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I actually enjoy cleaning if I have the time and the right products to do so. I know, I’m one of those weird people, but there is something about the satisfaction of a clean house at the end of the day that makes all the work worth it. Add in some great music – think Garth Brooks, Big Daddy Weave, ABBA, or (my mom’s favorite) Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass – and the cleaning process can be outright fun.
Not your thing? That’s okay. The good thing for you is that I’ve tried the products, the methods, and the shortcuts (many of which have failed) and I’m looking forward to sharing some successful (and money saving) tips for cleaning the entire house.
Let’s Talk Natural
I don’t clean exclusively with “green” or “natural” products, although I do like it when I find one that works for me. As I’ve talked about previously, a few years ago we did make a switch from supplies including 409, bleach, and even Windex, and found a huge difference in the health of our family, so that’s something to take into consideration when you pick out your own cleaning products.
To the day we don’t use anything that is heavily fragranced, except for what essential oils we might add, and if it smells “chemical-like” we also do not use it. Even the so-called “natural” products can smell like chemicals, so beware of that. I have gravitated back to using Clorox products, but only for the purpose of cleaning the toilets. Honestly, they just don’t get as clean with other products, unless you are willing to invest a lot of money.
Cleaning the kitchen is one of those things that can take an entire day on its own. If the dishes are clean and the food is put away, then it should be fairly simple to clean the surfaces.
Counters and cabinets
To clean counters and cabinets, I use a mixture of vinegar and essential oils. Not only is vinegar anti-bacterial and effective at removing hard water build up in the sinks and on the counters, but if you add peppermint essential oil to it, it will also serve as a bug deterrent in your home. (BONUS!)
Once again, the vinegar mixture works well to clean the stove top. I like to use a warm sponge (or the Scrub Daddy) to get the cooked-on stuff that won’t come off with a washcloth.
Stainless steel appliances
A simple mixture of vinegar and water will take care of any marks on your stainless-steel appliances. Wipe in one direction with a microfiber cloth or a paper towel. (Up and down, or right to left). Don’t use the same bottle that had essential oils in it – they will be more likely to leave streak marks.
You know how to do dishes, so I won’t spend long here. I do just want to mention that I love to use sponges, and I’m known to buy the huge package of them at Costco. (I go through them quickly, because sponges get gross quickly.) What I have learned recently, is that I don’t need a whole sponge to get the job done. Cut them in half and put the other one back in the package for next time. An easy way to double your sponges and save money.
I’m sure you’ve seen the spots that get left behind on your glasses and dishes after you’ve washed them (typically a mix of soap residue and hard water). An easy way to fix it: put a splash of white vinegar in your dishwasher before you start it. Works every time.
For several years now, I’ve been simply using vinegar and baking soda to clean the bathroom. It’s effective and inexpensive. Recently, though, I was introduced to Mrs. Meyers products and folks, they smell amazing! Honestly, it’s like heading off to the spa for your house. So I’ve begun to use Mrs. Meyers tub and tile cleaner (I like the Basil one best) as well as the Mrs. Meyers Multi-Purpose Cleaner. I still use a vinegar and baking soda paste to get rid of the hard water stains on the glass shower doors, and my vinegar and water mixture to clean the mirrors.
For the toilets, as I mentioned before, I use the Clorox Toilet Bowl Wands, mostly because I don’t want that toilet brush sitting around all the time. The wands are definitely not the cheapest option, so if you don’t mind the toilet brush, I suggest using Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner.
Bathroom trashcans are another consideration. I’ve done it both ways: used trash bags and not, but I’ve come to really appreciate the ease of pulling the trash bag out when it’s time to empty the can. You can buy small trash bags, but you can also use a plastic grocery bags for the same effect. If you are shopping once a week like me, then you can still use your reusable bags, just try to get one to two of the plastic ones as well.
To get into corners and any hard to reach areas, a toothbrush can come in handy. Whatever you do, make sure it is clearly marked as the cleaning toothbrush, or someone’s going to get a terrible surprise when they go to brush their teeth.
Cleaning the floors shouldn’t be hard. You’ve finished the rest of the house (theoretically) and this is just the frosting on the cake. I use my favorite product on the hardwood floors in my home, and no…it’s not vinegar and water (although, that’s also a good alternative). I love Pledge Floor Care Hardwood Cleaner. It’s not natural or “green” but it’s got this amazing lemon scent and gets my floors clean without a sticky residue. It’s also a “squirt and mop” product, so I don’t have to combine it in a bucket and deal with the mess that makes.
For a mop, I choose to use Libman’s mop system. You can purchase washable mop covers as well as microfiber dusters to go on the same mop frame. I like it because I can just toss it in the wash when I’m done and I don’t have to continue spending money on more pads. I have used the disposable Swiffer pads, and if you aren’t concerned about saving money, those are also a good option.
Carpeting needs to be vacuumed. If you have pets of any kind, then you should be vacuuming weekly. If you have areas of carpet that need to be deodorized, I highly recommend baking soda as a first step. Sprinkle the baking soda over the affected area of carpet and let sit for a while before vacuuming up. Note: if the carpet is wet, or even slightly damp, the baking soda will quickly turn into a past that will be hard to remove from the fibers of your carpet (You do remember me saying that I have learned by trial and error, right?).
Living Rooms/Family Areas
Our living room and family areas are primarily filled with wood coffee/end tables. We use vinegar and water mixture to wipe these down on a weekly/bi-weekly basis. In the times between cleanings, we run a microfiber cloth over the hard surfaces to remove dust particles and cat hair.
If you have antique pieces or furniture that’s lost its finish, I recommend purchasing a product you trust. I’d love to recommend one, but since I don’t use it, I can’t speak to the effectiveness or smell of any of them.
For couches, love seats, and chairs, a quick vacuum each time you vacuum the room keeps dust and animal and human hair off. If a collection of cat hair, for instance, has accumulated on a certain cushion, then I use a rubber kitchen glove to rub it off. Trust me – it works. I’ve never tried it with dog hair, but I assume it would be a similar result.
I wish I could lend you a laundry fairy to get the actual laundry done, but I can’t…so you’ll just have to deal with the following tips that will hopefully make it less expensive. It’s still a chore.
This is one of my favorite savings hacks. I buy regular laundry detergent. Because our family all has sensitive skin, I normally stick with the Tide Free and Gentle. You can use any laundry detergent that you like the most. By now, I have an old laundry detergent bottle, so I immediately pour half of the laundry detergent into that container. Then I fill both containers to the top with water and shake it well.
You could choose to use half of the amount of soap you would normally use, but for me, that doesn’t work mostly because I have kids that do their own laundry, and they are always going to pour in more soap than necessary. Trust me, this method works, and we haven’t noticed a difference in the cleanliness of our clothing.
As a fabric softener, if necessary, I add one-quarter cup of white vinegar to the wash load. It helps to soften the clothes by removing the residue and soap build up in the clothing and in the washing machine and is super effective and removing odors as well.
If you have kids at home, then you know how important window cleaning becomes. When the fingerprints are everywhere, hopefully, the following will come in handy.
This is my least favorite part of cleaning house and if you come by, you’ll notice that almost immediately, but there are some easy ways to clean the windows both inside and out. Inside, I use a 1:1 mixture of vinegar and water. The ratio may or may not be important, but it leaves them streak free, which I love. I also use a microfiber cloth, which also cuts down on streaking and the use of paper towels.
Outside, a tried and true method is to simply use a bit of your car window washer fluid. Once again, cut it with water and use a tool similar to the one you would use at the gas station to wash your car windows. The nice thing is, you can wash your windows in the middle of winter if it happens to be the non-freezing variety.
To clean the window sills, the easiest thing to do is to use that microfiber cloth, taking care to wipe out even the corners. Sometimes that’s the most likely area to be missed. Anytime you wipe down the hard surfaces in a room, do the windowsills as well. If you make it a habit, it won’t get missed.
I am well aware that I am not covering every square inch of the house in this article, but I do want to mention a couple of alternatives to standard cleaning products that I haven’t had the chance to discuss yet.
I can’t use bleach in our home. After having little to no chemicals for so long, it’s nearly suffocating to walk into a room that’s been cleaned with bleach. A great alternative to bleach is lemon juice – and it’s inexpensive as well. Lemon juice is naturally anti-bacterial and is a great deodorizer as well.
Air freshening spray
Once again, air fresheners are a no-no in our home. That synthetic fragrance is hard to deal with, so we use water and essential oils. Just mix a small squirt bottle with some water and add a few drops of your favorite oil and then spritz away. You can also use a diffuser with your essential oils, but it’s not necessary.
It’s Clean – Now What?
Maintaining your clean home after all that work should be high on your priority list, and there are a couple of ways to do so.
Don’t let it get dirty
Seriously, one wipe of a counter and one sweep of a floor can quickly offset the amount of work you will need to do on a “cleaning day”.
If you don’t have it, you won’t have to clean it or around it. Donate, give away, or sell items you don’t need.
One hour (or a half hour) at a time can save a whole day of cleaning. Check out my family responsibilities charts for ideas on how to apply this to your own family, or even yourself. Take it one room at a time and your place will always be clean.
If nothing else, this gives you a place to start, and hopefully some good ideas on how to simplify your cleaning process. Even if you don’t like cleaning, at some point we all have to do it, so crank up the music, dance around a little, and get it done.
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