Keeping your house clean is an increasingly challenging task for families in which everyone is busy. Here are tips on how to get the chores done efficiently yourself, or how to hire a good house cleaning service to do the heavy lifting for you.
American families have less free time than ever to tend to housecleaning, but it becomes an overwhelming task if you don't keep up with it. Here are some tips from professional house cleaners on how often to clean the most frequently used living areas of a home:
Kitchen & Eating Areas
If you do nothing else daily, make sure you wash the dishes and clean the sink and countertops. Wipe up messes on the stove and inside the microwave. Floors are a constant cleaning job depending on what's been dropped, but if you've managed to keep it reasonably clean, mop weekly. Every few weeks, run a cleaning agent through the dishwasher to prevent buildup and ensure sparkling dishes.
It's also a good idea to clear out the refrigerator before your weekly shopping trip. This way, you're removing what's spoiled and making room for fresh groceries. Every six months or so remove all the items from your cabinets and wipe down the shelving. This also is a good time to go through your canned and other packaged goods and throw away items that have expired.
If you use a table cloth, shake it out and wash it regularly. On a weekly basis, dust all surfaces and mop or vacuum the floor.
Living Room and Family Room
The main problem here is clutter. Make it the responsibility of every member of the family to put away items they left out.
Dusting should be done weekly, or at least every other week. If you can write your name in the dust, you've waited too long. Wipe down often-used surfaces like table tops, mop floors and vacuum carpets. Some people like to move their furniture around a couple of times a year so they can reach areas they don't routinely clean, such as under the sofa or chairs or behind book cases.
This room can be the dirtiest and cleanest in any house, so weekly cleanings are important. Start with the bathtub. Wipe all surfaces to prevent mildew and soap scum. Clean the sink to remove any build-up from toothpaste or other toiletries.
When cleaning the toilet, spray or add cleaning solution to the bowl then go clean other areas of the bathroom. This allows the toilet cleaning agent to activate for several minutes before scrubbing the bowl clean. Mop the floor last so you leave a clean floor drying in a clean room.
If you have a cabinet or linen closet, remove all contents every six months and wipe down the shelves. This gives you time to sort make-up and other toiletries and throw away items that are expired or empty.
Even if you don't feel like making the bed first thing in the morning, doing it every day will help you achieve the feeling of a clean room in just a few minutes. Wash the linens weekly to help reduce allergens and dust mites.
Make sure you put dirty clothes in a hamper and take the time to fold and put away clothing. Regular dusting of furniture and vacuuming carpet or dusting floors and baseboards can also help to reduce allergies.
What You Missed
If you're not a professional house cleaner there are probably some things you're overlooking - even if you clean regularly.
Ceiling Cobwebs and Baseboard Dust
Look up. Cobwebs collect along the top edge of the wall where it meets the ceiling -- and especially in corners. Use a long-handled dusting tool on these at least monthly. Wipe down your baseboards and trim, which tend to collect dust. This can be done with a furniture polish or with a rag dampened with water.
Doorknobs and Telephones
Why clean doorknobs? Because lots of hands touch them every day and leave germs behind. Telephones and other frequently touched surfaces should get the same treatment. Use an antibacterial wipe or a rag dampened with any household cleaner to wipe these surfaces clean. Remember, some of the most contaminated surfaces in the home involve places touched by multiple hands. Be sure to include them in your weekly cleaning routine.
Novice cleaners should read the labels of cleaning products before tackling a home cleaning. Knowing what you can and can't use on each surface in the house will save time, money and a potential disaster in the long run. Using the wrong product can do severe and sometimes irreparable damage. Also, some products can be harmful to children or pets if used too aggressively.
Whether you're hiring help or tackling the cleaning on your own, think about the last time you cleaned these hard to reach areas:
Behing and Under Major appliances
We often take for granted that nothing is going on under and behind the stove, refrigerator, washer or dryer. But the kitchen appliances attract grease, which provides a perfect surface for dust to stick. Other appliances collect dust and lint from laundry and daily living.
You may need help moving your major appliances a couple of times a year to ensure the area where you cook is as sanitary as it can be. In addition to cleaning the area around and under your washer and dryer, you will want to clean out the dryer vent to prevent a fire hazard.
Behind the Toilet: The toilet itself is pretty obvious, but the walls and floors behind and around the toilet, as well as the pedestal of the toilet should be cleaned thoroughly. A wet rag or mop will help pick up and remove dust and lint rather than sweeping it to another area in the bathroom.
Ceiling Fans: As the blades spin they likely are throwing dust across the room. You may be able to reach the blades with your vacuum cleaner attachment or a special long-handled ceiling fan brush. However, the best thing may be to get on a ladder and wipe down the blades with a little soapy water. Vacuuming might be required if you were unable to catch all the dust yourself.
Ceiling Corners: Depending on the height of your ceilings you may be able to reach the corners with one of your vacuum cleaner attachments. Rooms with high ceilings may require you to climb a ladder to get at the cobwebs.
Tops of Cabinets: Whether you have space between your kitchen cabinets and the ceiling or an armoire in a living room or bedroom, it's probably time to get out a ladder.
Remember, whichever room you clean, it's best to start high and work your way down because dust and dirt will become dislodged as you clean and make their way downward.
Don't forget to clean your cleaning tools! Though we'll drop dishcloths and dish towels into the washing machine, we often leave the dust in the broom and forget to wipe out the bucket and clean the mop.
Tools and Supplies
Before you begin tackling the challenge of cleaning the house, you will want to make sure you have all the necessary items on hand.
From tools of the trade, such as vacuums and rags, to cleaning products like Windex and baking soda, this list can serve as a comprehensive guide to assist you with house cleaning.
Vacuum Cleaner: The best way to begin cleaning a room is to eliminate dust, dirt and visible debris. Go over all carpeted and bare floors with an upright or handheld vacuum cleaner. Regular vacuuming will also significantly improve the appearance and life of your carpets!
Mop: Once the floors in your home are vacuumed, a mop is vital for getting rid of stains and eliminating bacteria from the floor. Choose a mop with a longer handle so that you are comfortable using it, and pair it with a bucket full of warm water and a cleaning solution.
Windex: This cleaning product is designed to remove smudges and stains on your glass items, such as tables, windows or mirrors. Spray it directly on the glass surface and wipe it off with a clean rag or wipe it down with a squeegee.
All-purpose Cleaner: If you have only one cleaning product in your home, it should be a spray bottle of all-purpose cleaner. It can be sprayed on most household surfaces and wiped off to easily remove bacteria, germs, smudges and stains.
Baking Soda: This inexpensive item is a staple for cleaning the home. Not only does it have cleaning properties, but it is also a great way to remove unpleasant odors. Use it as a paste with water on spills to clean the carpet and eliminate smells.
Rags: A supply of rags is vital when cleaning a home. Use them for cleaning bathrooms, windows, kitchen countertops and more.
Gloves: If you are using lots of chemical cleaners, washing dishes or scrubbing toilets, you will need a pair of gloves to protect your hands from harsh chemicals. Choose a rubber pair that extends up to your elbows for the best protection.
Polish: While your all-purpose cleaner will work to clean many surfaces in the home, invest in a few specialty polishes for surfaces like stainless steel or wooden tables.
Be Green As You Clean
If you're concerned about climate change, resource depletion and recycling, consider these environmentally-friendly tips for cleaning your home.
Reuse Instead of Throw Away
Whenever you consider throwing something away, make it a practice to try and find another use for it. Instead of using paper towels try rags that can easily be laundered and used again. Instead of throwing away floor cleaning pads consider using equipment that make use of steam and pads.
Since steaming tools use water to help with the cleaning process, they tend to be healthier for the environment than many toxic-laced commercial products. Also, weigh whether the use of recycled products may be more environmentally friendly than taking up the resources you would use for laundering.
Make Your Own Brew
Rather than purchasing products with hazardous ingredients, try making natural cleaning solutions.
Use a lemon juice and water mix to clean glass and mirrors. An old tee shirt torn to make rags can work well to clean those messy glass table tops without leaving streaks.
Mix lemon juice and olive oil to make a great smelling furniture polish.
Make a paste of salt, vinegar and flour to polish metal surfaces.
Throwing a handful of salt into a wood burning fireplace can help loosen up the soot buildup.
Use vinegar and water on bare floors to leave them fresh.
Use vinegar and baking soda to clean out clogged pipes and drains, or to deodorize your kitchen sink.
Use lemon juice and hot water to remove foul smells from your garbage disposal.
If you prefer not to do the cleaning work yourself, there are many professional house cleaning services that use green cleaning products.
Hiring a House Cleaning Service
You don't have to be wealthy to hire a cleaning service. Many busy families arrange for a service to come in once a week, once a month or something in between. Professional house cleaners can take care of tasks like vacuuming, dusting, mopping floors and so on while family members focus on keeping control of clutter and light cleaning of the bathrooms and kitchens.
When hiring, ask questions:
Are you insured?
Do you hire all your employees or are independent workers used?
How many workers do you use?
Have the prospective cleaner meet you at your home so you can walk from room to room asking what type of cleaning they will do and with what products. Most cleaning companies provide their own products, but if there are special products you prefer that they use this may cost extra.
Most experts recommend keeping consistency in cleaning. It's preferable to use the same person every time if the experience is satisfactory as different cleaners are likely to clean in different ways.
Finally, trust is extremely important. Unlike most other service providers, house cleaners typically come to your home while you're at work so you need to feel comfortable allowing them access to your home. If you are a member of Angie's List you will be able to search for house cleaners in your geographic area and pick someone who has consistently received high grades from other customers.