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Tired of tackling problem areas of your home? We've got tips to keep your living room, kitchen and bathroom clean.
How to clean the living room
This multipurpose room gets lots of traffic and may get dirtier, dustier and more cluttered than other areas of your home. Start your cleaning at the top and work your way down, then vacuum last, advises Cheryl Mendelson in her cleaning tome Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House (Scribner, 2005). Don't overlook ceiling fans, because the tops of the fan blades collect lots of dust. A special ceiling fan duster with a telescoping pole handle will make the job easier.
1. Take down draperies and curtains, and clean them according to the manufacturer's instructions. Air out permanent-press fabrics before hanging them, because they're often treated with formaldehyde. Consider using a dry cleaner who has switched to a wet-wash or perc-free method.
2. Dust blinds and miniblinds, and wash the windows.
3. Unplug and dust all electronics, including the TV, DVD player and stereo (a microfibre cloth works well). Don't forget to vacuum around cords and vents where dust bunnies tend to breed.
4. Brush Fido or Fluffy regularly to minimize dander and shedding (and cut back on the time you have to spend vacuuming and dusting).
5. Spruce up your space with a few indoor plants. "Houseplants are amazing air purifiers," says Vasil. Your best bets include peace lilies, spider plants, Boston ferns, weeping figs and philodendrons.
6. Treat germy stains on furniture and carpets with a nontoxic product like Pink Solution. "It's made with a paste of natural enzymes and it gets rid of every stain I've every encountered," says Vasil. Available at Costco or pinksolution.ca.
How to get rid of bacteria in the kitchen
Kitchen counters and sinks are breeding grounds for germs. In fact, your kitchen sink is more contaminated with bacteria than your toilet bowl or garbage can. Scrub the sink down every couple of days with a scouring pad and a mixture of half a cup of borax and four litres of warm water. Use the same solution to wipe down all the kitchen work surfaces too, along with areas you frequently touch, such as door and cupboard handles, faucets and the microwave.
1. When you're tidying up your kitchen cupboards, replace any Teflon-coated pans (made with a chemical that’s considered a likely carcinogen) with healthier alternatives such as cast iron, good quality stainless steel or the new green cookware, which is made with a safe ceramic coating.
2. Clean out the fridge, discarding any mouldy food. Check best-before dates and toss any products that have expired or look the least bit questionable.
3. Damp sponges and dishcloths are a hotbed of germs. Throw them in the washing machine at the end of every day or run them through the dishwasher's entire washing and drying cycle.
4. Keep your trash can germ and odour-free by sprinkling some borax or baking soda in the bottom after you've scrubbed it.
5. Replace your water filter to prevent bacteria from building up. Studies have shown that the levels of bacteria present in water that has passed through an improperly maintained home-filtration device may be up to 2,000 times higher than the bacteria levels in unfiltered water.
In the bathroom
The often smaller and more confined space of the bathroom makes it easier for pollution concentrations to build up. Moisture and humidity, and chemicals from personal-care items and bathroom cleaning products are major health culprits in this room.
How to keep your bathroom clean
1. An international 2009 Home Hygiene Study identified the shower and bath as the third germiest place in the home (behind kitchen cloths and sponges, and kitchen faucets). Wipe down your bathtub and shower walls once a week with a disinfecting cleaner. Go easy on the antibacterial products, say the experts -- overuse of cleansers containing triclosan may be contributing to the rise of antibiotic-resistant germs. Plain white vinegar warmed in the microwave will do the trick, says Adria Vasil, author of Ecoholic Home. "Spray it on, let it sit for five minutes, and it'll melt away dirt and soap scum that can harbour germs."
2. Spray hydrogen peroxide on the ceiling above the shower to prevent mould and mildew from forming after long, steamy baths and showers.
3. The greatest risk of infection in the bathroom comes from surfaces you touch frequently – the toilet handle and seat, faucets and door handles. Give them a thorough wipe with a disinfectant as often as possible.
4. Soap dishes are bacterial breeding grounds, so consider ditching them – along with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic shower curtains, which can release asthma-triggering volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. Look for non-PVC shower curtains – Ikea carries a much safer alternative, for example, made of polyethylene vinyl acetate (PEVA). Or invest in a glass shower door that will last forever.
Bonus cleaning tip: For an instant and effective deodorizer, dip cotton balls into a scented Pine-Sol solution of your choice and place in the bottom of the trash can.
5. If a family member has allergies or asthma, consider moving personal-care products -- hair spray, perfume and nail polish remover, for example -- to a second bathroom or your bedroom. Or start phasing in nontoxic alternatives.
6. When you're washing the floor, give the area around your toilet bowl extra attention, especially if some family members forget to lower the lid before flushing.
7. Bathroom cleaners are among the harshest around, so start gradually switching to healthier chemical-free cleaning products that won't irritate your eyes, nose, throat and lungs, advises Vasil. For more information, read the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia's reputable Guide to Less Toxic Products at lesstoxicguide.ca.
8. Clear away some of the clutter in your bathroom by purging your medicine cabinet of expired or unused medication, and winter cold and flu remedies.
This story was originally titled "Clean Sweep" in the April 2010 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!