Grab your shopping list because we're in the market for a few cleaning aids that will put some distance between us and revolting homemade messes. Taking a bite out of grime is important, and adopting a hands-off approach to doing it has its merits. These handy filth busters will make short work of the worst kind of dirt and help you maintain a safe zone while you clean.
- Antibacterial cleaners - We like cleaners that kill germs and recommend them for big, nasty jobs. Using them for every cleaning task may be a bad idea, though. Exposure to small amounts of bacteria helps kids develop resistance to disease. There's a secondary risk of too much chemical warfare in your home, too. No antibacterial agent kills 100 percent of germs. The ones that survive build up resistance to the very cleaners you're relying on, creating super bugs that are really something to worry about.
- Steam cleaners - Steam cleaners kill bacteria on contact. Using steam has a number of other advantages as well. Germs don't develop resistance to steam. Steam cleaners don't use harsh chemicals, either, which is good for your family and the environment. After you invest in the equipment, using these accessories is an inexpensive approach to home maintenance. A handheld steam cleaner can beat the grease under your range hood with a minimum of neck craning and get the goo off of your refrigerator door gasket in a few seconds. It can also tackle tough jobs, like removing cooked on food from your stovetop burner reflectors. You can clear away the gunk with a paper towel or sponge. It may be icky, but it won't be a germy wonderland. Once steamed surfaces are wiped down and dried (this process may take a few minutes), they'll be squeaky clean.
- Face mask and eye protection - Before you tackle nasty jobs like toilet duty, mold cleanup or cat litter removal, suit up. You probably already know about wearing your oldest sweats to perform heavy duty cleaning, but there are other things to keep in mind. When removing mold or cleaning anything that releases airborne particles, like dust from overhead fixtures or dirt from gutters, wear a respirator and eye protection. For some landscaping projects and home repairs, it's a good idea to have a mask and snug fitting eye protection on hand -- and on you -- if the job calls for it. Remember, protective gear won't do you any good if it's on a shelf in the garage.
- Gloves - We can't stress this enough: Wear gloves for nasty chores. You'll protect your hands, limit your exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals and save your nails. If you think the idea of having dirty, used gloves around is as revolting as the chores you've used them for, try disposable gloves or go for spray on gloves instead. Just spray on, rub the mixture all over your hands, and wait for it to coat your skin and pores. When you've finished cleaning, wash it off with soap and water. It may not be the right choice for tackling every job, but when you need more dexterity than a regular glove can give you, it's another option.
- Disposables - When the task is just too nasty, consider purchasing a cleaning aid that's designed to be pitched after a single use. The market for this type of product is growing, and you can find toilet brushes and floor cleaning products that are engineered to use disposable pads or brushes you can get rid of as soon as the job is done. These items aren't the most environmentally friendly choices, but when the job is so off-putting you're inclined to postpone doing it, isn't it better to tackle it now with a convenient, disposable product than put it off?
We feel compelled to mention a few small but important details. Cleaning is an ongoing process. It can seem like a never ending task, because it is. Dirt, grease, bacteria, dust, fingerprints and bugs are waiting for an opportunity to dismantle your carefully laid plans for keeping a clean and safe home. The best way to keep cleaning tasks under control is to clean regularly. Instead of a spring cleaning marathon once a year, stay current with chores like vacuuming, scrubbing your oven, replacing your furnace filter and keeping your refrigerator condenser coils dusted. You'll save energy, and your belongings will stay cleaner and last longer. They'll look (and smell) better, too.