3 Kinds of Cleaning: Tasks in a New Light

We break cleaning into three easy-to-master categories so you can simplify everything.

Channeling the optimal mindset for faster, easier, and more effective cleaning requires an understanding that not all cleaning tasks are alike. Here we break cleaning into three easy-to-master categories:

1. Immediate cleaning. Acting sooner, rather than later, at the sight of a stain or a spill prevents small, easy-to-clean-up messes from becoming big, tough messes. Let’s say that after cooking dinner, your stovetop has a few spatters of grease on it. You could leave it — it’s scarcely noticeable. But if you take a minute to wipe the stove with a sponge or cloth every time you use it, the job will take only seconds, the stove will be restored to pristine condition, and you’ll be preventing what could eventually become a multilayered buildup requiring hours of remedial attention.

In the immediate cleaning mode, you clean up messes right away. Otherwise, messes accumulate, stains and grime set in, and your family learns that a dirty house is acceptable.

Some examples:
1. Toweling off the shower stall after each use.

2. Having family members remove their shoes at the door.

3. Washing dishes immediately after using them.

2. Maintenance cleaning. Tasks that fall under this category are done regularly, but not necessarily often. This kind of cleaning can be put on a schedule. For example, you could decide to clean the shower once a week (perhaps even set the day) and wash the curtains twice a year.

Maintenance cleaning can be organized in a written plan, or made into simple habits, like always cleaning the kitchen immediately after dinner is done.

Some examples:
1. Spraying the shower stall with soap scum remover once a week.

2. Vacuuming all the dirt that family members track inside each week.

3. Making sure all dishes, glasses, and cooking gear are cleaned up each night before bedtime.

3. Remedial cleaning. Cleaning after long periods of neglect, such as tackling the refrigerator after a year’s growth of drips and spills accumulate on the bottom shelf, characterizes tasks of this group. Remedial cleaning also includes what you do after a disaster, major or minor, such as a flood or a pet accident on the carpet.

It is important to consider the fact that most remedial cleaning is preventable. You can avoid it by taking immediate steps or following maintenance routines. The big danger is that remedial cleaning can easily become abusive cleaning. That happens when a mild cleaner fails to budge the dirt, so stronger and more abrasive cleaners and tools are called into service. Abusive cleaning often does more damage than the original dirt did.

Some examples:
1.Spending hours scrubbing away a year’s worth of soap scum and mildew.

2.Vacuuming whenever the neighbors make jokes about your herd of dust bunnies.

3.Wasting your Sunday scrubbing hardened food from the week’s dishes and pots so you have something to cook with.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest