Adult living question - cleaning edition
March 26, 2016 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Me and baniak are moving into a really nice new apartment. With a SUPER nice new kitchen. How do we not let it turn into a greasy trash fire?

We are... indifferent housekeepers. As in, you would not walk into our house and recoil in OH GROSS horror, but we are not as good about upkeep as we should be and we really want to take care of our new apartment.

The apartment we are in now is typical of a big rental management company - appliances that work, but weren't in good shape when we moved in; no vent hood in the kitchen so it's a greasy nightmare; walls that hadn't been repainted when we moved in, and probably won't be repainted when we move out (we've been here 4 years). (baniak just pointed out that our current situation does not incentivize us to clean, especially as it was 'broom clean' (hah) when we moved in.)

The apartment we are moving into is pretty close to a dream apartment for us - two flat; friends as neighbors; completely new kitchen/appliances; new paint throughout.

Since we've never lived anywhere this nice, and aren't the best at keeping on top of cleaning to begin with, we could use help! What needs to be cleaned every week? How often should mopping be done? What's the best way to clean an oven? Please point out ANYTHING I might not think of.

We're not rote beginners, but how do you - as a busy adult grown-up with a job and a life - keep up with basic apartment maintenance tasks without falling into disarray or despair (or panic cleaning when we've let it go for a while)? What kind of a schedule should we have? Thanks in advance!
posted by bibliogrrl to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also note - we will not be leaving the apartment we are moving out of a mess when we move (we'll be cleaning it to the standards it was clean when we moved in).
posted by bibliogrrl at 1:41 PM on March 26, 2016

My house is always clean but I think it has less to do with routines/hacks and more that I am always doing something. If we're standing around the kitchen I'll grab a broom and do a quick sweep. If I walk from the bathroom and notice that the stove is dirty I'll do a quick wipedown. When I'm brushing my teeth I'll take a bleach wipe and wipe down the vanity and windex the mirror. When I'm Basically I constantly multitask.
posted by pintapicasso at 1:56 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

My weekly cleaning tasks are vacuuming, mopping, and cleaning the toilets and shower. I don't really do regular deep cleaning of my kitchen because I'm really strict about cleaning up every time I cook. There are a few surfaces in my kitchen that are prone to that yucky grease+dust build-up, and I find consistent wipe-downs are key to preventing it. Also, I find it really helpful to keep cleaning supplies where they're needed; so, everything needed to clean the bathroom is there under the sink, the stuff I need for the kitchen is very easy to grab, etc. Make it really easy to grab a cleaning cloth or sponge and do a quick wipe-down while you're making coffee or whatever.
posted by neushoorn at 2:00 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

My personal formula:

Make sure all dishes are clean at least once a day and the kitchen table/counters are wiped down at this time.

Once a week sweep/vacuum all the floors. This will assure everything is off the floor as well. It's a good time to wipe bathroom counters/quick cleaning of toilet and shower.

About twice a month I dust everywhere and mop the floors.

This is my rough schedule for keeping things under control. When it looks dirty cleaning happens at random in between.
posted by Kalmya at 2:01 PM on March 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

If you do a ten minute tidy up before bed things stay kind of manageable and then once a week say saturday after breakfast set a timer and just work for an hour or hour and a half, then you have an end time in sight. put on good music. i am not a fan of cleaning but like things, gotta do it. youwill be surprised how much you can get done when it is set like this. i used very few cleaning products,soap and water, citrus natural grease fighting spray, vinegar. put water in sink, add some soap, saves running tap and makes it easier. fewer paper towels the better, a vileda mop after sweeping does the floor, for stove most self clean but i just remove anything big that might catch fire and wipe it down at most once per month, its an oven and i have better things to do. its just a lot of wiping of surfaces! goodluck in your new place
posted by RelaxingOne at 2:07 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

The real trick is to eat out or get takeaway for greasy foods.

Don't expect a stove hood to stop grease from covering everything. At best they help a little (if the vent outside) at worst the forcefully distribute grease throughout your entire apartment (when they do not vent outside). If you want a hood to do anything at all you have to regularly change/clean the filters but that is largely a waste of time if it doesn't vent out.

Robots are your friends. Roomba if you have carpet, Mint if you do not. I run my Mint every second day or so (we have a cat so hair everywhere all of the time).

Don't have clutter so that surfaces are easy to clean. If you have clutter find a way to put it away somewhere. The less you have the easier cleaning is.
posted by srboisvert at 2:12 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

My basic routine:

*daily: wipe down counters; make sure all the dishes are either clean or rinsed and put in the dishwasher; sweep floor.

*as needed: run dishwasher when it's full. Unload dishwasher immediately.

(Thing to keep in mind: the dishwasher is not just a thing that cleans dishes. It is also a cabinet in which to hide the not-clean dishes while you're waiting to wash them. You need to unload the clean dishes so you can use it to hide the dirty ones.)

*as needed: if something spills in the oven or on the range, clean it up immediately. Burnt-on crap is a lot harder to clean.

*weekly: put a couple of cups of white vinegar in a bowl; blast it on the microwave on high for three minutes; let it sit for a bit; wipe down the inside of the microwave. Spray some cleaning stuff on the outside of the microwave and wipe it down. Scrub the range as needed. Wipe any fingerprints off the cabinets and fridge. Wash dish towels when I do my laundry. Mop floors unless I'm feeling really lazy, in which case spot clean anything visible with a cleaning rag. Dust shelves. Wipe down the inside of the sink if it needs it.

A lot of cleaning solutions give me a migraine, so I dilute normal Dawn dish soap with water and put it in a spray thing. That works fine for me.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:15 PM on March 26, 2016 [5 favorites]

How often do you fry food? In my experience, this makes the #1 difference if you're a casual housekeeper. Frying = grease in the air = grease on all the surfaces in your kitchen. If you fry food a lot you have to clean everything (even things like cabinet doors and dishes you don't use often) every month or so, or else the buildup just gets.. stinky.

If you don't fry a lot you can get away with spot cleaning and do a deep clean a couple times a year, and you'll mostly be picking up dust.

In general I try to make sure there is no food left out for roaches or mice; and one of the tricks I use to help is- no garbage can. All the food trash goes in a plastic bag (usually the one I bought the food in) and I hang it on the doorknob every night to remind myself to take it out in the morning.

My suggestion for keeping things nice is to do all the dishes and clean all the counters and put everything away once a week. Best practice is to do this every day but I find I can get away with once a week and things don't get out of hand.
posted by Admiral Viceroy at 2:20 PM on March 26, 2016

Oh, I forgot my biggest one: clean out the fridge once a week. I do that before I do my meal plan for the next week, because I've just looked at everything in the fridge, and I know what I want to use up. The single most depressing kitchen task is cleaning out a gross fridge, and things never have time to rot in the back if you clean it out once a week.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:25 PM on March 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Can you hire a cleaner? I have one come once a month and it's glorious.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:48 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

- Cleaning doesn't take as much time as you think it will.
- The more often you clean the easier it is but don't go crazy over it.
- The less stuff you have on the counters the easier it is to keep the whole kitchen clean.
- Review/clean the fridge, freezer, and pantry for even just a minute before you shop.
- Wipe up spills as soon as they happen, you will never regret this.
- Nothing ever needs to be perfect, as life is to be lived and good friends don't care.
- Baking soda is cleaning magic! Really, baking soda and hot water = amazing.
posted by belau at 4:14 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have the same problem -- no vent hood. I'm naturally quite lazy when it comes to cleaning but I've gotten a lot cleaner by making small changes. The biggest one is keeping down on clutter/mess, because that turns cleaning into a PROCESS.

My routine is:

(a) Kitchen is cleaned on ongoing basis. I do dishes and small cleaning tasks while waiting for coffee to brew, water to boil, and so on. I wipe down counters and stove after each cooking session. (Even if I don't feel like finishing the dishes right then, I put them in the sink so I can do this.)

(b) Vacuum once a week, and then mop with a swiffer wetjet. Wipe down counters/walls around stove area with a cleaner.

(c) Clean bathroom whenever it starts to look a bit grimy, which tends to be about once every two weeks. (I also don't have an exhaust fan, so my bathroom gets steamy and dust sticks to surfaces. But I'm also one person. It might be different for you, or the same.) So, clean sink, toilet, bathtub, wipe down tile.

(d) When I have a looming project deadline, do miscellaneous deep cleaning tasks like throwing away old nail polish, dusting baseboards, etc.

Really, the thing that made the most difference is just keeping the clutter down by spending a few minutes here and there putting stuff away. This means that any time I need to do one of these cleaning tasks, I can just jump right into it instead of having to spend half an hour/an hour on the clutter.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:21 PM on March 26, 2016

Get an oven liner. You'll need to measure your inner dimensions and then find something close.

Also get a sink mat, the kind that does not let things larger than food bits go down the disposal. I have the one linked, I did not cut out any spaces - I just lift it up if there's a bunch of larger food bits on top of it, shake it, use the sprayer to get everything down. I put it in the dishwasher once a week or so. This keeps my husband from grinding all the spoons into prison shivs and blissfully running the disposal with chunks of glass and shit down there as if that doesn't sound at all unusual, it's just generally one of those things that you'll regret not having once it's too late.

If your stovetop has burners, get yourself burner protectors. If your stovetop has burners over a porcelain top (as in not a glass-top and not stainless steel, but white or black or almond-colored porcelain-coated steel or aluminum), wax the painted part. With Turtle Wax, yes. Wax on, buff off. It'll make it SO easy to keep clean (you can wax your fridge too, and use it to freshen the surface of some whiteboards). Do it once when you move in, and then you'll probably need to re-do the spots where you spill/clean most often every 6 months or so. Also consider gap seals.

Use Command hooks for organizing. Don't be afraid to unpack your kitchen sort of slowly at first, only taking out and putting away the things you actually need to use, and give yourself a few weeks to figure out the flow of your kitchen. You may realize, for example, that while the cabinet directly next to the stove seems like the logical place to keep spices, the cabinet door opens into your face, which makes it a much better place to keep your food storage stuff that you don't need mid-cook. It's a lot easier to fix that when your drawers and cabinets are sparsely populated. If you put stuff where you're most likely to put it back, it's less likely to sit out in the way.

In the process of slowly turning into my mother, I'm becoming increasingly antagonistic about dishes going straight into the dishwasher after you knock the big chunks off, and cleaning the sink itself if not daily then every other day. If your sink and sink-margin work zones are empty and clean, your means of cleaning almost everything else is available and unobstructed.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:43 PM on March 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

Use some sort of splatter guards when you're cooking. That set says they're for frying, but splatter screens also work well to keep messes from pasta sauces and other such burbling bubbling things from getting everywhere.
posted by lazuli at 5:04 PM on March 26, 2016

Hire a cleaner. Best thing I've done for my relationship for sure! It's so nice to come home every Friday to a perfectly clean house. I usually stand in the living room for a few minutes and just survey the cleanliness and tidyness. Also knowing the cleaners are coming forces us to spend 15 minutes tidying the house, which is good for everyone.

I'd recommend buying Jolie Kerr's cleaning book. It's basically my bible. She walks you through cleaning anything and everything. She gives really clear instructions, doesn't assume anything, is very non-judgemental, and is also totally fucking hilarious. She'll tell you how to clean everything in the home, and also how to deal with messes. It's also good to have on hand when things go awry.
posted by radioamy at 5:10 PM on March 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) is FAAaaannnnTASTIC for cleaning kitchens. Degreaser like you would not believe.

BUT: for the love of god make sure it is UTTERLY impossible that any should get in your eye (I am not joking about this).

Seriously, I am not joking. Keep it off your skin if you can, but really do not allow it anywhere near your eyes.

Also, it's a significant eutrophication risk so if you're gonna use it, use as little as you can.

Lastly, some things are sold as "TSP" which are not actually trisodium phosphate, but are instead some other alkali. Not The Same Goodness.

I guess I mention this because, really, any time there's grease in your life TSP can help.
posted by aramaic at 6:10 PM on March 26, 2016

The good thing about kitchens is that you are often in there waiting for something. The amount of time it takes toast to cook in the toaster, or leftovers to microwave, is enough to wipe down the counters, unload the dishwasher, or thoroughly scrub the top of the stove.

If you keep your vacuum cleaner out and accessible, already plugged in, you can actually vacuum an entire room while waiting for a kettle to boil.

Getting into the habit of doing these things means you won't ever really feel like you are cleaning up, but the place will stay nice. And when surfaces are clean, you start noticing the other stuff that needs cleaning less frequently, like dirty grout, or cupboard doors, baseboards, etc. Those aren't so obvious if the dirty surfaces distract from them.
posted by lollusc at 6:24 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you keep your vacuum cleaner out and accessible, already plugged in, you can actually vacuum an entire room while waiting for a kettle to boil.

Ok, this is a really good idea. A few years ago I invested in a Dyson Vacuum Stick and it has made the whole keeping on top of regular cleaning so much easier. A quick whip around with the brush attachment and you've gotten rid of all the crumbs and bits that collect in odd places. The kitchen and dining areas are easy to mount up if you wait to vac n mop each week. I can have it done, as lollusc says, in the time it takes to boil a kettle and bam, empty it, stick back on wall in a tall cupboard. Ditto bathroom floor hair [if you are a phenomenal hair shedder like I am] and even running it over the couches to collect up crumbs and crap. The battery lasts long enough for me to do the whole ground floor of my place in no time, no cords, no bother.

Small jobs, done reflexively and often is how I've found housekeeping works best for me.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:05 PM on March 26, 2016

The thing that's been life-changing for me in terms of keeping my bathroom clean is sort of ridiculous, but it's this Clorox toilet wand. I bought mine at BJ's, and I've got two wands about about three dozen of the cleaning pads in my bathroom right now. The trick is that they're great for the toilet, but they're also great for a bimonthly go-round in the shower or bath--just spray everything down with the shower hose, scrub it (no kneeling! no bending over the edge of the tub!), rinse everything with the shower hose, and then throw away the cleaning pad. I try to do the toilet bowl once a week and the bath every other week, and every couple months I'll attack the tub with Barkeeper's Friend, which is so amazing that I've given it to people as a gift. (I'm a real hit at parties.)

Also, keep cleaning supplies in the room you'll use them. There should be glass cleaner and cleaning wipes in the bathroom, kitchen, and, if you have one, the laundry room, and there should also be paper towels or rags in all those places. Having the ability to go 'oh, there's toothpaste spots on the mirror' and then immediately remove said spots with the appropriate cleaner makes a huge difference in terms of how clean my house is. If I have to go downstairs to find glass cleaner, I'll just grab a drink, oh, and I gotta check the mail, and the kid wants something, and -- huh, what was I doing? And then the mirror never gets cleaned. But having it right there means that I can fix it while I'm still cleaning my teeth, even. Huge difference.
posted by mishafletch at 9:54 PM on March 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

My first thought was directly in regard to your 'greasy nightmare' issue - try using other methods of cooking besides frying. I know this isn't the answer you're looking for ("just don't fry") but hear me out. No grease splatters, easier cleanup, you'll be eating less fried food. I used to fry most of my meals. I've since switched to other forms of cooking (including my beloved fried eggs, turns out poached eggs are pretty good on toast, too). I still eat the same foods, still enjoy them, and hardly ever have to deal with grease splatters any more.

Second thought - when frying, cook on lower heat when possible. Years of experience speaking here - grease splatter is much more likely when you're using med to high heat. Obviously raw meat is an exception but pretty much everything else can be fried on low and tends to come out better, anyways, and with less likelihood of getting overcooked if you get distracted.

As for a regular cleaning schedule - spot cleaning daily/as needed. Cook comething? Wipe up any mess/put your dish in the sink. Bathroom - clean up any water, hair, etc as needed. Don't clean but wipe around the sink once a day. (kitchen and bathroom both) Squeegee the shower walls. Wipe off any splatters on any mirrors as you make them. Dust things when you happen to notice any dust. When you get your mail, deal with it then (don't leave it laying around) or have a designated place for stuff you need to hold onto. Take out the trash when it gets full. Don't try to stuff it to the max and start a second trash bag to take them both out when the second one gets full.

Deep cleaning - set aside some time every so often (Sundays, or once every other week, or whatever works for you) to do a deep cleaning. This means while you did things like wipe around the sink every day, you'll actually clean it and scrub the faucets and clean around it on that designated day. You may have dripped something in the oven and wiped it down during the week. Scrub your whole oven that day. You wiped off a few splatters off the bathroom mirror during the week. Clean the whole mirror that day. Dust everything in your home that day. (including tops of doors, baseboards, and lightbulbs!) Scrub your shower/tub and walls that day. Clean the nooks and crannies where dust or dirt tends to accumulate in your home.

If you have hardwood floors, I would consider sweeping more of a spot-clean type activity to do real quick whenever you can, and mopping a deep-cleaning activity to do once a week. Carpets - just vaccum on a deep-clean basis. Maybe more if you have pets or other reasons your carpets might get extra dirty.

If you're a coffee or tea drinker and tend to stain your mugs, rinsing them out daily and scrubbing them all once every so often (I wouldn't even say every week is necessary) is a good schedule to adhere to.

Dishes - do this on a spot cleaning or deep cleaning schedule, whatever works. I used to wash my dishes every day as needed. Now I leave them in the sink 3-4 days or until I'm out of dishes/utensils/cookware and spend a fat block of time cleaning them a few times a week. Whatever works as long as it works. I like soaping up and scrubbing only twice a week more than I did every day. But if dealing with a lot of dishes at once is going to be a hassle to you then try to rinse or wash your dishes every time you use them and wash them every 1-2 days.

Cleaning up after yourself and keeping stuff from laying around every time you do something - including any dirty laundry or hobby stuff or whatever - is the easiest thing you can do to keep your home from turning into a sty.

I'll add something else - getting lazy and skipping a round of deep cleaning is not the worst thing in the world. Don't get overwhelmed by it and start putting things off because omg everything is so dirty now I just can't deal with it. Just stick to the schedule as best you can and go on with life.
posted by atinna at 12:32 AM on March 27, 2016

Response by poster: One note about the greasy nightmare of a kitchen - we do not fry food often at all, there is NO vent or hood and little air circulation in there, so no matter what you're cooking, it stays in the kitchen.

The new kitchen will have a vent hood that vents to the outside.

So please, more general cleaning tips and suggestions. Thank you!
posted by bibliogrrl at 6:42 AM on March 27, 2016

Buy a gallon of white vinegar and find or buy a plastic spray bottle. Fill it with 1/4 vinegar to 3/4 water and keep it in the kitchen. Use it to clean everything, including stovetop, walls, cabinets, floors, and countertops. Just spray it down, let it sit for 30 seconds or so and wipe up.
posted by raisingsand at 7:54 AM on March 27, 2016

I recently made myself a weekly cleaning plan. I don't follow it slavishly but it's been useful just to know that certain tasks get done on certain days-- I don't worry about them on other days, and I don't have to wonder if it's been like a month since I changed the sheets (for example). When I was searching for example cleaning plans a lot of what I found was total overkill from my perspective (some people vacuum once a day, for instance).

I was motivated to get as much done in little bursts during the week, so that weekends could be free for relaxation and not just a chores-fest. My personal schedule looks something like this: Daily morning: Make bed. Empty dishwasher. Daily evening: Load and run dishwasher. Wipe down counters. Take out trash if needed.

Sunday eve: Change bedsheets.
Monday: Laundry, and scrub bathroom.
Tues: Dust a room. Sweep something.
Wednesday: Laundry. Water plants.
Thurs: Dust a room. Vacuum something.
Friday: Laundry (we have a lot of laundry because we have a kid). Empty little trashes into big trash and take out all trash and recycling.
Saturday: NOTHING! Relax and have fun (don't even make the bed, whatever, it's a day of rest!)
posted by bonheur at 7:59 AM on March 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

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