Every time I work on a cleaning story, I am totally amazed at how many chores I’ve been doing all wrong—which means I’ve been wasting way too much time and elbow grease, and in some cases, even making my house dirtier! Here are some of the errors I’ve been making; you can read a lot more in “The Wrong Way to Clean” in our current issue, on newsstands now.
Don't be too quick to spray and wipe. Whenever possible, let the cleaning product do the brunt of the work. Most cleaners should be sprayed on and left alone for three to five minutes to let their dirt-busting action cut through gunk. A lot of us don't do that—we spray and wipe right away. That's more work for you and probably wastes more cleaner. This strategy works on toilet bowls, kitchen counters, grout, etc.
Nix the dustpan. After sweeping your floors, do you automatically reach for the dustpan to scoop up the dirt? Don’t! Instead you should hand-vac it up, which is much faster and more efficient. Otherwise, you get that tiny little line of dirt that you can't quite scoop up. You know the line I’m talking about.
Ditch the feather duster. My mother used a feather duster and so did I until I learned the error of my ways. The feathers hold in dust and dirt and a dirty duster is not going to get the job done. The cleaning pros we interviewed for this story recommend a lambswool duster, which is great for cleaning large surfaces, including walls. It’s also delicate enough for touchups on knick-knacks as well as being easily squishable to get into hard-to-reach spots like between blinds. And, here’s another tip: always dust from the top down, then vacuum up all the debris that falls on the floor.
Don't cheap out. Hey, I use old, used-up toothbrushes for all sorts of things, including scrubbing the grout in my bathroom. Wrong! Spring for the grout brush, say the pros. Using a toothbrush just won't do it because the bristles are too soft for grout grunge. You can also use the grout brush for cleaning the tracks in shower doors and for tackling tough stains that collect near sink drains and around the base of toilets.
Hold the paper towels. They're OK for wiping up kitchen countertops, but don't use them to dust or polish furniture—they could actually scratch surfaces. Don’t use them to wash windows and mirrors either; they can leave behind lint. For lint- and streak-free windows, use a squeegee.
Scrubby abrasive sponges are not all the same. Who knew? Don't use a pad that's too abrasive. Match the surface to the job you're doing so you don't scratch it. Color can be your guide. Pink and yellow sponges tend to be less abrasive than other scrubbing pads. Check labels on recommended uses.
Don't stop at one doormat—use two. One outside and one inside the door. That's the best way to keep dirt from tracking all through your house. And every two weeks pick them up and shake them out; otherwise you'll just be tracking that stuff in.
Check out the April issue for more great cleaning tips!