Cleaning Wisdom from My Mom to You

Cleaning Wisdom from My Mom to You

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Shifrah Combiths
May 2, 2016
(Image credit: Jacqueline Marque)

Maybe it's the Dutch in her, I don't know, but my mom is spic-and-span. And even though my room as a teenager nudged her toward apoplexy (sorry, Mom), I'm happy to report that all those years under her tutelage and example worked. These days, she even tells me not to be so neurotic about how I fold my laundry. (Note to self: consider whether said neurosis contributes to this.)

Through me to you, here are my mom's top nuggets of cleaning wisdom:

Always wipe the bottom of everything. This is one of the best ways to keep the fridge clean. If counters or table tops aren't clean (gasp), stickiness gets spread from place to place if condiment jars and the like aren't given a good swipe with a wet rag. Hand-in-hand with this tip is the practice of wiping jar rims before replacing the lid and making sure the butter isn't holding on to any crumbs before putting it away. Shudder.

Disinfect the sink every night. Growing up, dishes were washed immediately after dinner before any food dried onto them, dirty dishes weren't stacked because then you had to wash both sides of the plates, and the sink was scrubbed with Comet before dish duty was complete, every single night. This included making sure there wasn't a bit of food trapped in the drain or drain protector, both of which also underwent the Comet scrub. We learned quickly to do our chore to perfection or it was right back to the sink to finish it with Mom watching like a hawk over us as we did it right all the way.

Clean hotel rooms before settling in. I thought Mom was a little over-the-top with this one. She'd wipe down the tub, sinks, and toilets with disinfecting wipes and never, ever let us use the hotel glasses. Then, years later while doing research for an article I was writing, I watched an undercover video of hotel maids using the same rag to clean toilets and then wipe the glasses. That was enough for me. Now, I tote my own Lysol wipes to hotels and subject my own family to the old wait-until-Mom-is-done-cleaning routine before they can use anything. These days, I even check for signs of bed bugs on the mattresses, just in case.

Don't let moisture linger. Whether it's water sitting on the counter after hand-washing or steam in the bathroom after a hot bath, get rid of that moisture. Not only does this keep everything nice and tidy, but it prevents mold problems down the road. Mom is good at spending an ounce of prevention energy to avoid the pounds of cure.

Leave everything nicer than you found it. Not only does this make you a really great guest at other people's homes, but it helps you maintain a generally clean house all the time. If you, say, straighten out the hand towel after drying your hands, you are doing one of many little things that add up to always-in-order home.

Don't leave 'til tomorrow what can be done today. My Mom is the type to fold the clothes when they're still warm from the dryer — and put them away. She's anti a backlog of things that need to be done, and while this stance sometimes feels like there's always something that needs to be done, the momentum is extremely productive. And a rest with nothing hanging over your head is so much more restful. It's worth it to just do it now.

Mom taught us how to fish, and now we clean for a lifetime...

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