There will come a time in your life where you look around your home and decide you need professional intervention for the mess you've made or accrued over many, many years of ignoring the concept of a "deep clean". Here's how to avoid getting to that point.
The Reddit Experts
A Reddit thread started by u/mature-sensible-name asked a mature, sensible question. In the opinion of the professional cleaners on AskReddit, what do people most commonly overlook? Where's the grime?
The list of areas we overlook is lengthy: The baseboard, the microwave, light switches, door handles, the dish drying rack, the taps of the sink and tub, the drain, the toilet paper holder, the shower curtain - even the blade of your can opener. In this litany of disgusting household objects we find some very useful tips on how to clean them.
How to clean shower curtains, from u/Jules6146:
Put two or three old towels in with the shower curtain, on delicate setting with warm or cold water. (You want a medium spin setting, delicates usually has this.)
The towel terry fabric helps "scrub" the plastic curtain clean. MUCH better result than washing the shower curtain by itself, and the towels also help keep the load balanced so it doesn't damage the washer.
Use a normal amount of detergent that you would for a medium wash load. If the towels are white I add a small splash of bleach to help kill mildew on the curtain.
I hang it back in the shower to dry and aim a fan at it to help dry.
How to clean crusted, neglected microwaves, from u/freudian_nipslip:
If anybody is wondering how to clean your microwave: get a bowl and add one part white vinegar and one part water. Microwave for several minutes 'til it's boiling. Let sit for a minute so you don't burn yourself, then take the bowl out and use paper towels or whatever to wipe down the microwave. Repeat as necessary. The steam and acid will soften up the hardened-on food splatters and other crap and it will just wipe away.
The redditor added that you don't want the water to heat past its boiling point, and 1-2 minutes usually suffice. For extra safety, throw a toothpick or slice of lemon in the liquid to break its surface and prevent a wave of burning steam from hitting you. It totally works!
Most of the advice in the Reddit thread is as simple as "clean", which is obviously not enough guidance for a lot of us. That's when you stop reading a professional's advice and hire an actual professional to come in an chip away at your filth.
I spoke with Maria Leal, a professional housecleaner, and Evan Burke, a janitor turned housecleaner, about what they have noticed clients neglect to clean, and asked them what people should know before hiring someone to come in and scrub.
Clean Top to Bottom
Burke wrote in an email that people mostly only clean at eye level, so their apartments are "medium-gross up to 6 feet [1.8m], and then above that it's like your grandma's basement". Also, gravity exists, so if you're trying to cover everything, start as high up as possible.
"Clean the ceiling fans and tops of shelves first," he writes. "Then work your way down, otherwise you can get dust and gunk all over the places you just cleaned. It seems like common sense but you'd be amazed how many people don't do that."
A Little Maintenance Goes a Long Way
Leal told Lifehacker that one of her regulars basically has her do what she considers "beautifying" the place. She vacuums, dusts, and shines the bathroom. Because she goes weekly, things never get to that drastic place, and she is done quickly. Set aside an hour a week for beautifying, and you can maintain your space pretty easily.
Burke agrees, saying a lot of his clients were often concerned about time (cost). Do some of that home/toilet maintenance yourself, because "a little scrub with the brush now and then is better than paying someone to literally break encrusted shit off the sides of the bowl once every six months".
Prep Your Supplies
Leal says she often has issues with clients not having everything she needs despite saying they would. They want their particular products they like, but don't ever actually have them.
"You get there and it's not ready, and it slows down things," she says.
Now consider how much it slows you down when you finally get it together to mop, and you're out of Mr Clean. Welp, better watch TV instead!
Picking supplies that smell good to you or that you like is another way to trick yourself into cleaning regularly. You won't want to (even more) if your entire house smells like your primary school toilets when you're done. Add the stuff you like to your grocery list and make sure you check it off when shopping, just like you do with the potato chips.
Weekly maintenance is good, but it will be even easier if you prep and plan.
"Cleaning and janitorial work is thought of as grunt work, but to do it well is both physically difficult and requires serious planning," says Burke.
Have a strategy. Think of it as a big game of Risk, but you're annexing cleanliness. And remember that there's stuff going on behind objects such as fridges, bookshelves, and other heavy furniture that may be contributing to an overall feeling of apartment dankness, even if you can't see it. Burke recommends moving everything out and away from the walls and sweep back there.
And one final tip: When push comes to shove, it's worth it to hire someone to do a deep clean once in a while.