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The Secrets of Speed Cleaning
By Martha Uniacke Breen
Speed cleaning tips that will actually help minimize the amount of time you spend cleaning your house on the weekend.
You might be a power mom or a high-level executive, but unless you can afford a coterie of servants (lucky you!), you still have to keep the house clean. But there are many ways to streamline house cleaning. It really comes down to cleaning smarter, and spending a few super-efficient minutes of daily cleaning, rather than leaving it all for a marathon, and usually exhausting, weekend job.
Many of the house cleaning tips that follow offer an extra bonus: not only do they save time and effort, but your house will actually stay cleaner and tidier, which has a surprisingly potent effect on your overall wellbeing.
Speed cleaning: Kitchen
For most of us, kitchen cleaning requires the most daily attention. The key to keeping it under control lies in the mantra: Clean as you go. Clear away pots and pans, food ingredients and pairings as you cook, instead of doing (or not doing) one big cleanup after supper. Put pots in the dishwasher or a sink of soapy water. After supper, load the dishwasher or rinse and dry pots in the sink, and put away anything left out. Then (or the next morning), give the counters and sink a quick swipe, and sweep or quick-vac the floor.
There are a number of time-and-effort-saving devices on the market now that make daily kitchen cleaning a (relative) breeze. Those disposable microfibre cloths and mops—and all their progeny, such as sweeper vacs, wet-jet mops, etc.—won’t actually replace a broom, mop, and bucket or full-size vacuum cleaner, but they’re marvelous for light daily cleaning. Ditto disposable wipes impregnated with an all-purpose cleaner. If you’re concerned about the environmental unfriendliness of disposables, make your own by dousing a cloth in cleanser and storing it in a baggie, or rinsing and reusing microfibre cloths.
My mother used a simple house cleaning rule that kept larger chores from getting out of control: the “one-of” rule. Whenever you run the dishwasher, put in one refrigerator shelf or burner ring. When you’re vacuuming, do one bookshelf. When you clean the counters, wash one cabinet front. If you do this, these surfaces will magically stay clean, almost by themselves and your house cleaning routine will thank you!
Speed cleaning: Bathroom
No one likes to clean the bathroom. But a clean as you go attitude can help make it less work. Keep a package of disposable cleaning wipes under the sink to wipe off everything from glass, tubs, and sinks to the outside of the toilet; even kids seem to enjoy using them.
Spritz the shower with cleaner each time you use it, while it’s still wet. Rinse with the handheld shower or run the shower for a minute, and you’re done. Use a squeegee to clean the shower door, to prevent water spots. Run the toilet scrubber around the inside of the toilet, with a squirt of cleanser if desired.
Pick up towels and put in the laundry or hang; put away makeup and toiletries; empty the wastebasket. If needed, use the microfibre mop or wet-jet cleaner to clean the floor.
Speed cleaning: Bedrooms
Former Style at Home editor Gail Johnston-Habs once wrote about an anti-clutter habit she had formed as a child that’s so simple, it’s amazing how few of us do it. It went something like this: if you take it out, put it back; if you take it off, hang it up (or fold it in the drawer, or put it in the laundry hamper); if you mess it up, tidy when you’re done. If you make this a habit, the morning bedroom tidy need be little more than making the bed and tidying bedside tables. But if you’re not a perfect practitioner of Gail’s rule (and even she admitted she wasn’t), make sure clothes are put away, the vanity table is tidy and the floor clear. Quick-vacuum traffic areas, and, if you’re so inclined, pass the vacuum under the bed and do a “one-of” dusting to a bookshelf or drawer front.
Instead of a weekly marathon laundry session, do one load a day. Gather a basket of whatever you’re washing that day as you tidy each room, and toss in the washer when you’re done. At lunchtime (or when you get home from work), toss in the dryer, and fold in front of the TV at night or the next morning.
Speed cleaning: Living and family rooms
Unless the living room is very disheveled, it’s a breeze compared to cleaning the kitchen and bathrooms. After decluttering, put remotes where they belong, recycle or put away reading materials, give traffic areas a once-over with the quick vac, and dust one bookshelf or the TV. If you have a little more time or energy, vacuum one upholstered piece. If every piece is done in rotation about every three weeks or so, that’s all they usually need.
These tips won’t entirely replace a deeper house cleaning every week or two, but it will make that chore much easier, and keep your house clean enough for company every day—well, almost.