How to Clean Faster (and Smarter)

 Do you waste time cleaning things that don't need cleaning? Here are a handful of tips to help you clean faster.

According to the latest 2009 American Time Use Study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women spend on average ninety minutes a day doing housework, defined as cleaning and laundry.

Ninety minutes a day! That's over six hours a week. Eek!

Do you spend too long cleaning the oven? Photo: Allison Leach, Getty Image
According to cleaning experts, many of us deep clean when it's unnecessary. Often, the simple act of straightening up a room will do wonders. "I cleaned for a woman once who said she was neat, but not clean. The house looked fantastic to me until I dug deeper," says Rachel Border of Kansas-based Aveena Natural Cleaning Services. "If people took more time to organize and keep things neat, then the overall appearance of a house will always look cleaner."

#1 The Fridge
Denise Bogan of Denton Cleaning in New York has clients who are embarrassed about the caked on old food and grime in their refrigerators. "People don't know what to use to clean the inside of the fridge, so they let it all build up," she says.
Timesaving Solution: Clean the fridge once a week for five minutes. Spray an earth-friendly Parsley Plus Spray to the interior once a week and wipe down for an ick-free icebox.

#2 Kitchen Cabinets
First, stop worrying about them. "No one looks inside your kitchen cabinets!" says Gisella Lowenstein, developer of The Glow System, a DVD video tutorial system for efficiency cleaning methods.
Timesaving Solution: Use a few minutes to wipe down the exterior of your cabinets. "Everyone notices if the outside of your cabinets are dirty -- that's what makes a first impression," says Lowenstein.

#3 The Oven

"Self cleaning ovens can take hours," says Ivette Melendez, a cleaning professional and trainer at WAGES. It heats up to over 900 degrees to burn off baking residue without any chemicals. It's easy, but it ties up your oven for hours and is often unnecessary.
Timesaving Solution: "Lightly dampen the entire area with soapy water spray, then lightly sprinkle the entire surface with baking soda," says Melendez. Leave for seven minutes, then scrape with a metal spatula from side to side. Finish off by scrubbing the inside with a soap and water mixture, then wipe the oven with a 1 to 3 parts vinegar solution.

#4 The Counters
"Unless you're preparing raw meats on the counter, it doesn't need to be scrubbed down completely each night," says Sue Holden with Seventh Generation's Consumer Insights Team (she answers questions from callers about cleaning problems).
Timesaving Solution: "A simple swipe of a disinfecting wipe will kill germs naturally and save you time," says Holden. Read: simple! Do this quickly, then sit down and relax.

#5 Laundry
Ever feel like you do too much laundry? You do. Seventh Generation's Holden says Americans overdose on laundry. "Whether it's too much laundry detergent, too much time in a dryer, or being washed too frequently, our clothes are literally being put through the ringer," she says. The proper dosage of laundry detergent, plus line drying, will leave clothes looking cleaner and feeling softer.
Timesaving Solution: Wear things multiple times before you wash them. Period. It's a waste of time and water. "Jeans or sweaters don't need to be washed after every wear, they will last longer," says Holden.

#6 Laundry Stains
It's still on your "to do" list if you have to wait for the stain remover to work.
Timesaving Solution: Holden has a tip that takes seconds to lift a stain. "Grab an old toothbrush and a bottle of dishwashing liquid," she says. Then lay the article of clothing on top of your washer, squeeze a drop or two of dishwashing liquid directly on the spot, use the toothbrush to work the soap into the fabric, then wash the item immediately.

#7 Slow Down
You wake up one morning with every intention of cleaning your refrigerator, organizing your linen closet, scrubbing the bathtub and vacuuming, but end up getting very little done. "People run out of gas," says Kristi Mailloux, president of the Molly Maid franchise.
Timesaving Solution: "Clean only two rooms a day," says Mailloux. And clean wisely. Molly Maids are trained to work top-to-bottom and to work their way around a room from left-to-right, rather than "popcorning" all over the room. "That way, you don't miss any areas of a room," she adds. Glow's Lowenstein, who has a hotel management background, recommends a cleaning schedule to keep you on track.

#8 Too Many Products
: You have so many different cleaning products you're often going back and forth to the cabinet to match task to cleaner. Caroline West of the Bon Ami line of home cleaners says that you do not need a specialty cleaner for every task. Trying to remember which bottle cleans what surface is a distraction. "We waste time when we keep going to another room to get the right cleaning product," adds Mailloux.
Timesaving Solution: Mailloux suggests bringing all of your supplies and cleaners from room to room in a large bucket or in an apron -- a trick most housecleaning experts use for efficiency.

cleaning and changing bedsheetsChange your sheets more often. Photo: Getty

What chores are you spending too little time on?

Don't forget to:

Change the sheets!
We tend to change our sheets once a month, on average, says Bogan of Denton Cleaning. "I know lots of families, regardless of their economic status, who only have one set of sheets," she says. "Our body sheds skin cells all the time -- we need to change sheets once a week."

Dust the bookshelves.
Once a week is preferred, says Lowenstein of The Glow System. "If you don't dust, you'll ruin your books," she says. She recommends removing books when dusting.

Start cleaning the bathroom floors more.

Most of us clean our bathroom floors once a week, if that. "You really need to wash the bathroom floor more frequently than the toilet, especially if you have a little boy in the house," says West of Bon Ami.

Pay attention to the walls and baseboards.
Clean them when you notice fingerprints or spots. "If you spend some time every week cleaning your walls and baseboards, your house will look impeccable...even when it isn't," says Lowenstein. Experts agree to wipe down walls and baseboards with a microfiber rag and mild cleaning solution

Use your sweat equity by investing time cleaning walls -- it pays off and your house will appear cleaner than it is. Photo: Corbis

Disinfect doorknobs.
"We do a great job disinfecting the kitchen and bath, but most people forget about the doorknobs that we touch all the time," says David Kargas of The Clorox Company's Pine-Sol division. Kargas says it takes a couple of minutes a week to go around the house to wipe down doorknobs with a rag and a cleaner that is also a disinfectant. This simple act will cut down the spreading of germs and keep everyone a lot healthier..

Replace bathroom drinking cups often.
Lowenstein says your house can be impeccable, but a dingy drinking cup in the bathroom is a telltale sign that your house is hiding some grunge. "There's horrible, goopy residue that grosses guests out.. Clean it every day if you can," she says.

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