You love a spotless house—but you don’t want to spend the bulk of your time actually cleaning. Well, fret no more. We talked to seven experts who gave us some of their best methods to make chores easier, more effective and much less time-consuming, so you can have a tidy, sparkling home in no time flat. Even Mom would approve.
In The Kitchen
Circle Your Way Around: Always begin on the right side of your stove, then move clockwise around the room. The stove is typically the dirtiest part of the kitchen, so ending with it keeps you from spreading dirt and grease. (First, soak drip pans and knobs in warm soapy water. By the time you’ve worked your way around, they’ll be easier to clean.)
Sanitize the Sink: It’s hard to believe, but your dirty kitchen sink has more bacteria than your toilet seat. Use a product labeled as an EPA-registered disinfectant, or make your own. To disinfect, clean your sink with soap and water first, then spray a mist of vinegar followed by a mist of hydrogen peroxide, and let air-dry. (Don’t mix the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together—spray one after the other.) If your sink is stainless steel, make it sparkle afterward by putting a few drops of mineral oil on a soft cloth and buffing. This prevents water buildup, which deters mold and keeps the sink looking clean longer.
Do Dishwasher Duty: Once a week, shake baking soda on a damp sponge and wipe around the machine’s edges to remove stuck-on food or stains. To clean the inside, run an empty cycle with Dishwasher Magic, a product designed to kill bacteria like E.coli. During cold and flu season, add a quarter-cup of bleach to the regular dish cycle to kill bacteria. The dishes will be safe and sanitized after the rinse cycle is finished.
Love Your Oven: Keep the heart of your kitchen clean by lining the bottom with a nonstick oven liner. It can be wiped with a paper towel, put in the dishwasher, and reused over and over.
Disinfect the Disposal: To get rid of odors, drop in a cut-up lemon, some salt and a few ice cubes. The lemon deodorizes, and the ice and salt clean away residue.
Crumple Paper Towels…Forever: Use microfiber cloths instead. When wet, they sanitize and clean floors, counters, glass and tile, and eliminate the need for other cleaning products. They’re reusable (machine-wash, hang to dry) and cost about $5 for a two-pack.
Clean as You Go: Filling your sink with hot soapy water as you start dinner. Place used dishes and pans in the filled sink so they’ll be soaking while you eat. Also, wipe up any spills immediately—don’t give sauces, oils or spices a chance to sit around.
Zap the Sponge: We all know that sponges can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Disinfect yours every night by squeezing it out and microwaving it on high for a minute. When it’s shredded and smelly, replace it.
Make Doors Shine: Rubbing a teaspoon of lemon oil on glass shower doors twice a month causes water to bead up and roll off, use it twice a year.
Get a Cleaner Liner: Mold and mildew attacking your shower curtain liner? Throw it in the wash with a few towels, which will help scrub it clean, then hang it back up to dry.
Tame the Toilet: Drop a teaspoon of Tang Drink Mix in the bowl. The citric acid acts like a scrubber…and it’s nontoxic, in case the dog takes a sip. Let it sit for a few minutes, then swish and flush. And if you cringe at the idea of getting splashed by toilet water push the toilet brush in and out of the trap before you begin. This lowers the water level, allowing you to safely swish away.
Corral Strays: Keep drains free of hair and clogs by using a product like Drano or Liquid-Plummer to make sure potential clogs are gone, then pour boiling water down drains once a week to keep problem-free. Get rid of those annoying stray hairs on the floor by sweeping them up with a damp wad of toilet paper every morning.
Use Bedtime as Clean Time: While the kids are washing up at night, wipe down the tub, toilet and mirrors, and toss out clutter. When they’re finished, quickly wipe down the sink and floor.
Cleaning should always be done top to bottom. That way, any crumbs or dust that fall to the floor while you’re working get picked up last. And believe it or not, there’s a right way to sweep.
Pick the Right Broom: For indoors, choose one with finer bristles to pick up smaller dirt particles. For outdoors, go for stronger, stiffer bristles, which work better to clear porous surfaces.
Get Swept Away: To sweep, hold the broom like a canoe paddle, with one hand on top of the handle and the other toward the middle. Push your hands in opposite directions to get the most out of every sweeping stroke. Sweep from the outside in so that you don’t miss any spots, and move the dirt to the center of the room, where it will be easy to pick up.
Super Storage: Store brooms with the handle down. It makes them easier to find and protects the bristles.
Banish Dust Bunnies: Pick the proper dustpan. Minimize that annoying line of dust by choosing a dustpan with a rubber edge.
Start with the Bed: If your bed is made, your bedroom looks neat. When you wake up, pull the covers up to your chin, then scissor-kick your way out of bed so it’ll be half made. Finish the job before you walk away.
Address Your Drawers: Most women have drawers full of clothes they don’t wear, and their dresser tops then become repositories for things they can’t store. Get rid of things you haven’t worn in a year and vow to put away your clean laundry each week.
Keep Just the Essentials: Have a “pamper basket” next to your bed with a book, some moisturizer, your knitting or something else you like to do in bed. Then keep your clock, a lamp and a box of tissues on your nightstand. That’s it.
Stave Off Static: Since fabric softener and dryer sheets can strip towels of their absorbency, add ¼ cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle or throw two (new, clean) tennis balls in your dryer to get rid of static electricity, soften fabrics and eliminate the need for dryer sheets.
Switch on the Cold: Most everything can be washed in cold water (better for your bills and the environment). But use the hottest water possible for sheets, towels and underwear. Take special care with undergarments, putting them in the dryer as soon as possible to stop bacteria growth while they sit damp in the washer.
Time It: If you actually time how long it takes to do certain chores, you won’t mind them as much, says Cilley. Believe it or not, most chores only take 10 minutes.
Multitask: Sarah Aguirre makes tasks go faster by doing two things at once. While on the phone, she folds laundry, fluffs pillows, picks up stray magazines and books, does dishes, sweeps or dusts.
Know the Hot Spots: Papers, odd toys and other things usually pile up on the dining room table or kitchen counter. Once you’ve got your table cleaned off, file papers or toss them. “One piece of paper multiplies like rabbits,” Cilley says.
Go Corner to Corner: When you’re vacuuming, begin in the farthest corner and work toward the door, using slow, repetitive front-to-back motions in an overlapping sequence, says Julie Rosenblum. As you look over the freshly vacuumed floor, you shouldn’t see any footprints.
Velcro Away Clutter: Label the bottom of each electronic game controller (Xbox, for example), and then Velcro it to the console, suggests Linda Cobb. You’ll never search for them again.
Make a Lost-and-Found: Every house needs one. Use a cute vintage lunch box or lidded storage container to stash lost game pieces, stray screws and buttons, and similar small items. When you need the item, you’ll know where to look first.
Do Quick Rescues: Do a 5-minute sweep through each room, taking a laundry basket with you. Place in it anything that doesn’t belong in that room, then put away the stuff that does belong there.
Stop Clutter at the Front Door: Mount a plastic or cloth shoe rack inside your front entry closet door, and use it to stash all kinds of living room and family room miscellany—toys, hats, gloves, magazines. You can even designate one of the pockets for mail you’re not sure whether to save or toss.