Sunday, 15 April 2012

spring cleaning part 2 - the dirty work

Let's face it, cleaning isn't exciting, very few people enjoy it and there are plenty of better, more interesting things you could be doing with your time, right? However, like bills and all the other practical stuff you have to deal with, cleaning is one of life's inevitabilities and if you do it properly, and regularly, it shouldn't actually be painful.

The trick is, do little and often, because if you leave it, it's so much worse when you have to do it, like at flat inspection time or when your parents visit, or when you move out. It's common sense really, wipe the bathroom sink down after using and come the end of the week you won't be chiseling encrusted toothpaste off it. As much as I like cleaning (yes, I'm one of those people) I'd much rather tidy up as I go along, spend 15 minutes a day on cleaning and then an hour on a Saturday morning than leave it all week and have the cleaning take up half my weekend.

Spring cleaning is a good start to getting your place in order, and start with a clean flat so you can do those little daily jobs easily. It also means you can really assess what's going on in your home. Pulling out furniture one in a while means you'll be able to spot signs of problems like damp, mice and other pests before they get too bad. Good cleaning is especially important for renters, because your precious deposit depends on that final flat inspection. Keeping on top of things as you go, minimizing damage like limescale and mould and taking care of anything that belongs to your landlord, will only benefit you in the long run. Plus being a good clean tenant will stand you in good stead for future references and for getting the most out of your landlord, who might be more inclined to get cosmetic things done (like re-painting) if they know the tenant is going to make it worth while by looking after the place.

Your home should also be a place for relaxing, your sanctuary at the end of the day and often, messy, dirty rooms can be the cause of a lot of stress, not to mention frustration when you can't find something, or realize that something has been ruined because it wasn't cared for properly. So, here are my tips for a good spring clean and some of the things you'll need. 

For tips on how to clean just about everything, consider purchasing a house keeping book like the one I reviewed here. Start by throwing open the windows and letting lots of fresh air in, chances are there won't have been much air circulation in the house during the cold winter months.

Don't feel daunted by the amount of work involved, break it down into one room at a time and start with the worst one, it will only get easier after that! Having one properly clean and tidy room is better than a whole flat or house, with a few bits done in each room. Plus, you'll see the results of your hard work and be spurred on to the next room!

Put on some music to keep you from getting bored and if there's some lifting of furniture needed, why not rope in a friend or housemate, and offer to help them, or make some dinner in return? Try to stick to eco friendly products where possible, it's better for the environment, and better for you, plus they aren't tested on animals. These are my top picks for cleaning products:

1. A good all purpose cleaner £1.62 plus p&p from Ecover or supermarkets - An essential cleaner and one of the few you really need. Use neat on worktops or dilute for larger areas and floors.
2. Mark eraser, £4.99 from EcoZone or supermarkets - Great for getting scuff marks off walls.
3. Wipes, £2.50 from Method or supermarkets - These are flushable bathroom wipes making daily maintenance easy.
4. Toilet cleaner, £3 from Method or supermarkets - Eco friendly and good looking enough to leave on display!
5. Lemons, vinegar & baking powder, from your local shop or supermarket - Great for so many jobs and completely non-toxic. Read about baking powder uses here, vinegar uses here and lemons here. For more home made recipies, try here.
6. Daily shower spray, £3 from Method or supermarkets - Once your shower is clean, use this daily spray to keep water marks and limescale at bay.
7. Window cleaner, £2.75 plus p&p from Ecover or supermarkets - For windows, mirrors and the glass in picture frames.
8. Furniture polish, £3.89 plus p&p from Nigels Eco Store - No nasty chemicals in this all round polish!
9. When all else fails Bar Keepers Friend £2.49 from Lakeland and most supermarkets - The only non environmentally friendly product here... but it does work where all else fails. Use if you really have to and then keep up with the green cleaning after!

On to the equipment, you don't need a cupboard full of hardware to get the job done but choose the right tools and cleaning will be less of a chore. Some things, like dusters, you can make from cutting up old tea-towels or t-shirts and cleaning equipment doesn't have to be fancy, but if you're in need of some supplies, these are my top picks:

1. Rubber gloves. FSC certified and fair trade, in small, medium and large, £1.99 plus p&p from Nigels Eco Store - Essetial for protecting your hands!
2. Cleaning caddy £4.99 plus p&p from Lakeland - Keep your cleaning tools in one place. Store under the sink and take with you as you go round the house.
3. Squeegie by GoodGrips, £9.67 plus p&p from The Cleaning Product Shop Great for cleaning windows and essential for shower screens. Spray with Method daily shower spray, squeegie down and you're done. It literally takes seconds and keeps your shower looking like new. This one comes with a little sucker to stick to the shower wall. Clever.
4. Toothbrushes, 20p for two from Sainsbury's - I always have a pack or two of these handy. One in the bathroom for overnight guests (someone always forgets) and one under the kitchen sink for cleaning. Great for bathroom taps and getting in those awkward corners.
5. Shelf expander £3.99 plus p&p from Lakeland - Once you've cleaned, use for creating extra storage in food cupboards or under the sink.
6. General purpose e-cloth £4.99 from Lakeland or supermarkets - Requires no detergent and cleans to a shine with just water. There are specific ones available for different jobs, but every home should have a general purpose one. They work like magic!
7. Bucket, £12.99 plus p&p from The Dustpan & Brush Store - I hate plastic buckets, this one is built to last ans is nice enough to leave out on display (I have so little storage in my flat these considerations are important!)
8. Telescopic duster £9.29 plus p&p from Lakeland - Absolutely essential for absolutely every home, easy and time saving. This one has washable heads too.
9. Dustpan & brush £25 from Labour & Wait - For those who hate plastic and like to clean in style, yes there are cheaper ones available, but this classic set is gorgeous.

Once you have the things you need, it's time to get cleaning! These are the key places to spring clean, the ones you might not even do on a monthly basis and the worst places for trapping dust and dirt.

  • Take everything out and clean the cupboards, inside and out with some multipurpose cleaner. Throw out any food past it's expiry date, any broken glassware and re-organize when you put back. Invest in some extra shelving (5, above) if you're struggling for space. Get up on a ladder and clean the tops of the cabinets too.
  • Pull out the fridge and clean behind it. While you're there, take everything out of the fridge, clean, and throw out any food past it's expiry date. Defrost the freezer if required.
  • Pull out the washing machine and clean behind it. Take out the soap dispenser drawer and wash in a sink of warm soapy water (soap drawers are a haven for mould if not cleaned) Run the machine empty on a hot cycle with some washing soda crystals to give the indide a good clean.
  • If your cooker is freestanding, pull out to clean behind and under it. Clean the hop and inside the oven, preferably with a non toxic cleaner. If your oven is in a really bad state, consider hiring a specialist like Ovenu to give it a proper clean, making the daily maintenance for you easier from then on. 
  • If you have a dishwasher, put on the hottest cycle, empty, with a cup of distilled white vinegar for a really sparkling result. After all, a dirty dishwasher just means dirty dishes.
  • Pull out the bed and hoover underneath. If you have a slatted base, take off the mattress and slats and hoover with the brush nozzle.
  • Pull out bedside tables, drawers and the wardrobe if you can, hoover thoroughly and wipe down skirting boards before replacing furniture.
  • Wash your mattress and pillow protectors, take your duvet to the launderette if your washing machine is too small (most domestic machines are too small unless you have a low tog duvet, don't overload your machine or you could damage it)
  • Dust the top of the wardrobe and have a sort out of clothes if needed. 
Living room
  • Pull out the sofa, bookcases and other furniture and hoover behind. 
  • Take off the sofa cushions and hoover the sofa base. If your sofa has washable or dry cleanable covers, get them cleaned.
  • Take rugs outside and give them a good shake. Leave outside to air if possible and hoover thoroughly after replacing. 
  • Wash or dry clean curtains (read the label for care instructions)
  • Take everything out of your bathroom cabinet before giving a clean with multipurpose cleaner. Throw out old bottles and dispose of any out of date medicines by taking them to your pharmacy for safe disposal.
  • Take down the shower curtain and machine wash if possible, or soak in a sink with some disinfectant. Clean the shower screen thoroughly if you have one to remove limescale.
  • Clean bathroom as normal.  
  • Give everywhere a thorough hoover.
  • Clean windows inside or out or get a window cleaner in.
  • Dust all furniture and blinds and disinfect kitchen surfaces and floors.
  • Check and replace smoke alarm batteries. 
  • Wash down all woodwork, skirting boards, doors and window frames.

As you're cleaning, why not take the opportunity to have a de-clutter too? It makes sense if you have a lot of stuff, or are really untidy, to de-clutter first so you can get to everything to clean it.  Look at what you use on a daily basis and make sure it's easily accessible, put away your winter clothes and put your spring/summer clothes in more prominent positions, finally, take any clothes you don't want to the charity shop.

Assess your furniture and other bits and pieces too. If they belong to you and you don't need them anymore, put them on Freecycle, take to the charity shop or better still, if the furniture is in good condition, donate it to the Furniture Re-use Network, which recycles furniture for families in need. 

If you have items of value or designer clothing that you don't use anymore, consider selling them on e-bay. For general bric-a-brac why not do a car-boot sale and make yourself some cash? 

Once the de-cluttering is done, look at your storage, is it working, do you have enough? The old adage 'a place for everything and everything in it's place' should be the mantra for an organized home. If you find that your space regularly gets out of hand, it could be as simple as not having enough storage. If, for example, your shoes don't have a proper home, it's no wonder they end up left by the door, or kicked under the bed. It's common sense really. The Holding Company are one of my favourite on line shops, they have a storage solution for literally everything and stock furniture as well as small boxes. Have a look at their site and see what they have that might help you get a more organized home.

Finally, Martha Stewart lists six everyday habits to help keep your home tidy (and therefore easier to clean)

1. Make the bed. I'm a complete stickler for this, I can't stand getting back in to an unmade bed, plus it makes the whole room look messy. Throw back the covers and open the window as soon as you get up to air your sheets and the room. Get ready for the day and make the bed before you leave the the house or get on with other tasks.
2. Manage clutter. Put things away as you go along, if you're going out to the kitchen, take your mug or dirty glasses with you. Put dirty laundry in the hamper straight away.
3. Sort the mail. I have to confess, this is the only clutter spot in my flat! I should do it on a daily basis.
4. Clean as you cook. Makes sense really!
5. Wipe up spills when they're fresh. Again, common sense really, but it's the small things that make a big difference.
6. Sweep the kitchen floor. It makes the weekly mop less of a chore.

See the original post here.

So, sit back and admire your lovely clean, tidy home. Now it's going to be so easy to keep it clean you won't have to invest that much time in cleaning for another six months!

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