Learn the right way to tidy up from the people who know.
few years ago, I found out that I’ve been cleaning all wrong. I was in a hotel room, when a maid came in and sprayed a solution on every surface…and then left. Right when I thought she’d forgotten, she returned. She wiped for less than two minutes with a thin dry cloth, and the whole place sparkled. It had, frankly, never occurred to me to let one solution do all the work, so I asked her what she’d used. It was something called Butcher’s Bath Mate—an industry standby.
Change Your Strategy
The biggest mistake people make is cleaning room by room (this is called “zone cleaning”). It’s much too slow! “You can either clean your kitchen in four hours, or clean your entire house top to bottom in four hours,” says Lisa Romero, owner of Just Like New Cleaning in Fort Collins, Colorado. “A lot of people get caught focusing on one area— say, doing a super job cleaning the counters—and never get to the stove, let alone the next room. In reality, just wiping things down and moving on is quick and efficient.”
Most pros are in favor of “task cleaning”: completing one chore, such as dusting, throughout the entire house, before starting the next. “You’ll do a little more walking, so it’s a good workout,” says Ronald Payne, owner of RZJ Janitorial Services in Plano, Texas, “and I find that it’s faster because you’re in a mindset to keep moving.” Follow these seven steps and your whole house will sparkle in four hours if you’re a beginner, two and a half once you become a pro.
The Starting Point: Upstairs bathroom
“I always start there,” says Romero. “It’s a good place to leave supplies.”
The Plan of Attack: Top-to-bottom, left-to-right
For each task, start at the highest point in the room (if dusting, this might mean high shelves), and move from left to right across the room. This way, you don’t miss anything, and you won’t accidentally knock dust onto already-cleaned lower shelves.
Dust each room, including the topsides of all the furniture, undersides of shelves, and all handrails, as well as picture frames, TV screens and knickknacks. “When it’s possible to dry-dust, I do—getting something wet makes it harder,” says Romero. To get rid of fingerprints, dampen a microfiber cloth with warm water. Pro tip: Look up top. “People don’t dust up on the very top of furniture, and that’s where all the dust collects and then falls off,” says Romero.
Step 2: Furniture Fabric
Go through the house and strip and remake beds; neaten any pillows or furniture blankets. Brush furniture surfaces with a vacuum extension as needed.
Step 3: Mirrors and Glass
Wipe down mirrors and windows throughout the house. Pro tip: Using one wet and one dry microfiber cloth won’t leave streaks.
Step 4: Surface Cleaning
Wipe down all surfaces and counters throughout the house, disinfecting as necessary. Pro tip: Be sure to wipe down all places that fingers touch, like door handles, light switches, TV remotes and phones. “Those are the places that people forget, and they really hold germs,” says Payne.
Step 5: Kitchen and Bathroom
Walk through and spray cleaner on tubs, sinks and toilets. Return and scrub. Then, in the kitchen, wipe down the inside of the microwave, and cabinet and appliance doors. Step 6 floors Sweep, then mop or scrub the bathroom and kitchen floors, and any other floor that needs it. Pro tip: “I always do bathroom floors on my hands and knees with a microfiber cloth and cleanser,” says Romero. “That’s how I know that I got every corner, even behind toilets, and that they’re 100% disinfected.”
Step 7: Vacuum
“I vacuum my way out the bedrooms, down the stairs, through the living room and out of the house,” says Romero. Pro tip: It’s not crucial to vacuum every single inch. Just keep moving. You’ll get the spots you missed next week.
Overhaul Your Cleaning Kit