Speed Cleaning

Tips for speed cleaning; tools and techniques that allow you to get your housework chores done quickly and efficiently.

When it comes to cleaning, you may not be able to cut your chores in half, but you can probably reduce the amount of time you spend on them by half. Keep the following tips in mind as you do your housework.

-DON'T BACKTRACK. This means you'll want to work your way around the room, cleaning as you go, just one time. Carry your cleaning supplies with you in a basket or pail so you don't waste time retrieving them. This also means working from top to bottom. Think about it - if you clean the bottom of a wall first, you'll have re-do spots you've already cleaned when dirty rinse water runs down into the clean place.

-ONLY CLEAN WHAT'S DIRTY. This means that if your paned window glass has only a fingerprints on one pane, don¡¦t clean all of them. There's no sense in continuing to work after a surface is clean, either stop wiping and move on. The fingerprint rule also holds true for walls and cabinet doors, which tend to collect grime where people reach for handles and light switches.

-USE THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE TASK. Here's the one example that most people could benefit from: instead of wiping and rubbing at miscellaneous gunk that gets stuck to counters and shelves, carry a glass scraper with your cleaning supplies. You'll dislodge those sticky messes with one motion instead of all that scrubbing. If the tool or cleaning solution you are using isn't doing the trick, move on to something more heavy-duty. Another invaluable tool is a toothbrush, for quickly removing grime and gunk from grooves, grout lines, corners, and around faucets.

-CONCENTRATE. Housework is boring, no doubt. But if you let your mind wander, you'll spend even more time cleaning. Focus on what you're doing, make every move count, and you'll finish more quickly.

-TIME YOURSELF. Jot down your beginning and end time for each room. Try to do the same room in less time, the next time you clean. Make a game out of it.

-CARRY YOUR SUPPLIES WITH YOU. Not only will you not have to backtrack, but you'll work faster if you get into the habit of putting a tool or product back in its spot after every time you use it. That way, you'll instinctively reach for your supply pail instead of groping around on the counter. Another method that works well is a supply apron, like the ones carpenters wear. You can keep scrapers, toothbrushes and small items in the pockets, while hanging spray bottles from the loops.

-DUST FIRST, VACUUM LAST. Start dusting from the top of the highest shelves, the tops of cabinets. These tend to be less dusty than lower shelves. Even if you dust quickly with a feather duster, you'll be moving the dust down to a lower level, usually the floor, where it is easily vacuumed away. Always vacuum after dusting, for this reason.

-USE HIGH TECH TOOLS. There is currently a new generation of cleaning products on the market that may be expensive, but certainly make life easier. For example, consider using one of the shower sprays that you mist your shower with daily. These prevent mildew and soap scum from building up, allowing you to go months without scrubbing the bathroom. Also notable are the new dust sweepers that use specially treated cloths to grab dust and dirt, instead of just pushing it around on the floor.

-ONLY RINSE ONCE. There is a big temptation, when cleaning a bathroom, to do half the job and then rinse, to see how much is left. This only takes up time. Keep scrubbing until the tub and shower doors, as well as the tiles around them, are completely clean and then rinse.

-OWN PORTABLE TOOLS. This means a whisk broom and mini-dustpan for quick cleanups and dry spills, and a small, hand-held vacuum cleaner. Use the portable vac in between vacuumings to clean pet hair off upholstery, touch-up area rugs that are showing lint, and pick up loose soil in the hallway that would otherwise work its way into the rest of the house.

-CONTROL CLUTTER. One of the best rules for this is touch it once. That means, if the mail is in your hand, then sort it and discard junk instead of dropping it on the couch or hall table. If you take the phone book from a drawer, use it and then put it right back. Keeping things in their places can drastically reduce the amount of time you spend picking them up and putting them away later.

-WORK IN A TEAM. If you can get a spouse, child, roommate or whoever to clean with you, the job will go faster. Just be sure to coordinate efforts and make sure you are both following the tips listed above.

-HIRE HELP. Though this sounds like a luxury, it makes sense if you get so far behind in housework that you feel you'll never get caught up. Consider, for example, spending money to have the house cleaned thoroughly - this means baseboards, mini blinds, ceiling fans and other dust traps. Then you'll be starting with a clean slate you can use your cleaning time to maintain these surfaces.

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