From banishing bin juice to blitzing bathrooms, cleaning your home doesn’t have to be laborious. Here is how to keep yours sanitary without losing your sanity.


Everyone likes living in a clean home but how can you take the drudgery out of scrubbing? By being smug about the shortcuts you use to make it shine (and following the safety instructions for all household cleaning products, of course). Cleaners share their top hacks for the worst household chores.

Unclogging blocked drains

“I view cleaning as a challenge and get excited about solving it,” says Brandon Pleshek, a third-generation janitor from Wisconsin in the US who, aside from running several cleaning businesses, produces online tutorials of tips and tricks on TikTok and beyond. His first tip is on unblocking drains: “The drain can be where a lot of the stink and nastiness in a sink comes from,” he says.

“It depends on how bad the clog is but if you pour a load of cleaning agents down there, it doesn’t work as well as removing the trap, then you can clean it out really easily.” Likewise in the shower: remove any kind of grate if possible, he says. Then give both a squirt of vinegar, “because it is acidic enough to really clean those areas”.

Dealing with fridge monsters

“The fridge is always a monster to crack,” says Pleshek. “But the hardest thing with the fridge is, unless you move home, it’s always in use. Where I am, it is cold eight months out of the year, so I like to clean my refrigerator when I can take most of the food outside so it doesn’t go bad. Using a cool box can work, but if it’s hot outside there is a time constraint.

When deep-cleaning the fridge, Pleshek also uses the bath to clean drawers and shelves covered in sticky food debris. “Let them soak in there with washing-up soap. Usually, by the time you’ve cleaned the refrigerator, they’ve soaked for a while so you can give them a quick scrub and they are ready to go.” This comes with a word of warning: “Make sure to leave any glass shelves on your counter to get them to room temperature before you put them into the tub. I’ve never had it happen to me personally, but if you put cool glass into hot water it could shatter.”

Filthy floors

“The biggest mistake,” says Pleshek, “is jumping right to mopping. You always want to make sure you sweep or vacuum the floors before you put any sort of liquid cleaner on or start wet mopping. If you spray cleaner down on dry dirt, it’s going to turn into mud and be much harder to remove from the floor. I vacuum and then, if it’s really bad, I’ll vacuum again. It makes the mopping much faster and easier. Always use a neutral pH floor cleaner. That way, it won’t dry sticky and attract more dirt.”

Bin juice

Pleshek recently made a video inspired by a stench in his garage that was originating from the bin. “My go-to for that is simple: white vinegar. Like I mentioned for the drains, white vinegar does a great job of killing odours. Usually, I wash out the bin first, whether that is in the house or outside with a hose. Then I put in two or three cups of white vinegar, filling it up with a bit of water to make sure the whole bottom is covered because most of the time all your nasty garbage juice falls to the bottom and congeals and sticks. Mine had some weird greasiness in there, so I put a few drops of dish soap in to degrease it.” The results were transformative: “My garage actually smelled good and not like rotting.”

Rancid toilets

“I’ve been cleaning toilets since I was born,” says Pleshek. “I recently did a video of a toilet that was going to get thrown out – it probably hadn’t been cleaned in decades – and I saved it. It was so satisfying.”

He likes to remove the loo seat and, as with fridge shelves, pop it in the bath. “There is a 50/50 divide of people saying, ‘That’s the most disgusting thing ever’, or, ‘That’s the most genius thing ever,’” he says. “So I guess that’s up to your interpretation.” The other key thing with cleaning loos is “you want to make sure your disinfectant is sitting on the surface long enough. It is super important to spray and then leave enough time for that cleaner to sit there and do its thing, and then wipe.”

The loo brush debate

Gemma Bray, AKA The Organised Mum, lives in a presumably very tidy home in Kent. “I like living in a clean house,” she says, but “like most of us, I actually don’t like cleaning.” That said, she gives the toilet a daily wipe down, which she says is essential if you have a large family and avoids having to deep-clean it too frequently. “Remember to do things such as the flush handle and the spaces around the hinges of the toilet seats, just to make sure that it’s not getting a build-up of grime.” And now for a slightly shocking admission: she doesn’t own a loo brush. “They aren’t always used correctly,” she says. “Most people will use a loo brush to make it look less dirty, then pop it in the holder and go on their merry way – and there is this dirt and gunk accumulating. So we don’t have toilet brushes in our house for that reason. Instead, it is a rubber glove and a cloth. Close your eyes and get on with it.” Bray washes the cloth and glove after using it to clean, which she believes to be more hygienic than using a brush – and if she did own one, she wouldn’t dream of putting it in the dishwasher.

Blitzing bathrooms

While you’re in there, Bray recommends opening the bathroom window: “That’s really important, especially in winter, and because lots of people are dealing with damp and mould. It’s nature’s air freshener.” Next, she will attack the dust bunnies: “Bathrooms are one of the dustiest places in the house and have lots of dust behind the toilet cistern and other often forgotten places, with dead skin cells and all sorts on the floor. So before you even try to do a bathroom deep-clean, sweep or vacuum. Get into all the nooks and crannies, because once you start getting in there with your cleaning products and splashing around with water, you’re going to create a paste which is difficult to clean.”

Attacking limescale

It’s essential to keep on top of this with daily maintenance, says Bray. “If you live in a hard water area, then it is going to be a bigger problem. Some people like to have a squeegee in their shower at all times, and use a limescale remover that is appropriate for the surface that you are cleaning. Never, ever mix cleaning products – it can be really dangerous. If you’re cleaning your shower screen and try to get rid of the limescale with vinegar, don’t use bleach as well because the two can mix and create a harmful chemical. Don’t forget your shower head: if you feel your shower isn’t as forceful as it used to be, it could be that you need to unscrew it and deal with limescale in there.”

Tidying utter chaos

Tidying is “like housework maths”, says Bray. “The more people that live in your house, the more mess there will be.” If kids are involved, she advises investing in a big basket or chest to throw all the toys in at the end of the day. “There is no point trying to do it as the day progresses: kids will keep pulling more and more toys out, and you are fighting a losing battle. So if you have a really big receptacle, you can just do a quick sweep and pop everything in.”

Oven SOS

After you finish using the oven,” says Bray, “wait until it has cooled down to a safe temperature. Then get a damp cloth with some washing-up liquid on and wipe down anything that spilled from that session. So if you’ve cooked a lasagne, make sure you get it before it bakes in and dries out.” She also recommends oven liners to catch any drips. “You whip it out, rinse it under the tap and everything just slides off.”

For good-as-new oven shelves

Ann Russell is a self-described “anti-cleanfluencer” who lives in Hampshire and found fame on TikTok sharing the knowledge she gained from years cleaning people’s homes, before writing a book on How to Clean Everything. She throws filthy oven shelves into a bin bag with half a small bottle of household ammonia before sealing the bag. Twenty-four hours later, all the brown grease and gunk will slide off into hot soapy water with ease.

Off the wall

Russell’s most-asked cleaning conundrum is how to get marks off the wall. “Crayon comes off beautifully with white spirit: leave for a few days then wash the whole wall afterwards. For anything else, if it is fairly small try a melamine sponge; if it is bigger, then try soapy water. If you can’t get it off with that, you need to use solvent – the problem is it tends to spread the mark, so start from the outside and work in. Or, if you are really lazy, put a large ornament right in front of the mark and pretend it doesn’t exist.”

Smeary windows

“Wash them with hot soapy water and squeegee them – do not muck around with glass cleaner,” says Russell. “Wash it so that you’re getting it clean, then squeegee off the water and pick up the free water as it runs down with a well-wrung-out cloth for a smear-free window.”

DIY cloths

Russell says she gets through half a carrier bag full of cloths when cleaning the average home. “I’m fussy about the cloths that I use. Microfibre cloths are lovely but they do contribute to plastic waste,” especially when they are used once and then binned rather than washed. Alternatively, “Bits of old cotton clothing that are no longer suitable to be worn can be turned into cloths. After using them, don’t throw away – blast in the washing machine and use again.”

Hairy animals

Russell has a staffie cross called Holly and, thanks to her, “My house is slightly black and hairy. I have got one of those triangular metal tool things. It’s a bit brutal, because it will pull up carpet, but it does a brilliant job at getting pet hair. I also have a broom with rubber bristles: it pulls out all the pet hair while leaving the upholstery or the carpet in one piece.”

Hairy sofas

London-based Aggie MacKenzie, whose cleaning methods found fame on Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House?, has thoughts on pets who insist on joining their owners on the sofa. “Put on a rubber glove and wet the glove under the tap. Shake it off and then rub the glove across the sofa. Keep rubbing it until all the hair is at one edge. A clean trainer sole also works well, as does parcel tape. I mean, you should train pets to stay off the blinking sofa,” she laughs.

Sofa stains

Less is more, says MacKenzie. “Start off with a microfibre cloth and soapy water. Once you put a lot of product into a fabric, it’s quite hard to get it all back out again. What happens is you end up leaving some soap on there and that residue attracts dirt.”

Carpet spillage disasters

“Get on to it asap,” says MacKenzie. “In terms of red wine, don’t splash it with white wine or salt or any of that nonsense. What you need to do is get fizzy water and a clean towel. Soak the stain in the fizzy water, put the towel on top and just dab it until the red wine comes up on to the towel and keep going until it all comes off. Try not to rub the carpet too much because that sort of thing could damage the pile. Work from the outside in so you’re not spreading the stain any further.”

Don’t dust where no one will notice

MacKenzie doesn’t bother dusting high shelves: “Nobody ever looks up there.”

Changing bed linen

How often does MacKenzie change hers? “That would be telling. It depends how much traffic is going through them.” (Every 10 days, for the record.) Her advice for making it a less tedious task? “When you’re taking off the duvet, peel it off and keep it outside in, and then wash it and dry outside in, so that when you come to put it back on, you are halfway there. You just slip your right hand into the bottom right corner, left hand into the bottom left hand corner, grab those corners, grab the duvet corners, and then peel it back on again.” You have to “power through and think about the gorgeousness at the end of it,” she says. “And who you’re going to have in it.”

(Article source: The Guardian)

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