You Should Know How to Do This: Be Clean

Everyone who knows me, with the notable exception of my mother, agrees that I am a Clean Person. Staci’s house is kept at all times at hospital-grade sterility and Pottery Barn catalog levels of lovely, and she considers the Dairy Queen to be the absolute height of filth, so in recent years I decided her opinion is not one I can take into account. Sorry, Mommy! Everyone else, though– they all agree I keep a real clean house. There’s pretty much nothing worse in the whole world than staying the night with a friend, or being invited to your cousin’s for dinner and finding that everything is covered in a sticky film, or that there’s cat pee staining the rug. I’m not saying you’re that cousin, but if you are, I want to show you how to dig yourself out with a minimum of cussing and sweating.

It was not always this way. To paraphrase 1  Corinthians, when I was a college student, I swept as a college student, I laundered as a college student, I Windexed as a college student. When I became a grownup, I put the ways of college behind me. I first got my own space about four years ago. Initially, I was so pumped because any mess I made was my mess, and I was the only person I had to clean up for. I had a washer and dryer at my place for the first time ever and I had a dishwasher. After four years in dorms and keeping it as clean as I could in the wake of seven suitemates, I was in tall cotton, and I let it get filthy. I embraced dimmer switches and lived out of a series of piles.

No, of course this is not mine. That coverlet is ugly.

That worked for me for about 3 months and by September or so, I hated everything. I had always dreaded cleaning as a kid– and to be honest, it’s not like I love it now– and I didn’t want to devote my whole Saturday to Windexing baseboards and polishing silverware. I was also living on $12,000 a year, and couldn’t afford stuff like Pledge wipes, which were suddenly a luxury item. So I decided to change.

I did what any self-respecting millenial would do: I googled “how to clean without cleaning” or something to that effect. That yielded no results at all, much to my chagrin. Apartment Therapy had a couple good pointers, so I made myself a cleaning schedule based on their Twenty Minutes a Day method. Some days, this stuff takes way less time than 20 minutes, sometimes it takes a little more. I set a timer and crank up some music on Ye Olde Turntable and knock this out in the evenings after dinner but before I relax.

I’m going to share it with you here (also happy to share my Google calendar with you if you want). All you have to do is do it; if you have a roommate, a family, or a partner, your time can be cut dramatically through the power of division of labor. Caveat emptor:  this calendar assumes that you’re taking the garbage out, staying up on the laundry, putting things away, and washing your dishes after every meal. If you’re not doing that, start now. That’s the baseline.

Cleaning schedule

Quickly, what I mean by “surface clean” is to wipe down surfaces, put things away, and sweep or vacuum. “Deep clean” means to clean off the artwork and mirrors and knickknacks, clean out storage areas like drawers or underneath the bed, and tidy up closets and the like.  Cleaning your  cleaning products means zapping your sponges in the microwave, washing all the rags, and rinsing out any buckets you use to clean. I guess in February, you don’t have to do the things on the 29th and 30th (or you could do everything on the 28th), and in January, March, etc., you get a day off!

You’ll note there are a LOT of kitchen cleaning tasks. Your kitchen is the area you have to watch the most because you’ll get bugs if you don’t remain vigilant, and you use that room a lot. If you never, ever eat at home or cook, your to-do list is going to be easier, but please bear all this in mind. The place where you eat needs to be really clean to keep everyone healthy.

You’ll also note that I don’t have that much house. If you have more rooms than this, you have to clean them, too. If you don’t, you have fewer things to do that I do. Maybe you’re wondering how to incorporate that into your cleaning schedule, and I’m happy to help you brainstorm some ideas. The bottom line is this: if you stay in front of it, you will never have to spend that much time cleaning.

But how, you might wonder, can I do this in a way that is cheap, eco-friendly, and minimally gross? I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED. You know how I make my own everything? That extends to cleaning products. I’m going to assume you have normal furniture made from normal stuff, so you’ll need an all-purpose cleaner, a wood cleaner, a glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner, something to scour the bathtub and kitchen sink with, laundry detergent, mopping solution, and something that sanitizes. If there’s something else, let me know in the comments and I’ll guide you from there. I promise you this is so much cheaper than getting Windex wipes and Clorox wipes and whatever other Swiffer products and stuff that are on the market, and they smell nice, too.

Gather the following: spray bottles, a mop, a broom and dustpan, an old pillowcase (for fan blades), some newspapers, lemon essential oil, Borax, washing soda, baking soda, bleach, white vinegar, castile soap, dish soap, Oxy-Clean, Fels-Naptha rags, sponges, gloves, old tennis balls, and a toilet brush.

There is zero need at all to buy a fancy brand of this– store brand is exactly the same. All of this can be purchased at Kroger/Harris Teeter/Target/Walmart with the exception of the lemon essential oil. If you can’t find it, ask someone who works there. I promise they have it, but that you’ve just never noticed it before. All of these things take less than a minute to make (except the detergent, which takes a little bit longer), and last indefinitely. Anywhere I say “water”, sub for “distilled water” if the tap water is very hard where you live.

  • Wood cleaner: 1/2 cup warm water with six drops of lemon essential oil (no, seriously, this is what Pledge is; you are way overpaying). Spray onto a rag, then dust like that.
  •  Glass cleaner: 1/4 cup white vinegar and a cup of water. Spray onto class, then clean with a balled up old newspaper. This is so you don’t get lint! If you hate the smell of vinegar, you can add a drop of lemon oil, but it really dissipates quickly, I swear.
  • All purpose cleaner: 1/4 cup of liquid castile soap diluted with water. I like to use this for things that don’t need to be disinfected per se, but do need to be cleaned up a bit.
  • All purpose sanitizing spray: 1 tsp borax, 1/2 teaspoon washing soda, 1 teaspoon castile soap, 2 cups warm water. Spray, clean with a rag or paper towel. This is what you’re going to want to clean the kitchen and bathroom with.
  • Toilet bowl cleaner: 1/4 cup of Borax. Let it sit for a few minutes, then scrub with a brush.
  • Dried on filth (like when you boil over a pot onto the top of your stove): washing soda with a teeny bit of water. Use a sponge or toothbrush, depending, and scrub until it sheds its mortal coil. You can also use this to baked-on stuff off Pyrex or a baking sheet.
  • Ceramic sink/shower/stainless steel: Borax or washing soda. Make a little paste yet again and scrub. I also like to pour bleach down my drains every week, but that’s up to you. I’m terrified of the germs that must lurk within.
  • Deodorizer: open a box of baking soda in the smelly place (I keep on in my fridge, closet, and freezer). Replace every 3 months. You can totally use the spent ones to clean dried on filth and the ceramic/stainless steel stuff in the last two bullet points.
  • Mopping liquid: stop up your sink, start to fill with warm water, and then pour in a little liquid castile soap.
  • Dryer sheets: throw in an old tennis ball or two when you put your clothes in the dryer. This keeps stuff from getting staticky. I don’t use dryer sheets, but I know some people like them.
  • Laundry detergent: One four pound twelve ounce box of Borax, three bars of Fels-Naptha soap. 1 four pound box baking soda, one box of arm & hammer super washing soda, four pounds of Oxy-Clean. Grate the Fels-Naptha, then mix everything together in a big vessel of some sort. Seal in airtight, watertight containers. I use 3 tablespoons per load, and this makes about 2 years worth of detergent for a single person doing normal amounts of laundry. I like it because it’s SO SO CHEAP and doesn’t irritate my skin with dyes and scents. I recommend you throw in a rice sachet or some of those silica packets you find in shoeboxes to keep it from hardening into one big block of detergent.
  • Ironing starch: 1 tablespoon of cornstarch, 2 cups of water. Again, that’s what you’re paying for when you buy Faultless.

If you want advice on how to do any cleaning, or want some of the less-frequently-used cleaning supplies recipes, let me know in the comments and I’ll either give you my recipe or find a good one for you.

That’s how to do it, folks. Spend about $40 on all the things you’ll need until forever, and use the amount of time you waste looking at clothes you aren’t going to buy on ASOS or scores for the NHL on ESPN and have the kind of home you aren’t apologizing for when someone drops in to say hello. Any questions? I want to help you realize your full potential as a person with the kind of home you can be proud of.

4 Replies to “You Should Know How to Do This: Be Clean”

  1. This post inspired me to finally clean my fridge, which I had been putting off for a while. I won’t go into the graphic detail about how dirty it was underneath the drawers (yes, friends, the bottom row of drawers comes out too!) but I hope to come up with something a little more regular so that I never have to experience this again…

  2. Great post, thanks so much for sharing! I’ve been thinking about some kind of schedule for typical cleaning needs but have been putting it off in the hope that we will somehow magically fall into a good cleaning routine…I’ll let you know how that goes, lol.

  3. That was definitely the method I employed for years, but it turns out I hate cleaning, so if left to my own devices, I won’t do anything except occasionally clean the toilet and do all the dishes.

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