How to Be a Clean Person?
August 23, 2019 11:40 AM   Subscribe

You have a home. The household goods, materials, and linens in it are clean, fresh, and not discolored or covered with a fine film of grease, despite your copious cooking and sweating and living. How do you do it?

I am mostly talking about the kitchen and general household linens. I feel like I have always been a neat person but as I get older I'm either getting messier at cooking and more prone to discoloring/staining linens, or I never knew how to clean these things and I'm just now noticing them. Like all of our duvet colors and sheets are kind of ratty and discolored, everything in the kitchen is just kind of grimy (no ventilation doesn't help), our kitchen towels are stained and while laundered frequently I'd be reluctant to hand one to a guest. At this point I think I need to replace many of our textiles, but I want to do better going forward so I don't get into this attitude that household materials are disposable.

What practices or habits have you adopted that help the items in your home look clean and well-cared for? Like the home equivalent of "lint roll your outfit before you leave the house"?

I don't think I need something like FlyLady or UFYH because the house is tidy enough (tell me if I'm wrong) but more maybe stuff like "buy all cotton white and bleach wash it on extra hot" or "wipe down a cabinet face or two a day while you're waiting for the water to boil".

NB please also feel free to tell me I have a bad case of Instagram-itis and everyone's house is grimy and discolored!
posted by stellaluna to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
How long have you had those linens? Maybe they do need to be replaced. Things that get used do wear out, or get ratty, and sometimes you need to get new towels or sheets. I keep a few nicer kitchen towels and bath towels out of the regular rotation to use when I want things to look nicer for guests. You can keep the more stained items to use for messier jobs or cleaning up so the nice ones stay...nice.

We recently had our bathroom remodeled. After every shower I wipe down the tub edge where water collects and the windowsill (tiled) - takes less than a minute and keeps it looking new. Same thing for the bathroom counter. A few small tasks that are quick to do and pay big results.

Do not use Instagram to compare your house or belongings (or anything, for that matter) to anyone else's. All their mess is pushed out of the frame of the picture.
posted by XtineHutch at 11:55 AM on August 23, 2019 [30 favorites]

The things that helped me be a bit cleaner, after various stages of not-noticing, and just-being-angry-its-not-cleaner:

1) Do little bits of cleaning whenever you can fit it in; for example, before I start cooking dinner, I spend a few minutes tidying up the kitchen. Not completely cleaning the kitchen, just the worst parts or "just the fronts of appliances" or "just the inside of the microwave". Do a load of laundry when your pile is big enough for one load, not when all the laundry is dirty. Just vacuum the living room, or just sweep the front, or just one thing that makes things better but only takes a minute or two, and don't have pressure to make everything clean all at once. Things still may look less than perfect, but they'll be less likely to fall over a cliff into poor-condition as long as you keep up with the little bits consistently.

2) Just replace things. Coming from a poor/frugal background, my instinct is to keep using crappy stuff until everything falls apart, but that means everything is nearly-falling-apart all the time. Now: dishtowels look gross? Throw them out and spend $10 and buy new ones. Pots and pans with burnt on grossness? Replace them. Like #1, doesn't need to be done all at once, maybe just one saucepan a month, but over time you'll end up with mostly-good instead of not-quite-horrible, which is a much more visually appealing than you might think.
posted by AzraelBrown at 11:58 AM on August 23, 2019 [21 favorites]

IME, kitchen towels used for things beyond dish-drying just get kind of grimy. You can soak things in oxygen bleach or add Pinesol / Lestoil to the laundry (both of these are also great for sheets), but eventually that will fail. I use cellulose "shammies" cut to ~ 5"x5" for dish sponges and wiping up spills / wiping down counters. They can go through the laundry and get tossed when too gross/getting holes. My terry dish-drying towels I've had for like ten years now and they're fine, though. My potholders are a little stained, but I don't leave them out.

I do tend to clean things in the kitchen while I'm waiting for water to boil or something to cook. I also don't do much frying beyond sauteing, so the grease spatters don't build up too quickly. I bake bacon and cover spatter-y things when I do cook them.
posted by momus_window at 12:00 PM on August 23, 2019

I do think everyone has grimy and discolored things. But I also wonder how old you are, because at a certain point in the last couple of years I started to notice all my stuff was starting to look old. I'm 42 and have been on my own 20 years, it makes sense that my dishes are cracked and my food processor is rickety. I started trying to do a better job of replacing smallish ticket items. Dish towels are cheap! I understand not wanting to be wasteful but I think as long as you're mindful, it's not wrong to throw things away when they get old, even if technically they're still serviceable. I rotate out old dish towels and use them as cleaning rags for a while before ditching them completely.

This topic reminds me, though, about my husband discovering an entire box full of tied-together broken shoelaces that his grandmother, a wealthy Midwestern dentist's wife who grew up during the Depression, felt she would someday use instead of buying new shoelaces.
posted by something something at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2019 [14 favorites]

Linens - use oxyclean powders, it really brightens them up
Pots and pans - simmer with baking soda brings stainless Steel back to life
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:10 PM on August 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Copper sponges like this (but you can buy them at the grocery store) are the only thing that gets the black bits of carbonized food off of the inside of my stainless steel pots. (Steel wool doesn't do it.)

And yeah Oxyclean and sometimes an enzymatic cleaner like the spray version of Shout! but also, to be honest, just strategically get some things in darker colors so that not every little thing shows. I've been using only white bedsheets for almost a decade for Reasons, but it's a pain.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:16 PM on August 23, 2019

We've had white sheets as gifts and got one set that are gray and SO HELP ME I AM NEVER BUYING WHITE ONES AGAIN. I just don't care enough about all the bleaching etc etc to keep them looking white, and mr. brilliantine turns them yellow despite our best washing efforts anyway. So part of it is definitely strategic color choice (black duvet cover for the win). For greasy things I've taken to putting a bit of dish soap in the laundry and I think that has helped.

We don't have great ventilation in the kitchen either but I don't think people really notice unless they're touching your cabinets. I would focus on keeping the counters grease-free (this is the only place in the house where I use really industrial cleaners like 409) and periodically do the same for cabinets, walls, and stove.
posted by brilliantine at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2019

This is a next level way to combat this, and many functions went into this decision for us, but we've decided to keep our family of 3.5 (two adult humans, a child and a dog) in an 850 square foot house. There's simply less shit to clean, because we own less shit (including less floors, less counters...less everything to clean).

You mention kitchen grease (we call it grease-dust) if you're able to, getting a vented hood will help dramatically. There are also really good ductless hoods on the market, that require regular filter changes. They can be pretty cheap to purchase and install, but the filters need regular changing for them to do their job. The cost of the filters does add up, but its been a lifesaver for us. Anything with a 'reusable' filter is garbage. You're going to want charcoal filters. Depending on how often you cook at home, they may need to be replaced every 6 months or so. They can make a pretty big difference in the buildup.

Micro-fiber towels also work much better than cotton or terry towels...we use them in lieu of paper towels lots of the time! I'll give the kitchen a once over every week or so with a microfiber towel and some 3:1 water:vinegar mixture, and it keeps things looking nice, at least on a cursory glance.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:45 PM on August 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

I mean, after a certain amount of time things will gradually permanently discolor. That is just the way of life. Textiles in particular have a finite life cycle.

I can second an Oxyclean soak as a good way to perk up linens. But also if you don't feel that they're good enough to be used for company, downgrade them to be cleaning rags or something and get new ones. That is probably what your grandmother did.

Or get a bottle of fabric dye for a couple bucks and color it something that doesn't show the stains.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on August 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not everyone agrees, but I value the concept of “good kitchen cloths” and “nice towels.” I care which tools and textiles are used for which jobs. My nice clean new tea towels (etc.) only get used to dry dishes and wipe non-staining messes. More everyday linens are okay for more casual use, and I have rags that I’ll use if there’s spilled spaghetti sauce or something. Linens enter the rotation at the top, and slowly work their way down in level of care/cleanness as they get accidentally stained, etc.

I don’t wash really nice clean fabrics with grimier rags: they each get their own load in the laundry. Laundry, even kitchen linens, is generally sorted by colour: wash your orange towels and your navy cloths together, and it will all look dingy and sad, immediately or over time.

Bleach, ammonia, oxyclean, lestoil, laundry stain remover: all these products have a best use, and I use them appropriately as needed. I bleach white laundry before it “needs” it, and I keep that bleach the heck away from darks and colours.

Just knowing about—and having a good supply of—different cleaning products to use goes a long way to a sparkling home. Jolie Kerr’s onetime column Ask A Clean Person and her book My Boyfriend Barfed in My Handbag were lighthearted guides to stuff like this.

I mostly do basic-level tidying/cleaning as I go about daily life (wiping counters, washing pots and pans, cleaning the food processor, etc.). When I have a little time, before grime really builds up, things get really deep-cleaned as needed: the stainless steel pots get a good scrub with Comet, the bathtub gets a thorough going-over with a magic sponge, the vacuum gets taken apart and washed and de-yuck-ed. A sweater gets de-pilled, a light fixture gets opened and dusted, cupboards and fridges get emptied, thoroughly washed, and have their also-washed contents edited and replaced—very bright lighting and good work music make this easier.

I’m lucky in that I live with a much tidier person than I, who is less inclined to the kind of hyper-focused deep cleaning that pleases me. So he does more of the basic putting-stuff-away tidying, and I do more of the spend-ages-perfecting-a-surface cleaning.

Sunday is cleaning day. If it’s already pretty tidy/we’re busy, then it can be quick: wipe mirrors, wash floors, clean toilet, etc. When we’ve got the time and inclination, or guests coming, etc., we’re more likely to be exacting in our standards.

I try to remember that people don’t really see their own squalor as they get used to it, and so I put on my “judgemental guest” eyes to look at my bathroom, kitchen, etc.

Note: all of this is Ever So Deeply Satisfying to me. If you don’t enjoy it, it’s fine to bother less! I certainly don’t see my friends’ and family’s homes through the critical lens I apply to my own spaces!
Also, this is all best-case scenario. Sometimes home is a mess and that’s fine!
posted by Edna Million at 12:47 PM on August 23, 2019 [20 favorites]

Have you ever considered getting a cleaning service? If it's in your budget, it's highly worth it! I just can't keep up with the grime otherwise. Plus frees up SOOOO much time in your week. It also helps keep the peace if household chores are ever a battle in your house.

Also +` to everyone else who said that you just have to get new linens once in a while. Donate your old ones to an animal shelter!
posted by radioamy at 12:57 PM on August 23, 2019 [8 favorites]

The easiest answer is just to avoid white linens! Who needs the aggravation of feeling like a towel is judging your housekeeping?!
I have several identical towels from Ikea in different colours, that I bought all at the same time- white, grey, teal, and navy. The white ones look gross and dingy. The teal and navy look clean, but you can now see a thin layer of whitish fibres hovering above the dyed blue fibresm that make them look worn. But the grey ones? They're good as new. Sooo... just buy things that look dingy to start with!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:58 PM on August 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

For fabrics that are looking dingy, I recommend increasing diligence about separating laundry by color.
posted by gryphonlover at 1:19 PM on August 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

White linens pros: you can bleach them
White linens cons: you have to bleach them and eventually blue them, too, and even that doesn't work

You can also get "fabric dye remover" that will remove some of the discoloration left on white things mixed with colors in the wash. My opinion is that white sheets are a remnant of a time when fast dyes weren't a thing and dyed fabric was too expensive for something that would be boiled anyhow, so we may as well buck tradition and take advantage of modern technology and get sheets with colors.

As for dust: after the first four years, it doesn't get any worse.
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:39 PM on August 23, 2019 [5 favorites]

I live in a tiny, small, old, dusty flat in a huge city in a hot, subtropical climate with white/light-colored linens/dish towels and I do these things to prevent wear/yellowing/grossness in my island of clean amongst a sea of urban filth:

- keep the apartment cool enough at night to avoid sweating into the bedding
- shower before bedtime
- wear very light pajamas to put something between me and the linens
- change linens frequently, usually weekly
- own three sets of bedding so one is always fresh and ready if one is in the wash and the other is hanging up to dry; this also means I always have extras for guests
- sleep on different sides of the bed to evenly wear the sheets/mattress cover
- use hotter water and more powerful products to wash linens/towels than clothes
- use the vent/fan/hood thing in my kitchen and shut the kitchen door when cooking something greasy/oily so the aerated oil droplets don’t land on things in the rest of the house; this also means keeping the drawers of my cupboards and dresser shut and the books far from the kitchen/bathroom

Outside linen preservation:
- vacuum and sweep as much as possible, at least once a week
- change the kitchen sponge frequently
- take out the (very small) kitchen bin daily
- rinse out anything that will be in the bin for more than a few minutes
- use the lightest possible towels and hang them up in a room with a dehumidifier on to prevent mould
- pay a cleaning service to do a deep, restorative clean annually, with support from my chill landlord who is also a neat freak
posted by mdonley at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Bluing your "white" linens will help mask the yellowing that happens as cellulose fibers age. Don't discount sunlight for bleaching and freshening your textiles, either. Wetting out in white vinegar (or buttermilk) before sun-bleaching is super old fashioned but very effective.
posted by janell at 2:30 PM on August 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

From observing A Clean Person:
Pre treating stains as they happen and towel hierarchies (as Edna Million stated) will do a lot.

From observing A Clean Person with Money and Space:
Splatter guard for frying pan and microwave guard thing to put over plates so the microwave doesn't get splattered.
Pillow protectors to put underneath pillow cases to keep pillows from staining. Same thing for mattress.
A set of guest towels and sheets in a different color so you know not to use them.
Coasters and placemats to protect surfaces.

From observing A Very Clean Person:
Limited eating and drinking on upholstered things and in bed
Indoor use only shoes or slippers
Indoor clothes. This prevents your outdoor clothes from getting worn out, or griming up your indoors.
posted by perdhapley at 2:31 PM on August 23, 2019 [4 favorites]

I subdivide divide my whites. There are workaday whites and blinding whites. So socks and undershirts and things that are mostly white but have colored trim all get washed separately from blinding white button down shirts and sheets. My guest bathtowels are blindingwhite. The ones my boyfriend and I use are charcoal gray.

I don't care about dish towels, but if I did, I'd get a set of "good" ones and only use them when people came over.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:51 PM on August 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

All I have to contribute here is that if you have a lot of wipe-down towels/rags, those basically have to get bleached with actual chlorine bleach or else they will become gross.
posted by en forme de poire at 3:19 PM on August 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Week to week? I hire somebody. No matter what good intentions I have I always seem to find something more important to do than clean the house.

Otherwise it does sound like you need to invest in some new towels, etc. It's tempting to hang on to stuff forever but that's not going to work if you want the house to look nice. If it's worn out, replace it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 4:37 PM on August 23, 2019

From observing A Very Clean Person:
Limited eating and drinking on upholstered things and in bed
Indoor use only shoes or slippers
Indoor clothes. This prevents your outdoor clothes from getting worn out, or griming up your indoors.

Apparently I am a very clean person. A big part of it is reducing dirt. Vacuum everyday or every other day or get a roomba. It'll cut the rest of your cleaning by 70%, most dirt gets tracked in then stirred around. Capture it right away and you'll reduce the amount of dusting and grime removal immensely.

Clean your kitchen cabinets periodically. Not once a decade but once a month. Don't use harsh cleaners, it'll dissolve the finish and give them that tacky feeling. Use coconut based soap and HOT water with rubber gloves and a micro fiber cloth. Dirt will wipe off super easily.

Hard water stains: cover in shaving foam, wait 20-120min and rinse. It'll look like new. Test first on your nicer surfaces though, it might strip finishes off stone etc. On faucets and toilets and tubs it should be fine.

Bleach CLEAN white linens and towels liberally and for a long time. I have 10 year old white linens that are very white. Wash first, with fels naptha if necessary and then bleach. Bleaching dirty linens makes no sense. My routine is to wash linens once a week, a quick wash. Then fill the washer back up with HOT water, add bleach, agitate a bit and leave for 2-12 hours. Then drain, rinse and wash again. I usually do this Sunday night while I'm preparing for the week ahead, after washing my other clothing. It really takes no time and they'll stay clean and bright for a long time. Hang in the sun whenever you can too.

A big part of stuff staying clean is to clean as you go. Wipe the shower down when you're done, don't leave toothpaste in the sink, wipe the stove while spilt food is still hot and easy to clean.

Those bottle cleaning tablets are great for all stainless cookware.
posted by fshgrl at 4:55 PM on August 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Rotating deep cleaning. IME deep cleaning something every 3 months keeps it looking pretty nice. It's totally fine to use Lysol wipes and Swiffers or what have you. Usually that's all we have time for. But they do not do the same job as actual scrubbing with the right cleaner for that surface.

Letting laundry be complicated is key for keeping textiles nice. Sort by color, use and water temp. Use different chemicals as needed. Modern fabrics can be all washed in one load, but eventually it's not going to look or feel right.

I do use white vinegar in the wash regularly, and I think it helps a bit. That can depend on your water hardness, IIRC.

And sometimes stuff just needs to be replaced. That's OK. Send your old stuff that's still functional to Goodwill and enjoy the process of finding nice new stuff.
posted by Ahniya at 5:36 PM on August 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's a good idea to change your style periodically - so you start with white cotton sheets and white cotton waffle weave towels, and the towels are clean enough to use to dry dishes and cover bread. After a few weeks or months and a few dozen washes, some with bleach, they will start to discolour. They never get washed with Turkish towels (terrycloth) to avoid getting covered in lint, they just get washed with other pristine white items.

At that point you buy new sheets and new towels, this time perhaps they have colourfast trim on them. The original white sheets get demoted to sick-room or time-of-the-month sheets, and the original dishtowels become the ones that can get used to dry counters and pick spinach, and get washed with any old white garments. The new sheets or towels become the ones you put on the guest bed, or use on rising bread.

After a few months of being used on clean counters and for spinach and that, despite bleaching the towels and sheets will start to show wear, and maybe, if you look closely some faint stains. At that point they get demoted to third rank. The towel can be tied around a pudding bowl and used to lower it into boiling water, you don't worry about getting more stains on them. At this stage they get very soft and actually feel rather nicer than they did originally. They don't last long at this stage. The softest sheets with the most wear are good ones to put on the bed when you feel sick - it's a bit of extra caretaking.

When you buy new ones the old linen move down a step in their status, from best to second best, to third best to rag. You can tell at a glance (provided you are the sort of person that remembers) that the white waffle weave ones are for any old use, the ones with the pink stripes are for second best and the green gingham ones are for best use. You don't really need to keep track. Just remember which ones are newest and don't use them for anything that will destroy them, and use the ones that look shabby for anything messy.

The last stage when there are definite patches with more wear that have gone thin and stains that you don't have to squint to see means that it is time to tear them up and use them for your cleaning rags.

The big thing to watch out for is grease. Once fabric gets grease in it, such as if someone goes a week without showering and sleeps in the bed, or if kitchen grease gets on the towels, anything you wash with the linen is going to get some of that same grease in it, and there is a good possibility you won't get the grease out of the item with regular washing. You want to do it right away the next time the item is washed. Waiting to use oxyclean when the linen already smells off and is yellowing is not optimal. Best practice is to use it before either the stain or the grease has set. So if you accidentally put the spatula from the pancakes on your dish towel, that dish towel needs to be washed separately and more carefully, or get demotes straight to the third stage.

Often when linen gets a bit dingy, it's because it was washed with other things that were not colourfast. But sometimes it's ordinary kitchen grease or skin grease. Something like that can contaminate an entire load. If towels are used to dry not quite clean dishes they pick up grease and it stays in them and eventually as well as adding a slight yellow tinge, there is a scent of rancid grease if you put your nose in it and sniff. That almost always happens eventually, so it's just part of the effective life span of your linen. The trick is to make sure it doesn't happen too soon. You don't want to demote your towels to cleaning rags in only six months.

Once source of dirt that people sometimes miss is human dander. The towel used to dry a clean person picks up keratin dust from the human skin. It also flakes off in the bed. So if you have no pets but find the house keeps getting awfully dusty, that could be the source of it. Humans produce so much dust that our houses are filled with the mites that live on it. The trick is just to make sure that the sheets don't get shaken as you strip the bed, and that the area around the bed is vacuumed or swept regularly. Sheets and towels will get cleaner if there is lots of rinse water - it may seem unnecessary to underfill your washing machine but it can make a difference, and so can giving your wash a second rinse cycle, especially if you have a water saving machine.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:42 PM on August 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

If your linens are greasy just wash them in very hot water. People used to boil sheets to clean them remember. No need to replace them.
posted by fshgrl at 8:58 PM on August 23, 2019

As someone who is concerned with being neat and clean, it's interesting to read the questions and answers here - thanks for posting. Context - I live in a 110-years-old flat in the UK which is about 50m2 (540 square feet) with one other adult. We take our shoes off when we come into the house. Our kitchen has a window and a cooker hood (the kind with filters which we clean about every month). We have a dishwasher, and cook mostly from scratch, so are using the kitchen a lot - we don't eat in the bedroom or living room. We have a front-loading washing machine but no drier, and use non-biological washing powder and no fabric softener (I have sensitive skin, so I use the very minimum of detergents).

I think one of the main points (already made) is that every now and then you really do have to do a deep clean - take everything out of your cupboards/drawers - wash them inside and out with very hot water and dish soap - rinse, dry, and then make sure everything inside them is clean as well (including jars and cans of food). Same for the cooker/stove and microwave. I was shocked to see how dirty the cutlery tray in my kitchen was despite only putting clean cutlery into it! It's a big job and, as suggested above, maybe something you could hire someone to do if you can't face it? I do tend to do it in the springtime when it starts getting lighter in the kitchen and I can see the muck - but it is something I get satisfaction from and usually kind of enjoy...

Then wiping down the outsides and counters is a very regular occurrence (i.e. I wipe my counters after every meal and the doors probably three times a week). I also hoover or sweep the kitchen floor every other day. We don't actually mop very often - maybe once a month - but if something is spilled on the floor we clean it straight away, and we don't wear outside shoes in the house. I do notice if we've had a lot of people over and they don't take off their shoes that the floor seems dirtier.

Another thing - do you keep a lot of stuff next to your stove? Can you move it somewhere else? Bottles of oil and appliances etc. will get greasy from cooking - sometimes it's unavoidable that things need to be near the stove, but if you can move them, do. Personally, I like my counters to be very clear, and I think that helps with build up of gunk. Our place gets pretty dusty fast (I think it's the old floorboards - I try not to think about what is between the boards), and a greasy dust gets stuck to the stove hood. I wash it first with very hot water (needs rubber gloves to use a cloth) and dish soap, then rinse and dry. I also got some stainless steel cleaner, which is kind of waxy - when buffed, it seems to reduce grease sticking.

As for the linen, yes it does sound like it might be worth getting some new kitchen cloths and towels. However, despite being a bit of a clean freak, I personally don't follow the more complex laundry advice above, and my towels and rags seem to stay clean and don't have that greasy smell. I have microfibre kitchen cloths which I use for almost everything - they are sold at Costco as car cleaning cloths. I wash those and cotton kitchen towels and rags and clothes and everything all together on a relatively cool wash (40C, 104F) - sometimes with a bit of generic oxyclean. I wash bath towels and sheets at 60C (140F), but I know my partner does everything at 40C, so perhaps it's moot... I have had my bathroom towels now for about ten years, and although some of the ends are starting to look a bit frayed, I feel like otherwise they are fine! We hang dry everything. Maybe the oxyclean is the trick (I use maybe half a tablespoon in the drawer with the detergent). Or maybe try soaking them first in boiling water and vinegar - I do this when my running gear gets super stinky.

Sheets/duvet covers - we have two 'nicer' sets (one yellow pattern, one white with geometric plant prints) which we wash every couple of weeks, and then a few sets of quick-dry sets (i.e. not 100% cotton) which we use for guests. I have some extra fitted sheets in case of period emergencies. Everything is washed at 40C or 60C and hung to dry inside. The nicer sets are about 8 years old and from IKEA - they have held up very well but I don't do anything special - although I do live in a cool climate and generally wear pyjamas. I have heard that front-loader washers and air-drying do result in less wear and tear so perhaps that is a factor?

This has gotten long - general advice would be a big deep clean, then regular wiping/cleaning of kitchen. Buy some new kitchen towels/rags that aren't white, so you don't have to worry about bleach, and maybe some generic oxyclean-type stuff. You could try hanging kitchen cloths to dry to see if that helps?

Good luck!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 11:35 PM on August 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Do you occasionally stir fry and need a better range hood? (If you have already gotten a Chinese family-grade range hood, forgive me)

Like, this is why all our remote controls are covered in plastic wrap and backsplashes are coated in aluminum foil.

The range hood must exhaust to the outside, not just fan stuff up into your hair and aerosolate it back into the room.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:54 PM on August 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

However, despite being a bit of a clean freak, I personally don't follow the more complex laundry advice above, and my towels and rags seem to stay clean and don't have that greasy smell

I noticed when I moved to the US that people rarely use the hot setting on their washers, just cold and warm. I always do for cotton underwear, sheets, towels etc. I think that makes a massive difference.

But if you bleach whites they do need to be clean whites, otherwise you just set the stains. My duvet cover is white cotton, at least 6 years old and has been covered in mud by the dog more times than I can count and it's sparkly white when it comes out of the wash.
posted by fshgrl at 12:41 AM on August 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

Interesting fshgrl - perhaps 40C or 60C is hot compared to US settings? I've had a look but it's a bit difficult to confirm what the 'usual' wash temperature is. I should also say that I almost exclusively use the 'fast' wash option that only takes an hour and haven't noticed any difference compared to longer washes...
posted by sedimentary_deer at 2:49 AM on August 24, 2019

EU here: "hot" is 90 degrees Celsius and that's the washing machine setting for bedsheets, kitchen and other towels, cotton underwear and baby clothes.
posted by gakiko at 4:47 AM on August 24, 2019 [2 favorites]

I wash all sheets, towels, linens and cleaning cloths at 60C. I do separate them into white+light/coloureds+dark and I occasionally chuck in some oxi for the ‘lights’. If I know there is a particularly stained item I will run the load through the pre-wash cycle as well. But all of these items have been in use for years, some for over a decade. They don’t seem to be greasy or greying and they don’t seem to have any particularly noticeable stains. This includes white flannels I use to take off my makeup. Age tends to show through fraying more than anything. That’s how I was taught to do that kind of laundry. And I can’t recall my parents buying new towels much/ever or our linens being particularly grimy.

I will say that I don’t use my tea towels to clean up messes but rather cleaning cloths. They don’t last me years. I may use a tea towel to dry a just cleaned surface but my tea towels are most likely to get stained when I use them as pot holders. I am looking at you, very full dishes of lasagne or roasting tins.

The only thing to combat greasiness and dust is occasional deep cleaning - the soapy hot water kind. For greasy kitchen surfaces soapy water may not be the most effective way to cut ingrained grease. And yes, frequent wiping down of surfaces, cupboard doors and handles, light switches. My grandma used to do that every time she did the dishes - finish doing dishes, rinse cloth and wipe down somewhere that likely needs it.
posted by koahiatamadl at 5:26 AM on August 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

We wipe down the kitchen counters and other flat surfaces daily with a solution that's about 25% alcohol (isopropyl or ethanol, doesn't really matter), 74% water, maybe ~1% or less (few drops per bottle) dish soap, in a spray bottle. You can add in a drop or two of essential fragrance oil if you want. I'm sure there's a commercial equivalent, but I haven't found it. IMO most bottled cleaners don't really have enough solvent in them to cut grease.

My personal philosophy is that if you have to scrub, get a stronger solvent. Better living through chemistry!

Also: Get a good spray bottle—Home Depot sells good ones (I forget the brand but they're made in the US, and look "industrial")—that will mist well. Just mist the cleaner all over the counters, and maybe the refrigerator door handles, oven handle, and other stuff you touch, and wipe with a rag. Takes under 30 seconds plus time to de-clutter the counters. You can buy cotton rags in bulk at auto parts stores and then launder them; we keep two bins in the broom closet, one for clean rags and one for dirty rags, and when the 'dirty' bin is full, they go into the washer and then into the 'clean' bin. I don't bother to fold them, that's madness.

N.B. when I say "25% alcohol" I mean 25% ABV. So if you are buying rubbing alcohol that's 50% strength, you cut it 50/50 so the result is 25%. If you use 25% of bottled isopropanol that's only 50% to begin with, the stuff will be too weak to really cut grease IMO.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:09 AM on August 24, 2019 [5 favorites]

I buy only white sheets because pillow cases wear out. White always matches. I separate the laundry - white, and not-white. I don't worry about the sheets much but I like white shirts. Hot water, bleach, line dry, if possible - sunshine is great for removing odors and some stains. My sheets wear out, but don't usually go yellow. You can use hydrogen peroxide, which will also remove blood. Be really careful bout mixing cleaning stuff, see below.

Kitchen linens - I have a stack of dishtowels and seldom use paper towels. Most of my dishtowels are flat-woven, not terry. Grungy ones go in a bleach load. I have a high tolerance for imperfect dish towels. Try adding a cup of ammonia to a load of dish towels if they feel greasy. I also use cloth napkins, and they do okay. Cloth napkins are vastly more pleasant to use unless they have polyester, which is non-abosorbent.

I cook a lot and fry stuff and have a vent hood. There are vents with a filter, less effective, but I thin you need something. Kitchen cabinets need to be wiped down at least annually. Even with a hood, the cabinet over the stove gets greasy. I use water and ammonia and a little cleaner. Ammonia dissolves grease very effectively. *Never, ever allow bleach and ammonia to meet; this releases chlorine gas which will harm you and possibly kill you.*

Cooking generates a subtle mist of grease and whatever that spreads though the kitchen and surrounding area, and it smells over time, and feels bad. Its worse if the kitchen and living room are not separate. People used to scrub stuff more. I'd hire a company to do a full day deep-clean of the house, and a company to clean carpets and upholstery. You could wash and bleach all the linens at the time.

If upholstered furniture is getting grubby, consider using throws on popular spots; they go in the wash. I've considered an Ikea sofa, because affordable slipcovers are nice.

Fabric softener makes fabric less absorbent, not recommended for towels of any sort. My line-dried towels re not fluffy, they feel stiff when they come off the line, but relax on the shelf. They feel great to me and don't smell like crap perfume. I'm convinced that dryer sheets and laundry softener re a scam, but YMMV.
posted by theora55 at 10:43 AM on August 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Dryer sheets are good for reducing static cling and helping get pet fur off of fabrics, so they’re not a complete waste of time. I will use them for clothes, sheets and blankets, but skip it for towels.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:13 AM on August 24, 2019

I only buy sheets, towels, and kitchen towels and cloths that can be bleached, and then I do. Liberally. With chlorine bleach. And hot water. All of my stuff is years and years old and it's nice and white. My washer has a kickass "sanitize" cycle and sometimes I use that. Also, if things get really greasy (like kitchen towels that were used to clean up something oily), then ammonia is the answer. For some reason nobody uses ammonia anymore but it cuts grease like nothing else. Just be absolutely sure not to mix it with bleach!
posted by HotToddy at 8:42 PM on August 24, 2019 [3 favorites]

OxyClean powder gets some stains that regular detergent does not (and vice versa).

For upholstery, carpets, and curtains, there's a cleaning product - Folex - that is magical enough I think Jack Black made a movie about it.

If something is stained and nothing's working, try the 'sanitize' cycle on the washer; it's going to do a bit of damage if you do that every time, maybe, but hey, if the alternative is "it's going to get thrown out", game on.

And from time to time, everything made of cloth is going to stain, and need to be replaced if you're aiming for spotless.
posted by talldean at 6:02 AM on August 25, 2019

To take another tactic, you could embrace beausage — it's like patina, but the beauty comes from use.
posted by 10ch at 7:01 AM on August 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

One other thing to mention is to buy 100% cotton (or linen if you are somewhere hot or damp). You can't bleach synthetic fabrics successfully and I wonder if that's why some people here say they see linens start to yellow within months. Cotton will take some very serious laundering and keep right on ticking. Linen too, I bet my parents have actual-linen linens that are close to 100 years old, and my mom washes the bejeesus out of everything she gets her hands on on a regular basis. Many synthetic fabrics have met their ends in her hands but not those old table cloths and sheets. I know she has cotton duvet covers that are 30+ years old and still ticking.
posted by fshgrl at 11:15 PM on August 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

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