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Cleaning Shortcuts for Every Room

You swore on January 1 that this was the year you’d have a spic-and-span home. If the dust bunnies have already staged a comeback, don’t throw in the (dish)towel just yet. Our expert-tested tools, tips and shortcuts will help you wrangle in messes—giving you more time to work on the rest of those resolutions.

Before you begin

• Don’t allow food in the living room or bedrooms—keep it in the kitchen or dining room to prevent crumbs from spreading.

• When you wash your windows inside and out, use horizontal strokes on one side and vertical strokes on the other. If streaks appear, you’ll know which side needs to be re-wiped.

• Outfit a cleaning bucket with a multisurface cleaner, a heavy-duty degreasing cleaner, a tile cleaner and a powdered abrasive cleaner, says Cynthia Townley Ewer, editor of OrganizedHome.com. You can carry the supplies from room to room for most of your cleanup. Stow room-specific necessities where you’ll need them (toilet cleaner under the bathroom sink, furniture polish in a dining room armoire).

• When it’s time to buff the floors, use a paint roller (look for one with an extra-long handle) to apply the wax.

• Get the whole family to join in. Thelma Meyer, namesake of the Mrs. Meyer’s line of cleaning products, author of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Home, and mother of nine, would put a list of chores on the refrigerator door on Saturday mornings. “Whoever got up first could pick the job he or she wanted to do. And the last one had to take what was left.”


• Clean while you cook. Wipe the backsplash while spatters are still wet—just be careful not to lean over a hot burner—or pop off removable stove knobs and soak them while you wait for something in the oven.

• Let your dishes air-dry, says Donna Smallin. You’ll save time, and you won’t spread germs from the towel onto your clean dishes.

• Store your kitchen trash bags in the bottom of the trashcan. You can replace the old bag as soon as you remove it without fumbling under a dark sink for the small box.

• Instead of scraping dried-on gunk from your microwave, Meyer suggests putting a wet rag inside and then turning the microwave on for a minute. “The steam will melt those pesky grease spots so you can wipe them down really quickly.”


• Toss your shower curtain liner into the washing machine with an old towel. Wash it with hot water and detergent to scrub away soap scum.

• Don’t waste elbow grease by scrubbing stubborn toilet stains with a nylon brush.

• Pour toilet bowl cleaner in the commode before you go to bed. The cleaner will be more effective if you let it sit, and in the morning “you just brush and flush,” Smallin says.

• Wet a microfiber cloth, then wring it out to clean mirrors and glass surfaces. You’ll get a streak-free shine—without using glass cleaner.

• Keep soap residue from building up in your pipes (and clogging your drains down the road). Pour boiling water in your sinks, showers and tubs once a week.


• Cut down on sheet-folding time: Wash and dry them as soon as you strip your bed, then put them back on, Smallin says. Switch sets when the seasons change.

• Stow a bottle of stain remover in your kids’ bedrooms, Meyer suggests. “That way, if something is dirty when you undress the kids at night, you can spray that strain straightaway rather than waiting for laundry day.”

• Give each family member a lingerie bag for dirty socks. Toss a full bag in the washer. Once it’s washed and dried, you can return the bag to its owner without sorting the socks.

• Instead of spending several hours organizing your dresser, pull out one drawer at a time and empty it on the couch while you watch TV. In the time it takes to watch a sitcom, you can pull out items you no longer wear or need to mend and refold the ones you want to keep.

• Instead of dusting your headboard, curtains and blinds, go over them with your vacuum’s upholstery attachment.

Living Room
• To get stubborn pet hair off upholstered furniture, swipe cushions with a damp rubber glove or a long-handled lint brush.

• Freshen flattened throw pillows by tossing them in the dryer. Let them tumble for a few minutes on the “air fluff” setting.

• Before you throw out a spent dryer sheet, use it to wipe down your TV screen and computer monitor. It’ll remove dust and eliminate the static electricity that attracts it.

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