...next to godliness
September 2, 2013 5:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm a terrible house cleaner. I want to be better at it. Not just better at having the motivation to do it, because, as I've realized, part of the problem is that I just never learned. I want more efficient, thorough techniques for cleaning house: how to properly clean a floor, how to properly clean a shower, how to organize... I welcome blogs, books, hacks, podcasts, whatevs. Anything that'll make my house cleaner.
posted by outlandishmarxist to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 142 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you need flylady. Not only is it about how to clean, but it's also about how to get organized and create a plan.

For example, she never advocates for trying to clean the entire house in one day. Instead, it's about tackling one thing at a time. Here is her guide to baby steps.

For organizing, I really like this youtube channel. Some of her tips are expensive, but she also loves a good bargain and does videos with things from dollar tree or Target.
posted by frizz at 5:32 PM on September 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

Unfuck Your Habitat is often referred to as Flylady with lots more cussing, if that's more your style. The Martha Stewart Homekeeping Handbook is a huge doorstop of a book that tells you how to clean pretty much anything you can think of.

And now I'm going to quit fucking around on the internet and go clean my own house.
posted by mollymayhem at 5:47 PM on September 2, 2013 [8 favorites]

I recommend Clean Like a Man to men and women!
posted by jgirl at 5:52 PM on September 2, 2013

Why don't you think of yourself as an animal and your house as your cage/stall/pen/hutch/habitat and come up with a plan for what you need to do to take good care of your animal?

You should also spend some time, if you haven't, about thinking about what you want (e.g., to walk into a "clean" house like a "real grownup" vs. knowing that there are clean dishes in the kitchen, the fridge doesn't stink, and that you always have clean towels, soap, and toilet paper in the bathroom.)

The suggestions for flylady and etc. have the how-to for whatever cleaning you need for your purposes.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:10 PM on September 2, 2013

I think one key is to do it even when you're not motivated. Don't make "feeling motivated" a necessary condition for doing it.

(It's counterintuitive -- doing the housework will create the motivation, not the other way around.)
posted by vitabellosi at 6:16 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson is a useful and very thorough reference.
posted by mbrubeck at 6:17 PM on September 2, 2013 [9 favorites]

Seconding Unfuck Your Habitat. SO useful. I'm a pretty decent housekeeper and I learn stuff from that site whenever I peruse it. Cleaning as you go is a good habit to get into. Cooking dinner? Wash the dishes or rinse them and put in dishwasher as you cook. Put away ingredients when you're done with them. Doing laundry? Fold and put away each load as soon as it's dry (I'm bad about this and end up living out a laundry basket, which I HATE).
posted by Aquifer at 6:19 PM on September 2, 2013

Thirding Unfuck Your Habitat. It's given me some excellent tips and motivation - and if anything motivates me to clean up, it must be good. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 6:31 PM on September 2, 2013

I like the hairpin's Ask a Clean Person for this kind of stuff. Looks like she's now at jezebel/deadspin, but the archives are great. Link http://thehairpin.com/tag/ask-a-clean-person/
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 6:47 PM on September 2, 2013

I struggled with this until I decided on a whim to purchase a Roomba. It is amazing to me how much more structured my cleaning process is now that I can be doing two things at once (ie, washing the dishes or sorting laundry while the entire upper floor of my apartment is being vacuumed by someone who is not me).
posted by janepanic at 6:49 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

4th for Unfuck your Habitat.
posted by mazienh at 6:56 PM on September 2, 2013

Do you want a clean house? Or tidy?

I keep my home tidy - I put away food items after preparing a meal, put away dishes after eating; I leave the living room tidy after using it (put CDs back into their shelf, put away books, magazines, iPad before leaving the room), make my bed each morning, wipe the sink after each use in the bathroom, clean up any small messes with a small hand vacuum.

This sounds like a lot of work, but honestly it's just a minute here, a few minutes there. When I do this consistently the home is tidy. I live by myself so the dishwasher is filled daily, but the wash is done on a weekly basis (+ or -). Same with the clothes washing. Clothes go into the hamper daily, but the wash is done weekly.

As for cleaning, I use a productivity app to keep track when was the last time I vacuumed, washed the floors, watered the plants, changed the sheets, picked up the mail from the mailbox, etc. The app I like is called Time Flies (iPhone), it's free, and very easy to use. I enter an activity, today's date is the default, and then I check the list to see upcoming items.

Finally, I like to use web sites for inspiration - you have some good ones already upthread, let me add Apartment Therapy. They have some great tips on cleaning and keeping a home tidy. In particular I like this one - How to clean your kitchen sink. Although I clean my home weekly, I do the sink deep clean every two/three months for a nice clean sink.

Good luck !!
posted by seawallrunner at 7:18 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

For books to teach you how to clean quickly and to use specific techniques from professional cleaners (rather than the also useful motivation provided by flylady and similar) try Jeff Campbell's "Speed Cleaning" or Don Aslett's "Is There Life After Housework". I also second "Home Comforts," which is a more thoughtful and academic look at homemaking.
posted by SandiBeech at 8:18 PM on September 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd also recommend Home Comforts - even if you find another system (like FlyLady, etc.) that helps you to make certain things habitual, Home Comforts is really unbeatable as a reference for the kinds of questions it sounds like you have. (For example, "How do I clean a floor?" Well, what kind of floor is it? She will tell you exactly which kind of soap to use, as well as the direction in which you should be mopping/wiping.)

The first chapters were actually really helpful for me in establishing weekly and annual routines, too, but I've never tried FlyLady, Unfuck Your Habitat, etc.

Make Your Place by Raleigh Briggs also has great recipes for simple, cheap, minimally toxic cleansers made with things like baking soda and vinegar, if arming yourself to the teeth with various spray bottles/aerosol cans to go about your cleaning doesn't appeal to you.
posted by Austenite at 8:22 PM on September 2, 2013

I have a couple of tips, as someone who is continually working toward having a cleaner and more serene home environment. My husband and I both skew heavily toward pack-rat on the scale of things, so for us a major undertaking has been getting rid of things. Look around with an objective eye; you can probably remove a lot of stuff that is unnecessary. I think most people tend to have too much stuff and just don't get around to scrutinizing their surroundings for excess often enough.

So that's number one, try decluttering as much as possible. Everything you do keep must have a place that it belongs, or else you are forever moving items from one place to another.

My second idea is for you to hire a professional cleaner if you can afford it, even if it's just on a one-time basis. Find someone who won't mind if you stick around and watch how they clean. I guarantee you will learn some awesome techniques. Also your place will be sparkling and you will find it's so easy after that to spend a few minutes daily maintaining things. Come up with a schedule of cleaning that works for you (daily tidying, weekly vacuuming/laundry, monthly deep cleaning, etc).
posted by JenMarie at 9:17 PM on September 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some specific tips that helped me:

Every time you're in the shower, clean one surface. It only takes a few seconds, but it means you never have to actually *clean* the shower because it's always done. Also, switch to using liquid soap so you don't get soap scum build up.

When you go from one room to another, take something with you and put it away as you go.

If something doesn't have a home, either find it one or get rid of it. This also means, if something regularly migrates from one room to another, perhaps its real home is in the room it migrates to. Or you need two of whatever it is (scissors!).

Keep cleaning materials where they're going to be used (including *in* the shower). I have a basket in each bathroom containing toilet cleaner, paper towel, scrubbing brush, mirror cleaner and sink cleaner. That makes it easy to grab the scrubbing brush and clean the sink as soon as you notice it's dirty.

Dump a small amount of bleach in the toilet bowl once a week and let it sit for as long as possible before flushing. This drastically reduces the amount of cleaning that toilets need.

And seconding Flylady. It can seem quite overwhelming but start with her babysteps and you'll get there.
posted by eloeth-starr at 11:09 PM on September 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding Home Comforts by Mendelson. It's a masterpiece. It covers everything about all aspects of keeping house, explains now just the how but the why, and is very well written. It's a wonderful book that will be useful for years, beyond quick reminders and hacks.
posted by wdenton at 7:34 AM on September 3, 2013

Instead of approaching cleaning as a monumental chore, a kind of I WILL CLEAN ALL THE THINGS! battle cry for the weekend, treat it as an ongoing war with endless little skirmishes to be completed in small bursts. Do you have 10 idle minutes before you have to go somewhere? Destroy the gathering clutter on your countertops! Clean your dishes while you make a meal! Sort mail during commercials! Zip! Bang! Pow!

Or if you're into gamification, there are a ton of examples of ways to give yourself points for doing things, then reward yourself for good work done.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:59 AM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

At some point I read a book on speed cleaning, maybe the one listed above. I liked it because it winnowed the cleaning tools and supplies down to the essential (I still think of Windex as 'blue juice' and whatever generic cleaner I'm using as 'red juice', even when I'm using Simple Green). I have a bucket of cleaning supplies that can go wherever its needed, and I keep paper towels, sponges, glass cleaner, and bleach-y, gritty, cleanser in each bathroom. For someone with as many years of age as I have, I only just realized that a scrubby with no cleanser cleans the tub pretty well if you've just taken a shower. No cleanser required. Until the oldest vacuum cleaner died, there was a vacuum cleaner on each floor because I truly hate dragging cleaning stuff all over the house, which is actually rather small, but I am the grownup and I get to say.

When I have renovated parts of the house, I pay attention to what gets installed, and choose surfaces that can be easily cleaned, if I can. Stainless steel fridge? I clean with windex, and if I feel like being extra spiffy, I wipe it down with a clean dish towel to remove streaks. Maybe I'll try waxing it or something. It's so odd to have kitchen equipment that requires extra cleaning attention to look like it should, so I don't. I can live with streaks as long as the handprints are gone. Many manufacturers say you have to buy special products to clean their stuff, but most surfaces are glass, plastic (vinyl), polyurethaned(plastic), and can be washed with standard cleaners.

Clean from the top down. dust falls according to gravity.
Vacuum last. see above.
Play music, loud. I prefer show tunes or dance music.
Having a vacuum cleaner that doesn't need bags, which always mysteriously vanish when needed, makes me hate vacuuming a tiny bit less.
Having an upright vacuum cleaner makes me hate vacuuming a tiny bit less.
Having a rug at the door, and sweeping the deck once in a while helps keep the kitchen floor less dirty. See also, no shoes on the carpet, which people do in many places.

I keep the bathrooms very clean, the kitchen pretty clean, and the rest of the house gets attention when I have energy.
posted by theora55 at 5:20 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Flylady is great for learning how to clean. Her schedules and lists and structure really helps, and she has tons of advice and anecdotes. My husband had been Mr. Mom our whole adult lives when I retired early at 53 and I had no idea how to keep it all under control. Flylady really taught me how to run my household. I only used her program for about three months, and after that my own flow kicked in. She's kinda preachy, but I just ignored that stuff.
posted by raisingsand at 7:21 PM on September 3, 2013

Anything that'll make my house cleaner.

Reduce the accumulation of dirt you will need to clean:
  • Always take your shoes off at the door and put on slippers. Make this a house rule. Keep a chair and spare slippers (for visitors) at the door. Keep easy on/easy off boots at the door if you are going in and out of the house a lot doing some sort of dirty stuff like gardening.
  • If you cannot get people to wear slippers, or even if you can, make sure there is a good mat at every entrance and that people use it.
  • Cover pots and pans when you are cooking so you don't get splashes everywhere. A wire mesh cover is good for stuff that you can't cover with a regular top.
  • Encourage gentlemen to sit when they pee.
  • Remove unnecessary (all?) carpets that just hold dirt (and fur?) you could otherwise have easily swept or mopped.

posted by pracowity at 2:54 AM on September 4, 2013

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