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Clean Ideas: Wiping up Common Cleaning Mistakes

Make this the Most Effective Spring Cleaning Ever

Spring has just about sprung! Which means it's time to fling open the windows, shake out the rugs, and kick spring cleaning into full gear. But, before you get all mop-happy with visions of dust bunnies scurrying away, Nancy Bock, Senior Vice President, Meetings & Education, at American Cleaning Institute®(ACI), points out some common cleaning slipups, and offers tips on how you can be more effective and efficient in getting your home to sparkle.

Slipup #1: Cleaning Around Clutter

Much of what makes a home look messy is the accumulation of stuff you don't use or need. Clothes you haven't worn in years, knick-knacks that simply knock around, books you've already read (and won't read again), toys the kids outgrew ... the list could go on and on. Why waste time dusting or washing the things that are just taking up space? Spring is a great time to purge, purge, purge. And here are some great ways to unclutter your home without loading up landfills.

  • Sell. Not only do you have an opportunity to clean your house, you can make some money in the process. Drive around any neighborhood on a sunny spring weekend and you'll find dozens of garage sales. Why? It's the perfect way to get rid of small appliances, clothes, toys, books, jewelry, housewares and more. They say one man's junk is another man's treasure, and that has never been truer than when it comes to yard sales. Besides, you'll meet neighbors you might have never known. If you don't have time to host a sale, consider bringing these items to a consignment store.
  • Donate. If sitting in your driveway showcasing all of your possessions doesn't float your boat, or there are no consignment stores in your area, you can still find a good home for all the items you don't want in your house anymore. Charities such as Salvation Army, Goodwill, the Vietnam Veterans of America or the Lupus Foundation of America will pick up boxes and bags of charitable goods right from your door. You can also drop off donations to your local charity, church or shelter. Nothing like helping someone else while cleaning up your own digs!
  • Freecycle. Do you have a still-worthy piece of furniture that you don't need anymore? Perhaps there's a large item of sports equipment you'd love, but don't want to spend the money. Freecycle is a web-based nonprofit network that facilitates the free exchange of goods between people in their own towns. Each local group is volunteer-moderated, and membership is free.
  • Recycle. For all those things that can't be donated or sold, make sure you dispose of them properly. Recycle newspapers and mixed papers in a designated bin. (Keep that bin or paper grocery bag on hand while you clean.) Condense the contents of nearly empty plastic containers (only if items are the same!) and recycle the containers along with glass bottles or jars you may have saved "just because."

Slipup #2: Sparse Supplies

So, you've cleared out the clutter and you're ready to go. But are you? Without all the right tools, not only will you be inefficient, you may end up using the wrong product, which could result in injury or damage to a surface. Invest in a handled bucket that will hold the following supplies, and store it someplace convenient. (But not too convenient! See the article on Poison Prevention.):

  • All-purpose spray cleaner (for small, washable areas)
  • All-purpose powder or liquid cleaner (for large, washable surfaces like floors and walls)
  • Abrasive cleanser (to remove heavy amounts of soil in small areas)
  • Nonabrasive cleanser (for cleaning easily scratched surfaces, including porcelain sinks and ceramic tile)
  • Chlorine bleach (an effective mold and mildew remover)
  • Glass cleaner
  • Furniture-dusting product
  • Metal polish (optional)
  • Granite cleaner (optional)
  • Vacuum cleaner bags (optional)
  • Trash bags

Slipup #3: Plan? What Plan?

Do you do your weekly grocery shop without a list? Would you head out on a road trip without directions? Map out your cleaning tasks and create a schedule. This will make the job run smoother and go faster. Nancy Bock, ACI's Sr. Vice President, Education, has this advice:

  • Determine your cleaning style. Some people prefer to clean one room at a time; others prefer to do one task at a time. Which one are you?
  • Prioritize. If you do choose to clean one room at a time, decide on the best order. Dinner guests coming soon? Perhaps the living room and dining room might be a higher priority than, say, the upstairs bathroom.
  • Clear out the Big Stuff. Do items such as bed linens, area rugs and curtains need to be laundered? If so, remove them from the room. It will be much easier to clean the rest of the space when those larger items are gone.

Slipup #4: Going at It Alone

"If you want all the days of your lives to seem sunny as summer weather, make sure when there's housework to do, that you do it together!" It's been 40 years since Carol Channing said this on Free to Be You and Me, but it still holds true.

  • Enlist Family or Friends. Everyone above the age of two can help out in some way, big or small – whether that's putting blocks back into a bin or scrubbing the toilet bowl. Assign tasks according to age and ability.
  • Make It Fun. Let's face it – housework is no day at the beach. But it doesn't have to be pure drudgery either. Put on some lively music, create built-in rewards for tasks completed or make a game out of it. Hide surprises in places that need cleaning, or create a contest to see who can put away the most things that are green, or shaped like a circle.
  • Plan Ahead. Cleaning burns calories, so make sure you have snacks or lunch readily available to provide boosts of much-needed energy. And if you have asked a friend for help, think about ways you can say thank-you – either a token of appreciation or a promise to return the favor.
  • Outsource. If time is a constraint and your budget allows, call in the pros. Just be sure to straighten up and remove clutter before hired help arrives. You don't want them to vacuum up tiny toys or misplace important papers that were lying around. Besides, if you want someone to clean the floor, they need to be able to see it.