If there's a nasty cleaning chore on the horizon, these tips will help you tackle the job with a few secret weapons on your utility belt:
- Carry your supplies around with you. There's nothing worse than being in the middle of a gunky cleanup and realizing that you don't have everything you need nearby. Invest in a couple of plastic cleaning totes and outfit them with project specific supplies. That way you won't be spongeless at a critical moment.
- Clean messes soon after they occur. That dollop of gravy that dripped down the side of your stove will come up easily if you catch it before it dries. It may take moving the stove if it's nestled between your built-ins, but doing that now will save you a very nasty cleaning project later. If you've let the gravy dry, there are probably other foul drip cascades you'll have to deal with when the mess starts to smell. Sooner is definitely better than later.
- Anticipate disaster. If you've ever let your marinara sauce boil happily on the stove without supervision, you know from experience how far those molten blobs can toss bits of sauce. Anticipate cleanups, and nip them in the bud. Put lids on saucepans. Engage your range hood fan if you're frying a meal. Put a paper towel over any microwave meal you think may cause spatter. Use aluminum foil, paper towels, cookie sheets (for oven protection) and other handy helpers to keep messes contained.
- Perform preventive maintenance. If you remove fading veggies from the fridge's vegetable crisper regularly, you'll never have to deal with a mini-swamp of rotting goo. This is only one small example of how you can cut down on the number of nasty cleanups if you do simple daily or weekly maintenance.
- Keep an old toothbrush or two around. When you need to clean the grout in the bathroom, scrub lime scale off your water dispenser, get the grime out from under the lip of your kitchen sink or any of a hundred other cleaning tasks, one of the handiest tools around is an old toothbrush. Just be sure to soak them in isopropyl alcohol before you use them.
- Don't forget door handles and cabinet pulls. We hate to add to your chores, but while you're worrying about cleaning the bathroom floor, some of the germiest spots in your home are up a little higher. While you're cleaning, give your door handles, cabinet pulls, faucet handles and telephones a once over, too.
- Always read and follow directions.This is such a no brainer we feel a little sheepish for mentioning it. In our defense, every year, people are admitted to hospital emergency rooms for mixing products that contain ammonia and bleach. When combined, they make chlorine gas, a potentially fatal gas you don't want anywhere near you or your family. Cleaning agents are serious business, and using them according to the package directions is important. This includes paying attention to information about diluting concentrated cleaners (more concentrated isn't better), cleanup, (yes, you probably do have to rinse surfaces after cleaning) and providing adequate ventilation.
There are some cleaning tasks that are always going to be horrid. With some planning, you can work more efficiently to get through them faster and avoid direct contact with the really revolting stuff. Until you can afford that maid service you've been dreaming about, though, it looks like the buck, and the bucket and mop, stops with you.