Smarter Ways to Clean Your Home from Top to Bottom

No matter where you live, your home is going to get dirty.

Everyday messes happen, clutter spawns seemingly out of nowhere, and it’s easier to get unorganized than it is to keep things tidy.

It happens to the best of us, but when it comes time to clean, the laundry list of tasks appears insurmountable.

It doesn’t have to. This room-by-room walkthrough of your home is going to break down everything you need to do.

From the depths of your refrigerator, to the dust on top of doorways, and far beyond the reaches of the mudroom that’s been catching your eye every day (for all the wrong reasons), we’re going to clean things up without exhausting ourselves. Ready to go?

Start in the Kitchen

The spot in your home with the most foot traffic. The epicenter where everything goes down. Your kitchen is the hardest spot in your home to keep clean, so that’s where we’re going to start. No sense in putting it off ‘til the end, right?

Get ready to get your hands dirty.

Clean Your Stovetop

Clean Your Stovetop

Your stovetop might be one of the most-used spots in your kitchen, and it certainly has the bacteria count to boot. Your stovetop is tricky, because you don’t want to use something like a Brillo pad and scrape it to kingdom come.

Instead, use a baking soda solution, and let it soak. You can work smarter by letting the cleaner do half of the work (or more). While it’s soaking, you can tend to another kitchen task on this list.

When it comes time to wipe this off, use a wet sponge (soft side) and see what comes up. Apply a little bit of tough love to whatever remains stuck on.

Wipe Down All Small Appliances

Think about all the splashback from your coffee pot to the coffeemaker. That tiny spot of butter that somehow sits on the lever that plunges down. If you’re reading this like, “Hey, I’m no slob,” don’t worry – I’m not implying that.

I’m just saying that it’s easy to have small messes accumulate to the point that they become an issue. They just weren’t noticeable along the way.

Use an antibacterial wipe for many small appliances, since food bacteria can get you and the rest of your family sick.

If you don’t have antibacterial wipes, use a one part white distilled vinegar, two part water solution on a clean cotton rag. It’s not going to smell like roses, but you’ll get used to it.

Scrub the Surfaces (and Sanitize them)

Scrub the Surfaces (and Sanitize them)

If you have colored countertops, as many of us do, I want you to run the palm of your hand along your entire counter from one end to the other.

You’re going to end up with small particles of debris on you, and perhaps a bit of moisture as well.

Your countertops are breeding grounds for bacteria, which is why you should take a dishwashing soap solution and scrub them down, preferably using the rough side of a sponge.

At the end, use some white distilled vinegar to sanitize the surface.

Get Acquainted With Your Fridge and Freezer

There can be over 7,800 bacteria living in one square centimeter of your refrigerator, which equates to over 500,000 bacteria in the same space that an individually-wrapped slice of cheese takes up.

Empty your fridge, empty your freezer, and start scrubbing. One of the biggest contributors to odors in the kitchen is your fridge and freezer, even if you aren’t aware of it.

Use antibacterial wipes in your fridge, scrape off any debris, and sanitize with a white distilled vinegar solution at the end.

Dry out your fridge with some paper towels before returning food items there, since moisture can harbor more bacteria than anything else.

Cabinet Doors and Contact Spots

Anything in your kitchen that you actually touch on a regular basis is a contact spot.

Take some antibacterial wipes, and hit the door handle, freezer lid, faucet knobs, cabinet knobs, microwave handle, stove handle, and anything else that you’re constantly touching. This should be done at the end as a finishing move.

Hit the Living Space

Living room, den, parlor—I don’t care what you call it, but it’s dusty. Carpets need to be banged out, surfaces wiped down (among other things).

This is where you relax, where your family shares stories and memories, so let’s get it shining like a brand new penny… does anyone even say that anymore? Just me?

Declutter Before Anything Else

My couch is basically a coat rack, and I have to stop doing that. If your living room is the first place you enter in your home, especially after a long day of work, relaxation is the first thing on your mind (and I don’t blame you).

Start at one side of your room, and work your way to the other, collecting things that do not belong and one-by-one, putting them back in their proper places.

Deodorize Those Carpets

I almost get insulted when I see the price of carpet deodorizers. You can make your own with a cheap box of baking soda, and if you want, you can add a dozen drops of essential oil to it and mix it around to actually produce a good aroma.

This removes odors from the carpet, and thus from the air, and it’s easy to use. Sprinkle it on the carpet, wait fifteen minutes, and vacuum it up – it’s as simple as that.

Align Furniture

Align Furniture

This is a cheap way to make a room feel more put together. If your coffee table is out of line, or your TV stand is slightly to the side, it’s time to straighten things out.

Fix the couch, the potted plant in the corner of the room, and line everything up properly to immediately take some of that cluttered feeling out of the room.

Scrub Microfiber, Cloth, or Leather Couches

Cleaning furniture is one of the last things anyone wants to do. Fortunately, I have an easy way for you to do it.

For microfiber and cloth, get 91% isopropyl alcohol (or a higher concentration), spray it on your couch with a spray bottle, and use a soft plastic bristle brush to gently work it into the fabric.

Blot dry with a cotton towel, and give it about twenty-four hours to dry completely. This kills bacteria, but it can also remove stains as well.

For leather, it’s a bit different. Using two parts white distilled vinegar and one part extra virgin olive oil, you can actually clean your leather and seal it at the same time.

Make the mixture, clean your couch, and then dry up any excess oil with paper towels, after giving four hours to air dry and let the seal work.

Dust Absolutely Everything

Electronics gather dust much faster than anything else in your home. Start with the television and dust it, at which point you’ll notice the dust on the TV stand.

If you have wiring, phone chargers, a modem, or any other electronics in your living room, start here. You can use the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner to help remove much of the bulk if you really want to.

Give the Bathroom a Bath

Perhaps the second-most germy place in anyone’s home is the bathroom.

When you learn the facts of how far particles of toilet water travel after you flush, and that your toothbrush is anything but safe, you get a compulsive feeling to scrub every wall, surface, and light fixture in your bathroom.

Start From the Top Down

Give the Bathroom a Bath

Your vanity lights are great hanging around that mirror, but how much dust has accumulated on top of them?

Likely a ton. Start with these, any other lighting fixtures, and the tops of your bathroom doors. Work from there to the door frames, and dust the ceiling as needed.

If you have a bathroom fan that pulls air out, it’s going to be dusty (which impacts its ability to remove odors from the room). Turn it off, pop out the filter, and wash it down.

Wipe down the outside of the fan as well. This is going to help pull dust up instead of just letting it circulate the room.

Wash Those Walls

Did you know that when you flush the toilet, the water in your bowl can potentially land up to twenty feet away?

That’s not only terrifying, but it means you’ll never be able to look at your bathroom the same way ever again. Your walls are littered with bacteria and germs, and if you’re going to start from the top down, the walls will come next.

Use antibacterial wipes to cover the most surface space in the least amount of time. Depending on what wall material you have, you need to go with the grain of the brush strokes on the paint or what-have-you to get germs out of hiding.

Cleaning Tile and Grout the Right Way

Cleaning Tile and Grout the Right Way

Just like with tile floors (which we’ll learn more about later), you need to go heavy duty here. In your bathroom, germs are going to cling to your grout like you wouldn’t believe. Get boiling water, and mix it with bleach.

Many brands of bleach come in different concentrates, and some even come pre-diluted.

You need a certain PPM (parts per million) for it to be effective, but once you have that balance, use a brush and dip it into the mixture, then scrub one line of tile grout.

Rinse, lather, repeat (so to speak). You need to kill stubborn germs that can cause infections. This takes care of the tile, grout, and the corners of your bathroom that are usually hard to reach.

Sink, Shower, and the John

Water buildup is a problem: we get little bits of green solid hard water between the faucet handles, or around the edge of the sink (where it was dropped into the countertop), and so on.

Until you get three inches away from a lot of the areas in your bathroom, you don’t realize just how grimy things have gotten.

For your sink, use a hydrogen peroxide and baking soda mix, and let it sit for a few minutes after you cover everything. For your shower, you might need a lime removing agent for the shower handles, drain, and the door as well.

When it comes to the toilet – and I’m sure you’ve noticed this – cleaners are expensive. Disposable wand heads, curved bottles of cleaner and the whole nine yards.

You can make a cheap DIY bowl cleaner with a cup of boiling water, a half-cup of baking soda, and a half-cup of castile soap.

It goes under the lid, in the bowl, on the back of the seat, and it even works for the space around your toilet where it meets the floor. This one is a saving grace (did I mention it’s cheap?).

Dismantle the Dismay in Your Bedroom

Your bedroom is like the living room: it’s going to be dusty, there’s going to be clutter, and it’s going to be much, much easier to keep clean than the other rooms in your home.

If you mostly just spend nights in here, you’ll have a few months before you have to repeat these steps.

Strip the Bed

Dismantle the Dismay in Your Bedroom

There’s a lot of dust in your sheets, and in the linings of your mattress. Strip everything off the bed. Throw the sheets, blankets, pillow cases and everything else into the wash.

Remove your mattress, and look at the dust buildup on your bed frame.

While you’re at it, look at the dust that’s accumulated behind the headboard on the wall. This might send you into an OCD fit, but it’s where you sleep, so it’s worth it.

Declutter What You Can

Is it just me that has a “I can put anything I need to here” chair in their room?

It’s your room, and it’s not like you have to have it be presentable the way a kitchen or living room should be, so clutter happens.

Go item by item, and find out where everything in your room belongs – that facial scrub goes back in the restroom, your shoes go back by the door, and so on.

Before you know it, your bedroom is decluttered, and it ends up being a lot easier to find your things from this point onward.

Dust and Vacuum Things Up

Dust and Vacuum Things Up

Plenty of us can’t sleep without a ceiling or tower fan, or some kind of white noise. Maybe you have an air conditioner that blows into your bedroom. Whatever the case is, it’s circulating dust like you wouldn’t believe.

Pull end tables out from the wall, put everything in the middle of the room, and dust the ceiling, walls, and get in those corners. Bring out a vacuum (even if you have hardwood floors), and use it to suck up all the dust.

Really take a look at that dust chamber when you’re done, because it’s quite alarming just how much gets in the room.

Vacuum everything you can, get under everything, and really go hardcore here. I hate to say it, but there’s no way around it: this needs to be a regular twice-monthly thing, because the dust will just keep on coming.

Floors and Ceilings

Different floors throughout your home? Does the add-on have a drop ceiling (we all make mistakes), while the foyer has popcorn ceilings?

There’s a lot to consider, so that’s exactly what we’re going to do.

Cleaning Hardwood and Faux Wood Floors

Floors and Ceilings

Is your hardwood floor a little run-down?

You can use a natural cleaner, like vinegar and water, or hardened chemical-filled wood cleaners, but sometimes those stains might still be there.

Use a steel wool pad, along with a baking soda and hydrogen peroxide mix, and scrub gently until the stain is removed. Seal it with some floor wax, and repeat this process. At the end, seal the entire floor with wax.

If done properly, you won’t have to get into the down-and-dirty of steel wool scrubbing your floors for five or more years. You just have to upkeep it.

But for faux wood floors (those wood-topped cheap tiles that we all thought were great), you don’t want to bring steel wool into the picture.

Once the top layer is gone, you risk water damage and really ripping the inside of the faux wood to shreds.

The best you can do here is to use the abrasive side of a kitchen sponge. After the stain or debris is removed, use a sponge mop to clear up the rest.

Scrubbing Tile and Linoleum the Right Way

Tile can get tricky with all that grout. The best way to approach it is to go line by line, and scrub it out. However, there’s a faster way to do that – with baking soda and hydrogen peroxide.

When you use a toothbrush or plastic bristle brush, it forces this mixture to foam up and pull up so much of the dirt from the grout. This also works on stubborn spots on linoleum floors.

You can use this mixture method with a full sponge mopping, and the best part is that it leaves a fresh scent without being overpowering, like with white distilled vinegar.

This kills bacteria and sanitizes your floor without having to pull out a steam mop and wait two hours for it to fully dry.

Sweeping, but Upside Down

Sweep the ceiling. It’s going to feel silly at first, but whether you have drop, popcorn or flat ceilings, this is going to work a treat. The bristles get in all the hard-to-reach spots.

This is where you should start with your cleaning, because it’s just going to rain dust down for a while.

From here, dust along any crown molding and the higher points of your walls. Give the room a few minutes for all the dust to settle before you clean the floors.

Nitty Gritty: The Dark Side of Your Home (and How to Clean it)

These are the last-minute little things that you may not think about, but they impact you in a big way. Consider this deep cleaning, which will prolong the length of time that your home looks amazing in between cleanings.

Baseboards and Door Frames

Nitty Gritty: The Dark Side of Your Home

There’s a wee little trick here that’s going to save you tons of time. Take a damp cotton cloth and wipe the baseboards, the door frame sides, and along the top (might as well get the top of the actual doors while you’re at it).

When you’re done, give a few minutes for the areas to dry, and then take a dryer sheet, and wipe the entire length of your baseboards and door frames.

This makes it harder for dust to collect in those spaces for a while, giving you more time in between baseboard cleaning sessions.

Ceiling Fans

Even though they’re always in motion, ceiling fans get dusty. Turn it off, stand on a chair, and just look at the top.

The best way to handle this is by just brushing the thick dust off and onto the floor, and then taking care of the floors afterwards.

Brush the dust off, and use the baseboard trick on the blades. For hard-to-reach spots, you’re going to want to use your broom and dust it off. Just cover your eyes when you do it.

Smoke Detectors

Dusty wires can do one of two things: trip your smoke detectors, or prevent them from working entirely. Not only that, but when you look at your dusty smoke detector, you’re going to be pretty grossed out.

It’s one of the last things that people think to clean in their home. Remove the cover, and lightly dust the inside with the brush attachment of your vacuum hose.

Clean the cover separately, dry it, and return it. There’s going to be a halo of dust around the top, so after you wipe that down, hit the area with a dryer sheet to mitigate dust collection in the future.

Inside the Dishwasher

Stagnant water doesn’t take long to develop odors. When you open a dirty dishwasher, it hits you right in the nose.

Even if you use your dishwasher regularly, some water can still get stuck in the pipes and crevices below, and build up odors.

Run a white distilled vinegar and baking soda mixture through your dishwasher, and put it on the hottest setting, only with no dishes.

This will help to kill all the bacteria sitting on the corners of your dishwasher, and neutralize bad odors in those hard-to-reach places.

After the cycle is done, take a dry paper towel and wipe down the interior to ensure there’s no residue or discoloration left over.

The Curtains

If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned the curtains, then it’s probably time to clean the curtains. These are often overlooked, because to be frank, none of us actually want to take these down and put them through a wash cycle.

The amount of dust that gathers on your curtains is insane, so shake them out, put them in the washing machine, and when they’re dry, take a dryer sheet and rub it all over your curtains.

This helps to repel dust for a while. When you clean your curtains, be sure to check for any dust near the top of the window frame, and wipe down the curtain rod while you’re at it.

Tying it All up

Tying it All up

At the end of your round-the-house cleaning trip, you’re going to find a lot of things that you might shudder at, but the best thing to do is look at it as a learning experience and move on.

These cleaning methods are going to save you time, and give you a boost when it comes to cleaning your home the next time.

If you already know how quick it can be, then you’ll have much more motivation to get started and stay on the home-cleaning warpath.