Basic Cleaning Tasks


For most people their home is a refuge from the pressures of everyday life, a place to relax in, entertain in and generally feel secure. So it makes sense to keep it looking as clean and as appealing as possible. This not only means it is more hygienic, but also a more pleasant place to spend your time.

However, there has to be a balance between maintaining a standard of cleanliness which drives you and the family into a frenzy, and being so daunted by the task of cleaning that you never actually begin. Some kind of routine is important, but keep it flexible.

Decide which jobs have to be done daily, such as washing up, bed-making and some general tidying. It can be surprising how much improved a room looks if the ashtrays are emptied, old newspapers removed, and the cushions plumped.

It is up to you to decide when more tiring tasks, such as vacuuming, cleaning, dusting, washing and ironing, have to be tackled. But remember, they will not disappear — merely accumulate — so reasonably regular attention to them is only sensible. There are also the periodic tasks, such as window cleaning, turning out drawers and defrosting the fridge.

Every individual household will cope with these in its own way, but it ,is important that some kind of system is evolved, preferably with every member of the household taking a turn so

that the home really is the place where everyone can relax and feel secure.

ADOPTING A SYSTEM A system is important simply because it will avoid such unpleasant events as being faced with three days’ washing up, or a bed still unmade when you wish to climb into it at night.

If necessary make a list of jobs to be tackled. It is very satisfying to tick off each item. But remember that the list should be flexible enough to alter and reorganize for the sudden arrival of a visitor, or the event of a sunny weekend when all would benefit from a day in the open air. Divide the list into three sections: daily tasks; regular tasks; and occasional or periodic tasks.

To help you meet these objectives you need to invest in some labour-saving equipment. A comprehensive list of these is discussed on p.89 but the amount and variety of equipment depends on the resources available.

Among the points to consider is time. The less time you have, the more helpful is the labour-saving equipment. Do you have a job or not? Are there children, and if so how many and what age group? Older children will be able to help in household tasks; younger ones need more attention, and, therefore, more of your time. Money determines what you can spend on labour-saving devices, outside help and home improvements. People, too, can be looked on as a resource. If both partners work, or if the children are old enough, everyone should make a contribution to the running of the home — however small. Equipment: how much you need will depend on the size of the family and house, storage space and money to buy and keep equipment in good working order. Some tasks really need labour-saving devices — e.g., for many families a washing machine will repay the initial cost many times over.

DRAWING UP A PLAN The following chart gives a broad outline of the daily, regular and periodic tasks to be done. It is by no means exhaustive, but should act as a helpful guide. If you find the system works, you might improve on it by including reminders for paying the electricity and gas bills, rent, rates, television licence, etc., and even dental appointments or other essential dates which may be overlooked.

When possible, try to do some of the household jobs sitting down or, if the weather is lovely, take portable tasks outside. An extension cable could mean doing


the ironing out of doors. In fact any way of making the task more enjoyable should be considered — listening to the radio or record player, for instance.


Washing up You could refuse to do it, and make each member of the family responsible for their own plate, knife, fork, etc. However, this will depend upon your relationship with your family and could mean more work for you in the long run!

Do have a bowl large enough to take a load of dishes. Do have lots of hot water and a good-quality washing-up liquid — thin, cheap varieties are a false economy. Do soak burnt-on pans and dishes beforehand. Do scrape and stack plates, and wash and rinse glasses first. Do wash dishes from cleanest to dirtiest. Do change the water when necessary, that is, when the foam has disappeared or the water has grown cold. Do not wipe everything dry. Invest in a good drainer and leave rinsed dishes to dry in the air. Glassware and cutlery are usually wiped dry, with a clean cloth to avoid smears.

Dusting Use a damp sponge cloth for sticky marks and a soft duster for loose dirt. Work from the top down — after sweeping and before vacuuming. If you have attachments for your vacuum cleaner, use them to remove dust and cobwebs from corners, curtains and upholstery.

Washing walls and paint-work Usually start from the top and work down. If cleaning windows, a well wrung out ‘chamois’ leather (real or synthetic) will deal with most dirt. Follow with a soft duster to prevent smears. Very dirty marks can be removed with 15 ml (1 tablespoon) of methylated spirits in a little warm water.

Polishing Apply polish with a cloth — do not put it straight on to the surface. Rub hard and buff off with a clean, soft duster. If using a damp cloth to remove sticky marks from wood, do not polish on the damp surface or white patches may appear.



Invest in the best you can afford. Non-woven dusters are not as effective as fluffy cotton yellow dusters. Old flannelette sheets make a good substitute. There is a wide range of useful cloths and sponges for washing up, bathroom and win-

dow cleaning. These should be washed regularly. Keep synthetic ‘chamois’ leather cloths moist by storing them in polythene bags.


Most household brushes have synthetic rather than animal bristles and wear very well. A long-handled soft bristle broom is useful for tiles, lino or wood floors. A carpet brush is useful for the edges where a vacuum or hand cleaner cannot reach, particularly for stairs and corners.

Scrubbing brushes are often replaced by squeezy or cotton mops but occasionally a hard bristle hand brush is useful for dirty marks. Pot brushes are useful for vegetable preparation as well as for cleaning pots and pans. Nylon or metal pot scourers are an alternative. W.C. Brushes are shaped for cleaning under rims and into the W.C. Bend. They should be regularly disinfected.


Squeezy sponge mops are invaluable for lino or tiled floors. The heads can be replaced when worn. They

should be stored hung up, after rinsing. Cotton mops, too, are useful and durable.


A washing-up bowl, one for laundry and a couple of buckets should answer most people’s requirements. Rinse them out and remove ‘tide marks’ after use.

Wash mops, brushes and cloths regularly and dry before storing. Brushes, cotton mop-heads, etc. can be put in an old pillow case to wash in the machine.