Check out these practical tips to keep your house clean (and save money too!)
Keeping a clean house is a lifelong project, powered by habits that can become as routine as getting dressed before leaving the house. But what if some of your housekeeping habits are actually giving your home that less-than-clean feeling? Read on to find out if you’re making some classic housekeeping errors, and learn how to adjust your cleaning regimen so your house is a sparkling respite and a place of peace and order.
Don’t spend too much on cleaning products
For most cleaning tasks, there’s no need for harsh chemical cleaners or expensive specialty products that only work on a narrow range of tasks. Invest in a single disinfecting cleaner for deep-cleaning jobs in the kitchen and bathroom, and another that’s appropriate for your floor surfaces.
For other tasks, a simple solution of equal parts white vinegar and water kills most germs and breaks up grime and dirt. For the bathtub, combine baking soda with just enough water to form a paste, and that the ring around the tub will soon be but a memory.
Don’t vacuum before you dust
People have very strong opinions on the question of which should come first—dusting or vacuuming. Most vacuum cleaners blow some dust particles back into the room, but as long as you have a quality vacuum cleaner (one with a HEPA filter is especially good), you don’t need to worry your vacuum will spit out more than it’s taking in.
So it’s best to dust first, working from high to low surfaces in the room so dust floats down toward a vacuum-ready position on the floor. You might want to separate dusting from vacuuming by hours or even a day, so dust is more settled than airborne by the time you turn on your vacuum cleaner.
Don’t trust your kitchen sponge
With all their damp nooks and crannies, kitchen sponges are the top source of germs in your entire house. And you can probably envision what happens when you wipe surfaces and wash dishes with a germ-laden sponge. (Hint: It’s not good.) Luckily, sponges can be disinfected by microwaving them on high, while wet, for one minute. Of course, don’t try this with a sponge that has any kind of metal attachment.
Sponges can be put through a regular cycle in any dishwasher that has a drying feature. According to research by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, both methods carry a 99.9 percent success rate in getting germs out of your sponge.
Don’t keep a “junk drawer”
A kitchen drawer dedicated to small, useful items you frequently need in the course of daily life is handy and smart—but a catch-all “junk drawer” can quickly become a disorganized mess. Professional organizers advise against storing papers like receipts, take-out menus, or coupons in this type of drawer.
Instead, sort those into vertical trays or file boxes, and group items like scissors, tape, markers, rubber bands, and paper clips into dedicated areas of your drawer. And above all, get into the habit of putting things back in their spot after use.
Don’t clean the whole house at once
Some people might look forward to devoting a single day each week to an all-out clean-a-thon, but for most of us, cleaning is best done in small doses. Having a schedule for laundry, bathroom-cleaning, refrigerator-clearing, and other ongoing tasks will keep housekeeping manageable and motivation consistent.
Aim for one room each day, making a circuit around your house. Or tackle tasks systematically; get organized with a monthly calendar that will cover all your bases, from your front entrance to the deepest recesses of your cabinets, in doable chunks of 15-20 minutes per day.
Holly Lebowitz Rossi is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Massachusetts. She is coauthor of Yoga for a Healthy Lower Back: A Practical Guide for Developing Strength and Relieving Pain.