The Homeowner’s Guide to Wash, Rinse, Repeat

It used to be that housekeeping was like an art form. Housewives knew how to clean practically everything and had a system to get it all done in record time—while finding an hour or so to wash up and greet their husbands at the door with fresh makeup. Whether they loved it or hated it, there were high expectations to keep a clean house.

Times have changed—thank goodness! Fast forward about 50 years. These days, it’s more like squeezing in cleaning between work, carpooling the kids and the 10 million other things that need to get done. Not many people have had the luxury of becoming experts in the art of cleaning—and that’s okay. But if you’re like most people, you like a clean house. And the best way to do that is to instill a system. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to work for you.

When you know how often to clean what, it makes it easier. Just make a checklist and mark each off one at a time whenever you get a few spare minutes. It’s a way for the whole family to see what needs to be done, and it keeps the dread of cleaning the whole house at bay.

Clean as You Cook

  • Wash dishes, pots and pans as you use them or place them in the dishwasher. Then you’ll have a clean slate for the next meal.

Wipe Up Spills

  • Don’t leave spills to settle on countertops or floors. Wipe them up as soon as they happen so you won’t have to scrub or scrape.

Sweep the Kitchen Floor

  • Sweep the floor with a broom at the end of the day. It helps to keep dirt from building up, which will make cleaning the floors easier.

Clean Your Sink and Drain

  • Every evening, wipe down the entire sink—home to the second-highest concentration of microorganisms in the home.
  • Drain and wipe the sink and strainer basket with a disinfecting wipe.
  • Wash the strainer basket in the dishwasher weekly.
sweeping kitchen floor

Wash Rugs and Towels

  • Wash all machine-washable rugs and bath mats following the manufacturers’ directions.
  • In a separate load, machine wash used towels and washcloths according to manufacturers’ washing instructions.

Clean Toilets

  • Use a toilet brush to scrub the bowl and under the rim.
  • Close the lid and let the cleaner soak in the bowl for 10-15 minutes.
  • While the bowl is soaking, spray down the outside of the toilet with disinfectant or cleanser, starting at the top of and working your way down.

Clean Bathtubs, Showers and Sinks

  • Clear off all items from the bathtub, shower and countertop.
  • Rinse the shower, tub or sink with hot water to rinse any hair, dirt, and other particles down the drain.
  • Spray the walls of your shower with bathroom cleaner and let sit for 5 minutes.
  • Wipe with a damp sponge, scrubbing where needed, and rinse.
  • Use a soft cloth or paper towel and glass cleaner or vinegar to shine all faucets and fixtures.
  • Clean your shower door or curtain.

Empty Trash and Recycling Bins

  • Wipe the insides and outsides of bins with disinfectant.

Mop or Clean Floors

  • Clear the area by placing chairs on table and moving easily moveable furniture.
  • Vacuum or sweep the floor.
  • Mop and rinse.
  • For hardwood floors, spray hardwood floor cleaner and wipe using a clean, damp microfiber cloth. Wipe up any pooled or excess liquid to prevent damage.

Wipe Mirrors

  • Spray mirrors with glass cleaner or equal parts vinegar and water.
  • Wipe with a newspaper, paper towel or lint-free rag.

Dust Surfaces, Objects, Books and Light Fixtures

Vacuum Vents Floors, Landing, Stairs and Upholstery

Wipe Kitchen Surfaces

  • Wipe down the sink, countertops, the outside of the ventilation hood, and refrigerator and cupboard doors.
  • Wipe down the inside of the oven, microwave, and toaster oven.

Wipe Hand and Pet Prints from Windows and Glass doors

Wash Your Sheets

  • Use hot water (130°-150° F) and a hot dryer cycle to kill all germs.

Clean Your Washer and Dryer

  • Wash certain bleachable whites like underwear, kitchen towels and rags in hot water (between 140°F and 150°F) and bleach to sanitize both the clothes and the machine.

Clean Your Computer

  • Disconnect your keyboard and mouse, and pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a clean rag and wipe down both.
  • Clean in deep crevices using a cotton swab dipped in alcohol.
clean the sink

Clean Out the Refrigerator

  • Throw out all expired or spoiled food.
  • Spray the inside of the fridge with a solution of vinegar and water, concentrating on soiled areas, and let the cleaning solution soak in.
  • Remove the shelves and drawers, wash them with warm soapy water and set them aside to dry.
  • Wipe everything in the refrigerator down with a rag.
  • Dry shelves and drawers and return them to the fridge.
coal fridge

Clean the Dishwasher

  • Disinfect the dishwasher by pouring vinegar into a dishwasher-safe cup, then place the cup upright on (empty) dishwasher’s top rack.
  • Run a full cycle, using the hot-water setting.
  • Sprinkle baking soda on the bottom of the dishwasher, leave it overnight and run another heavy cleaning cycle.

Wash Bed Pillows

  • Wash two regular-size pillows together on the gentle cycle with hot water and liquid detergent (powder can leave a residue). (King-size pillows should go one at a time).
  • Run the rinse cycle twice.
  • Place pillows in the dryer with two clean tennis balls and set on low for one hour or more.
  • Check for moistness or clumps by pinching several spots on the pillow.
clean pillows

Wash Mattresses

  • Vacuum the top of the mattress using an upholstery attachment.
  • Wipe down the surface with a cloth lightly dampened with cold water and a small amount of upholstery shampoo.
  • Be careful not to soak the mattress (moisture can create mold and damage the padding).
  • Protect your mattress from dust mites and stains by buying a quality mattress pad.
  • Rotate your mattress head to toe every six months for even wear.

Clean the Oven

  • Remove oven racks and submerge them in hot water and liquid or granular dishwasher soap. Soak them overnight to cut down on scrubbing.
  • Spray the interior and door with oven cleaner. (Spread newspapers under the door to protect the floor from drips.)
  • Let set overnight and then wipe clean the next day with warm water and rags.
  • Run removable knobs through the dishwasher. Scrub stay-on knobs with warm water and dishwashing liquid.
  • Tip: Plan ahead. If you plan to cook a big meal, schedule the oven cleaning a few days before or after. The cleaning process can create a chemical odor.

Wash Windows

  • Mix a solution of five drops liquid dish detergent in two gallons of water, plus a teaspoon of rubbing alcohol for extra shine.
  • Clean entire window with a sponge dipped into the solution, then use a lint-free cloth or a coffee filter to clean a one-inch strip at the top of the window.
  • Moisten a squeegee blade, position it in the clean strip and pull down in a smooth stroke.
  • Repeat, slightly overlapping each stroke, until the window is clean.
  • To help you locate streaks and eliminate them, wipe vertically on one side of the window and horizontally on the other.

Deep Clean Your Carpet

  • Avoid spray-on rug shampoos and opt for steam cleaning your carpets by hiring a pro, renting a machine or buying your own.
  • Vacuum first to remove surface dirt.
  • Steam clean the carpets, but instead of adding carpet-cleaning detergent to the water in the machine, fill a spray bottle with the solution and spritz directly onto the rug. Use only clear water only in the extractor. This limits the dirt-attracting residue often left behind when detergent runs through the machine.

Polish Wood Furniture

  • Wipe down the furniture surface with a damp cloth and then with a dry cotton one.
  • Select paste wax that has a high carnauba content and apply in a circular pattern.
  • Leave on for a few minutes.
  • Remove with a dry cotton cloth, using long strokes in the direction of the wood grain. When the cotton cloth slides rather than drags, your job is done.

Scrub Grout

  • Spray a 50-50 solution of water and chlorine bleach onto the grout (never use bleach on colored grout).
  • Let sit for 20 minutes.
  • Use a damp grout brush to remove dirt and debris then blot the grout with a clean, dry cloth.

Wash Window Screens

  • Warm weather is the time to clean those window screens.
  • First, mark the screens to make sure you remember which one goes where.
  • Take the screens out into the yard and spray them down with a hose.
  • Gently scrub the screens using a nylon-covered sponge and a cleaning solution of one part ammonia and three parts water.
  • Rinse and leave outside to dry in the sun.
  • If you don’t have a yard, lay a drop cloth or blanket in your bathtub and place the screens on top. Clean the screens and hold them under the showerhead to rinse.
  • Before putting the screens back, clean the tracks in the window with strips of soft cloth wrapped around the tip of a screwdriver and dipped into soapy water, making sure to clean all corners and crevices.
clean carpet

Need More Laundry Help?

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