Use cleaning rags. Paper towels are good for a quick wipe up but they're not the best tool for cleaning an entire house. I buy micofiber cloths at the dollar store and wash them after each cleaning. I use the blue ones for window cleaner and the yellow one for funiture polish and the rest of them are free game. I've also used some white shop towels from the automotive department with good results only I've had a hard time finding them lately.
Floor cleaner is widely debated and people tend to feel a great loyalty to the one they like. I tend to mix it up. I use Murphy's Oil Soap, Fabulouso (seriously, that stuff smells GREAT!) and the Lysol 4-in-1 pourable. I alternate with each cleaning. For those of you who have fallen in love with the Swiffer I'm probably not going to change your mind, but I love the shmop. This is a tool I used when I worked for
For dusting I do like the Swiffer duster, although I hate shelling out for the refills. I've used various fuzzy things with varying degrees of success but I do like the satisfaction of seeing all the grunge on the dusting pad. As far as furniture polish goes Liquid Gold is the best. It costs more than the crummy kind and it should. Lemon oil is good if you use it right but it's a bit tricky. The same goes for window cleaner. I use that kind in a can, the light blue one. I know it's not the most environmentally friendly solution but it leaves the fewest streaks and one can goes a long way!
As far as tips and tricks go, here are my top ten:
1. Shampoo removes soap scum. Put it on a sponge or rag and lather up the shower walls and the tub then rinse. This is a great use for cheap-o shampoo you don't like or the little travel bottles from hotels.
2. Start from top to bottom and move from left to right around a room. Dust ceiling fans before you start on the rest of the room because if you don't you'll find you've redistributed dust in places you've already cleaned.
3. To avoid retracing your steps 6000 times, take all your cleaning products, rags and trashbags into a room with you. Make a cleaning caddy, it makes it easy to tell what you need and saves you from running laps around the house as you clean.
4. Floors should be done last. Get an extension cord for your vaccuum cleaner if you have to unplug it half a dozen times.
5. Cleaning time is cleaning time. There is a reason I can clean most houses in two hours and it takes me days to clean my own. When I start sorting mail or reorganizing closets, I've lost focus on my objective. Use cleaning time to clean.
6. When in doubt, throw it out. There is a danger zone we clutter bugs get into where everything we find has potential. There are clothes that wind up in my closet floor over and over again because I wash them and hang them but after putting them on I immediately decide that I don't like the fit or the color and I drop it in a pile. If I wear a pair of shoes that hurt my feet, I take them off and drop them directly in the trash. I do not donate them because I don't want to saddle anyone else with painful shoes. If I don't throw them away immediately I will convince myself they're not as bad as they are and I'll trick myself into another day in miserable shoes. It is important to make sure that you own your stuff rather than letting your stuff own you. When you can't find what you need because you've accumulated an unreasonable collection, it's time to let some things go.
7. Clean as you go. After I get out of the shower, I will spray down the walls and rinse it right then. It's an easy way to keep things neat. It takes no time to swab down the potty while I'm waiting on my hot rollers to heat. (This is especially easy if you keep some toilet cleaner under the sink.) The same goes with wiping down a mirror once a week in the morning. If you stay on top of things as you go, you limit the hours that need to be devoted to big cleaning projects.
8. Purge as you go. With a chef for a husband, we have more kitchen stuff than any two human beings can possibly need. I can justify three crockpots because I use them regularly but the 50 mismatched plates are a bit much by anyone's standards. Coffee cups tend to breed in our kitchen as well. I take an honest look at our inventory regularly and food that has been in the pantry for months on end gets donated. Items that are used rarely are stored on the high shelves while daily use items are put on lower shelves. When we got a convection/toaster oven as a wedding gift, the toaster left the kitchen promptly. We don't need two tools that serve the same purpose. The same goes with produce that's looking puny, I either find a use for it immediately or I throw it out before I have a science fair project in my fridge.
9. Play the commerical game! On lazy days when we're watching TV I will declare it a commercial game day. The rules are that when commercials come on Big Daddy and I both have to do one quick house cleaning task. During a commercial trash can go to the outside can, clothes can be transferred from the washer to the dryer, at least half the dishwasher can be unloaded, counters can get wiped down...well you get the idea. I also play this game when I'm reading a book, where at the end of each chapter I have to do one chore.
10. Soak instead of scrubbing. I am scrubbing adverse. When I have baked on stuff inside my crockpot, I fill it with water and a little dishwashing soap and turn it on low so the stuff can bake off just like it baked on. If you drop dishes in a soapy sink right after dinner there's really no scrubbing to do. Pots and pans work the same way too.
Bonus: Use air fresheners, candles and Fabreeze to keep things smelling nice even when there are dust bunnies hiding. I've found that if I buy fresh flowers I am more likely to clean because I want to have a pretty place to put them. Make the bed no matter what, it makes a room look more put together and encourgages you to hang clothes rather than draping them in your favorite lazy spots.
Happy Tuesday all, time to get shmoppin!