Monday, March 4, 2013

Checklist: A Dozen Must-Have Cleaning Tools


You’re staged to sell. Are you cleaned to sell?

Clean houses sell faster than less-than-sparkling ones, because buyers love a property that looks like the professional cleaning crew just left.

I know that deep cleaning is hard work. Keeping the essential tools and equipment at hand makes the tasks easier, faster, and more thorough.   

Here’s a run-down of cleaning tools that will help you sell your home. I compiled this list based on my own experience and the advice I’ve researched from professionals and other neat-freaks.

Caddy. An equipment caddy is like your purse. Get one you like to look at, and stock it with your favorite cleaning solutions. Keep it clean, organized, and handy.

Some people like to store a caddy on each floor of the home, or in each bathroom.

Microfiber cloths. Who isn’t a fan! These miracle cloths are so effective at capturing and holding dust and dirt that they make harsh cleaning products unnecessary for many of your ordinary cleaning jobs. For wiping down doors and trim, give me a bucket of plain water and a microfiber cloth, and let the games begin! Easy.

For big, reusable microfiber cloths at the best price, look in the automotive section of Wal-Mart. 

Rags. I use rags for spot cleaning carpets, sopping up major spills, and tackling nasty jobs like wiping down porch railings or the undersides of a range hood. Disposable paper towels are temptingly easy but can get very expensive.

Did you know that paper towels can actually scratch some surfaces, like Plexiglas and other plastics? And paper towels are no friend of the environment.

Got orphan socks? Cut them in half lengthwise, and use them for cleaning. They’re soft, absorbent, and reusable. Old T-shirts, diapers, and towels make good cleaning rags, too. Recycling feels good!

Plastic Buckets. My preference is a roomy one for floor mopping jobs, plus a couple of smaller ones to soak items or dilute solutions. Spray cleaners can build up after time, so once in a while a cleaning with clear water, rinsing as you go, calls for a handled bucket. 

          I like equipment that I can wash and disinfect, like my little dustpan and broom.  
Brooms. Many homeowners have tossed their brooms in favor of Swiffer-style sweepers, but nothing matches what a broom can do for floor corners, edges of carpeted rooms, exterior doors and steps, and other places where most vacuum cleaners won’t pick up.

Soft, synthetic bristle brooms are easier to use and grab dust better than stiff brooms. For garage floors, driveways and sidewalks, a stiff push broom is best.

A broom's kissing cousin is the dust broom, and a dust pan. They're a necessity unless you're sweeping debris under a rug, and I know you wouldn't! Well, maybe if your realtor is knocking at the door with clients in tow.   

Mops. A mop’s essential for a thorough cleaning on washable flooring. A large-headed wet mop with a swivel base and removable microcloth takes care of maintenance cleaning. For deeper cleaning, use a traditional sponge mop, one with a sturdy replaceable head that will squeeze out excess water and lets you rinse floors as well as wash. The more money you spend, the better the mop. Read the reviews and pick your weapon.

Brushes. They’re indispensable for embedded dirt, textured surfaces, and hard to reach places. I prefer a brush or a cloth to a sponge, which starts out looking all perky and then gets stinky if you don’t disinfect it regularly and then dry it quickly.

I like Oxo brushes because they are designed well and last a long time. My dentist has forgotten that he recommended a Sonic toothbrush, so when I get free toothbrushes with each visit, they become part of my cleaning arsenal, perfect for getting into those tough spots.

This little, long handled, low-tech carpet sweeper could be your answer
to those short notice showings when your carpets need a quick once over.  
 
Magic Erasers. Like any addict, I make sure I never run out of these. They are the only approach for some otherwise unsolvable cleaning problems. We’re talking glass shower doors, fiberglass shower stalls, stoves, porcelain and stainless sinks, and stains on vinyl and laminates. The post I wrote about how Magic Erasers work their magic is one of my most popular posts. 

Vacuum Cleaner. Nothing sexy about it, but people have love/hate relationships with their vacuums. I love my Rainbow. I’ll never go back to using a vacuum that blows air over dirt and then out its exhaust. My Rainbow is a little heavy and a little awkward, but I don’t care. It makes the whole house smell great because I can scent the water that cleans the air. I don’t get paid to say these things.    

A vac is your most important tool. If you’re in an unfulfilling relationship with yours, now’s a good time to invest in your future. Whether you prefer an upright or a canister type, I urge you to spend a little more money and get one that you can stay married to for a long time.

Or does your present vac just need a thorough overhaul and cleaning?

It's not a vacuum cleaner, but it's the ancestor of vacs -- the humble carpet sweeper. It could be included on this dirty dozen tool list as #13. Compact, lightweight, inexpensive, quiet, it will perform your hurry-up-tidy-ups between regular vacuuming dates.     

Long Handled Duster. A microfiber duster on an extendable handle is the way to handle ceilings and walls on a maintenance schedule. Swooshing over these surfaces regularly gets rid of dust and cobwebs before they become visible.

The telescoping handle is your friend if you have high ceilings. Use your handled duster for ceiling fans because they are a magnet for whatever is in the air. Knock the dirt down before you vacuum.

My favorite scents. If you've read my home staging eBook, you know that I like to avoid 
   strong chemical scents, and prefer essential oils for adding fragrance to a room.    
You can download the book now and and learn all my tips to clean like a pro. 

Plastic Watering Can. A real time-saver. If you have to use caustic solutions, like Lime-A-Way or CLR, to clean shower walls and doors, use a small plastic watering can with a spout to rinse them away. Tuck it away in the vanity.

Nitrile Gloves. Protect your hands and your health. Slip on some pretty gloves for all your wet cleaning tasks. Even pure water dries your skin, and cleaners in solution are absorbed by your skin. If you won't drink it, don't put it on your skin.     

What? A girl can't have too many pairs of gloves. I have other glove collections
for painting and gardening. This is the watering can I use for rinsing shower walls.   

Depending on your home, you’ll have favorites to add to this list --  a steamer, roller to remove pet hair, carpet shampooer, robot cleaner, hand-held rechargeable vac, pumice stone, special dry mop, a squeegee, your favorite dance music. What do you do to make the most of your housecleaning time?  

Getting your home to shine is one of the most important ways you stage your home. When a person buys a home, she envisions herself starting fresh, and moving up in the world. Cleanliness is part of that picture, part of what sells homes. You can't clean your home on the market too much, but you deserve the tools that let you do a better job, faster and easier. 

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