5 Tips for Cleaning Without Getting Dirty

All bets are off if you get into a soap war.
All bets are off if you get into a soap war.

If you feel as though you need a hazmat suit to tackle bathroom cleanup or you want a shot of penicillin before you try cleaning out the refrigerator, then you may have the time between cleanings run a little too long this time. The prospect of getting all that grease, grime and suspicious goo all over your clothes, under your fingernails and in your hair may have you sprinting for the nearest exit. But cleaning doesn't have to make you feel like a human sacrifice about to take one for the team. With some planning and a little prep, you can protect your sanity and your wardrobe on cleaning day.

Use the Right Tools for the Job

There are lots of handy helpers around that can make specific tasks easier. Microfiber cloths will grab and hold the film of dust that accumulates on your flat screen TV and other electronics. Instead of just whisking dust back into the air and onto your clothes, you can trap it and then launder it down the drain. It's one example of a modern cleaning tool that has a specific purpose. These cloths are cheap, effective and easy to care for. (Just remember to line dry them.)

Handheld task vacuums that can tackle spilled cat litter and sponge erasers that are great for busting scuff marks are just a couple of other examples. The point is that using the best tool for the task saves work and creates less mess. When you do know there's a nasty cleanup on the horizon, put layers between you and the dirt. That's what gloves, aprons and eye protection are for.

Perform Regular Maintenance
Don't let your kitchen intimidate you.
Don't let your kitchen intimidate you.

Scrubbing the kitchen every Saturday afternoon will make you lose your enthusiasm for cooking fast, but preforming small maintenance chores like wiping down the stove, microwave and countertops every day won't leave a huge job for someone -- probably you -- to do later. Regular maintenance can be quick and is almost always less messy than those weekly marathons that can end up staining your tees or getting mystery spots on your new running shoes. Your best bet is to do a little bit as you move through the space. For example, if you're waiting on food to come out of the oven, get a head start on the dishes. Or if you're waiting for the bath tub to fill up, wipe down the toilet or sinks. These small jobs will take mere minutes (sometimes seconds), but can leave you loads of tiem down the line.

Keep Your Tools Handy

Make routine cleaning easier by putting the supplies you use a lot, like disinfectant spray and furniture polish, in a portable caddy. Throw some sponges, rubber gloves, rags and paper towels in there, too. Your cleanups will result in fewer unpleasant dribbles and smudges if you keep the right supplies in easy reach and use them habitually. When you have everything you need in your trusty cleaning toolkit, it won't be long before you start getting the hang of completing tasks with fewer mishaps. The work will go a lot faster, too. There are a number of sectioned plastic and wicker caddies on the market designed to be carry-along cleaning aids. Have one handy for bathroom cleanups and another one outfitted for general-purpose cleaning chores.

Have a Strategy
Don't neglect high spaces. Your guests can still see them.
Don't neglect high spaces. Your guests can still see them.

Remember back to one of the times when you really made a total mess while cleaning. It was probably when you encountered something unexpected, like a stopped-up toilet, a leaky faucet or a filter you thought would be a breeze to clean and turned out to be the stuff of nightmares. Often, big messes are the result of getting in over your head, like the day an impromptu and disheartening check behind the stove turned a light oven cleaning into a major production that took all afternoon to finish.

Recognize the difference between regular maintenance chores and more in-depth but less frequent cleaning projects. Plan accordingly. It's important to dust ceiling fixtures and occasionally open them up to remove dead moths or spider webs inside. Dusting may take a couple of minutes, though, while a complete fixture overhaul could require a ladder, a screwdriver to remove the shade and even someone to help hold the shade steady while you screw it back in place. If you tackle more than you initially planned for a cleaning session, you may come away looking like you've been attacked by a mob of dust bunnies without ever getting the job done to your satisfaction. Make out a cleaning schedule of both light- and heavy-duty chores. That way you'll always be prepared for today's tasks and feel less guilty about postponing a big job for next time.

Use Protection

We mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. Wearing protection like rubber gloves not only creates a barrier between you and dirt, it also protects you from germs and injury. Using bleach you haven't diluted thoroughly can actually eat holes in your skin. That isn't just a great way to ruin your designer jeans; it could result in a quick trip to your neighborhood urgent care facility. Wear long-sleeved shirts for wet tasks that may create splatter problems. Cover your hair with an inexpensive shower cap when cleaning the ceiling. If you're really stirring up dust, use a respirator. After a few big cleaning projects, you'll probably have a whole separate wardrobe of older, slightly stained -- OK, horribly stained -- but clean clothes to wear for those unavoidable jobs. Before long, you'll be able to clean the fridge, dispose of fireplace ashes and even tidy up the grill without getting so much as a spot on yourself -- most of the time, anyway.


Quiz: Do I Really Have to Wash This?

Quiz: Do I Really Have to Wash This?

Take this HowStuffWorks quiz to find out your how your cleaning skills stack up.

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