In Part 2 of our series, we looked at our pros’ favorite cleaning solutions; in Part 3 we look at the specific tools our cleaning Pros prefer for generating top-quality, long – lasting cleans.
If you don’t clean homes for a living, you might think there is little difference from one sponge or cleaning rag to the next, but you would be WRONG! Here are just a few of the considerations that MaidPro takes into account when choosing tools for our service providers to use:
Cross contamination. Perhaps the most important consideration for cleaning tools is their potential to port dirt, grime and germs from one surface to the next. How yucky is it to think someone might clean your kitchen with the same sponge they use to clean your bathroom? Unlike many non-professional cleaners (and more than a few supposedly professional ones), MaidPro is obsessed with avoiding cross contamination as our service providers move from room to room and from house to house. Our specialized tools, such as shoe-covering booties, changeable mop (‘Schmop’) covers and color-coded cleaning rags – green for kitchen, blue for bathroom and yellow for living and bedrooms – help us to accomplish this.
Effectiveness. For example, different sponges and rags offer different levels of absorption, which, along with the right cleaning solutions, can make all the difference between removing dirt and simply moving it around. At MaidPro, we choose cellulose sponges and microfiber rags for their superior absorbency.
Potential for damage. Balancing efficiency and effectiveness is the issue of protecting property. While a highly abrasive sponge will make quick work of removing crud and scum, it can also scratch or etch surfaces invisibly. Those scratches cause the surface to reflect light unevenly, making it appear dull rather than shiny. As dirt and oils settle into the scratches over time, the surface reverts more quickly to looking grungy and eventually becomes un-cleanable. Our Pros are well trained to know which surfaces can take which abrasives and always well equipped with an array of sponges and soft rags for any surface they encounter.
Job fit. If you have ever tried vacuuming a flight of stairs with an upright machine, or upholstery with the wrong attachment, you will likely agree that it’s better to have multiple machines for different vacuuming and dusting tasks. Our cleaning Pros carry two sizes of professional Sanitaire vacuum cleaners plus an assortment of specialized attachments for maximum cleaning efficiency and effectiveness. Meanwhile, our preferred lamb’s wool duster is a best fit tool for removing cobwebs from ceilings and dusting irregular items such as chandeliers, light fixtures, figurines, plants and other uneven surfaces.
Extensibility. Tools that help cleaning pros reach into oddly shaped crannies or up high without back or other muscle strain means more surfaces get cleaned more regularly and thoroughly, which keeps homes looking cleaner for much longer. Cleaning Pros, for example, carry extension poles with attachable ceiling dusters, enabling them to easily reach and dust ceiling fans, light fixtures and so forth.
Safety. Some special cleaning jobs, older ovens for instance, require harsh chemicals to get the job done right. All MaidPro cleaning Pros are trained and equipped to protect their own health by wearing breathing masks and rubber globes as specific jobs require.
So, now that you know all our secrets for cleaning solutions and tools, be sure to tune in for Part 4 of our ‘Clean Like a Pro’ series in which we look at how and why MaidPro’s cleaning Pros sequence cleaning jobs both within and among the various rooms in a home
Part 2 of MaidPro’s ‘Clean Like a Pro’ series looks at choosing the best solutions and tools and matching them to the right tasks
Any manufacturer can make strong cleaning chemicals usually at the expense of their workers, the people who use the chemicals and the environment. A disturbing proportion of the professional cleaning chemical industry comprises poorly designed chemicals that can burn people using them, emit dangerous vapors and damage the surfaces they are intended to clean. Here are some key considerations for choosing the right cleaning solutions:
Power to REMOVE dirt. The surfactants in well-designed cleaners will bond with and suspend large quantities of dirt and oils in relatively small quantities of water. This ensures that grime gets picked up and removed from surfaces whereas cheap, poorly designed solutions can leave you essentially smearing dirt around with water.
Power to DISINFECT. Many nonprofessional cleaners (and even a few professional outfits) use only glass cleaner and furniture polish, which do not disinfect. Surfaces may appear clean, but they can still spread illness from one family member to the next. Wherever touching happens (counters, tables, light switches, phones, remote controls, door handles and so forth), it’s a good idea to disinfect every so often to prevent spread of illness.
Power to AVOID leaving residues. Another factor to consider when it comes to cleaning formulations is the potential for chemicals to ‘fall out’ of solution and be left behind on surfaces. Again, thoroughly researched and designed cleaners hold their chemicals in solution, while poorly made cleaners can leave dangerous chemicals lurking on surfaces.
PH and other chemical properties. Depending on the kind of dirt or stain you are attacking, a cleaning solution’s acidity or basicity makes a huge difference. The fact of the matter is that getting something truly clean relies on a combination of time, temperature, effort and chemicals. Use the right chemicals and you can significantly decrease the time and effort factors.
With these and many other factors in mind, MaidPro extensively and continuously tests different lines of cleaning solutions. We continue to favor the Proctor & Gamble Professional line. (And no, P&G is not paying us to say that!). While P&G’s line is among the most expensive, we believe it is an excellent investment because P&G invests heavily in scientific research. The company has more PhDs working in its research department than its three closest competitors combined. They make carefully balanced and formulated cleaners that thoroughly disinfect without posing health risks to our service providers, customers and their pets. Here is a quick rundown on the specific P&G solutions we use for different tasks:
Spic & Span Disinfecting All Purpose Spray and Glass Cleaner. We use this for the majority of home surfaces. It is an incredible cleaner that tackles almost any task and contains a hospital-grade disinfectant, meaning we can disinfect surfaces and help to stop family illness cycles by ensuring the germs on wood, stainless steel and glass surfaces (not just your toilet) are killed and removed.
Mr. Clean Finished Floor Cleaner. This cleaner is safe to use on wood and all nonporous surfaces, including walls and baseboards. It can also be sprayed on a rag and used for dusting and leaves a nice shine after scrubbing a tub or sink.
Comet Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner. For soap scum (which requires a specific chemistry to treat) and other bathroom needs, this cleaner has a mild abrasive that won’t scratch. It also contains no bleach, so poses no danger to fabrics. We use this cleaner on all porcelain, ceramic, tile, fiberglass, acrylic bathroom surfaces. When cleaning high-germ areas, we spray on and leave cleaner wet for the specified amount of time required for proper germ-kill (a step that many non-professional neglect to do).
Febreze. We use this for removing odors – smoke, mildew, mold – from fabrics. A light spray leaves fabrics smelling fresh and clean. It is safe to use around pets and has been approved by the ASPCA.
n Part 1 of MaidPro’s ‘Clean Like a Pro’ series, we explain why professional cleaners typically get better results in less time
Depending on service frequency, MaidPro’s professional service providers spend anywhere from 35-45* minutes each cleaning typical kitchens and master bathrooms. Full baths: 20-30* minutes. Remaining rooms: anywhere from 10-25* minutes each. Non-pros cleaning the same rooms can spend up to 33% longer and still fail to achieve the same levels of lasting clean!
Big reasons for the time and effectiveness gaps between cleaning pros and non-pros:
• Professionals don’t get distracted. They don’t stop to answer the phone, catch a weather report on TV, or put something away in another room. Losing track of where you leave off adds time and often causes cleaning to be less thorough.
• Professionals use the right solutions and tools. Cleaning solutions vary dramatically in terms of things like disinfecting/sanitizing power, surfactancy (ability to suspend soils in water) and PH. The wrong solutions can be at the least ineffective and, at the worst, damaging if you don’t know your stuff (more details on why pros pick certain cleaning solutions and tools will come in Parts 2 and 3 of our series).
• Professionals clean systematically. Specific sequencing of cleaning activities – within both houses and rooms – ensures thorough, efficient work with no cross contamination. Proper sequencing ensures a safer, healthier and longer-lasting clean (more pro sequencing details to come in Part 4 of our series)..
• Pros benefit from cleaning consistency. When rooms get cleaned the same way on a weekly or biweekly basis – including the parts that don’t yet look dirty – they take significantly less time and effort to clean than rooms or room areas that get neglected. More details to come in Part 5 of our series on what to clean – or have cleaned – frequently if you want your home to look and smell fresh for a week or longer rather than just the first day or two after a clean.
*Time guides based on typical home size of 1K-2K sq ft, assume no pets, moderate quantities of knickknacks and typical flooring.
If you are expecting a baby within the next few months, you are probably focused on getting all of your gear and decorating the nursery. Something else you need – but probably aren’t thinking much about – is a good cleaning plan. The presence of a newborn in your home means two things: more cleaning work and different cleaning methods. Here’s how to get ready for the big arrival:
Before Baby Comes
Assume you are facing at least a six- to twelve-month window in which you will:
- Have little time or energy for large cleaning jobs.
- Want to avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals that generate fumes and leave residues.
Make a list and plan with your significant other to tackle large jobs or consider having them done professionally not long before baby arrives. Focus especially on tasks that will improve air quality by removing dust, dander and other potential allergens from carpets, mattresses, upholstery, textiles and so forth. The overriding objective: bring your whole home up to a standard of clean that will be very easy to maintain after baby arrives.
In Baby’s first Weeks And months
Dr. Sinner’s famous cleaning formula says that four variables, chemicals, temperature, time and action – working together – equal clean. Shrink one variable and the others need to get larger to deliver the same result. Where newborns are concerned, chemicals are the variable you want to shrink, so time, temperature and action (elbow grease) need to increase.
Deep-cleaning your home before baby arrives is a good start. Another good strategy is to avoid dirt and allergens in the first place, for example, by asking people to remove their shoes before coming into your home to visit baby. After the big arrival:
- Baby’s nursery should be dusted, vacuumed and – weather permitting – aired out at least weekly or even more frequently.
- Specific areas of baby’s room: sheets, changing table, waterproof mattress cover and diaper pail should be disinfected often with a nontoxic disinfecting solution.
- And, because diaper leaks and blowouts are common occurrences, plan on sanitizing your washing machine at least weekly or more frequently as well.
Where you do need to use cleaning chemicals, be sure to select high-quality cleaners that are effective in small amounts and designed to avoid leaving residues (many inexpensive and so-called ‘nontoxic’ or ‘green’ cleaning chemicals don’t meet this criteria). Also, be sure to read and follow directions closely to ensure you are realizing cleaners’ disinfecting and sanitizing benefits.
When Baby Starts To Move
While always bearing in mind that babies are born with wonderfully effective immune systems that need some exposure to germs to work properly, plan to increase the frequency with which you dust, vaccum, mop and scrub the floors throughout your home once baby starts rolling, dragging him or herself around and crawling (typically between five and nine months). Since babies love knobs and buttons, plan also to pay more attention to disinfecting things like remote controls, drawer pulls and cabinet knobs that are typically within baby’s reach.
One final piece of cleaning advice: when babies spit and/or throw up, it’s generally going to hit your clothing, carpet, furniture upholstery, bed spread or some other absorbent textile in your home. Depending on baby’s age and food stage, permanent stains will result if these textiles are not treated immediately and thoroughly to remove the agents that can interact chemically with your textile’s fibers.
Chances are you stick to a set list of weekly cleaning chores in your home. Here is a checklist for 14 not-so-routine cleaning tasks that should get your attention anywhere from 2-4 times a year with fall being one of them.
- Undersides of counter overhangs, tables, chairs and other surfaces. People tend to grip the edges of things especially when leaning. The resulting accumulation of grime and gunk may not be visible but can harbor germs and trap odors.
- Insides of drawers and cabinets. Emptying and cleaning cabinets, drawers and organizing solutions creates a great opportunity to sort and reorganize their contents and to toss expired items.
- Drawer housings and tops of cabinets. Pull drawers all the way out if you can. Depending on what a drawer gets used for, you may find crumbs, scraps of paper and even a few long-lost items that got pushed up and out the back of overfilled drawers.
- Inside your dishwasher. Especially if you live in an area with high mineral content (hard) water, you may notice deposits or odors building up inside your dishwasher. The good news: very little scrubbing is required. Use an appropriate solution in an empty dishwasher on a high-heat cycle; the only thing that may require a good scrubbing is the edges around the dishwasher door.
- Inside your washing machine. Newer washers may offer a sanitization cycle; be sure to use to remove germs from the washer drum and agitating elements. This cleaning can also be managed manually with careful application of a 1:10 bleach solution.
- Light fixtures and bulbs. Cleaning dirty light fixtures and dusting bulbs improves the illumination of your home just as the days start growing shorter and nights longer.
- Toys. Dirty toys can harbor germs and contribute to an overall impression of dinginess in your home. Colorfast plastic toys can be soaked briefly in a solution of bleach and water then rinsed thoroughly and dried. Smaller toys can be cleaned in your dishwasher.
- Small appliances. Think coffee makers, toasters, mixers, blenders, portable fans, built-in bathroom fans and so forth. While many small appliances only need a little extra attention to scrubbing out the crevices, your coffee maker may need decalcification to improve taste while portable fans should be dismantled and cleaned thoroughly either before placing into storage for winter or removing from storage during the warmer months.
- Closet floors. This is a quick hit. Next time you are vacuuming, dusting or mopping your floors, remember to pull everything off your closet floors and go over them as well.
- Dryer vent system. Lint accumulation inside your dryer housing and venting tubes poses a fire hazard. A quick vacuum four times a year is all it takes to minimize the risk.
- Refrigerator vents and coils. Dust accumulation here contributes to inefficient cooling and greater electricity use. If you have water filtration or automatic ice making system, you may need professional help to pull out the appliance and accomplish this maintenance (if you have a plumber in for any other job, it’s a great time to ask for this help). While you’re at it, replace your water filters too.
- Window screens and housings. While washing windows is a 2X/year task, screens and screen housings should be vacuumed and/or cleaned at least once every season to improve views and prevent more pollen and dust from making its way into your home.
- Chimneys and flues. This is important home safety maintenance that should be conducted by a professional at least once a year. If you didn’t do it in the spring, now is the time before winter sets in.
- Computer keyboards. You may be in the habit of dusting keyboard surfaces, but they occasionally need a little inside cleaning too. Compressed gas for doing so can be purchased at local office supplies stores.
STEP 1: DOORS
Remove all bottles and jars either to countertop or cooler. Remove door shelves (if possible) and place in sink to soak while you clean and dry the insides of your refrigerator doors (working as quickly as possible to keep the fridge open for a minimum amount of time). Be sure to clean around the sides of doors and also in the grooves of the sealing gasket. Close doors and scrub shelves. If shelves are too large for your sink, rotate them so each part gets a good soaking before trying to remove dried and ‘chilled on’ gunk. As you dry door shelves, inspect for spots you missed and re-clean as needed. Return dried shelves to doors. Wipe and dry bottoms of all jars and bottles, checking expiry dates and sorting by like items before returning to fridge doors.
STEP 2: SHELVES
Food crumbs and debris will fall down as you remove shelves for cleaning, so start at the top and work downward, following the same basic sequence of steps as for doors.
STEP 3: DRAWERS
The same basic cleaning sequence applies for drawers, but they have more moving parts that can harbor grime, so pay attention for opportunities to dismantle and clean parts separately. Also, before soaking, use your vacuum cleaner to remove larger food particles and other debris. You may also encounter hardened liquid spills hiding underneath drawers; soak with a hot cloth to soften and gently scrape as needed.
STEP 4: FREEZER
Remove food to cooler. Remove and soak any baskets and/or shelves. Remove ice trays/buckets and discard old ice but do not soak ice trays in soapy water; defrost and clean with hot water only. Brush any debris to floor and vacuum. Before returning to freezer, check dates on frozen foods and discard items that have gone past their recommended safe freezing timeframes.
STEP 5: VENTS AND COOLING ELEMENTS
If your refrigerator is NOT hooked up to water filtration or automatic ice making system, pull out from wall, unplug and vacuum cooling coils and back and don’t forget to clean the top. If the fridge is hooked up to water, you may need professional assistance to complete this final important step for ensuring cooling efficiency.
For a comprehensive list of what you’ll need to give your fridge a deep clean, click here.
KITCHEN. Back-to-school means food shopping less frequently, buying more on each excursion, cooking more often and struggling to serve nutritious, healthy meals in less time. Get ready by,
Cleaning out your cabinets, discarding all food items that have gone past their freshness dates and moving older items to the front to ensure they get used first.
Deep cleaning your refrigerator and freezer. This is actually recommended six to 12 times per year; pre back-to-school should definitely be one of those times.
Organizing food storage solutions – sort and neatly stack food containers and lids, discard stained and orphaned items and stock up on freezer, sandwich and snack bags.
Giving your recipe book/box a good purge and sort. The process will inspire meal and snack diversity by reminding you of recipes you haven’t made in a while and making space for new easy and nutritious meal ideas.
BATHROOMS. Bathroom wars are a hallmark of back-to-school as everyone wants to sleep as late as possible and timeframes for morning ablutions become extremely short and inflexible. Promote efficiency by,
Purging, organizing and stocking vanity drawers and cabinets,
Checking expiry dates on all items in your medicine cabinet, and
Taking an annual foray through your linens closet; inspecting and either discarding worn or rarely used items or converting for other uses such as storage padding and cleaning.
OFFICE SPACE. Back-to-school is guaranteed to bring an influx of physical and digital media – forms, notices, artwork, handbooks, emails and so forth – into your home. Get ready by,
Clearing bulletin/note boards of dated content,
Conducting an annual purge of filed papers,
Organizing frequently used phone numbers, email addresses and documents such as birth certificates, physical/vaccination records and emergency contact data,
Deleting or archiving old computer files and emails, and
Setting up folders for keeping new content organized and easy to locate.
OTHER LIVING SPACES. Back-to-school typically means more regular use and churn of more items that can cause a daily clutter explosion in your home. Get ready by,
Making space in storage spaces, including bureaus, under beds, closets, and junk drawers,
Assigning specific places where frequently used items will be considered ‘put away’.
Educating family members about where those places are, so they can be effective when asked to help tidy up.
There are plenty of investments that will increase the value of your home. But, unless you are actively preparing your home for market, it’s important — when figuring return on investment — to consider the longer-term maintenance implications associated with your choices. Learn the key cleaning considerations for five popular home-improvement investments;
Kitchen and bath remodel. Kitchen and bath remodels typically add the greatest value to homes, but often bring increased (or at least different) maintenance requirements in order to preserve investment value. Click here for more.
Carpet to hard wood. No matter how much regular vacuuming, steam cleaning and shampooing you do, carpets will always be sanctuaries for dust, dander, and odors. Click here for more.
Paint. Outside or in, nothing improves a home’s appearance — and value — faster than a fresh coat of tastefully colored paint. But when it comes to routine cleaning and longer-term maintenance, paint finishes are definitely not created equal. Click here for more.
Windows. Whether replacing old windows, adding entirely new ones, or going from smaller panes to large, the intention, aside from energy efficiency, is to let in more light and improve views. These latter benefits only materialize, however, when windows are cleaned properly, inside and out, at least twice per year, preferably following the big spring and fall pollen seasons. Click here for more.
Make more space. Home value is clearly tied to square footage. Click here for more.
First step: Get your head in the game. The good news about spring cleaning is that it’s usually inspired by a combination of three things: stir craziness from being inside for much of the winter, that whole ‘new-growth’ feeling that spring brings, plus a desire to get a bunch of needed tasks out of the way before the high heat – and big fun – of summer come rolling along. You can add to the feeling of inspiration by focusing on the facts that: annual deep cleaning protects the value of your home and health of your family, is a great way to burn extra calories in advance of bathing-suit season, and yields a crisp palette for freshening up your home décor.
What to clean
- Anything involving textiles – think curtains, drapes, rugs, carpets, bedding, mattresses, pillows, and furniture upholstery – which play host to tons of human and pet dander, dust and dust mites. When possible, expose textiles to fresh air, sunlight and wind.
- Inside, under and behind all furniture and major appliances, including your refrigerator, oven, dishwasher (decalcify), washing machine (sanitize by running empty with super hot water and plenty of bleach) and clothes-dryer (clean lint venting system thoroughly to remove fire hazard).
- Clean or replace filters on air conditioning units, water taps and/or inside refrigerators that dispense water and ice.
- Closets, drawers, kitchen and bathroom cabinets – remove everything; purge unwanted and expired items; clean drawers, floors and shelves before replacing items.
- Long-term storage areas – basement, attic, garage (take advantage of the numerous donation opportunities that arise in spring).
- Windows – inside and out.
- Floors – deep clean and protect or wax (if needed).
- If you have young kids, spring is also the best time to clean and sanitize their toys.
Whew! That’s a long list, but with good planning and preparation, it can be managed quite easily.
Sequencing your spring clean
Start by making a list of the tasks you know you will never tackle yourself. Schedule appointments with contractors and service providers – for example, carpet and upholstery cleaners, gutter cleaners, landscapers – early before their schedules fill up. Tip: Schedule some of your own big cleaning jobs to coincide with times you know you will be home to host various cleaning contractors.
Purge. Purge. Purge. It’s a lot easier to clean when you’re not inundated with stuff. Figure out ahead of time when opportunities will arise for you to donate unwanted items. Collect boxes and make sure your junk is packed, labeled and ready to go well in advance of donation dates.
Unless you live in a climate that is warm year round, start with less-intensive inside cleaning jobs – closets, drawers, cabinets – that do not require extra ventilation for cleaning solutions.
Schedule the remaining fresh-air-and-sunshine jobs for those first blissful – throw-open-your-windows -weeks of real spring weather. Plan to work in half-day segments so you don’t squander all the good weather on cleaning. And set manageable goals for what you will accomplish in each segment so you don’t fall into the common trap of enthusiastically ripping everything apart, then running out of time or energy before you can get it put back together. Pay particular attention to long-term weather forecasts so you can match tasks to expected conditions. For example, warm, sunny and windy days are perfect for quickly drying damp upholstery, heavy bedding and area rugs outside.
Recruit a help crew
Unless you crave solitude after a winter spent cooped up inside with your family, be sure to enlist plenty of help for big spring cleaning jobs. Adult partners and teenagers should be recruited to haul junk, add extra elbow grease to extra grimy areas and push around larger pieces of furniture and moveable appliances. Younger children can be put to work with organizing and sorting (for example, re-uniting their game pieces, boards, cards, dice, etc.) and moving around lighter items such as pillows, curtains and bedding.
Make a detailed spring-cleaning plan and stick to it using the following MaidPro Spring Cleaning Survival Guide. Come summer you will be absolutely delighted that you did.