10 Golden Rules of Cleaning

Stick to these ten rules, and get your cleaning done quickly and effortlessly.

1. Clean it up sooner than later
Spills and stains are generally much easier to clean up when you attack them right away. When you treat that tomato sauce splatter on your dress shirt without delay, for instance, it offers little resistance. If you wait until the next day, you’ll be sporting a permanent-looking red polka dot that you’ll expend a lot more cleaning solution and time getting out. Similarly, clothing or carpet stains are easiest to remove when they’re fresh. The longer you wait, the more chance the stain has to set.

The rare exception to this rule: Mud tracked onto your carpet is easiest to clean when you’ve let it dry first. Wait until it’s bone dry and crumbly; then just vacuum it up.

2. Clean from the top down
Don’t fight gravity when you clean. You’ll lose. Working from high to low almost always works better in cleaning situations.

When you’re cleaning the entire house, start on the top floor and work your way down to avoid tracking through rooms you have already cleaned.
When you’re cleaning a room, first remove the cobwebs from the ceiling and upper molding. Then dust the ceiling fan and light fixtures, followed by window frames and wall hangings. Moving downward, conquer the furniture, baseboards, and floors. This ensures that any dust shaken loose from on high does not settle on something you’ve already cleaned below. You don’t want to dust the room twice, do you?

Similarly, when you clean windows and mirrors, start up high and work your way down, because your cleaner obeys gravity. This saves you elbow grease and time.
The rare exception to this rule is 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.

3. Think dry, then wet
When you’re cleaning a room, start with the cleaning jobs that require dry methods (dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming, for instance). Then move on to wet methods (using an all-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner, mopping, and the like). This way, there will be less dirt floating around in the room to cling to wet surfaces.

4. Start with the least harmful approach
Use your gentlest cleaning methods first and move up to more aggressive techniques only if necessary. And know your materials well enough so that you will stop your cleaning efforts before you do damage. Better to suffer along with a small spot on your stovetop, for instance, than to ruin the surface with steel wool.

5. Let time do the work for you
A little time management trick will make your cleaning easier and faster. When you plot out 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 instance, spray your cleaner on the counter and appliances, then occupy yourself with removing old food from the refrigerator while the cleaner soaks in. When you come back to wipe clean, there will be little or no scrubbing to do.

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