An essential guide to the dos and don'ts of cleaning, to save you time and effort around the home
It pays to be well stocked when embarking on a big clean-up
Cleaning can be a time consuming and difficult chore, which most of us prefer to put off until it's absolutely essential.
But stick to the following golden cleaning rules, and you will achieve safe, effective cleaning that attacks the problem early and with the least amount of effort.
Clean it up sooner rather than later
Spills and stains are generally much easier to clean up when you attack them right away. If you a treat a stain without delay it offers little resistance, but wait until the next day and it'll be much tougher to get out.
The rare exception to this rule is mud that has been tracked onto your carpet. Mud is easiest to clean when you’ve let it dry first. Wait until it's bone dry and crumbly, then just vacuum it up.
Think dry then wet
When you're cleaning a room, start with the cleaning jobs that require dry methods, like dusting, sweeping and vacuuming. Then move on to wet methods, such as wiping wiht an all-purpose cleaner and mopping.
This way, there will be less dirt floating around in the room to cling to wet surfaces.
Start with the least harmful approach
Use your gentlest cleaning methods first and move up to more aggressive techniques only if necessary.
Also, it is best to know your materials well enough so that you will stop your cleaning efforts before you do any damage. It is better to suffer the small spot on your stovetop, for example, than to ruin the surface with steel wool.
Clean from the top down
Don't fight gravity when you clean. You'll lose. So when you're cleaning the entire house, always start on the top floor and work your way down. This will avoid tracking through the rooms you have already thoroughly cleaned.
When you're cleaning a room, do that same and work from the ceiling to the skirting. This ensures that any dust shaken loose from high up does not settle on something you've already cleaned below, so you don't have to dust the room twice. The same applies for the windows.
The only time to do differently is with wall washing. If you start at the top when you're washing a wall in your home, dirty water will drip onto the lower areas you haven't cleaned yet, making streaks that will be tough to remove.
Let time do the work for you
When you organise your approach to a cleaning task, remember to spray on your cleaning chemicals first and then find another little job to do while the cleaner does its dirty work.
If you're cleaning in the kitchen, for example, spray your cleaner on the benchtops and appliances, then occupy yourself with removing old food from the fridge while the cleaner soaks in. When you come back to wipe the cleaner off, there will be little or no scrubbing to do.
Carry your supplies with you
Carrying your cleaning products will save you from making multiple trips around the house looking for the right tools and cleaners.
Pick up one of these accessories at a home improvement shop or hardware shop:
- A cleaning caddy.
- A sturdy, large plastic bucket with a good handle.
- A small-cleaning trolley.
- An apron with roomy pockets.
Put all your supplies into the carrier and take it with you from room to room. If your house has more than one floor, keep a fully stocked caddy on each level.
When in doubt, test first
Before you use a new cleaning technique or product, test it an inconspicuous area of the object you're cleaning to check for damage or colour running.
This rule also applies when you first clean an object that is delicate and might be damaged by a cleaning compound.
Use cleaning liquids sparingly
When you clean an item that could be harmed by a liquid cleaning product, like electronics, computer screens, framed artwork or framed photographs, first spray the cleaner on your cleaning cloth and then wipe. Don't spray cleaner directly on the object you're cleaning.
Read the instructions
Follow the manufacturer's instructions when cleaning anything to avoid causing damage.
File the instructions and cleaning tips that come with any new appliance, rug or other household item and similarly don't remove those care labels that come on clothes, linens and any other potentially washable objects. They are there for a purpose.
Many of the cleaning products you use contain acid, bleach, abrasives and other ingredients that can damage your eyes, skin, nose and even your lungs, so make sure you use rubber gloves and protective safety glasses when necessary.
If it's not too hot, wear old long pants or tracksuit pants and an old long-sleeved shirt to cover your arms in case of spatters from cleaning products. Cover your hair with a scarf or baseball cap.
It is also important that you don’t let your cleaning products get mixed together. Some chemical combinations, chlorine bleach and ammonia, for example, will produce poisonous gases. As an extra safety precaution when you’re using cleaning chemicals, make sure the room you're in is properly ventilated.