How to clean your house the OCDiva way: A handy 9-step guide

Welcome, fellow OCDivas! Welcome also to all you aspiring OCDivas out there. If you're new to this blog series, you can catch yourself up here–or you can just dive straight in with these awesome cleaning tips from my cleaning lady turned kindred spirit and OCDiva sister. Yes, that's right. It's so important to me to deliver the absolute best advice that I went straight to a pro. And, take it from one of her VERY happy clients, this is advice you won't want to miss! So let's get to it…

Let me start by introducing myself.  My name is Crystal Pekarek and I am the owner of Top of the Fridge Cleaning.  As the name suggests, my residential cleaning service focuses on the details that most of us skip when we are trying to whip our home into shape with limited time to do so.  Areas such as the top of the fridge, light switch plates, cobwebs on vaulted ceilings, and more.  When I'm not busy cleaning for other people, I do some blogging for others, and I am a wife and a mother to my 2 year old daughter with another little girl on the way this June. I am an extreme animal lover as well with a dog and cat at home, and my husband and I plan to rescue more once we move and the new baby arrives.  I should mention that the animal lover in me carries into my work life, and all of my customer's pets get special attention, care, treats, and presents for the holidays from Top of the Fridge Cleaning.

Both my work and home life involve major cleaning and organizational skills.  Luckily for me, they come naturally, but, for many people out there, this is not the case.  That is why I am happy to contribute a few extra tips and tricks to the OCDiva blog for those who do not have a natural ability or know-how when it comes to organizing and cleaning up.

So let's get started!  I want to talk about cleaning your house, and more importantly, how to do so in the most complete and efficient way possible.  Most people try to keep up by surface cleaning or tackling one room at a time.  This can lead to a lot of areas being missed or overlooked. It can also lead to distractions that will take you off on a tangent and leave your cleaning at a standstill. For example, do you ever find yourself thinking, “Should I move that chair to the other side of the room?” “When did I last organize my movie collection?” “I bet I could throw some of this clutter out to make more room.”  These are not terrible thoughts, but one project at a time is plenty, and you are much more likely to be successful if you stick to this one project rule.  You need to leave the rearranging of furniture and clutter clean-up for another day and stick to the task you started, in this case, cleaning.  In order to help you do that, I will share with you the most efficient method I have found for cleaning your home quickly and completely!

Step 1: Get the Cobwebs and Loose Dirt

Before you start wiping and scrubbing, you may want to get all the “loose dirt” knocked down. I consider “loose dirt” to be things like cobwebs, excess dust on blinds or drapes, moldings, and little throw rugs that you cannot vacuum, but they are full of dirt that needs to be taken care of.  The throw rugs can be shaken out and folded up until after the floors are done later. The other loose dirt can be tackled by a gadget I call a “cobber.” This is typically a lamb’s wool duster connected to a pole that extends to get hard to reach places. Start by going around your entire home, if necessary, and knocking down all the cobwebs with the “cobber.” You can also use the cobber to go over extremely dusty blinds and other hard to reach areas, like ceiling fans and cupboard tops. This way, all that dust will settle before you actually start dusting.   Once you get to the dusting part of the process, all the dirt from those hard-to-reach places will be wiped away with the rest of the dust.

Step 2: Pick Your Cleaning Product

You need to divide your house cleaning into tasks, not rooms. What does this mean? It means that you want to divide and conquer using 1 cleaning product at a time, as much as you possibly can.  This prevents a lot of back and forth, switching products and rags, and going through more rags because you forgot which rag had wood cleaner, which rag had glass cleaner, and which rag had multi-purpose cleaner on it, so you start with all new ones.  Not sure where to start?  That’s ok, that’s why you’re here reading this. The best cleaner to start with is glass cleaner.

Step 3: Glass Cleaner

Why start with glass cleaner?  Because most glass and mirror areas are surrounded by other surfaces.  By starting here, any small amounts of overspray or wiping outside the glass area (like catching the stainless steel on the oven door with your glass cleaner rag as you're cleaning the oven “window”) will be cleaned with the proper product AFTER you finish all the glass/mirror items, so you don't have to worry about any imperfections created by the glass cleaner.  You also won’t have to worry about back-tracking to do things twice either.  You will want to go through and clean ALL glass and mirror items first while you have your glass cleaner and glass cleaning rag with you. This means glass lamps, vases, knick-knacks, mirrors (even bathroom mirrors), glass tables, door walls, washer and dryer doors, etc. You may need more than one rag, but it will still be more efficient this way and save time. If you're thinking that you will need more than one rag before you even start, throw an additional clean one through a belt loop or in a pocket and carry it with you so that you can just keep going when it comes time to needing a new cleaning rag.

The OCDivaStep 4: Wood Cleaner/Polish

After you've cleaned all the glass and mirror surfaces in your home, you’ll want to move on to a wood cleaner and/or polish. You'll want to repeat the same process, starting by attaching an additional clean rag somewhere to take with you so you don't have to stop when it's time for a new one. Make sure to include all wood knick-knacks, picture frames, and furniture. If you have a dining room table or cabinets that are wood, and are extremely dirty or sticky, you may want to wash them first and THEN use the wood cleaner/polish on them to avoid using an excessive amount of the wood product.

Step 5: Kitchen

The next step will be to tackle the kitchen (minus any glass or wood products, of course, because you've already done them!) The best way to start is to soak your sink, stove-top, and inside of the microwave with a multi-purpose cleaner that you like (Lysol, Clorox anywhere spray, Method multi-surface, etc.) This is not necessary, but it IS extremely helpful if you tend to have food stuck on any of these areas. Once you do that, get yourself a cleaning rag with a little dish soap and warm water on it. Take that rag and wash down all of your cupboards first. If you already took care of this with the wood cleaning step, then you can move on!

Next, still using the dish soap rag, clean out your microwave so that everything falls onto the stove-top while it's still dirty. If you did not soak your microwave, you can put a microwave safe bowl of water inside and turn it on for about 2 minutes. This will loosen up anything that may be stuck inside and make it easier to wipe out.

Once the microwave is done, it's time to tackle the stove-top. The safest and most efficient way to do this is to, again, use the rag with dish soap and warm water. Dish soap cuts through grease quite well, and the cleaning rag is non-abrasive, so it won't scratch your stove-top.

After the stove-top, it's time to hit the sink.  That same soapy rag may, once again, do just fine (or a new one if your stove-top made a mess of the first one.)  If your sink needs something stronger to get it clean, try a powder cleaner (such as Bon Ami, Barkeeper's Friend, or Comet) with a soapy rag.  This should do the trick!

Once all the extra messy areas are done, you should clean the countertops and anything on or around them, including the faucet, coffee maker, toaster oven, window sills, light switches, the top of the refrigerator, etc.  A soapy rag is good once again, or a multi-purpose cleaner that you like.  If you have granite countertops, however, you may want to go over it afterward with granite cleaner and/or polish.  You can also skip the dish soap rag altogether with granite countertops and just use your favorite granite cleaner.  Just be careful NOT to use a multi-purpose cleaner on granite, as it is usually advised against by the granite companies.

Lastly, you'll want to shine up all the stainless steel with your favorite stainless steel cleaner, and shine up any items that may have been left clean yet streaky by the dish soap.

Step 6: Bathrooms

The good news is that the mirrors should already be done if you're following these steps!  This means you can jump right into scrubbing the rest down.  A bathroom or multi-purpose cleaner of your choice will clean the tubs, showers, toilets, and sinks.  A Scotch Bright type scrubbing pad will work great on most tubs, showers and sinks.  However, you don't want to scratch any softer surfaces.  If you know that the scrubbing pad is too abrasive, or if you're not sure, use a cleaning rag and a gentle powder cleaner like Bon Ami to take care of tough soap scum or other tough grime.  You can also use bleach when and where it's safe to do so.  The toilet, of course, just needs a toilet brush for the inside.  Once everything is scrubbed out and rinsed down, you can focus on wiping and shining.

Shine up the glass doors, if there are any, chrome towel holders, and the fixtures in the tubs, showers, and on the countertops, with glass cleaner and a clean, dry rag.  Once that's done, move on to wiping off the countertops (and everything on them) as well as the edges of the tub, window sills, cupboards, light switches, door ledges, door handles, light fixtures (make sure the lights are off!) and any other items you may have in your bathroom that need to be wiped.  When you wipe down the outside of your toilet, it's best to use toilet paper so that you can flush it straight down the toilet. If that doesn't appeal to you, you can use a regular cleaning rag of course.

Once the bathroom is all clean, I usually find it most efficient to just hand wash the floor on my way out.  Some of you may not want too, or may not be able too, in which case you should just leave the floor until we get to the hard floor step.  If you have multiple bathrooms, you'll want to repeat this step for each one.

Step 7: Multi-purpose Cleaner

Now that most of your home is clean, you'll want to go through and get all those obscure items with a clean rag and some multi-purpose cleaner that you like.  These items will include things like window sills, light switches, plug outlet plates, the washer and dryer, laundry room countertops and sinks, baseboards, door handles and ledges, ceiling fans, moldings, etc.

Step 8: Vacuuming Carpet and Rugs

Now that everything's sparkling clean, it's time for the floors!  Vacuuming carpeted areas and rugs before you tackle any of the hard floors is best.  This way, you can get the rugs up off the floor (or folded over if they are larger) so that you can get to as much of the hard floor surfaces as possible.

Step 9: Cleaning the Hard Floors

All that's left are the hard floors.  Whether they are hardwood, bamboo, pergo, tile, limestone, or granite/marble, you'll want to vacuum all of them (including the bathroom(s) if you did not hand wash them earlier.)  After they are all vacuumed, all that's left is to wash them.  Whether you are a mop-and-bucket type or a Rubbermaid spray and go type, this is the final step!  Once you finish washing all the floors, that's it! You're entire home will be clean.

Now I'm sure you're thinking that it's only quick and efficient if your home is under a certain size, but that's just not true. In most cases, unless you have a home that tops 7,000 sq. ft., this process will work great!  If you're home DOES top 7,000 sq. ft., it will still work, but depending on the square footage you're dealing with, you may need to divide the work up into 2 days.

For most homes, you will need only a minor divide and conquer plan.  If your home is smaller and only one floor, you can tackle the whole thing with no problem.  If your home is larger, you may want to divide it in half and follow the steps for one half and then the other.  If you have a 2-story home, I find it's best to do one level entirely before moving to the next.  The same goes for a 3-story home or a home where the finished basement is treated as a 3rd floor.  Everyone moves at their own pace, but I can tell you that this process proves successful for me when I'm cleaning alone in 800 sq. ft. apartments as well as 6,000 sq. ft. homes, and it's always completed the same day.  This is, of course, for regular house cleaning.  If you are dealing with a construction situation or a post-hoarding clean-up, you are most definitely going to be looking at a more lengthy process.  Although the basic outline above still works, it would include quite a bit more time and effort.

Hopefully this helps you streamline your house cleaning process to get more done in a shorter amount of time.  If you enjoyed these tips and found this to be helpful, stay tuned for a future post where I will gladly share what my favorite, most efficient cleaning products are and why.

Crystal's Headshot


Crystal is a mother, wife, animal lover, and detailed cleaner. She loves gardening, wine, silly picture socks, and dressing in themed costumes for Halloween with the whole family. Connect with her on the Top of the Fridge Cleaning Facebook page!

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