Edited by Dawn Hibbs, Executive Maids
Not everyone likes to clean, but everyone loves a clean house. “The key is maintenance so things don’t get out of control,” says Diana Henley, owner of Naturalcare Cleaning Service in Houston. “Tackling little messes right away prevents them from becoming big messes later on.” Here are nine simple habits the pros recommend to help you keep your home cleaner, longer.
1. Take off your shoes. “Have your family members remove their shoes as soon as they come in the house,” says Maria Skokan, co-owner of Nature’s Essence Green Cleaning, LLC in Aurora, Illinois. “It’s better to prevent dirt from getting in the house in the first place.” At the very least, keep machine washable throw rugs at every entrance to your home—both inside and outside—to capture grit, salt and grass clippings.
2. Do mini-vacuum sessions. Vacuum high-traffic patterns in carpeted areas and shake out entryway rugs a couple of times a week to stop soil from being ground in. Zip around the kitchen floor, too, to collect crumbs and pet hair. “Keep a lightweight stick vacuum handy so you won’t have to haul out the full-sized vacuum,” says Skokan. “You’ll be more likely to do it if you make it easier on yourself.”
3. Squeegee down walls after a shower. “Hang a squeegee inside the shower and get everyone in the habit of quickly wiping down the walls after each use,” says Alison Palmer, past president of the Association of Residential Cleaning Services International, and owner of Custom Maid in Virginia Beach. “It prevents soap scum from building up and mold from getting a foothold.” And while you’re at it, switch to body wash, which goes right down the drain, instead of bar soap, which re-solidifies and builds up on tub and shower walls.
4. Wipe down bathroom sinks daily. Keep a box of disinfectant wipes under the bathroom sink, and wipe it down in the morning as you’re getting ready or after you brush your teeth at night. The idea is to get rid of hair and to remove goopy stuff like toothpaste blobs or mascara drips before they dry in place.”
5. Clean sinks overnight. Fill a porcelain sink with hot water and a scoop of powdered peroxide (such as OxiClean) or a cup of white vinegar. “Swish it around a little, let it sit overnight and drain and rinse in the morning,” says Henley. “You’ll be amazed at how well it gets stains out, and you don’t have to scrub.”
6. Purge the fridge before unpacking groceries. Before you unload your bags, do a quick inventory and pitch what’s moldy, slimy or past its expiration date. Doing so now frees up space and gets rid of questionable foods (or the leftovers no one ate). A quick squirt of glass cleaner or a swipe with a disinfecting wipe finishes the chore.
7. Stop stove top boil overs in their tracks. If you’ve got a boil over in progress on the stove top, shut off the burner. Remove the pot so the spill doesn’t cook on to the burner, especially if it’s something starchy like rice, potatoes or oatmeal. Place the pot on another burner to resume cooking. Wipe up the spill when it’s cooled.
8. Head off kitchen smells. “Sprinkle some baking soda in your disposal, then add a cup of white vinegar and half a lemon or orange,” says Skokan. “Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes, then crank on the disposal.” Once that’s done, remove the rubber disposal gasket and rinse; you’ll be amazed at how yucky that thing gets. Don’t forget to wipe down other areas where food particles cling, such as along the edges of your dishwasher door, in kitchen trash and recycling bins, and in refrigerator drawers.
9. Keep products where you use them. Place a bucket or dishpan under each bathroom and kitchen sink to hold supplies such as glass cleaner, microfiber cleaning cloths and disinfecting wipes. “If your tools are handy, you’re more likely to tackle a chore when you see it needs to be done and before it gets out of hand,” says Palmer. “Having everything nearby saves steps, too.”