Great Big Post Full of Housekeeping Tips

I promised whiter whites, and I aim to deliver. Here follows a ginormous list of household hints and tips that have been useful for me. Not every household has the same needs, so take them or leave them as suits you.

  • Keep magic erasers around all the time. You can clean a lot of things quickly with them.
  • Put a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap in your shower and clean a little bit of grout every time you shower. (You can also use your shampoo, body wash, or bar soap.)
  • Keep an old toothbrush in the shower to help with the grout cleaning.
  • When you do dishes, make sure to clean all of the food bits out of the drain and wipe down the whole sink. It really looks better.
  • Wipe up crumbs and spills on counters and range tops early and often.
  • Soak soap scum off your tub and fixtures with a rag soaked in vinegar.
  • For showerheads, fill a plastic bag with vinegar and duct tape it around the fixture. Soak overnight to get rid of hard water spots. (I never use chemical cleaners like Tilex anymore.)
  • To clean the microwave, boil water in it for five minutes first.
  • Because I have pets that produce prodigious hair, I sweep before I vacuum so I don’t have to change my vacuum back as often.
  • Put good quality dirt-catching mats in front of all your doors.
  • I don’t use any paper towels. Instead, I have a large collection of rags. Every day I hang damp rags to dry, then throw them in the laundry and get out fresh dish rags and towels. It works good and paper towels add up to a lot of $$$.
  • Unload and reload the dishwasher while making toast or heating a snack in the microwave.
  • Grab a rag and clean stuff while you’re talking on the phone.
  • When you’re done brushing your teeth in the morning, grab yesterday’s hand towel (you don’t want to use them for a long time anyway) and wipe down your sink and vanity, then toss the towel in the laundry. Ahhh, shiny.
  • Use a damp wash cloth or towel to wipe drips and drops from your bathroom mirror in between proper cleanings. Sneaky!
  • If mildew is a problem in your laundry, set aside a rack in the bathroom to dry wet cloths and towels before you launder them.
  • If you only have a little time to clean, stand at the entrance of the room and clean whatever catches your eye as looking worst. The whole room won’t be clean, but it will be less annoying.
  • Open mail while you still have it in your hand and immediately recycle everything you don’t want.
  • I’m not a fan of expensive chemical toilet cleaners. A quick swish with Dr. Bronners or another general purpose cleaner does a pretty good job. You can do this once every week or two.
  • To properly and thoroughly clean a toilet (no more than once a week), put on a pair of gloves and use a sponge and an abrasive cleaner like SoftScrub to clean the bowl and under the rim.
  • You know that space on the back of the toilet that accumulates lint, hair, grime, and unmentionables? Grab a wad of toilet paper and wipe it up. Lift the lid and wipe around the hardware. Voila! (You can also use a rag or a dirty washcloth or hand towel. Make sure it goes straight in the laundry when your done.)
  • Your toilet will also accumulate dust and crud on the outside, so an occasional swipe around the base is necessary to keep it sparkly. Again to do it quickly, you can use a wad of toilet paper or a cloth from the laundry.
  • If you have long hair, pick the hair out of the drain each time you take a shower. Leaving it there is piggish.
  • Parents of small children–clean your bathroom while supervising the kids’ bath.
  • Put up extra shelves in the bathroom to store towels.
  • Install a hook for each member of your family. That is where each person can hang and reuse their towel so you are not wasting water and energy washing them after one use. (I love this one!)
  • Put hooks on your bedroom wall to hang up clothes that you’ve worn but are not ready to launder. The ones that just stick up with the stretchy gummy strip work well.
  • Put hooks over your bedroom and closet door for more hanging space.
  • Use shoe organizers on closet doors for shoe storage.
  • The Ikea shoe cabinet is great for even MOAR shoe storage.
  • Set up a bench by your back door and store EVEN MOAR YES MOAR shoes under it.
  • Having a mud room area where you can hang coats and take off shoes is a good way to control dirt coming into the house.
  • If you have pets that like to bring dirt and dead animals into your bed, have two bedspreads or duvets so you can quickly put a new one on and wash the soiled one.
  • Better yet, have one or more old fashioned, thin, single-layer bed spreads to make your bed up when you’re not using it. If a pet dirties the spread, you can remove it and throw it in the laundry, and your actual bedding will be clean.
  • I have a box labeled “IN” where all mail that is not immediately thrown out gets put.
  • I have another box labeled “SHRED.” Very useful box.
  • Create a bill paying station with checkbook, stamps, address labels, and loan coupons. When bills arrive, whip it out and take care of it on the spot.
  • Paint a square of your kitchen wall with chalkboard paint and keep chalk handy. Whenever you run out of something, write it on the chalkboard. (You could nail up a picture frame around it to be stylish.)
  • Use Google calendar to coordinate everyone’s schedule. Multiple people can access and add dates to the same calendar.
  • If you have dogs, keep a supply of old towels by the door to wipe up dirt and drool or to dry them off when they come in out of the rain.
  • Keep one large file box and one large underbed box in an accessible storage area for each child. Letter-sized schoolwork to be saved goes in the file box. Oversized artwork in the underbed box. Be kind of ruthless about saving schoolwork and artwork. Don’t save every single thing.
  • Take pictures of awkward, oversized 3D artwork and trash it. (Unless it’s a true masterpiece you’re willing to commit to storing for the rest of your natural life.)
  • Organize your pantry like the grocery store shelves, with like items behind each other, face-out, so you can see what you have.
  • Be an opportunistic refrigerator cleaner. If a shelf is empty, and it’s dirty, wipe it down quickly without unloading the whole refrigerator and making a huge project of it.
  • Use the appropriately labeled Nature’s Miracle for pet-derived messes. Ignore people who tell you to use vinegar or other cleaners. NM has enzymes that break down the molecules that produce the bad smells. Other cleaners can’t do that. (Note: if you try to use soap or a chemical cleaner on a pet mess, you may “set” the odor so that the NM doesn’t work as well, so use it first and follow the label instructions. As far as I’m concerned, NM is a freaking miracle of modern technology.)
  • If you have dogs, buy Natures Miracle skunk odor remover NOW so that you’ll have it if/when your dog gets sprayed in the middle of the night. If your dogs kill a skunk, treat it as a biohazard situation, and wear gloves while cleaning up so you don’t need to get rabies shots. :-)
  • For big dogs, bathe them outside in warm weather with a hose, not in your bathtub. Dogs don’t need frequent baths. I bathe my dogs about once a year, unless they get filthy. Otherwise, I just spot clean them with a damp towel as needed.
  • If pets or kids track mud onto the carpet, wait until it dries and try vacuuming it up. Very often this will clean it completely without the need for elbow grease.
  • Add a little Pine-sol to sanitize nasty laundry. (The pine smell will be very noticeable when you take the wet laundry out, but disappears in the dryer.)
  • Note: vinegar may help with bad laundry smells (though it never works in my hands), but it will NOT kill bacteria.
  • To sanitize surfaces, use something like lysol or bleach, not vinegar. (The virtues of vinegar for cleaning have been exaggerated elsewhere on the internet.) Yes, chemicals are icky. But you know what’s really icky and will kill you? MRSA.
  • Remember those dishrags and dish towels we talked about above? Don’t launder them with your dirty underwear, socks, or street clothes. A laundry cycle doesn’t always remove all of the bacteria. (Think about it.)
  • For tough stains, mix equal parts Cascade dish detergent and Clorox II powdered bleach and soak overnight. (Note: the laws in many states including mine now do not allow the phosphates that used to be in detergents. This recipe doesn’t work as miraculously for me as it once did.)
  • Wipe down the outsides and nooks and crannies of your dishwasher and washer/dryer. You’ll be surprised at the crud you find.
  • Organize Legos by size. Assign a drawer or box for each size and shape category. For small legos, stick them together in stacks.
  • Put Lego instructions in a binder, each one inside its own page protector, for future reference.
  • You can have Megablocks, but never mix Legos and Megablocks. That’s heresy.
  • Keep a box for clothes and items you want to give away, fill it faithfully, and get rid of it when it’s full. A good place to find things for the box is in your drawers and closet, when you have “nothing to wear” because all of the clothes you actually like are in the laundry. The stuff that’s left is the stuff you don’t actually want.
  • In the case of kids, the stuff that’s left no longer fits. Put it in the box.
  • Hang a small shelf inside the cabinet under your sink for sponges if you don’t have a sponge drawer.
  • Use a bungee cord to hold the trash bag on the outside of your container.
  • Put clean trash bags in the bottom of your trash for quick changes. (I like this one, but we never do it.)
  • Find a place for a second small trash can in your bathroom and use it for recycleables–all of those toilet paper rolls, empty boxes and bottles, etc. Feel smug.
  • Set up a large, three-bin laundry sorter in your laundry room. When you bring down a load of dirty laundry, sort it right away. (It goes faster than you may think.)
  • Cloth diapers are not horrible. DON’T swish them in the toilet or soak them in a bucket first. Put the soiled diapers directly in the washer (trust me) and prewash them in cold water. (The wash water goes the same place your toilet water goes.) Then wash in super hot water. When you put them in the dryer, inspect each one quickly. If it’s not clean, throw it in for another cycle. Dry on highest heat.
  • Don’t allow cats on your counters or eating surfaces. It’s unsanitary. (You may laugh at me now.)
  • Hang a sign on your dishwasher that says “dirty” and “clean.” (We don’t do this, but my Grandma did and it saved many a load from being washed twice or ruined with adding dirty dishes.)
  • Put DVDs in a DVD organizer and throw away the cases. Now you are instantly ready for a road trip with the kids.
  • Keep lint rollers and wet wipes in your car. You can clean the inside of the car or yourself with these things.
  • Does it sound crazy if I say I like to use a wet wipe to clean my dashboard while I’m waiting to pick someone up? Okay, then, never mind.
  • If you wish to invest the $$, a steam cleaner does a good job with various tough cleaning jobs.
  • Use two buckets to wash floors. Fresh water with floor cleaner in one. Wring dirty water into the other.
  • Don’t dump mop water in your kitchen or bathroom sink. Flush it down the toilet or dump it outside. (It will clog your drain.)
  • Get a small plastic container and make up a first aid kit with bandages and everything you need to tend to a cut or burn.
  • If you can’t find a mate for a sock, and it’s not a very new or special sock, throw it out. It’s only a sock.
  • If you watch TV, fold laundry while you watch.
  • Putting away laundry takes less time than you think. Next time you have have a big basket to put away, time yourself. You’ll be surprised.
  • No junk drawer in the kitchen! Instead of throwing things you don’t know what to do with into a “junk drawer” and forgetting about them, stop and think. If you have no place to put items like it, create a place.
  • I love having a “beverage station” in my kitchen. We keep the coffee apparatus, travel mugs, and boxes of tea in it. It’s very nice not to have to run all over the kitchen first thing in the morning gathering items to make coffee or tea.
  • Get kittens and let them kill all of your plants so you don’t have to take care of them.
  • Some ceiling fans have removable blades so you can take them down and scrub them good.
  • Magic erasers are good for cleaning dog drool from walls.
  • Get a dog that will eat stray belongings and toys left on the floor by you or your kids. It will help you declutter and motivate you to put your things away.
And that’s it! Wait, did I forget whiter whites? I use good old chlorine bleach according to the package directions. If that doesn’t work, I toss the item and get a new one. Life is too short to kill yourself trying to get a grungy pair of socks looking like new again.