Don’t procrastinate: Prompt, regular cleaning can save time and money |

Don’t procrastinate: Prompt, regular cleaning can save time and money

For The Associated Press
Routine cleaning can save you money and avoid permanent damage in your home.

Cleaning is our favorite subject.

We have more formulas and concoctions in our home-maintenance bag of tricks than an M&Ms bag has candies. But more important than the formulas is how and when you clean. Sometimes just a little encouragement is all it takes to solve a problem.

Cleaning doesn’t have to be a chore. Unfortunately, because of procrastination, it often becomes a major undertaking and sometimes even an insurmountable challenge.

What most of us don’t realize is how much damage we do to our own property by not keeping it clean and well organized. Changing simple lifestyle habits can make all the difference.

Cleaning is basically a pay-now or pay-later proposition. What you don’t clean today will be there tomorrow, along with what you don’t clean the next day. Most of us know this, yet we still procrastinate.

We don’t realize the ramifications. Sometimes we let grit and grime build up so thick the dirt becomes almost fossilized. At that stage, we find ourselves worrying about damaging the surface we’re trying to clean.

All those layers of scum – what’s a person to do? You probably don’t want to hear this, but the best time to clean anything is now. Stains in leather, food on an appliance, coffee on the carpet, water marks on the shower door – no matter what the challenge, cleaning sooner rather than later can mean the difference between removing the stain or not, between a mild wipe-down and hours of scrubbing.

Did you know you don’t need a cleaner to keep your shower immaculate? All you need is a squeegee. That’s right! If you squeegee down the shower before you get out, there will never be a buildup of water marks or lime, and your shower will continue to look clean and new.

Yes, it makes good sense to occasionally clean with a disinfectant to make sure things are sanitary. But you won’t have crud buildup. As lime deposits lie on a surface they eat away at the finish. We once cleaned a showerhead by soaking it overnight in vinegar. The result was a perfectly clean fixture. Unfortunately, there was no finish left where the lime buildup had been the worst. Today, with new plumbing fixtures costing hundreds, even thousands of dollars, it’s wise not to wait to clean.

You can’t always count on removing a stain. But the sooner you attack the problem, the better the chance of success. The rules are always the same: Pat the surface with a soft, clean, white, absorbent cloth. We like to call this the kitty-litter step. Then apply a mild cleaning agent (different for every stain), rinse with water and pat dry with another soft, clean, white absorbent cloth.

As grit and grime build up, stain removal becomes more complex. Then you are forced to turn to strong solvents or abrasives. Both are dangerous, solvents to us humans and abrasives to the surfaces on which they are used.

Abrasive cleaners work well and are certainly easy to use, but rubbing a surface with what is essentially sandpaper will eventually dull it or cause the color to fade or change, or both. Once a finished surface has been dulled with an abrasive, its pores may be open to attack by dirt. This means the surface can get dirty more easily.

Solvents on the other hand are gentle if used on the correct surface, but many can burn your lungs or eyes and can dry skin to the point that wounds can occur. We aren’t against the safe use of solvents, but they have their downside.

Good cleaning habits are reasonably easy to acquire, and the beautiful finishes in your home will continue to look new for as long as you have them.

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