Keeping Your House Clean
Credit: Paul Whicheloe
These simple techniques will make your housekeeping efforts last longer.
In the Living Room
- Before rearranging paintings on walls, slip on white cotton gloves. Natural oils from your fingertips can seep onto artwork, damaging the color over time.
- Set a doormat of toothed, bristly material, such as Astroturf, outside the door to leave dirt and grit where they belong―outdoors. After all, 80 percent of dirt in the home is the dry, tracked-in kind.
- Slice wine corks into disks and glue them to the bottoms of furniture and heavy pottery, or stick on adhesive felt pads. Dust settles into gouges made by furniture on floors and turns into grime, making it tougher to clean.
- Keep a dusting cloth in various handy places throughout your living spaces―on a nightstand, in a coffee-table drawer―so you can grab it to dust furniture anytime you notice an accumulation.
- Opt for patterned upholstery, which conceals dirt better than solid fabric.
- Wipe pets with a microfiber cloth, a dry-cleaning sponge, or a specialty pet wipe each day to reduce the amount of dander on the upholstery.
- Once a week, mist a few squirts of room deodorizer on cool lightbulbs. (A note of caution: Moisture can seep into the light socket and damage the bulb, so spray from about a foot or so away.) The next time you turn on the light, the heat from the bulb will activate the scent.
- Arrange furniture six inches from walls instead of flush against them so there will be fewer smudges from bumping to tend to later. You'll also have easier access to dusty corners that need a visit from a dust mop.
- Open and close window treatments (blinds, curtains, shades) often to displace dust from the fabric instead of letting it sit until you get around to cleaning it. When it falls to the floor, run a dust mop over the surface.
In the Kitchen
- Set jars of liquid or jelly on coasters, or line shelves with nonadhesive cork liner. When drips occur, just replace the coasters or the lining.
- To repel stains on countertops, twice a year apply grout sealer (available at hardware stores) to tile, and stone sealer (also at hardware stores) to stone countertops. Follow the package instructions.
- Instead of using wood cutting boards, switch to plastic. Since wood shouldn't be sanitized in the dishwasher (wood can warp when wet), it can harbor bacteria, which gets on knives and can invade your food-prep area. Pop plastic boards into the dishwasher after every use to kill germs.
- To make cleanup faster when you cook, cover countertops with sheets of wax paper, parchment paper, or butcher paper before preparing food. Juices from meats, chicken, and fish never hit the counters, so there's no need to disinfect. When finished, crumple up the paper and toss.
- Place a box of baking soda in the freezer and another in the refrigerator to absorb and neutralize smells; replace them every three months. Alternatives: a mound of charcoal; coffee beans in a bowl; or a cotton ball soaked in vanilla extract and kept in the refrigerator until dry.
- Every month or so, dump ice cubes from the trays and make a new batch. Stale ice traps odors, like those from frozen fish or meat.
- Grind the skins of oranges, lemons, and limes in the garbage disposal with a handful of ice cubes. The rock-hard texture of the ice cubes sharpens the grinding mechanism; the citrus scent of the grated peels clears the air. Or make ice cubes of vinegar instead of water. The vinegar will deodorize the disposal.
- Reduce grease splatters on the stovetop and the hood by putting a mesh splatter screen over pans when cooking.
In the Laundry Room
- Leave the lid of the washer open for at least an hour after using the machine to let moisture evaporate and discourage the growth of mold and mildew.
- When you've accidentally left a lipstick or a crayon in the pocket of a garment, squirt a bit of WD-40 onto a cloth, then rub it on the oil-based marks inside the washing machine. One note of caution: WD-40 is flammable, so don't use this trick inside the dryer. Instead, use a cloth drenched with water and dishwashing liquid.
- Put a rug or a carpet swatch in front of the sink to sop up splashes when you hand wash items. A highly absorbent material, like cotton chenille, is easy to care for; just toss it in the washer. A rug made from a natural fiber, such as jute or sea grass, will conceal water stains.
- Consider purchasing a small water alarm, which will alert you if the washing machine leaks or overflows. It sits on the floor, and a battery-operated sensor sounds when water touches it. Basic models sell for less than $20 at home-improvement centers.
- Stack liquid detergents, stain-removal solutions, and anything else that can leak in plastic bins or caddies to contain drips. Because these liquids are highly concentrated, drips can deteriorate the paint on shelves and the finishes on appliances.