Housecleaning Tips

Prepare and Follow a Cleaning Schedule

Use a schedule to determine when things are likely to need cleaning. By following a regular cleaning schedule, it’s easier to maintain a minimal standard:

  • Store your cleaning supplies in a bucket or plastic carrier. You can also use an apron with pockets to carry your cleaning supplies as you work.
  • Label your cleaning items and keep them in a location separate from your food supplies. See Labeling and Marking and Household Organization for more information.
  • Never mix ammonia and bleach; the mixture can produce a deadly poison. If your cleaning products contain either ingredient, they should never be combined or mixed with anything else.
  • Clean the stovetop immediately after cooking.
  • Routinely wipe all countertop surfaces after food preparation and clean the microwave after each use.
  • Sweep, mop, and vacuum regularly. If you miss dirt or dust during one cleaning, you can pick it up the next time.
  • Wipe down the shower immediately after bathing when the soap film has not yet adhered to tub and wall surfaces.
  • Clean the bathroom mirror regularly since it tends to gather spots from activity at the sink, such as shaving, tooth brushing, and hand washing.

Surfaces and Windows

  • A “static” duster, such as a sheep’s fleece or acrylic duster on a wooden handle, will collect the dust rather than move/push it from place to place.
  • A vacuum or dust buster will pick up the dirt or dust rather than move/push it from place to place.
  • Use a feather duster to dust small objects.
  • Dustcloths are now available with furniture polish included. You can find them in grocery stores in the cleaning supplies section.
  • When cleaning a tabletop or window, apply the cleaning agent directly to the cloth.
  • If you use a spray cleaner, locate the nozzle and spray into the cloth instead of onto the tabletop or window surface.
  • You can also use multi-purpose pre-moistened cleaning cloths or wipes designed for unique surfaces, such as stainless steel.
  • Clean windows in vertical and horizontal patterns, using overlapping strokes to avoid streaks. Always work consistently, from left to right, to ensure you’ve cleaned the entire surface.
  • When cleaning a tabletop or other surface, use the locating technique to remove all items from the area to be cleaned. Be sure to place the items in a memorable location.
  • Use your free hand to measure the work area and use it as a border marker each time you move to a new section. This helps to divide larger areas and surfaces into smaller, more manageable sections.
  • Run your fingertips lightly over the stove, countertop, and table surfaces to locate food residue or areas requiring special attention.
  • When cleaning tabletops, follow a pattern. For example, begin in the far right corner of the table surface, working from the far edge to the front edge. Use small circular movements or overlapping strokes. Work until the entire surface or section is covered.
  • Use a tray or cookie sheet at the front edge of the table surface to collect crumbs.
  • Always check picture frames, windowsills, and door panels, since dust settles on horizontal surfaces and electrically charged ones, such as televisions and radios.
  • Check the cleaning cloth periodically to determine if it needs to be turned or requires more polish.
  • Go over the entire surface once more with a clean cloth.

Floor Cleaning Tips

  • When sweeping or mopping, divide the floor into smaller sections using furniture or appliances as “landmarks.”
  • Gather dirt toward your feet and move it with you as you sweep. When cleaning one section of the floor, use a dustpan or dust buster to collect the dust and dirt.
  • Hint: Use the width of your shoulders as a basic sweeping stroke.
  • Use a dustpan with a long handle. That way, you don’t have to stop. These often come with a broom attached.
  • Remember to plan your cleaning so that you end up near the dustpan or dust buster and do not “lose track” of the collected dirt.
  • Familiarize yourself with your vacuum cleaner so that you can find the attachments you need, change the settings, replace bags, or clean filters.

Use Preventive Cleanup Techniques

Specific locations in the home are more likely to accumulate dirt and grime, such as the sink and stove in the kitchen or any other place where you tend to stand and work frequently.

  • Work over the sink or on a tray whenever possible.
  • Routinely wipe all countertop surfaces after food preparation, clean the microwave after each use, and wash/mop the kitchen floor weekly.
  • Use the principles of “over cleaning.” Clean well beyond the working space or area to ensure you reach all soiled areas.
  • The areas around handles on cupboards and appliances, switch plates, and doorknobs are likely to have finger marks.
  • There are usually splashes and drips on the counter and walls near the coffee maker.
  • Check the wall behind the trashcan for dirt and splatters.
  • If you spill something on the counter, it usually runs down the outside front of the cupboard and inside it.
  • Splatters are likely on the stovetop, counter, and walls when making spaghetti sauce.

Tips for Washing Dishes

  • Ensure the sink is clean before filling it with hot water.
  • Fill the sink with hand-hot water, with the water level no higher than one hand’s length from the top.
  • Wash glasses first and finish with pans containing cooking residue, grease, or other hard-to-remove materials.
  • Use your hand to locate a free/open space before placing dishes in the rack.
  • Ensure the sink is free of objects or debris after washing the dishes.

By Maureen A. Duffy, M.S., CVRT