Cleaning 101

No, I absolutely was not raised right. :o

For those of us who are wholly useless at cleaning, how about some very basic advice? For example, when other people wipe down surfaces in the bathroom, they seemingly get clean. When I do it, it spreads the dust and pet hair around and sticks it down good to said surface. When I squirt toilet duck stuff in the toilet, then scrub with the scrubby brush, it looks almost the same as before. But somehow other people have sparkling clean toilets. And the dust… the dust never REALLY goes away.

(I can mop and clean a kitchen counter because, once upon a time, people taught me how to do those things.)

Please, dumb it down for me!

You need the fly lady! I haven’t looked at her site for ages, but you reminded me.

I use bleach for my toilet. Dump some in, swirl, flush, sparkly clean. (You might have hard water, leaving orange stains in the bowl? Then you need someting stronger.)

I guess I’m not really the person who should be giving advice on this matter, but I’ll give it a go anyways. I would say that repetition and thoroughness are key in getting a clean place. From dry to wet and from top to bottom. If dust is an issue try to focus on surfaces that usually get ignored, the hard to reach and overlooked surfaces are big dust collecting farms. But then again this is just me talking not me doing :wink:

Just be sure you don’t combine bleach and ammonia. It produces poisonous gas. Seriously.

I’ve never been able to find basic, cleaning for dummies instructions on flylady’s site. And I can’t achieve inner peace through not using my sink. Flylady seems like more of a systematic approach for the overwhelmed rather than basic techniques for people who really, no, really, never learned this shit in the first place.

I worry about using too much bleach to clean toilets given that we’re on a septic system. And you say “swirl”, I take it there’s not much scrubbing involved? What is a “swirl”?

There’s a book for everything.

Now that I’ve looked at the flylady site after a long absence, I see the focus has changed. It used to be more about cleaning and less about de-cluttering, I swear.

By swirl I mean I give the bowl a quick swish with the brush after adding bleach. But you’re correct, it probably isn’t the most eco-friendly cleaning material. Most aren’t though - I use vinegar and water for the majority of my day-to-day cleaning. And while I don’t like using masses of paper towels, they’re awfully handy.

You say you can clean a kitchen counter but not a bathroom one? Same principle, really. I’ll wipe surfaces with a scrubbie sponge, then if I’m being extra-picky, finish with vinegar solution and paper towels. An added benefit of using vinegar - it’s very good for getting hard-water deposits off sink fixtures.

Pet hair - I has too. Vacuum first (I use a hand-held Dirt Devil) then wipe down surfaces. Vacuuming first picks up the pet hair.

Getting rid of the pet works even better.

To deal with loose hair or dust on a countertop, wait until it is dry and then use a vacuum with attachments to vacuum up all you can can before you start washing the surfaces. If you have dust that’s been wet and has dried into a residue, hairspray, soap residue, or other stuff like that, then cleaning the surfaces might be tough. If that’s the case then you probably want to use something like a rough-sided sponge. Squeeze it out so it’s damp but not drippy, and use that to work on a smallish area at a time, drying as you go so that the residue gets picked up. You’ll only need to do all of this once, and future cleanings will probably only need the vacuum and a wipe-down with a sponge.

Another thing that I do sometimes is using a dry rubber glove to wipe up hair and loose dust from the floor.

Pet hair and dust can be kept to a minimum by purchasing a roomba robot vacuum. We have one that runs about every day from 10 to 11 am and it does an excellent job of sweeping up all the pet hair and dust. If you dust up lightly once a week you’ll never have to worry about it again.

Describe what you mean by “wipe” down and it will be easier to answer the question of what the issue is.

What tool do you use for wiping (towel, paper towel, sponge, clorox-type wipe, other?)
What cleaning product, if any, do you put on the wiping tool?
What sort of stains or messes are you cleaning up? Dust? Oil spatters from frying? Dripped tomato sauce?

I agree with the idea that cleaning on a regular schedule is the key to making cleaning easy. If surfaces are barely dirty when you clean them, you don’t get the problems with sticky dust/hair/etc. Note that I don’t manage to follow this advice myself, just that I find it true.

My secret is “homemade soft scrub” made by stirring liquid dish soap into baking soda. It’s gently abrasive, cuts grease, and even has built-in sheeting action which helps with getting a shiny surface. I use it to clean every kitchen surface except the floor, and every bathroom surface except the floor, mirror and the inside of the toilet bowl.

For washable floors you really need a good strong cleaner, I’ve found. I tried washing mine with vinegar or with dish soap and they just didn’t come clean.

For the mirrors and glass you obviously need a glass cleaner. I buy mine because I don’t use ammonia for anything else and don’t have the energy to mix it up.

For the toilet bowl, I recommend Lysol toilet bowl cleaner. The thick stuff that clings. I’ve tried The Works and Toilet Duck and blah-de-blah, and they’re hit or miss. Let it sit for 20-30 minutes before you scrub and flush.

You will occasionally, after scrubbing your kitchen sink and counters, want to wash them with bleach water to sanitize them.

And that’s the whole catalogue of cleaning products I use. I dust with a barely-damp cloth and once a year, wash my wood floors with the tiniest amount of dish soap.

My favorite book for house cleaning advice is Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. She literally describes how to do all these things–the procedure for how to wash a wood floor was especially useful.

The bathroom counter thing. When you wipe dust or hair, you really are just moving it around. You need to pick up the dust and hair and get rid of it. I have a white countertop in my bathroom (which turns out to be a bad choice) and the only solution there is for it is to wipe up some of the dust/hair, get it on the cloth and then rinse the dust/hair from the cloth down the sink. Repeat until no dust/hair is left. Note that this goes faster if you do it more frequently.

For the toilet, I have lived in many student houses where the toilet was vile and toilet cleaners do work…to a point. For the toilet you really can’t get clean, you are going to need some toothbrushes. At least medium bristles. Start by putting in the toilet duck stuff (in an ideal world, with bleach). Squirt it in the toilet and make sure all surfaces not in the water are covered. Leave it for 30 minutes. Come back and use that toilet brush to scrub, scrub, scrub. Most of stuff should have come off at this point. Then you get out your toothbrushes and start working on anything that didn’t. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Once your toilet is clean, take your brish around it daily, and give it the toilet cleaner treatment (only letting it sit for five minutes or so) once a week.

The dust needs to be vacuumed or swiffered (actually, I have reusable dusting cloths and a feather duster). It needs to be sucked up and thrown away.

I have to second Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson. The size of the book may be intimidating, but think of it as a very thorough “how to deal with almost any cleaning situation” reference guide.

How well does Roomba deal with chair legs and transitions from hard to carpeted floors (berber not plush)?

Dust never goes away. But if you dust thoroughly every month for a year, and then lightly once or twice or three times a week, there will be less of it and you can cut back. How much you have to dust to stay on top of it will depend on what the environment is like. If you live on a dirt road, it’s always going to be bad.

For bathrooms. Take the towels and anything you are going to wash and throw them in a pile in the hallway. Throw out, put away or organize any clutter. Put toilet bowl cleaner int the toilet. Grab a big roll of paper towels. Dampen a towel and wipe down all services to pick up hair. When you are moving it around more than picking it up, get another towel and throw the other one away. Get down on your hands and knees and do the same thing. spray down all services with the appropriate cleaner other than the mirrors. Thrown the towels in the wash. Clean the toilet bowl. Wipe up all surfaces, the cleaner has had time to work. Then wipe down mirrors with glass cleaner. For company clean, immediately follow the wiping up with a terry cloth dry. Then mop up the floors with a good floor cleaner.

Oh, clean the ducts, that helps with the dust.

But it does nothing to remove the turd from the punch bowl. I mean, getting rid of my husband would eliminate a lot of the hair in my shower drain, pretty much all the soap scum, and that annoying seat up/down issue, but it’s hardly an appropriate suggestion when my question is about how to keep a drain from clogging with hair and soap film.

Miss, if things are just sticking to a surface you’re wiping down, there’s some sort of buildup that’s making it stick, and until you bust that up, you’re not going to get very far with the dust/hair removal. For that, you’re going to need some combination of detergent, abrasive, and elbow grease, and the combination is going to depend on what you’re trying to clean and how thick the buildup is. For bathroom surfaces, something along with Comet/Soft Scrub/baking soda paste lines applied vigorously with a cheap, rough washcloth is usually sufficient, though you may need a toothbrush to get particularly stubborn or awkward to reach areas. (I’m rather fond of those $4 store brand electrics at Walmart, myself. They really speed up the process.) For wood, I like a good scrub with Murphy’s Oil Soap. For glass, either commercial glass cleaner or ammonia, water, and a touch of dish detergent. For floors, you will take my steam mop when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

As for dusting, if you don’t have some dampness or static on whatever you’re dusting with, you’re just shoving the dust around. A touch of water, or a light spritz of furniture polish on a cleaning cloth works pretty well, but my personal preference is for a lambswool duster. It works by static like a Swiffer thing, but far cheaper and greener. Plus it’s all puffy and squishy and that amuses me. Just make sure you don’t use it to get cobwebs, they mat the fibers together and never truly wash out.

My husband could have written the OP ten years ago when we moved in together, so here are a few things that helped him. They may or may not help you.

  1. Clean from the top down. If you wipe the counter and lose crumbs, they end up on the floor. Likewise with dusting. So, if you’re, say, cleaning a bathroom, figure out what’s on top and go from there, doing the floors last. (Exception: if you need the sink to do everything else, do it last, because it’ll get dirty from doing the rest of the room.)

  2. Completely clear off the surface before scrubbing it. You think that when you lift something up and dust/scrub under it, you are actually getting the surface underneath the item clean. This is almost always a lie. This also goes for floors; you don’t need to clear things out for frequent swiffering, but if you’re doing deep mopping/waxing, get everything out that you can. Also, cleaning under things is important even if you can’t see under them. The dust bunnies under the couch will migrate outward if your couch is high enough. Don’t just go around furniture unless you can’t fit/reach a cleaning implement underneath.

  3. (This usually addresses your “smearing things around” question.) Don’t clean with anything dirty. Once your rag gets dirty, rinse it out or get a new one. If your paper towel is covered with hair, get a new one. If you’re mopping and the water is getting pretty dirty, dump and refill. Otherwise you’re just moving dirt around. (Also, I hate “dry dusting” methods; you get way more dust from using pledge and a clean cloth.)

  4. Touch as well as looking, even on things that look clean. Run your hand over it; does it feel clean? If not, do it again, because dirt will stick to whatever gunk you’re feeling.

  5. If it’s really nasty, soak it for a while. If I’ve been slacking on the bathrooms and go to clean them all at once, step one is squirting toilet bowl cleaner into all of them, then doing something else, then coming back in a minute to scrub. (This violates the top-down rule, but there are always exceptions.) Also, if there’s something gunky on the stove, spray it with cleaner and give it a minute, then scrub it off.
    Good luck!

Get some tools to make it easier. I like the Scrubbing Bubbles Fresh Brush Max for the toilet once a week. I use a Swiffer Duster to dust everything once a week. Actually, my house isn’t very big so I use one duster over 2 weeks. I use the Swiffer Wet Jet every other week in the kitchen and bathroom.

Those tools might be more expensive than other methods but they make cleaning up go a lot quicker and they work great.

I still use a sponge and spray in the kitchen and bathroom surfaces.

We always use Windex with either a rag or paper towel for countertops. Technically, Windex is not food safe but we haven’t died yet.

I remember being a little kid doing my chores and I was always mixing cleaners and looking for some magic bullet for cleaning. As I got older I realized that cleaning is less about the tools you use and more about Elbow Grease and Frequency.

If something won’t come clean, I usually bust out the abrasives like Comet and scrub the hell out of it. Sometimes you really just have to apply time and muscle to get the result you want. Then just remember to clean more often and not let the situation deteriorate that much next time.

Adopting a cleaning schedule is the secret. If you can make yourself do little things daily, it will make all the difference.

I can’t make myself put away laundry and my room is cluttered as hell so believe me, no judgement here. :slight_smile: