Let your Cleaning tools do the work: The technology we use to clean our homes is always changing-sometimes ever so slowly, and sometimes in revolutionary ways. When we’re right in the midst of them, the changes are difficult to appreciate. But look back to the beginning of the 20th century, when devices like the electric iron and the vacuum cleaner were first appearing in homes. Some folks were suspicious and even afraid of electrical devices. With booming industry drawing all of the servants away from household work, however, there was an enormous market for such cleaning “cheats.”
The introduction of washing machines, dryers, easy-care fabrics, nonstick surfaces, self-cleaning ovens, and a nonstop parade of other labor-saving devices has had a radical effect on our lives. Cleaning tools are easy to take for granted as we slog through our daily chores, but the truth is that historically they have been one of the keys to human liberation. They have rescued us from the backbreaking, 24/7 task of managing a household. And the march of progress continues.
This brings up an intriguing question: What will be the next liberating device that historians will point to decades from now? Robotic vacuum cleaners? Windows that clean themselves? Automatic cat boxes? These gizmos-and scores of other innovative products-are available to you right now. You’ll find them discussed in detail elsewhere in How to Cheat at Cleaning. The question is, Are you ready to incorporate such devices into your personal life?
Every individual has to answer that for himself or herself. Here’s a quick set of questions to ask when you’re considering adopting an innovative product. The BITE approach will help you decide whether to, uh, bite.
BETTER? Will this product actually perform the cleaning job better than my current method?
ILLUSION? Is there gimmickry involved? If it takes a half hour infomercial to sell this thing, could there be a reason it’s not more popular?
TIME SAVING? Will this actually help me save time or cut corners?
ECONOMICAL? Is the extra convenience worth the cost of the item?
Managing your tools:
If your only approach to cheating at cleaning is to not clean at all, well, you don’t need a book to tell you how to find the hammock. But the savvy cheater-at-cleaning who wants to make the house presentable needs to know the best places to buy tools, the best ways to store them, and the best ways to put them into action. Here are some pointers.
You will find the biggest selection of cleaning supplies, good prices, and brands you know at the big-box discount stores. So any time you can, buy your cleaning supplies there. Janitorial supply stores are usually open to public, their prices are comparable to retail stores, and you can get larger containers of cleaners (often private labeled, but perfectly good). These stores are geared toward commercial cleaning people, however, and serving residential customers is not their priority. At the supermarket, you might pay a little more and find less variety, but it’s certainly convenient to buy an item or two during your regular grocery run.
Keep all of your cleaning tools in one spot in the house-a closet or in a corner of the laundry room, for instance-so you don’t have to scramble all over the house looking for gear when it’s time to clean. This will save you time and increase the likelihood of actually getting some cleaning done. Within this storage area, cluster your products by their use-mop, bucket, and other floor-care stuff together; cloths, vacuum, and other dusting implements in another spot. If you have more than one kind of mop, hang them on a wall upside down so you can tell at a glance which is which. Also, cluster all of your refill bottles in one spot and, at the end of each cleaning session, top off any bottles that you used. If you have a second floor, keep a second cleaning station up there, fully stocked with everything you need to maintain the upstairs rooms.
The best corner-cutting house cleaners know that you need some kind of device for moving several cleaning items around the house with you as you work. This technique saves you from making multiple trips back to the cleaning closet. For most people, a tote tray is the way to go-a rectangular caddy with a raised handle and pocket-like bins all around it for holding squirt bottles, the whisk broom, cloths, and such. If you don’t have a caddy, a plastic bucket will do in a pinch. If you really want to show off your cheat-at-cleaning credentials, we recommend buying a tool belt at your home-improvement store. You can hang your most commonly used cleaning implements off the belt and you won’t even have to bend over to reach for your caddy. When you’re not wearing the belt, just hang it around the caddy handle.
The Basic Checklist:
I asked Mark, product manager for the Hello Cleaner cleaning service based in Dubai, UAE, to help compile a list of the most basic cleaning tools that any cheat-at-c1eaning enthusiast would want to have in his or her closet. Aside from specialized tasks such as polishing silver, the following tools will handle virtually any household cleaning duty:
SCRUBBER SPONGE These are the household sponges that have an abrasive surface on one side for scouring tough grime. Scrubber sponges are color coded. Look for the kind with a white scrubber pad, meaning it’s the least abrasive and least likely to scratch surfaces. “I would have two-one that you use for bathrooms and one that you use for kitchens and everywhere else,” Mark says.
TOILET BRUSH Yup, the wand that goes where others fear to tread. The all-plastic kind won’t scratch the porcelain, whereas those with a wire center can. Make sure it comes with a little bowl-like stand that will catch drips when you’re done. If you think yuck every time you see a toilet brush, switch to the super-convenient disposable variety.
VACUUM CLEANERS The hardcore cheater uses two vacuum cleaners, Mark says-one conventional vacuum cleaner and one handheld vac. (Indoors, stick to the plug-in kind, since the recharging systems on some cordless models can be unreliable.) Use the big vacuum for broad floor cleaning and the handheld with its extension for cleaning corners, cobwebs, and tight spaces. With this one-two punch, you’ll never need a broom. Mark prefers the conventional upright vacuum cleaner to the canister or backpack styles. Look for a handheld that offers disposable paper dust bags as an option for easy, mess-free changes. If you can spare the expense, put a conventional vacuum cleaner on each floor so you won’t have to haul it up and down the stairs. Use extension cords on your vacuum cleaners so you don’t have to find a new electrical outlet every few minutes.
DUSTER Mark likes lambs-wool dusters that come with an extension wand-they’re great for dusting the tops of doors and the blades of ceiling fans. A good alternative: Fluffy, disposable dusting heads that fit onto an extension wand. Mop Pass up the string mops, forge on past the sponge mops, and head straight for a flat mop. This device is good for wet or dry mopping and has a removable mopping pad that you can toss into the washing machine. They don’t require wringing out and can reach under furniture more easily than conventional mops. Or jump whole-hog into one of the disposable mop systems-you just throwaway the mopping pad when you’re done.
BUCKET You’ll need an all-purpose container for hauling liquids for cleaning windows, cars, floors, and more. Mark uses a conventional round, lo-quart model.
BROOM Mark actually never uses a broom, but you’ll need one if you didn’t run out and buy a handheld vacuum like he told you to.
CLEANING CLOTHS Microfiber cleaning cloths, are superior at grabbing up dirt. Acceptable, alternatives are cloth diapers or surgical “huck” towels.
CLEANERS At the very least, you’ll want each of these:
- Disinfecting cleaner for sanitizing
- All-purpose cleaner
- Glass cleaner
- Toilet bowl cleaner
- Floor cleaner
A few decades ago, disposable cleaning wipes had one lowly function: cleaning babies’ bottoms. Baby wipes made perfect
sense. Laundering anything that’s covered in poop is pretty unappealing. Disposable diapers were a hit, after all, so why not wipes?
Then product researchers discovered that parents were cheating. They were using baby wipes for unauthorized purposes-
say, wiping sticky fingers, doing touch-up cleaning in the bathroom, or blotting up stains on the couch. “Whoa,” cried the ever-attentive product researchers, “maybe we ought to create a full range of disposable wipes for lots of different uses!”
So household-cleaning wipes emerged in the 1990S. Then dry, electrostatic wipes and cloths burst upon the scene in 1999, and the disposable wipe market has been expanding steadily ever since.
WARY OF WIPES?
Not all consumers have bought into the idea of disposable wipes. More than a third of all Americans have never tried any kind of disposable wipe, according to a survey done by the Soap and Detergent Association. That’s too bad, because they offer enormous benefits:
- Super convenience. Everything you need is right there in one compact package-the cleaning cloth plus the cleaning chemical you need, all premeasured .
- Portability. Wipes usually come in convenient, resealable packaging that fits easily into a purse, glove box, desk drawer, gym bag, suitcase, or picnic basket. They’re perfect for people on the go.
- No mess. There are no cleaning tools to wash or put away after the job is done. Just toss the wipe in the trash.
- Tough on germs. Whatever germs aren’t killed outright by the wipes are just tossed into the trash can. They don’t linger on your sponge or cleaning cloth, only to get spread around your home again.
- Versatility. While some wipes have narrow, specific purposes-everything from spiffing up your jewelry to cleaning blinds-many are good for a wide variety of cleaning tasks.
- Reasonable cost. Wipe users surveyed say the convenience definitely outweighs the expense.
So if you’ve been reluctant to plunge into the world of disposable wipes, you’re in for an eye-popping surprise. Your cleaning chores are profoundly more tedious than they need to be. “I think you could probably clean your whole house using wipes,” Disposable wipes are easy to find-they’re now a staple in supermarkets, discount stores, and home improvement stores.
They’re incredibly easy to use as well, but there’s one rule that too many people ignore, Read the package label first. You’ll find any safety warnings on the label. Also, you’ll find out what your wipes can and can’t do. Not all kill germs, for instance, not all can be flushed down the toilet, and some (such as furniture polish wipes) shouldn’t be used on floors because they’ll make them slippery.
You may be concerned that disposable wipes aren’t environmentally friendly. They don’t actually amount to a lot of refuse, however less than five hundredths of 1 percent of solid household waste, whereas newspapers and plastic make up 10 percent. Also, some brands have started making their packaging from recyclable materials. Read on for specific advice on how to get the most out of disposable wipes around the home and when you’re out and about.
WIPE OUT HOURS OF LABOR
Use disinfecting wipes on food preparation surfaces and utensils to protect your family from bacteria that can cause serious illness. Check the packaging to make sure that the wipes you’re using will kill germs. Carefully follow the label’s instructions for disinfecting, too. You’ll probably be told to wipe the surface down and let it air dry for 10 minutes. Then you may need to wipe again with a wet paper towel to remove chemical residue. Remember that not all wipes are intended for all purposes. If your wipes promise to disinfect hard surfaces, they may be too harsh to use for hand washing or wiping baby bottoms, for instance.
TUNE UP THE BATH ROOM In future article, we discuss how to clean your bathroom in 7 minutes (12 minutes for the deluxe job). If even that seems like too much slave duty in the throne room, you can double or triple the amount of time between cleanings with the use of disposable wipes. Just perform this easy, 1 minute routine twice a week:
Take an all-purpose or glass-cleaner wipe and clean the mirror and the window, then use it to pick up any accumulated dust or grime around the top of the tub, the top edge of the tile and, last, the base of the toilet. Toss the wipe out. Now take a disinfecting wipe and clean the faucet, the countertop, the toilet handle, and the toilet seat. Toss it. Take another disinfecting wipe and run it across the top rim of the tub, the sides, and across the drain to pick up any hair. Done!
STOP DIRT AT THE DOOR Stash a package of general purpose wipes near any door where kids and pets come and go, keep wipes near the back door, particularly in the summer. When kids come in from playing, grimy shoes and hands get a wipe down.
BREAK THE SPONGE HABIT Disposable dish washing wipes could put a barrier between your family and disease. Unfortunately, the sponges that often are used for dish washing can collect food particles down in their dark, moist recesses. “They’re a germ factory,”. Disposable dish washing wipes will change that. They come already filled with dish washing detergent and have a soft side and an abrasive side for scrubbing. You can use them a couple of times, and just throw them out.
SECRET INGREDIENT: ALCOHOL Keep alcohol-based wipes in the kitchen. Not only does the alcohol kill germs but it cuts grease, too. These wipes will make quick work of the stove top and those grubby stove knobs, for instance.
THINK BIG Many disposable wipes are tiny things-smaller than a standard washcloth, Nelson notes. Many cleaning jobs around the house-like wiping down an entire toilet-will require two or three wipes. To make your life even easier, keep an eye out for the larger, thicker wipes, which pick up more grime without requiring frequent changes. You can often find these in the diaper section of your supermarket.
KEEP THEM UNDER WRAPS Most wipes come in a resealable container that will keep them from drying out. But if a package you’ve opened is going to be sitting around for several weeks, pop it into a zip-closing plastic bag for extra protection.
KEEP BUGS AT BAY Viruses that cause colds and flu can live on surfaces around your home for as long as 72 hours. So if someone in your home is sniffling and sneezing, regularly disinfect any commonly touched surfaces. This will reduce the chance of that infection getting passed along. Check the label on your wipes to make sure they’ll kill cold and flu viruses. Wipe down appliances (don’t forget the refrigerator handle and the microwave touch pad), counters, tables, cabinet handles, doorknobs, light switches, telephones, television controls, remotes, and video game controllers.
SEND WIPES TO SCHOOL One in five parents say their kids’ schools lack the proper personal hygiene products needed to prevent illness. So why not take a proactive role with your child? Slip a hand wipe into her lunch box each day and instruct her to clean her hands before she eats. Put it in a plastic bag to prevent drying, or use the kind that comes individually packaged. Germ-killing wipes, disposable mop heads, miracle fabrics-the space program may be attention grabbing, but science affects you much more directly in the cleaning closet. When you become a fan of innovative cleaning products, your chores become negligible and white space opens up on your calendar-free time for more important things. Less work. More fun. That’s what cheating is all about.
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