Making Short Work of House Cleaning

With work, kids, and leisure pursuits all competing for your attention, cleaning house understandably may not be your priority. Still, if you’re like most people, you consider a reasonably clean home to be one of life’s essentials.

So with limited time available, why devote any more of it to cleaning than is absolutely necessary? Even if you abhor a vacuum (or a broom or a mop), you can do it right—and fast. There are simple yet effective techniques for vacuuming, dusting, window cleaning, and polishing that can shave precious moments off your cleaning time. Even spring cleaning, that top-to-bottom ritual embraced by good housekeepers everywhere, is still possible on a time budget. With today’s new, more effective cleaning products and tools designed to help you get the dirty jobs done at lightning speed, coming clean has never been easier or more stress free.

 It takes just a few moments to create a realistic cleaning schedule that will yield a house full of spotless results. And you’ll find that when your home sparkles, you shine too.

What is it about housecleaning that can send even the most energetic and efficient of souls ducking for cover? If you’d rather visit the dentist than do battle with dirt, you’re not alone.

If you cringe at the thought of tackling the mildew in the shower, chasing dust bunnies around the living room, or washing the grimy refrigerator shelves, you have a lot of company. The squeaky-clean truth If you cringe at the thought of tackling the mildew in the shower, chasing dust bunnies around the living room, or washing the grimy refrigerator shelves, you have a lot of company. The squeaky-clean truth is that most of us would prefer to do just about anything rather than take on the dirty jobs around the home.

 Mom probably taught you the basics of housecleaning and many of her techniques are still the most efficient today: Pick up the clutter before you clean. Dust from top to bottom. Wipe up spills as soon as they happen. But things have changed a lot since you and your mom shared living quarters. There are many new specialty surfaces in today’s home, and there is such a confusing array of specialized cleaning products on the market that it often seems easier to use the old tools and methods— or put off the job altogether- Nevertheless, it’s time to come clean. But how?

 THE PERFECT PRODUCTS

The first objective is to choose the correct cleaning products for your home. Take a look at the surfaces around your house. Is there cooking grease on the stove? Mildew on the shower door? A rust stain around the tub fixture? Identifying the dirt you see and anticipating the germs you don’t are the first steps in determining which products you’ll need to get the jobs done without damaging the surfaces.

Product labels are your best source of information. All-purpose cleaner; oven cleaner; tub, sink, and tile cleaner—the name usually says exactly what the product will do. If the name doesn’t tell you, the label on the back will. Here you’ll find the types of soils and surfaces the product can—or can’t—be used on.

Next, consider your style of cleaning. Are you a once-a-month, bucket-wielding cleaner? If so, you’ll want to stock up on the heavy-duty cleaners designed to tackle tough dirt and grime. If you prefer more frequent, quick cleanups—the simplest way to keep cleaning grime to the absolute minimum—the mild all-purpose cleaners and a couple of site-specific cleaners, such as a toilet-bowl disinfectant and a rub, sink, and tile cleaner, are all you’ll need to keep the surfaces in your home sparkling. Here’s a list of the essentials:

  • NONABRASIVE, ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER, IDEALLY IN A SPRAY BOTTLE
  • TOILET-BOWL CLEANER
  • DISINFECTANT (TRY 3/4 cup [180MLl CHLORINE BLEACH PER GALLON [4L] OF WATER)  TUB, TILE, AND SINK CLEANER
  • A BOTTLE OF LIQUID DISHWASHING DETERGENT
  • WINDOW AND GI.ASS CLEANER IN A SPRAY BOTTLE

 

For those who prefer “natural” or environmentally friendly substitutes, the choices are mushrooming, Not only are suppliers creating new “earth-friendly” cleaners, but traditional products are containing more natural ingredients. An alternative list of cleaning supplies might include

  • BAKING SODA WITH WATER, AS AN ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER
  • WHITE DISTILLED V’NECTAR DILUTED IN WATER, TO CLEAN WINDOWS
  • BORAX, TO CLEAN AND DEODORIZE AND TO REMOVE TOILET-BOWL STAINS
  • NATURAL SOAPS (CAST\LE OR GLYCERIN-BASED), TO WASH DISHES

 A few things to consider when choosing between so-called natural and synthetic products: naturally or artificially derived, all ingredients—even water—are chemicals. There are no nontoxic substances. Even salt can be deadly if taken in too high a dose. (Also, some cleaning products—notably bleach and ammonia —are dangerous when mixed. Read and follow precautions on product labels.)

Store-bought household products 2re required to meet standards for safe disposal down your drain, but alternative cleaning products aren’t evaluated in that context.

Commercial products consistently out perform their home-mixture counterparts. Homemade cleaners generally require a great deal more time and elbow grease. The single exception is home-mixed glass cleaner: 1/4 cup (60mI) of vinegar in 3 3/4 cups (900ml) of warm water.

Once you’ve assembled your cleaning products, build a user-friendly “tool kit.” The following items will maximize the effectiveness of your cleaners—and will minimize your scrubbing time:

  • COTTON RAGS, ALL-COTTON DIAPERS, OR WHITE PAPER TOWELS
  • SCRUBBER SPONGE
  • LARGE SCRUB BRUSH
  • RUBBER CLOVES
  • SQUEEGEE

SIMPLE TECHNIQUES

Dust and dirt begone! Here are basic tips you can employ to make your cleaning routine time-efficient but thorough:

Voracious vacuuming. There really is more to vacuuming than just plugging in the machine and giving your rug or carpet a once-over. To suck up all the dirt and dust hidden between the fibers, you need to spend about 20 seconds or so going back and forth over each area of the rug.

For those neat vacuum patterns in the rug that announce, “I’ve been cleaned!” pretend you’re mowing the lawn. Divide the area into strips and tackle each strip in sections using a back-and-forth motion. This last step is purely for appearances; your rug will be just as clean if you vacuum in a random pattern.

To get your furniture and hardwood surfaces shining, you don’t need fancy cleaners. They often leave a residue that will attract more dust than if you hadn’t used them. Instead of a fancy product in a spray bottle, use soft cotton or terry, a 100 percent cotton diaper, or a cleaning cloth (you’ll find these cloths in the cleaning product section of your grocery store). Lightly moisten the cloth with water and gently buff the surface along the grain. This technique will remove most spills and fingerprints.

There is an easy way to remove white water rings and marks from oil-finished woods such as teak: Coat the spot with a thick film of cooking oil, then gently rub with fine steel wool or a light-duty plastic scrubber until the stain fades. Buff the area with a clean cloth or soft paper towel.

EXTRA SPARKLE

Mirror, mirror on the wall. For streak- and spot-free glass you’ll need a squeegee; a glass cleaner; and a clean, lint-free rag. Spray the glass cleaner lightly on the rag and wash the surface; using horizontal strokes to prevent dripping, squeegee it dry. For extra sparkle, polish the surface when it’s nearly dry with a piece of newspaper. The ink used in some papers may smudge the glass when it’s wet, so try this first in a small area before attempting to buff the entire surface.

Sparkling silver and silver plate. You’ll need silver polish—either a commercial brand or ordinary toothpaste will work. Put a bit of the polish on a damp cloth or a clean cotton sock (socks make ideal polishing cloths—apply polish with one side; then turn the sock over and buff with the other side). Use up-and-down rather than circular strokes to polish the item quickly and effectively in less time. Use a twisted bit of rag to get between silverware tines and other tight spaces. Finish the job with a few strokes using a clean, dry cloth (or the clean side of the sock).

Store silver behind glass, in cloth or plastic bags, or in plastic wrap to keep tarnish to a minimum. Resist the urge to bundle your silver in rubber bands: rubber can cause discoloration.