What’s the best kind of dirt? The sort that you never allow into your house in the first place. That’s dirt in its proper place – dirt that you don’t have to clean up. It’s much easier to head off a problem before it takes root, than to fix it after the damage is done. So here’s lots of advice on how to stop dirt in its tracks.
1. Keep dirt on the mat
Actually, what you want to do is stop the dirt in your tracks – specifically, on the soles of your shoes. There are other ways that dirt gets in – and in particular, you may be thinking of dirt that comes through the air and open windows – but what you bring in on your feet is of far greater significance.
So use doormats at every entrance to your home, inside and out. Most of the grime in your home comes from the outside, the bulk of it coming in unnoticed on shoes that don’t appear to be either muddy or dirty.
2. Choosing the right doormat
Choosing the right doormat will reduce the time you spend cleaning and chasing down dirt. The key here is the size of your mat. For a mat to work thoroughly, it has to be longer than a typical stride. A mat should be long enough so that you can walk across with both feet before entering the house, with the width no wider than the door itself. So people coming into the house literally walk along it, shifting off dirt onto the mat as they do so.
Acrylic with either a vinyl or rubber backing is the best choice for an indoor mat as you’ll be able to vacuum or shake it outside to get rid of the dirt. Buy one that will coordinate with your décor, but several shades darker. That way, it will hide the worst of the dirt. Mats for outside your door are usually made of rubber. If you live in the country, or have a driveway that gets very muddy, keep a wire rack underneath the mat. This will be handy if your family or guests need to scrape mud from their boots or shoes before they enter the house.
3. Floor mats also are a good idea
Floor mats also are a good idea near high-traffic or spill-prone spots such as the fridge, the bath and the toilet. However, you should always weigh up whether you might slip or trip on a rug, plus how you view its appearance. So most people choose not to have a mat in front of the kitchen sink. It doesn’t look good and there’s a risk you could trip, possibly when carrying hot liquids.
4. Doormats need minimal maintenance
Just take them outside occasionally and give them a good shake to remove the dust as well as a once-over with the vacuum cleaner now and then.
5. When mats are really grimy
When mats are really grimy, hose them down and scrub them with a squirt of liquid soap in warm water. Rinse and allow to thoroughly air-dry. If you prefer, upholstery shampoo is also fine. Make sure the mats are completely dry before you put them back on the floor. Moisture trapped underneath could damage your floors. Replace mats when they get threadbare, as worn ones are less effective at trapping dirt.
6. To reduce the dirt entering your house
To reduce the dirt entering your house, limit the number of entrances that are used. This way, you’ll cut down on the places where people and pets can walk dirt in. And if most people enter your house through a room that has an easy-wipe floor, most of the grime will never make it past first base and into the rest of your home.
7. Make your house a shoeless zone
Make your house a shoeless zone for everyone. Politely ask family members, guests and friends to shed their shoes just inside the entrance. Provide a decorative basket or some other receptacle where people can stash their shoes.
8. Design to reduce grime
It’s not every day that you buy new furniture or redecorate the kitchen or bathroom. But when you do, choose the fabrics and surfaces wisely. Always think as you buy, “will this increase the work I have to do around the home?”
Laminate and solid wood floors almost look the same, but only one needs waxing and refinishing. The laminate mostly just needs a vacuum. For kitchen worktops, you’ll find that solid surfaces – rather than tiles, and in particular, small tiles – don’t have grooves and indentations where dirt can gather. Over time, curtains and blinds can become magnets for dust and cobwebs. Instead of dust-catching materials, choose fabrics treated with a stain-and-dust-resistant finish, or treat the fabric yourself with a product such as Scotchguard fabric protector, following package instructions.
9. Close your doors
Dirt just likes to travel. It’s happiest when it can roam freely all over your home, hiding in nooks and crannies where it’s most labor-intensive to find and remove. So stop dirt at the borders. That is, habitually keep your doors, drawers, cabinets, wardrobes and other barriers closed. This will keep dirt out in the open, where vacuum cleaners and cleaning cloths will be able to deal with it more readily.
If you’re working on a messy, dust-producing project in the house, keep the doors to the room you’re working in closed. Better yet, hang plastic sheeting across the door and any air vents to confine the dust to one room.
Periodically wash Venetian blinds and other dirt-trapping window coverings such as net curtains. Remember that dirt loves company and acts as a magnet for more.
10. Smart tricks for pets
Any pet with easy access to the garden will bring plenty of the great outdoors in on its coat and paws. Keeping your dogs and cats clean, and taking preventative measures when you know they have got especially dirty, will reduce the amount of dirt they can bring into your house.
1. Keep a clean rag by the door that your pet uses so that you’ll be more likely to remember to wipe off muddy, wet paws and claws before your beloved animal makes unsightly tracks through the whole house.
2. Once a week, take your dog outside and give its fur a good going-over with the type of brush recommended for its coat. Do this well away from the house, so that the tufts won’t tumble back inside.
3. The miracle way to lift pet hair from furniture and other surfaces is to wipe with a damp sponge or cloth. The hair will gather in clumps, and onto your cloth. An excellent alternative is a lightly-dampened rubber glove, rubbed quickly back and forth. It will pick up bundles of hair. Or you could use one of those special rubber brushes with nubs on it that is intended for grooming cats and finer-haired dogs (available at pet shops).
4. Nothing beats your vacuum cleaner for pulling pet hair out of your rugs and carpets. If you have a number of pets or an animal that sheds a great deal, it could be worth considering a vacuum cleaner which has been specially designed to deal with fur. Typically they have greater suction power for sucking up fur and special filters for trapping potential allergens.