Housework is easy, right? Wrong!
It’s not for nothing that professional cleaning companies (at least the reputable ones) spend some time training their employees in how to do the job properly. It’s only too easy to get some things wrong and clean the wrong way.
How many of these really common cleaning mistakes are you making? And, if you find out that you are making them, what should you be doing instead? Is there a way of avoiding those pitfalls? I bet your life doing domestic cleaning chores will be much easier.
Never fear – read on and find out!
Big-Picture Cleaning Mistakes
- Trying to do everything at once. Multitasking doesn’t really work for cleaning. OK, you might be able to wipe down the mirror while what you’ve sprayed on the bathtub works its magic on the grey grease ring. You can mop the laundry floor while you wait for the washing machine to finish running its cycle. But if you try to have three, four or five things on the go at once, then you’re not going to be able to do them properly.
- Using too much cleaning product. You might think that because a little bit of your favourite detergent, spray or polish works well, using a lot will be even better. Wrong! At best, you’ll just waste money by using more than you have to. At worst, you’ll leave a residue on your furniture or work surfaces that quickly attracts new dirt and looks (and feels) plain disgusting.
- Having the wrong tools for the job. Yes, we’ve all done it. We’ve all used our sleeves to wipe grease off the computer monitor or your smartphone. We’ve all tried scrubbing with the dishwashing brush instead of a proper scrubbing brush. In emergencies, you can get away with this, but for tasks that you do often, you need to have the right tool for the job. You need a proper broom, a proper scrubbing brush, etc. Otherwise, you won’t be able to do the job properly.
- Procrastinating “until you have the right product”. Yes, you need to have the right tool for the job. However, you don’t need to have a separate product for every single job around the house. You don’t need one spray for the bathroom and another for the kitchen. Keep your eye out for general purpose products that can be used for a range of tasks around the home – or make your own. The benefit here is that general purpose cleaning products tend to be cheaper than fancy specialised ones. Maybe an exception to this rule would be your oven cleaning chemicals. You simply can't do an immaculate job with your average Mr. Muscle from Tesco's. You need something specific and really strong to disolve the tar and burn marks inside your oven. In this case I call a local oven cleaning company thus leaving the specialist work to the professionals.
- Being a martyr. Are you the only person in the house who does the housework? Are you running around with dusters and vacuum cleaners while the kids are playing on the X-box? They helped get the house dirty, so they can help clean up the mess. Besides, do you really want your son or daughter leaving home not knowing how to do housework and expecting other people to pick up after them?
The Fix For These Big-Picture Cleaning Problems
- Be organised. Have a checklist of the tasks that you want to accomplish and stick to it. Do one task at a time. And don’t be overoptimistic. Sometimes, a job can take longer than you expect. In this case, just concentrate on that job and don’t fret about getting the other tasks done in your set time for household chores.
- Go easy on the cleaning products. Remember, you can always add a bit more if you have to. But you can’t add less – you certainly can’t put a spray back into the bottle or aerosol can! One tip that works with some products is to apply your favourite cleaning product to the rag or sponge that you’re using rather than to what you’re trying to clean… unless we’re talking about disinfectant or something that takes time to have an effect.
- Invest in a good set of cleaning tools. You don’t have to get industrial grade everything like a professional cleaning lady, but you do need good quality tools for all the jobs you do frequently – things that don’t fall to pieces easily. Any good hardware or homeware store should have the basics – so do some supermarkets. A good tip is to go for sturdy well-made brooms, etc. rather than pretty dinky ones that tend to be rather flimsy.
- Enlist the whole family. Giving kids chores and responsibility is good for them, even if they do roll their eyes and whine about it. Even pre-schoolers can learn to do certain chores. There are numerous strategies for encouraging kids of all ages to clean up, ranging from making pocket money conditional on certain chores being completed to star charts to a roster system to rotate the favourites. You could even try my mum’s trick of handing out the most hated household chores as a penalty for misbehaviour… although this can sometimes backfire.
Specific Cleaning Mistakes
- Getting too fussy with the laundry. Don’t fuss too much about turning clothes around the right way, matching up socks and so forth if you’ve got a mountain of laundry to sort and put away. Dump the lot in a public spot and call the family members to come in and grab their own. Any odd socks go in a designated place until the mate turns up.
- Wiping off disinfectant too soon. Disinfectant needs time to kill bacteria and virus spores. Even the most amazing broad-spectrum disinfectant that kills every nasty under the sun won’t do it instantly. If getting a surface or item as germ-free as possible is important, then give the disinfectant time to work.
- Cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is when you take a tool that’s been used to clean somewhere really grubby (e.g. the toilet or the cat’s litter box) and use it for cleaning somewhere that really needs to be scrupulously clean, like food preparation surfaces. Use separate tools for dirty and clean jobs. One tip from the professionals who clean hospitals is to colour-code your tools: red for really germy stuff, white for things that really need to be kept as germ-free as possible and another colour for areas that are neither germ-laden nor germ-free.
- Mixing cleaning chemicals. Cleaning isn’t like cooking. Two products put together won’t work better in synergy. At best, they’ll cancel each other out (e.g. baking soda and vinegar). At worst, they’ll combine into a lethal cocktail (ammonia and chlorine). The only two cleaners that can be mixed with other cleaners (one other cleaner at a time, of course) is water.
- Ignoring common germ hotspots. You clean the toilet seat, the rubbish bin and the cat litter tray. But you’ve still missed some of the really bacteria-laden places in the house. What about door handles, the flush button on the toilet, the kitchen sink, the remote control and the phone? Anything that people touch a lot is going to be a germ hotspot.
- Overlooking the potential of household appliances. Some household appliances can be used to clean more than you think. Some plastic toys (e.g. stackable blocks) can go in the dishwasher. You can kill dust mites in your pillow by popping it in the dryer on high heat. You can wash the shower curtain in the washing machine. Think outside the square a bit – although your microwave has limitations! Best just keep this for zapping sponges and rags to sterilise them.