House Cleaning Basics

Fall is a great time of year to do a major clean-up in your house. You can open your windows and let the cool, fresh air breeze through, there’s no heat to sap your energy, and you’ll be inspired by thoughts of having a sparkling house for the holidays. But what if you never learned how to clean? Unfortunately, many people missed that part of their education, but can’t afford to have a housekeeper do the job for them. But having a clean house is essential to good health and comfortable living. Below are some of the basics you need to know in order to have a comfortable home.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Instead of looking at the big picture, start small. You’ll get overwhelmed and discouraged if you contemplate cleaning your whole house at once. Rather, work one room at a time, and follow a set pattern (see below) for your cleaning. If you’re wanting to do a very thorough cleaning, set a goal of one or two rooms per day, rather than the whole house. If you just want to get things in shape, you will be surprised at how quickly you move through the rooms if you get into a rhythm and work methodically.

This concept deserves it’s own article, and much has already been written about cutting clutter. Having too much stuff, and letting it run wild in your house is probably one reason why you haven’t cleaned yet. It’s discouraging to peer into a room and see mountains of paper on every flat surface, and two dozen children’s toys strewn across the floor. If you are in a hurry to get the house looking good, put a large box in each room and throw all the clutter into it for sorting and organizing later. You can put the full boxes into closets or under beds, and no guest will ever know. Just make sure that you actually do organize and clean out those boxes in short order, or you’ll only have hidden the problem rather than having solved it.

Tidy Up
Getting the house tidy is the first step in getting it clean. It may look like a daunting task (especially if you haven’t de-cluttered yet), but it’s do-able. Start with flat surfaces. Collect all loose papers, and put them in their proper files if possible. Collect all books and shelve them. Take dishes to the kitchen. Throw children’s toys into a large box or basket. Shake out area rugs, throw pillows, and blankets, and put them neatly in one spot. Make beds, put counter and dresser tops in order, and put as much as you can up and away.

Top To Bottom
Plan your cleaning so that you’re working from room to room, starting in the upper levels of the house, and working downwards. You can skip the bathrooms for the moment-we’ll get back to them. For the kitchen, the idea is the same, but you may need a little more elbow grease to get the stove and countertops truly clean. When you clean, you want to start at the top of the room and work downwards. Vacuuming the floor, and then dusting is counterproductive. Grab a broom or dry mop and go over the corners of the ceiling and walls, getting rid of cobwebs. If you did the tidy-up step first, your counters and tabletops should be mostly clear already, if you neglected that step, back up and make sure it’s done. Then take a slightly damp rag and dust flat surfaces, starting at the top and working down. If you’re going to wash woodwork, now’s the time. A bucket of warm water with a little mild soap and a soft cloth works well for that job. (If you’re in the kitchen, now’s the time to dust the top of the fridge, scrub out the sink, and clean the inside of the microwave.) Next, vacuum any furniture that may need it, making sure to lift up pillows and get into crevices to catch all the crumbs and dust that accumulate there. Finally, do your floors-you can use a vacuum even on wood floors, making sure you use a brush attachment so you don’t cause any scratches. If you need to mop, fill a bucket with lukewarm water (never hot!) and add the recommended amount of oil soap or cleanser. Rinse your mop out frequently, and if the floors are truly dirty, change the water when it starts to turn gray-if you don’t, you’ll just be spreading dirt around. Once your room is clean, you’ll probably notice that the windows are smeared, so go ahead and give them a quick wipe down. There! You’re done!

Bathrooms need special attention, since the object is to get rid of germs, not spread them. Finish the rest of the house first and then grab your cleaners, a pile of old rags, and a good scrub brush and head for the dirtiest room in the house. Begin by doing the tidy-up routine-shake out mats and hang them up, throw towels into the laundry, clear the sink and vanity surfaces
Then start with the sink, and again work top to bottom. Clean the mirror with a little squirt of glass cleaner and quickly wipe around the frame as well. To really get rid of grime in the bowl of the sink, you may want to use a scrubbing powder like Comet, although baking soda is cheaper and works just as well. Rinse away the scrubbing powder and use a dry rag to pick up all the drips and spills. If you need to disinfect the sink, fill it with warm water and swirl a dash of bleach in, and let the mixture sit for a few minutes before draining. Wipe down the tops of the vanity and any counter space, then the sides and drawers, or the base of the sink, then move on to the tub/shower. Wipe down the sides of the tub, top to bottom. Again, you may need scrubbing powder to really get rid of the “ring” around the inside of the tub, where dirt and grime has accumulated and hardened. A plastic dish scrubber or a “scrub glove” (the kind you would use for exfoliation) work well with scrubbing powders to cut through the tub ring. Also use scrubbing powder on the metal fixtures, making sure to wipe them with a dry rag to keep them from getting water spots. The toilet should always be the last bathroom fixture you clean, as it is the dirtiest. Spray all surfaces with a cleanser or disinfectant, and then begin to wipe down, using the top to bottom principal. Do the lid and the tank first, then the top of the toilet lid, the underside of the lid, the top of the seat, the underside of the seat, and finally the rim of the bowl, then the inside of the bowl (using a toilet scrub brush-even sticking a gloved hand in there is gross, I know). Fold your rag in half, and tackle the grimy little spot behind the seat hinges, and then wipe down the sides of the toilet and around the base. While you’re down there, you may notice that the men of the house have left a few little splatters here and there on the walls surrounding the toilet. Grab another rag and quickly spray the walls and wipe down. Finally, clean the bathroom floor, working towards the toilet so you don’t end up spreading potty germs.

If your house hasn’t been cleaned in a long time, the first cleaning will be a big job to tackle. However, once it’s done, if you keep up the basics of tidiness and cleanliness, subsequent cleanings won’t be nearly as difficult.

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