Cut back on housework: Your cleaning cheat-sheet

Cut back on housework: Your cleaning cheat-sheet

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By Nancy Kalish

Feel like you never stop cleaning? A 2008 University of Michigan survey found that American women scrub their houses an astonishing average of 17 hours a week, and (no surprise) their spouses spend a lot less time with a sponge. The good news: "Such drudgery is totally unnecessary," says Jeff Bredenberg, author of How to Cheat at Cleaning: Time-Slashing Techniques to Cut Corners and Restore Your Sanity. Follow his tips to make short work of your housework.

Keep Dirt Outside

Establish a no-shoe rule inside your home, and you'll prevent all kinds of muck from ever touching your floors. Place a basket by the front door and ask everyone to deposit footwear there.

Cover up

Using washable slipcovers on couches and upholstered chairs won't prevent spills, but it will keep them from becoming a permanent stain. If you can't bear to cover up all the time, use the slipcovers on high-risk occasions, such as kids' parties (think: drippy chocolate ice cream and sticky lollipops) or holiday gatherings (red wine and salsa). So many colors and styles are available that you don't even need to spring for custom-made ones. Just make sure you can pop them in the washing machine.

Get a Disposable Countertop

Next time you cook something messy, cover the counter with wax paper. It will keep your space clean when you grate cheese, set down a sauce-covered spoon or bake cupcakes. Afterward, just crumple up the paper -- and the mess.

Make Appliances Clean Themselves

  • Food processor or blender Fill half with water, add a squirt of dishwashing liquid, close lid and turn on. The food will spin off the blades. Then just rinse.
  • Garbage disposal Empty a tray of ice cubes into the disposal, throw in some orange peels, then grind until ice disappears. Any bad smells will go with it.
  • Microwave Heat two cups of water in a microwave-safe bowl on high for five minutes. The steam will loosen cooked-on splatters. Then simply wipe away with a paper towel.

Buy Denture Tablets

Throw one into your toilet bowl to make stains vanish overnight. The next morning, just brush a tiny bit and flush. Denture tablets also remove coffee and tea stains from mugs and get rid of crusty buildup in the bottom of flower vases. Just fill with hot water and drop one in. 

Get Rid of Pet Hair

If you have a dog or cat, you probably also have a couch or drapes covered with clingy pet hair. To remove it easily, warm a dryer sheet and rub it over the material. This zaps the static cling, allowing the hair to fall off so it can be vacuumed up quickly.

Can It

Don't waste time trying to dust the crannies of computer keyboards or piano keys. Instead, just give the dust a fast blast with a can of compressed air -- sold at office supply stores. This also works on pleated lampshades and chandeliers.

Know When to Stop

No matter how much you scrub, certain household items, such as door mats, stovetop drip pans and shower curtains, will never come completely clean. So when they get too soiled, bite the bullet and replace them. 

 

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