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Clean Like a Ninja: Quick and Dirty Guide to Cleaning

Updated on June 25, 2014

House Cleaning for the Housework Challenged - Or, how to clean FAST and get your weekends back!

If you're freaking out as you read this because company is coming over and your house is a wreck, you came to the right place for sympathy and solutions.

If you're reading this, then you're probably not "too lazy to clean," you may just feel you have too many more interesting things to do that you'd rather do than clean. I hear ya.

But once things start to pile up, the work snowballs and it seems to be an impossible task! It's not impossible. It didn't get messy in a few minutes and it won't get clean in just a few minutes. But there are some tricks and techniques that can save you a lot of time.

Once you stay on top of things, you never have to do a huge cleaning job again. Break down everything into 15-20 minute tasks.

I have 4 kids and have a home business, so time is literally money to me. I've figured out a few time savers and would like to share them with you.

Read on to find out how you can clean faster, better, and (gasp!) you may even have fun cleaning. Yeah, I said it!

If you're interested in making a pages (we call them 'lenses'), on Squidoo, you can start here! You can make lenses about just about anything - it doesn't have to be about cleaning...and you can make money for yourself or for charity. Better yet, it's 100% FREE to do this!


What is your LEAST favorite cleaning chore?

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Confession of my most dreaded task: Cleaning out the refrigerator

"Dump Anything Dead Day"

Ugh. This is the task I despise the most. You'd think cleaning the toilet (in a house with 2 young boys who can't aim to save their lives) would be my toughie. But no. It's the fridge for me.

I've wondered why this is. It just hit me. It's because I hate all the moldy, nasty, what-the-heck-WAS-it situations. Definitely it gets gross (because I procrastinate about it.)The other aspect is the guilt. Guilt? Yes, the guilt. The guilt over the wasted food. So many good intentions. So many vegetables. Why do I buy so many vegetables anyway? Who am I trying to impress here?!? A whole unopened package of spinach. I knew when I bought that I wasn't going to eat it. Derp!

Ok, really the "secret" to cleaning out the fridge is to assign a day for it. Trash picks up here on Friday mornings, so my DADD (Dump Anything Dead Day) is Thursday. If anything I dump is extremely smelly/heinous, then it can be frozen and then put out late that night. Frozen is great, because it keeps the smell (and the neighborhood dogs that like to get into trash cans) at bay.

So, assign a day. What will yours be?

If cleaning out the fridge isn't your challenging area, feel free to feel smug about it.

Don't have time to clean the "right" way?

A lot of people put off housework because they feel they don't have time to do it 'RIGHT.' But I've learned that even a quick slap dash cleaning job is better than being overwhelmed by the fear of having to do something "right." If we wait until we have time to do housework "perfectly," we're never going to have enough time.

It's that perfectionism that can keep anything from getting done. Drop the guilt trip you're giving yourself. If you only have 10 minutes, give it all you've got in that 10 minutes. You are still 10 minutes ahead of where you were before. Ten minutes here and there - go for 6 times during the course of a day will add up to a whole hour of housework.

When my mom watches TV, she gets up during the commercial breaks and does something. I've tried this too, and it's amazing how much can get done during a commercial break! Wipe down the kitchen counter, clear off the table, look around the room and put some things away, etc.

Rules of Thumb

...to save on housecleaning time and cost

Clean from top to bottom (the bottom is usually the dirtiest) You get the most efficiency out of your cleaning wipes or cloths this way.

Let the cleaners do their job. We don't usually let cleaners just sit and soak and work. We are usually in a big rush, and by rushing it, we end up doing more scrubbing -- and more work.

Get cleaning tasks on a schedule this is as simple as writing them on a calendar. When you do a task, write it down on your calendar based on when it should be done again. For example, if cleaning the toilet is a weekly job for you, and you did it on a Monday, then write it down for the following Monday on your calendar.

Break tasks down

I learned this from FlyLady - break tasks down into 15 minute jobs. You can do anything in 15 minutes! Use a timer and keep focused on one task before moving on to the next. I like to listen to my music to keep myself cheerful and to a fast pace. If you want to listen to my music list, it is here and will save you a lot of time. Don't go fumbling around in your CD collection, if you are like me, it will just distract you & the next thing you know, you'll be alphabetizing the CD collection when you have 40 million dirty dishes in the sink!

Ultra easy way to clean the microwave

This is a dreaded job for many people, because there's like 6-12 years of pot pie spillover crud baked into it, right? Don't worry, you can do this.

Take a microwave safe bowl, and put 1-2 cups of water in it. If you have a lemon, slice it and put that in the water. If you don't have a lemon, you can use an orange. If you don't have any citrus fruits on hand, then you can pour a bit of lemon juice in the water. If you don't even have that, don't worry about it, just use plain water.

Heat the water until it's just about boiling. Let it sit in the microwave, don't even open the door. Let the steam soak off all the built up crud. Give it about 20 minutes. Take a wet rag or a dampened paper towel and wipe down the inside of your microwave (top to bottom). You might need another paper towel to run over it all one more time and dry it.

If you find that anything is still stuck on (which I doubt), you can take a plastic spatula to scrape off the bits. Don't use your fingernails - that's guaranteed to completely gross you out and you will never do this again. lol

Try to do this about every week, every 2 weeks, or even every month, and you will see that the more often you do this microwave cleaning, the easier it will get, because there will be less gunk to clean off.

You are done!

Cleaning horizontal window blinds

I've spent valuable hours of my life attempting to clean horizontal blinds. I've tried spraying the blinds, then wiping with a paper towel. I've tried spraying the towel and then wiping the blinds. I've tried Windex. I've tried Glass Plus. I've tried soap and water. The end result is always spotty, almost muddy looking appearance, no matter how hard I've tried. My arms end up tired and I'm disgusted.

Here is the "secret" to cleaning window blinds. Nope, you don't have to have fancy brushes that glide in between the slats, although I can see those might have some merit. But sometimes the best way is also the easiest.

Here is the secret:

Fill your bathtub with several inches of warm to hot water. About 5 to 6 inches of water should do it. Squirt in a couple squirts of dish soap or shampoo. Probably the cheapest shampoo like Suave works the best.

Take the blinds down from the window and dunk 'em. That's right, dunk 'em! Bring them up out of the water, dunk them again. Up and down a couple times. Pull it out, shake it off, lay it on an old towel if you have one handy. Hang it right up damp. Wipe any remaining drips. Done.

It made my blinds look new again, except for that 4-inch piece of a slat that has broken off. That's life with kids!

Dishwashing tips for the cleaning challenged

If you have to hand wash your dishes, the key is to not let them pile up. Wash them even when you have just a few. It will make the job less demanding. When a big pile is there, it's human nature to want to put it off. So get to it even when there are only 5 dishes. You could also assign certain dishes to family members and require everyone to wash their own. You could get dishes and bowls in different colors and designate which belong to whom by color coding.

Another labor saving trick is to have your dishes soak while you cook. Before you start cooking, fill your sink with warm soapy water. As you dirty things while cooking, you can just plop them into the soapy water. It will make the cleaning up job much easier after the meal.

If you have a dishwasher, it isn't energy-savvy to run it without a full load, but if you are a person who tends to put off doing dishes because you hate putting away the clean dishes first, then you might benefit by running smaller loads. This is what my sister does. Then you know that to put the clean dishes away will be a very quick job, and therefore you will tend to do your dishes more quickly.

Once a month, try to remember to put one cup of white vinegar in your dishwasher and run it. (No need to add detergent). This will keep your dishwasher more free to stains and build up inside, which results in a better wash cycle.

Another tip for getting cleaner dishes from your dishwasher comes right from the dishwasher manufacturers. Run your hot water tap until the water becomes hot before running your dishwasher. This ensures that the right temperature water is reaching your dishwasher early enough in the cycle to help your dishwasher do a good job for you.

Cleaning the toilet for the cleaning challenged

If you hate cleaning your toilet and you'd rather be out partying, then just think on this. After a night of too many drinks, would you rather barf into a clean toilet or a dirty one? DUH.

Ok, it's really easy. Use a toilet cleaner, I like Lysol. Put that around the insides of the toilet. Close the lid. Let it sit while you do the next step.

This part is going to be more involved than it will be for you once you get caught up.

Get some disinfectant wipes (again, I like Lysol, but Clorox wipes are good too!) If you want to use something less expensive, check out this homemade cleaner. Wipe the outside of the toilet from lid of the tank, the handle, and the outside of the tank area (this can be a part of the toilet that is very germ-infested because of the consensation on the outside of the tank).

Once you are caught up on this step, you only have to do it about every 2 weeks to a month, not every time. When you are caught up, you will need to wipe just the top of the tank and then the handle. The handle is very important to disinfect!

Now, if your tank top was very dusty and yucky, then you will need a new wipe. Get one, or two, if you are very disgusted just looking at your toilet!

Wipe the top of the lid.

Wipe the underside of the lid, don't forget the little bumpy pad things.

Wipe the top of the seat, make sure you get the edges.

Wipe the underside of the seat, following up by wiping the hinges and the area between the seat and the tank at the back.

Throw that wipe away.

Get another wipe and wipe the pedestal portion of the toilet, all the way down to the base. Then, turn the wipe so you get a clean area of wipe and wipe the floor area immediately in front and around the toilet.

Now we're back to the toilet bowl itself. Use a scrub brush to brush it clean. While you were cleaning the other parts of the toilet, the toilet bowl cleaner/disinfectant has had time to do a lot of work for you!

Take another wipe and wipe in the inside of the toilet bowl under the edge that you can't see. A lot of nasty stuff hides there (from splashing up, but let's not get into the gross details!) If you have any of the flushable toddler wipes, those are nice for that job, since they can be flushed.

It's a good thing to do, and helps keep your bathroom fresher smelling.

You are done!

HAIRtrocity - Hair in the sink and all over the counter

Train the family to take one step back

We keep our boys' hair pretty short, but the girls both have really long hair. So their hair, my hair, the dog's hair...it can really get ridiculous. The easiest way to do a quick clean up of hair I think is to use the vacuum cleaner attachment. Just be careful of water in the bathroom while using an electrical appliance (insert common sense here.) Another quick way to clean it up is to dampen a paper towel and swipe that all over the area. It seems to pick it up pretty well. Yes, there's Swiffer wipes etc but who knows where they are? The vacuum cleaner is easy because it's big and I can't misplace it. One paper towel is cheap, water is cheap, and if we were smart, we'd keep a roll of paper towels in each bathroom (we're working on being smart.)

Take 1 step back

The way most bathrooms are designed, with the mirror right over the sink, only adds to the problem. Obviously the guy who designed bathrooms never had to clean one in his life.

Training the family is a big help. I've had to say it many times, but remind family members that whenever they are about to brush/comb their hair at the sink, to PLEASE take ONE STEP BACK. Doing this will keep a lot of hair off the counter and out of the sink. It will also cut down on drain clogs if you can cut down on the amount of hair that gets in there. By taking one step back, sure the hair will fall on the floor, but it is more easily vacuumed or swept from there than from the counter and the sink.

Quick tip for cleaning up small toys and clutter from the floor

Great tip for parents

This is the section of this page that will make you think I am certifiably insane, but so be it.

I learned this from having twin toddlers! One day, there were so many little toys on the floor, I was getting exhausted from picking them all up. All I wanted to do was vacuum, but it seemed like at the rate I was going, I was never going to get to the vacuuming stage.

It suddenly hit me to grab the rake from the garage. I raked all the Legos, crumpled paper, kleenex, sippy cups, wooden blocks, and miscellaneous junk into one big pile in the middle of the living room. Then I grabbed the trash can, and sat down next to the pile and started sorting. It didn't take very long, and I was onto the next stage of vacuuming much faster.

You can keep a plastic rake for just this purpose - one that you don't use outdoors. This is especially important if you use any kind of weed/pest control in your yard. You wouldn't want to spread that into your living room. A clean rake will also have a side benefit of fluffing up your carpet, and that's good for it too!

Any comments, suggestions or tips to share?

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    • pitlock profile image

      pitlock 3 years ago

      great ideas

    • profile image

      FargoCleaning 4 years ago

      Thanks for the great tips!

      I definitely agree on getting a schedule and routine set-up. It makes it so much easier to keep everything clean and organized and once you start the routine it isn't as difficult to get motivation.

      Awesome blinds cleaning tip by the way, I'll definitely be using that at home. And the rake idea for cleaning up toys is genius!

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 4 years ago

      @carpetanchorage: Glad you like the page on cleaning quickly. I figure, if most of us hate it, why should we make it drag on so long (like a kid with spinach in his mouth that he hates, yet he keeps it in there to avoid swallowing it...lol) Go ahead and get it over with and move on with your day. :) Glad you liked the poll. It has made me feel better about the cleaning tasks I hate. I always put off cleaning out the fridge. I don't know why. Cleaning the toilets should be worse, but for me, it's cleaning out the fridge. I think I dread the horrible moldy things I will find in there (and the accompanying guilt for letting things go to waste)

    • profile image

      carpetanchorage 5 years ago

      Great list of cleaning ideas! My wife and I really keep up on the cleaning of our house! I guess its good when you both hate clutter..

      Loved the poll.. I guess I really 'hate' cleaning the toilet but if I had to pick one that I actually like it would be sweeping and vacuuming, its relaxing sometimes.

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 5 years ago

      @Serra: I am one of those people who has to tidy up to be able to focus on my art. I had to figure out a quick way to get improvement so I could get to the artwork, but not hyper-focus on the artwork SO much that I never got to the art stage. Kind of hard with 4 kids. Using the timer definitely helps keep me focused and get a lot of work done.

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 5 years ago

      @Valerie Bloom: I'm so glad you enjoyed it and found it helpful. I really appreciate your kind note tonight because I have just had to deal with a nasty person (A nasty person online! Who would have thought THAT could happen, huh?) lol! Anyway, thanks for brightening my day.

    • Valerie Bloom profile image

      Valerie Bloom 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      FANTASTIC LENS!!!!! I wasn't expecting to read anything earth-shattering, but the horizontal blind trick made my jaw hit the floor! I'm looking forward to trying it and hope that I'll be able to get the thing back in the window when I'm done! Your sense of humor and kind tone made this lens all the more joyful to read!

    • profile image

      selink 5 years ago

      Having an organized cleaning plan would make your work faster and you will be able to determine what should be given priority first and finish it immediately. There are more ideas that you can get from cleaning service Nashville experts to make your work a lot easier. Aside from that, these tips make your cleaning simpler to do.

    • profile image

      Serra 5 years ago

      Your tips are nearly as wonderful as your pencil portraits! I work from home, too, and have 3 sons (mess-creators), and a husband (collector/hoarder) so I am totally with ya on skipping perfection and streamlining. Thanks for recommending Fly Lady. I forgot all about her!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Thanks for the lens! I really need to get more motivated to clean up my house. It just gets really hard when you have worked all day and you want to just go home to relax, but the place is a mess, and you don't feel like you can relax until its all cleaned up. That is how it is for me. I love any quick tips or tricks to help me get it done faster. It really makes a big difference. www.decalomd.net

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 6 years ago

      I an ALWAYS think of something more fun to do than housework. I like your suggestions here.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have ADD and I find cleaning is so difficult, but after reading the helpful tips that you posted are amazing!!! Thanks a bunch, I'm putting it in my favs :-)

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 7 years ago

      @KaraLynnRussell: A lot of people put off housework because they "don't have time to do it 'RIGHT.'" But I've learned that even a quick slap dash cleaning job is better than being overwhelmed by the fear of having to do something "right." If we wait until we have time to do housework "perfectly," we're never going to have enough time. It's that perfectionism that can keep anything from getting done.

    • profile image

      KaraLynnRussell 7 years ago

      I do think that I missed out on that "clean gene." My father is a neat freak. I think he must cringe every time he walks in my front door. And really, my house isn't that bad by normal standards!

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 7 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks Melanie, I hope it worked well for you! I LOVE to have peppy music playing when I clean, too!

    • Darla Dixon profile image
      Author

      Darla Dixon 7 years ago

      @myraggededge: Thank you!

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Great ideas here - going to feature it on my I Hate Housework lens. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I'm so bookmarking this page! I'm trying to find cleaning ideas while my toddler is asleep. I'm about to make a playlist with my mp3's and then get going. I love the blinds idea, I have done that before as well. I had really filthy blinds and I filled the tub with hot water and bleach and soaked 'em for awhile, and they came out bright and clean.

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 8 years ago from PA

      Great lens! Love the rake idea! LOL!