Are you feeling overwhelmed before you even start house cleaning? The good news is that you shouldn’t underestimate your abilities. Here are tips from the pros, so you’ve got this!
Your Pre-Checklist Checklist
- First, the rules: There are no rules, only recommendations from specialists who clean for a living. You’re not a little kid in trouble. Just the opposite: you’re worthy of admiration for meeting a challenge. You don’t have to scrub everything to perfection in two hours! Go ahead, try these techniques and see how well they work for you.
- Your brain carries most of the burden. By learning to reduce your anxiety, you’ll breeze through it. Tidying your space is one way to improve your health. All living things change their environment. Imagine that you’re a deep-sea crab under the swirling blue sea in a home of coral-covered rocks. You enjoy nestling in your safe hideaway surrounded by golden sand. Every day with your sharp pincers you pick up bits of debris and fling them into the distance.
- Your trusty checklist will bestow upon you the power of organization. Don’t overload yourself. Crafting each step of the process to be simple results in success. Knowing and controlling what to expect lowers stress. A tidier checklist shows proof of how much you’ve accomplished.
Preparing for Deep Cleaning: Getting Organized
Athletes perform better when rested and comfortably dressed. Wear supportive shoes and loose old clothing with short sleeves. An artist-type apron with pockets and a tool belt will boost your inspiration! Squelch pain or allergy issues with a mild doctor-approved medication. Stay hydrated and nibble small, nutritious snacks as needed to keep yourself fueled.
On Your Mark…Get Set…
Prepare your environment for deep cleaning by providing good lighting so you can see what you’re doing. Brightness is energizing, too. When weather permits, open some windows for sunlight and fresh air. Put on some music.
Want to make deep cleaning much easier? Declutter first. Take out smelly or overflowing trash before you start. One way to declutter is “deep decluttering” done on a day before major housekeeping. Put items into one of four containers:
Another method of decluttering is the “lick and a promise:” fly through the house quickly clearing pathways and surfaces. Just get the stuff out of the way.
Your Plan of Action
This article shows you the strategy of attacking each room separately with a deep cleaning checklist. Most cleaning experts recommend working from high to low, starting at the ceiling and working downward to the floor. They suggest beginning in the far corner of each room and moving toward the door. For consistency, work in a clockwise pattern. Resist the temptation to get mired in details. Aim for accomplishment, not perfection: this system will quickly make the entire house sparkle. Deal with details later.
The Ick Factor
Some cleaning jobs are disgusting but don’t let that stop you! Keeping a supply of gloves handy empowers you to literally seize hold of anything. Put a dab of ointment containing menthol or eucalyptus under your nose to neutralize odors, or try burning a scented candle (soy wax candles make less soot). Wearing face masks or respirators prevents inhaling dust. Play upbeat music as a joyful distraction. Pace yourself with icky jobs: either power through the worst thing first or spread short sessions throughout the day.
Gathering Necessary Cleaning Supplies
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on cleaning supplies. Wood, natural stone, and leather usually require special treatment, but the following ingredients are safe for most surfaces as well as the environment, people, and pets:
- Vinegar (white is stronger and cheaper than apple cider vinegar but should be diluted with water for prolonged soaking)
- Hydrogen peroxide (eco-friendly disinfectant)
- Eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner
- Eco-friendly degreaser (vinegar)
- Salt (abrasive cleaner as paste or with lemon wedges)
- Baking soda
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Money-saving tip: Buy large bottles to refill small bottles in your tote
You might already have these tools of the trade:
- Trash bags (choose eco-friendly options when possible or upcycle shopping bags)
- Washable or disposable gloves
- Lots of microfiber cloths (beloved by experienced cleaners)
- Paper towels, clean newspapers, rags, sponges, scrubbers
- Used dryer sheets (for soap scum, baseboards, and ceiling fans)
- Cleaning wand or long-handled bendable duster (use rubber bands to attach dryer sheets or microfiber cloths for hard-to-reach spots)
- Assortment of brushes (toothbrushes, soft-bristle paint brushes, and a toilet brush)
- White chalk (for grease on laundry)
- Squeegee (for large glass surfaces)
- Pumice stone (for mineral crust in toilets)
- Mops, broom, dustpan, cordless sweeper
- Tote (saves time and energy)
- Bucket on wheels
- Face masks, respirators (wear WHENEVER spraying or dusting!)
- Safety goggles
Some of the following equipment can be rented:
- Vacuum cleaner using HEPA (“high-efficiency particulate air”) filters removing most tiny particles
- Steam cleaner
- Garment steamer (for mattresses, cushions, drapes, upholstery)
Creating a Cleaning Schedule
A calendar gives you the power of controlling time. Use a notebook, an erasable wall board or wall calendar, or an online document. To highlight your accomplishments, check off or mark through completed tasks. Record reminders, not only for daily or weekly jobs but for tasks needing attention several times annually.
Pacing yourself and using a deep cleaning checklist by room makes working easier. Break down big jobs into smaller ones. Personalize your calendar by assigning certain jobs on certain days. You might choose Wednesdays as “Wiping Wednesday” to sanitize door knobs. Don’t work when you’re exhausted. Instead of beating yourself up over unfinished tasks, consider them “PENDING.” Plan on the last week of each month as “Catch Up Week” to focus on pending tasks.
Deep cleaning is beneficial once or twice a year. Anything is better than nothing, though. Looking to the future, approach small jobs frequently. Have you ever enjoyed the wonderful feeling in your mouth after the dental hygienist polished your teeth? By changing a big cleaning event into regular maintenance, you enjoy the benefits year-round. Like the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
The “Pound of Cure:” Deep Cleaning Tips from Pros
These hints are helpful throughout the house:
- Set up multi-step activities first: laundry, oven cleaning, soaking hard water stains on stainless steel and porcelain (a vinegar-drenched towel for 15 minutes to 24 hours dissolves most limescale).
- Soaking is more labor-effective than scrubbing.
- Dust ceiling fans with dryer sheets attached to a painting roller with rubber bands.
- To protect fragile wall coverings, whether wallpaper or paint, wipe gently with baking soda and water.
- Wipe permanent marker blemishes with vegetable oil.
- Gently clean crayon markings with white toothpaste.
- Clean mirrors with dilute vinegar or lemon juice, or a teaspoon of cornstarch in vinegar.
- Only wash windows on a cloudy day. Dust first, wipe with a damp cloth, clean tracks with a brush, then vacuum. Apply cleaner and wipe with a microfiber cloth.
- Keep trash containers in every room.
- Use vacuum attachments weekly for sofas, cushions, chairs, and blinds.
- Make stainless steel shine with a final buff of a drop or two of olive oil or baby oil.
- The most effective floor vacuuming technique is pushing it into position, then pulling it slowly backwards.
- Use a steam cleaner to eliminate sticky residue on carpets and floors.
- Vacuum floors before mopping.
- Erase shoe scuff marks on floors with a dry softball.
- Your deep clean checklist should include gadgets such as cell phones, remotes, and keyboards. Unless the manufacturer offers other directions, use disinfectant or alcohol wipes and repeat at least twice weekly. Humidifiers should be run with full-strength vinegar, drained, and cleaned with a soft brush.
Room-by-Room Deep Cleaning
Each room is exposed to different kinds of grime. That’s why a custom deep cleaning checklist by room makes sense.
High-traffic areas need more attention. Entryways are portals for outside dirt, mud, and plant stains. Door knobs and walls often need the most attention.
- Clogged shower head: Soak by using rubber bands to fasten on a plastic bag partially filled with half-strength vinegar.
- Plastic or vinyl shower curtains: Machine wash on gentle cycle with a couple of towels for wiping action. Fluff dry or air dry.
- Bathtub: Spray with a degreasing all-purpose cleaner or vinegar, wait, then finish with vinegar and a microfiber polish.
- Grout and caulking: Scrub with a baking soda paste or use a fizzing vinegar/baking soda solution.
- Toilet: Soak bowl overnight with vinegar, then flush. Lay the toilet brush across the bowl, then close the lid to let it air dry.
- Handles and knobs: After cleaning, disinfect by wiping regularly with 3% hydrogen peroxide (usually in brown bottles).
- Towels, washcloths, and rugs: Launder frequently to eliminate mold and toilet flushing aerosol exposure.
- Speaking of toilet aerosol exposure, did you know that most purses are contaminated with fecal bacteria? Use disinfectant wipes on them often.
- Floor: Scrub outside base of toilet with brush. Mop with all-purpose cleaner and/or half-strength vinegar.
Kitchens are busy places that accumulate grease and attract pests.
- First steps: Declutter and put away dishes. Dust from the top down and follow with a damp microfiber cloth wipe-down to remove grime and grease.
- Oven: Avoiding the heating elements, apply a paste made from half a cup of baking soda with a few tablespoons of water. Soak overnight and remove with half-strength vinegar and a microfiber cloth.
- Dishwasher: Place a bowl containing a cup of vinegar on the top shelf and run the hottest cycle. Stop before the dry cycle and unlatch the door to allow air-drying.
- Microwave: Heat lemon wedges in a bowl of water or half-strength vinegar till boiling, leave for several minutes, then wipe.
- Coffee maker: Brew two pots with half-strength vinegar, then brew water.
- Juicer, instant pot, blender, etc.: Take apart, wash loose parts in dish soap. Wipe parts with heating or electrical components with damp microfiber cloth and dry.
- Countertops and cabinets: Wipe outer surfaces with damp microfiber cloths. Sanitize inside with an all-purpose cleaner. Wipe over cabinet contents before replacing. Discard expired items.
- Stovetop: Wash removable gas burners and grills in dish soap and water. Use sudsy microfiber cloths on electric stovetop burners avoiding electrical connections. Glass stove tops respond well to microfiber cloths and water or vinegar, followed by wiping with a damp microfiber cloth.
- Refrigerator: Empty the whole thing, protecting your countertops with newspapers. Discard everything expired or disgusting. Soak trays, racks, and drawers in hot soapy water. When dry, replace them after cleaning the inside of the fridge with your wonderful microfiber cloths. Wipe over salvageable food items and return them. Clean the fridge exterior.
- Sink: Clean with a paste of baking soda and water, scrubbing with a toothbrush. Pour vinegar around and allow to fizz. Pour more vinegar down the drain and wait an hour. Follow with boiling water. To clean the garbage disposal, grind ice cubes followed by citrus wedges or peels.
- Trash cans: Dumping any loose trash, rinse with the shower or hose. Soak with an all-purpose cleaner solution, scrub with a tough brush, allow it to dry, and insert a fresh bag.
- Floors: Move stove and refrigerator to sweep and vacuum behind. Vacuum carpets, baseboards, and corners. Before mopping floors, check manufacturers’ recommendations since certain flooring materials are damaged by incorrect cleaning products.
Busy Areas: Living Room, Den, Office, Hobby Room
To eliminate odors on fabric-covered furniture, apply baking powder, leave up to an hour, and then vacuum. To spot clean stains, dab with half-strength vinegar and blot from the outside toward the center. When available, finish with a garment steam cleaner. To clean drapes, vacuum weekly. If they can’t be washed safely in the machine, bring them to a dry cleaner.
Bedroom, Guest Rooms, Nursery, Pet Room
Vacuum mattress, using attachments for crevices. Spot clean with an enzyme cleaner or hydrogen peroxide applied with a brush or cloth. Liberally sprinkle baking powder and leave overnight if possible. Vacuum again, flip mattress, and repeat. Ideally, mattresses should be flipped every two weeks and allowed to air out for half an hour. Most pillows should be machine washed on a gentle or delicate cycle every 3-5 months, but read the labels first.
Professional Safety Tips
- Record checkup dates on your calendar for fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, and HVAC filters.
- Keep an updated first aid kit easily accessible.
- Large amounts of dust on lampshades, light bulbs, and other surfaces worsen many people’s allergies and lung problems.
- Nix the mix: Unless recommended, never combine cleaning solutions. Example: bleach plus ammonia release toxic chlorine gas.
- Keep your charged cell phone handy in case of an accident.
- Close your mouth when working, especially when dusting.
Asking for Support is Okay
Getting the job done is what’s important, not who does it. Lighten the load by asking other people to help with specific tasks. Perhaps they can watch your pets or loved ones while you work. If you’re uncomfortable letting people into your home, consider hiring local professionals who are familiar with hoarding situations. They’re specialists in working quickly while respecting your feelings and belongings.
About your deep cleaning checklist: be sure to reward yourself when you finish the job! You deserve it!