
  • Spot clean glass doors on things like china cabinets.
  • Spot clean mirrors.
  • Dust (or vacuum with a dusting brush) fireplace hearths.
  • Wipe down or dust leather furniture.
  • Vacuum upholstered furniture as needed.
  • Clean the floors: vacuum, sweep or dust mop bare floors & damp mop as needed.

Cleaning interior stairways:

  • On uncarpeted stairs, use a damp cloth or small broom and, starting at the top, brush dirt and dust down each stair using a dustpan to collect the dirt as you go.
  • Dust around spindles, the spindles themselves if necessary, and any moldings.
  • Use your vacuum cleaner stair brush attachment to clean carpeted areas on stairs, and use the dusting tool or a cloth to clean and dust uncarpeted edges and any moldings.
  • When cleaning stairways, don’t forget to wipe the handrails clean.

Kitchen cleaning tasks:

  • As in any other room, dust ceilings, blinds, furniture, baseboards, etc. Don’t forget to dust off the top of the fridge and the tops of cupboards if they don’t meet the ceiling.
  • Wipe down table and chairs or stools.
  • Clean appliance fronts: microwave, dishwasher, refrigerator, trash compacter, stove, oven(s). Look out for fingerprints and sticky areas on keypads, knobs and handles.
  • If you have an inset water or ice dispenser in your refrigerator door, don’t forget to clean this area.
  • Clean inside the microwave, if necessary.
  • Clean cook top.
  • Clean top of range hood if you have one.
  • Wipe off the countertops and backsplashes, and wash the outsides of appliances on the counters as well as any other paraphernalia and anything mounted to the underside of upper cupboards. Shift appliances from side to side so you can clean the counter underneath.
  • De-crumb the toaster or toaster oven.
  • Spot clean cupboard doors and drawer fronts.
  • Optionally, clean your garbage container outside and/or inside.
  • Clean the sink
  • Sweep/vacuum/mop the floor.

Laundry room tasks:

  • Dust from the ceiling down, as in all rooms.
  • Dust all flat surfaces, walls, ridges on cupboard doors, whatever areas you can reach behind your washer and dryer, baseboards.
  • Spot clean the outsides of washer, dryer and any other appliances, and clean dispensers for laundry soap, fabric softener, as well as door gasket.
  • Vacuum the dryer lint trap.
  • Spot clean cupboard doors and wipe off any countertops.
  • Clean utility sink, if applicable.
  • Clean floor. Clean behind and under laundry baskets, hampers, etc.

Bathrooms:

  • Dust the bathroom as you would in any other room. Don’t forget the edges of towel racks, the lip along the top of partially tiled walls, the ridges around the top of shower walls, the top edge of shower curtains or shower doors, blinds and window grates, knick-knack shelves, and the edge along the top side of medicine cabinets or other cupboards.
  • Dust the covers on any ceiling vents.
  • Dust light fixtures.
  • tile wall
  • If walls are tiled, clean with a damp cloth and buff dry, or spot clean.
  • Clean sink and vanity.
  • Spot clean cupboard doors.
  • Clean mirrors.
  • Clean tub/shower.
  • Clean the toilet inside and out.
  • Sweep/vacuum/mop the floor.

The most important element to keeping a home in the best possible shape is maintaining a regular cleaning routine. This ensures that every part of the house gets cleaned periodically, meaning that everything gets dusted, floors get cleaned, the kitchen gets a thorough wipe-down, and bathrooms get sanitized.

While the list might seem long, the basics of cleaning are limited to dusting, vacuuming or floor cleanup, rudimentary kitchen cleanup like keeping counters clean, and bathroom maintenance. Both kitchen and bathroom cleaning is most efficient if it’s done on a daily basis, but do what you can when you can. Just know that more often is better in those two rooms, if nowhere else.

Cleaning your home every week or two doesn’t have to be a labor-intensive experience. Keeping up with the basics is quick and easy if you do it often, focusing on controlling the accumulation of dust and whatever debris gets tracked in on the feet of all who enter your home.

Add in the kitchen and bathrooms tasks that are part of good hygiene practices, and you’ve got yourself a simple routine that shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. Then just rotate in whatever other chores need to be done as you notice the need arise. All those other chores are nothing more than gravy. At its core, house cleaning is really quite simple. The real secret is keeping it that way.

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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