Clever Cleaning

A down-and-dirty guide to cleaning smarter -- not harder.
Little girl cleaning up

Some of you may have inherited the clean-gene from a parent. But even if you grew up learning how to make beds, launder linens, and scrub a good tub, chances are your mom didn't pass on the tricks for cleaning smart.

Cleaning smart entails four key strategies: banishing clutter, using the right tools, multitasking, and maintaining. Master these skills, and you will live in a consistently cleaner environment while devoting a lot less time and effort to achieving it. Join us for a whole new approach to cleaning.

The Clever Cleaning Schedule

The words "spring cleaning" illustrate one of the central hurdles to keeping a clean house. By associating the chore with a season, it assumes that cleaning is a single, seasonal project to be tackled in one dirty, torturous session. The clever cleaner knows the secret to keeping a consistently clean house (without expending inordinate amounts of time and energy) is to approach the job in small, digestible nuggets.

Every Day: Make beds, do a load of laundry, wash dishes, take out trash, pick up and put away any clothes or items lying around.

Once a Week: Vacuum, shake out area rugs, dust, mop, scrub tubs and sinks, change bed linens.

Once a Month: Vacuum upholstery, clean windows, dust behind and beneath furniture, wipe down baseboards.

Twice a Year: Clean out closets, reassess storage areas, clean gutters, spray down porches, decks, or other outdoor areas.

Rags to Riches

Few cleaning jobs can begin without the right supplies. The good news is that many of the most reliable supplies also are the cheapest -- things such as bleach, water, baking soda, and cotton rags. On the other hand, when you do have extra pennies, certain cleaning products are worth the splurge. These modern wonders are slowly but surely taking the elbow grease and yuckiness out of even the nastiest cleaning jobs. Your mother would be impressed.

Cheap and On-Hand

  • Bleach + Water (mix 1 part bleach to 4 parts water for the ultimate all-purpose cleaner)
  • Baking Soda + Water (mix into a paste and use to clean porcelain and metal bath fixtures, or use baking soda alone to absorb odors)
  • Vinegar + Water (use on scratchable surfaces, such as wood or vinyl floors)
  • Cotton Rags (cut up old T-shirts and use to dust delicate surfaces, such as wood)

Worth the Splurge

  • Electrostatic cloths. Lightly run over any surface -- including hard-to-reach spots such as ceiling-fan blades and under beds -- and watch the dust "jump" onto the cloth.
  • Toilet wands with pretreated disposable sponges. Say goodbye to the toilet brush, the most unsanitary cleaning utensil of all time.
  • Soft cleaning pads, such as Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser. These pads effortlessly blot away wall scuffs and fabric stains.
  • Disposable wet mops. Use them to touch up floors in between more extensive mopping jobs.

Double Duty

  • Every time you take out the trash, open the refrigerator and toss out any expired or empty items.
  • After you make a grocery list, wipe down the refrigerator shelves and make room for the items you'll be buying.
  • Each time you change a light bulb, wipe off or dust the fixture.
  • Each time you take a shower, spray down the shower door and/or inside wall.
  • For everything new you bring into your home -- trash, recycle, or store something old.
  • Every time you move something into storage -- trash or recycle something out of storage.
  • When you put up seasonal decorations, clean hard-to-reach display areas, like the tops of doorways or bookshelves.