Quick and Easy Cleaning Tips

The key with floors is to focus on high-traffic areas. If you keep those clean, your floors will stay fresh-looking forever, well, almost.

Each week, attend to the most heavily traveled areas of your home, says Cobb. These include the hallways and entryways where your family walks all the time, and of course, the kitchen floor.

For wood floors: Vacuum with an appropriate vacuum or dust with a good microfiber dust mop to pick up dirt before you wash it. Then put hot water and up to six tea bags in a bucket. “Make it strong,” says Cobb. And wash the floor with that. “The tannic acid in tea is really, really good for wood floors. It doesn’t stain, it’s inexpensive, natural, and it’s safe for pets and kids,” she adds. When you wring out your mop, wring it until it’s just damp-you don’t want to put a lot of water onto your floor.

For vinyl: Again, vacuum with an appropriate vacuum or dust with a good microfiber dust mop. Then put a gallon of plain water, or water with just a tablespoon of borax, into a bucket. And wash your floor with that same microfiber mop, advises Cobb.

For tile: As with all hard flooring, vacuum with an appropriate vacuum or dust with a good microfiber dust mop first. Cobb warns that ceramic tile owners stay away from vinegar-based cleaning products, “It’s an acid and can etch your grout,” she notes. Instead, you can use an all-purpose cleaner or a tablespoon of borax in water, and remember to wring out your mop well as you’re working.

For carpet: Use the beater on your vacuum, set it for the appropriate height of your carpet and vacuum in different directions, says Cobb. “If you do this twice a week, move horizontally once, vertically next. If it’s once a week, vary your stroke,” she suggests. To save time, remember to keep the canister or bag cleaned out, since you lose suction when it’s filled up. “Make it a habit to dump it after you vacuum,” says Cobb.

Clean the floors of the low traffic areas in your home, such as guest bathrooms or guest bedrooms that don’t get much use.

Move furniture away from walls and clean underneath. “If you pull out furniture to vacuum or mop every few months-that’s plenty,” says Cobb.

The bad news is, the Carpet and Rug Institute recommends that you invest in a professional deep carpet cleaning every 12 to 18 months to keep your carpeted rooms in top condition. (The good news is, you don’t have to do the work!KITCHEN
You already do the dishes, but are you doing everything else you should to keep it clean and fresh? Find out!

For countertops: Wipe up after cooking with a good all purpose cleaner. You can also disinfect cutting boards with your own homemade solution of a quart of water mixed with a tablespoon of liquid bleach, says Cobb.

For stovetops: A little baking soda on a damp sponge cleans your stovetop naturally. And, best of all, “you can use it without rubber gloves,” says Cobb. (Obviously, if you haven’t been using your stove, there’s no need to clean the cooktop.)

For appliances: Cobb recommends that you keep a spray bottle filled with a homemade mixture of 50 percent rubbing alcohol and 50 percent water. This is great for chrome, glass and stainless-steel appliances. “You can clean your other appliance faces with club soda, it can even be soda that’s gone flat,” she notes.

For cabinet faces: Laminate cabinets clean up nicely with an all-purpose cleaner. For wood cabinets, Cobb suggests that you “buff them with lemon oil or Avon Original Bath Oil. Grease will roll right up and you don’t have to do any washing.”

Sorry, folks. As Cobb puts it, “Nothing gets used more, so every week you need to do a thorough cleaning.” Obviously guest bathrooms that don’t get much use are the exception to this rule. Give them a monthly pass.

For sink area: “I wipe up mine daily with an all-purpose cleaner just to get the toothpaste and hairstyling residue off,” says Cobb. Daily wiping up can spare you time and energy when you’re ready for your weekly blast.

For mirrors: Keep a spray bottle filled with a homemade mixture of 50 percent rubbing alcohol and 50 percent water. “Never spray this directly onto your mirror, it can get behind the mirror and damage the finish. Instead, spray it onto your rag and wipe.”

For glass shower doors: “Take lemon oil, spread it on, go over it with a scrubbing sponge and then go over it with a soapy sponge,” says Cobb. Deposits and soap scum will come right off.

For your toilet: Here’s Cobb’s craziest tip- sprinkle the sides of your bowl with a few teaspoons of Tang (yes, the breakfast drink mix). Let it sit, then brush and flush. The acetic acid in Tang cleans it out beautifully. “Even if you have a dog that drinks out of the toilet it won’t hurt him, and it really works,” she adds.

For a vinyl shower curtain: Throw the shower curtain in the washing machine with a few towels, a cup of white vinegar and your detergent, then air dry. It should be squeaky clean.

“The less clutter you have in your bedroom, the better it is,” says Cobb. The problem: Clutter catches dust, and bedrooms are notoriously dusty, making them fertile ground for dust mites, a major allergen. Aside from laundering your sheets and comforters regularly, here’s what you can to do to keep your boudoir dust free.

Vacuum under your bed at least every other week, says Cobb. (If you have allergies, keep carpet out of the bedroom altogether to minimize the problem.)

For the mattress: Vacuuming your mattress once a month helps discourage dust mites, according to Cobb.

For the mattress pad: Wash in hot water every month.

All it takes is a few good habits to slice some time off laundry duty.

For sorting: “You should have three containers for your laundry- they can be laundry baskets, hampers, whatever fits into your lifestyle,” explains Cobb. “When people take off their clothes, they should separate them into darks, whites and delicates.” This pre-sorting will make fast work of wash day.

For stains: Keep a supply of clip-type clothespins by the hamper, Cobb suggests. “If people have spilled, they should take a clothespin and clip it to that spot before throwing their clothes into the hamper,” she explains. That way, instead of looking for spots, you just have to look for the clothespins and launder appropriately.

Weekly (or as needed)

For wrinkles: Cobb recommends keeping a hanging rack in your laundry area. “Pull things straight from the dryer when they’re still a little damp and hang them on the rack-the less ironing you have to do, the better life is!”

For dry-cleanables: Cobb also suggests keeping home dry cleaning kits on hand, “It doesn’t put a fresh press in your suit, but it cleans and leaves a fresh scent. You can use it with home furnishings and bedspreads and save a ton of money and time.”

When it comes to a desk or home office area, “containment is everything,” says Cobb. Here’s how to keep those stacks from overflowing.

“I sort my mail at my recycling bin; I throw out all the junk and only bring in the stuff I need to keep,” says Cobb. For the stuff you keep, make sure you have an in box and an out box, something to capture it all.

For papers: Every month, go through your papers and file them. Go through your files and toss anything that’s old or out-of-date. “A shredder is essential-it helps protect your family and reduces the amount of trash that you have,” says Cobb.

For clutter: “Eliminate the cutesy stuff in your office that you have to move to clean,” warns Cobb. Remember, clutter collects dust!

The most important thing is giving kids a place to put their stuff, says Cobb.

Make it a ritual for kids to put their stuff away before bedtime. You may need to help the little ones, but as they grow older, they’ll learn how to do it and will do it themselves.

Kids can put away their own clothes if their dressers are anchored to the wall and their clothing rod is at the right height. “The easiest way to do this is with a telescoping shower rod,” says Cobb.

To keep the clutter down, only allow kids to have a certain amount of toys in circulation, advises Cobb. Take some away and store them in the garage or shed. The following month, your children can have a new selection to play with while the others go into storage. “It’s almost like having all new toys every month,” she adds.

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