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Housekeeping Tips: Speed Cleaning

by Judith C. Bettinger

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One of the best things I learned from the Don Aslett books was the importance of good entry mats. They really do save an amazing amount of work. We have a deep, covered front porch, so I have a 6x4-foot mat on the porch itself, and a smaller mat inside the house. These are the same kind of mats that hotels use - they have some kind of acrylic fuzz on one side and a vinyl or rubber backing. I found mine at a janitorial supply, but have also seen some smaller ones at Price Costco. It's important that the mats be as many "steps" long as possible because the further you walk on the mat, the less dirt you'll track into the house.

As I mentioned before, as soon as I found ways to keep the house free of clutter, the cleaning became 10 times easier. I've found that doing a daily "pick-up" is the best investment of time I can make. So, let's assume that I'm starting with a house that's basically tidy. My method is adapted from techniques I learned in a "Speedcleaning" class I took, along with some techniques I learned in the Don Aslett books.

Here's my equipment list:

- a 12-pocket canvas carpenter's apron

Into the pockets of that go:

- an old toothbrush for detail work
- a razor blade scraper
- a spray bottle of glass cleaner (I just use vinegar and water)
- a spray bottle of general-purpose cleaner (I use Now or 409)
- two white cotton terry cleaning cloths, one for glass, one for the general-purpose cleaner
- a small feather or wool duster. I like the real ostrich- feather dusters because they're soft, well-made, and last a long time.

They'll also stand up to a rinsing with warm water after every time I clean.

The bottles of liquid just hook onto the loops that are on the apron. OK, so this looks a little goofy - my family's used to it!

Our house is two floors, so I do the second floor completely, then take everything downstairs. I load up the carpenter's apron, and also carry up with me:

- the vacuum cleaner, including the add-on hose and upholstery brush
- a dust mop with an extendible handle

I like to wear cotton gardening gloves, in case I encounter anything really ooky. This was suggested in the class I took, and at first it felt a little funny, but now I wouldn't be without 'em.

Before I vacuum, I "prep clean" the floor I'm on. In each room, I use the dust mop to go around the room once to remove dust from all the high places in the room. This includes cobwebs that might be forming in corners, tops of curtain valances, and tops of door and window moldings. I start at the door, go around the room, then leave the dust mop at the door where I started. The key to this part is to frequently bang the dust mop on the floor to knock the dust out. Then, I can pick the dust up with the vacuum cleaner.

Next, I do the detail work, moving around the room in a circle and working from top to bottom. I do all of the following as I go:

- dust, using the feather or wool duster. Technique is really important here, too - I _wipe_ the dust, then tap the duster against my foot to shake the dust onto the floor. I try to be really thorough: paneled doors, picture frames, and lamps get dusty too. When I get to a window, I shut the mini-blinds, dust them, open them and reclose the opposite way, then dust the other side.
- using glass cleaner, I spritz any glass - this includes glass on pictures, mirrors, and finger prints on the inside of the windows.
- using the general-purpose cleaner, I wipe up finger marks on the woodwork, crayon marks, etc. The detail brush and scraper are good for dislodging anything that's stuck in cracks or ridges.

The trick here is to stay on track, and the apron is what makes that possible because I've got everything I need with me. If I find little odds and ends that belong someplace else, I put them into one of the apron pockets. If I'm really thorough, there's not much work to do because at worst there's only a week's worth of dirt built up. I do detail work in all the rooms, including the bathroom - since the fixtures are basically clean, all that needs doing on cleaning day is to clean the mirrors and dust the cabinets and blinds.

When the detail work is done, I take the clunky stuff out of the apron and take care of the floors. Our house has hardwood floors with area rugs, so this is a two-step process. I put the tube extender on the vacuum cleaner first and vacuum the bare part of the floors. If they need it, I'll use the upholstery brush to clean the baseboards and vacuum any upholstered furniture - the upholstery brush fits nicely into the apron, so I can switch "on the fly" very easily. I'm careful to vacuum under the beds and dressers every week so that I don't get major dust bunnies. When the wood is done, I take off the tube and vacuum the rugs. Downstairs, this includes the entry mats, both inside and out.

I damp mop the bathroom floors after I've cleaned everything else, having vacuumed them when I did the other bare floors. Once a month, I damp mop the wood floors with vinegar and water. Our kitchen floor is covered with The World's Ghastliest Carpet, so I can't mop it. If we had a normal kitchen floor, I'd vacuum it at the same time I did the hardwood floors, then damp mop in the same round with the bathrooms.

After I'm finished, I rinse out my duster and put the rags and the head from the dust mop into the laundry hamper. It's essential to keep the dusters clean, because otherwise they will deposit more dust than they pick up.

That's it! Our house is a four- bedroom, 1 3/4-bath house, with 2200 square feet. That's a lot of house, but it still only takes me about two hours to do this whole routine because by doing the work frequently, things never have a chance to get really awful. Saves the weekend for more time with my family!

Reviewed April 2017

Judy has provided a series of housecleaning tips. Her articles run each month. She features a 'common-sense' approach to getting the job done.

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