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HOME IMPROVEMENT : Key to Faster, Better Cleaning Is Getting a System, Experts Say

March 02, 1991|NANCY JO HILL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You can learn to clean your home faster and better without much difficulty, say the experts. You just need to get organized and develop a system rather than take a haphazard approach.

And you need to learn to ask for help.

"Even if President Bush stayed at my house, he'd know where the vacuum is," says Don Aslett, a nationally known cleaning expert and author who lives on a ranch near Pocatello, Ida.

Let everyone--spouses, children--know where the vacuum is and encourage everyone to use it, he says. It's also important to let people know that they are expected to pick up after themselves, even guests.

The "root of housework evil" and "the biggest, ugliest housework problem" is that "90% of all housework is caused by men and children--and 90% of all housework is done by women," Aslett says.

Aslett seems to know what he is talking about. He is the author of 10 books on house care, including "Is There Life After Housework?" (Writers Digest Books, $8.95), which he says has been printed in 10 languages and has sold almost a million copies.

Aslett gained his cleaning expertise over the years, after founding a cleaning company in Idaho in 1957.

"I stand on the claim that you can clean about 75% faster than people do, even people who are experienced," Aslett says.

He says you can do that by following four basic principles.

Clean your clutter. He says cleaning time could be sped up 40% by removing items like old newspapers and magazines. His book "Clutter's Last Stand" (Writers Digest Books, $9.95) addresses this problem.

Ask for help. Picking up after your family encourages irresponsibility, he says.

Get organized. Have your cleaning materials ready. "You're dealing with time fragments and minutes to do your cleaning," Aslett says.

You have five minutes to spruce up your bathroom. That should be enough. But Aslett has found that most people spend four of those five minutes hunting down their cleaning materials so they can get started.

Get a hand-carry caddy or a bucket and keep all cleaning items together under the sink in a bathroom or kitchen.

Use professional tools and equipment. He suggests shopping at janitorial supply stores. Lambs-wool dusters ($5 to $10) pick up dust rather than agitate it. Consider concentrated cleaning solutions. Liquid disinfectants (about $10 a gallon), for instance, are mixed with from 1 to 20 parts water. And he advocates a string mop ($8 to $10) and a bucket with a wringer ($15 to $50), rather than a sponge mop.

On the other hand, Marlene Greene, owner of Modern Maids in Cypress, says mops are "a waste of time. It's a lot easier cleaning flooring (on) hands and knees. It's a more thorough job."

Use a pair of kneepads, she says. Then you have a bucket and a cleaning cloth and you can clean baseboards at the same time "and everything is a lot more sanitized that way," Greene says.

The best cloth, she says, is a 100% cotton diaper. They can be used over and over because they wash up well. She buys secondhand diapers by the dozens. She also suggests shopping for cleaning supplies at places like the Price Club and Smart & Final.

Larry J. Johnson, franchise owner of Merry Maids in Orange, also advocates hands and knees cleaning. When a floor is too large, his cleaning people do the edges on hands and knees and use a mop to clean the rest.

They also do "back drying," Johnson says. This task requires using clean white rags to dry a floor and prevent spotting.

Another technique Merry Maids uses is to take a sponge mop, wring it out and put a clean, dry diaper over it to clean and dry a floor at the same time. After a floor is swept or vacuumed, use the mop and diaper. When the diaper gets wet, replace it with a clean one.

Johnson also has a tip for dealing with hard-water deposits on shower doors. He says to use distilled white vinegar in a spray bottle and a bit of scrubbing to clean the doors. Then, take some lemon oil and spread a thin coat on the inside of the shower door.

"It's just like putting wax on a car," Johnson says. "Then the next time, you don't have to scrub as much because the water doesn't dry on it. It rolls off."

Johnson agrees with Aslett that being organized and having a system are an important part of speedier cleaning.

"We teach 'em top to bottom and right to left," he says of Merry Maids training.

"Start in one corner of the room and just start working (your) way from top to bottom, all the way around the room until it's 100% completed, and then go to the next room and do the same thing," Greene says.

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