50 Tips for Keeping Up Appearances

Photo credit: 
Chris Devers on flickr
A daily quick cleaning routine makes the difference

I was in the housecleaning business for 35 years, both residential and commercial, in New York City--Ram Cleaners, Inc. I was so busy I had an unlisted phone number and only accepted repeat customers or people they'd refer.

The reason I was so popular is that my motto was "To have a satisfied customer, I have to be satisfied first." That means the house or apartment had to be spotless when I left. After 35 years, I learned how to get that spotless cleaning job done very quickly, and I now pass these time- and money-saving tips on to you.

You'll need the following tools to do the job right:

  • Feather duster
  • carpet sweeper (or electric broom)
  • a chamois (to wipe mirrors and glass)
  • a dusting cloth (sprinkle a little water on it to pick up more dust)
  • an oiled cloth for furniture wipedowns (use one teaspoon lemon oil to two cups mineral oil, and then just a few drops of this on the cloth)
  • a spray bottle filled with detergent
  • a paper bag (for trash)
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Rubbing alcohol

Quick Cleaning
To start your cleaning routine off right, learn to top clean every day.

  • Put the breakfast dishes in the sink with hot water and detergent to soak or the dishwasher.
  • Next make the beds, pick up papers and empty ash trays and waste cans into a large paper bag that you should always carry with you.
  • Then douse toilet tissue with rubbing alcohol and wipe the bathroom fixtures.
  • Use a carpet sweeper or electric broom and hit the middle of the floor, take a feather duster to the coffee table and end tables, then go do the dishes or remove dishes from the dishwasher.

If you have time to do nothing else in a day, always do this routine and on your major cleaning day things won't seem so bad--and they won't look so bad until then, either.

More In-Depth Advice
The following tips should be worked in to whatever cleaning regime you may already have (or are planning to have).

Bedroom and Living Room
Always start cleaning high and work your way down.

  • Clean cobwebs with an upward motion to lift them off. Downward motions tend to splatter them against the walls.
  • An easy way to clean the ceiling fan is to cover your hands in a pair of old socks. Dip them in warm sudsy water and run your hand over top and bottom of each blade. Next time you clean the blades to your ceiling fan apply a thin coat of floor wax to them. It will keep future dust from clinging to them.
  • Wipe window blinds with a damp fabric softener sheet to eliminate static that collects dust.
  • Use a blow dryer on low to clean pleated lamp-shades.
  • Pet hair will come off your furniture easily with a roller lint brush.
  • Water rings can be removed by rubbing vaseline thoroughly into the spot.
  • Polish ashtrays with furniture polish before using and they will wipe clean easily.


  • To remove rust stains from sinks and tubs pour a few drops of hydrogen peroxide on the stain and sprinkle with cream of tartar.  Let sit for half an hour then wipe off and rinse well.
  • Drop a denture cleaning tablet into toilet for a fast cleanup.
  • Safely and easily unclog a hair filled drain without harmful chemicals. Make a solution of equal parts of vinegar, salt, and baking soda. Pour down the clogged drain, let it foam for 15 minutes, then flush with boiling water.
  • Hair spray buildup can be removed from a mirror by wiping the mirror with a crumpled up newspaper.
  • To keep mirrors clean dampen a soft cloth with rubbing alcohol and wipe over the entire surface.
  • Keep tile and fiberglass shower walls clean: After washing well apply a thin coat of car wax and buff well. This will prevent most soap build up and the little that does, wipes off easily.


  • For a shiny finish on no wax floors, add one quarter cup of a pre-soak laundry powder to water and then mop.
  • A cup of vinegar in your mop water will give your floor a shine.
  • Burnt pans are a breeze to clean. Coat the bottom of pan with baking soda and add enough water to cover. Let stand for 3 hours, then gently scrape out the burnt food with a plastic spatula.
  • If you drop an egg on the floor, cover it with salt, wait 5 minutes or so and it will easily sweep up.
  • Run a piece of bread through the meat grinder for easy clean up.
  • Coffee and tea stains can easily be removed by making a paste of baking soda and water, and rubbing on the stain.
  • To keep your kitchen smelling good dampen a couple of cotton balls with vanilla and place around the kitchen.
  • Add a few tablespoons of vinegar to dishwater to cut grease and leave your glasses sparkling.
  • To remove hard water stains from your dish drainer, pour 1 cup vinegar over it and let stand overnight. In the morning wipe it off with a wet sponge.
  • Wash and dry your stainless steel sink then polish with a few drops of baby oil and buff till shiny. It'll help prevent water spots too.
  • Deodorize your garbage disposal with leftover orange and lemon peels.
  • Pouring baking soda down the drain weekly will keep the pipes clean and sweet smelling.

Keeping whites white: Gather all the white clothes that you wash in hot water into the washer.  Put in your soap and bleach, fill up the washer, and let it run for about two minutes to make sure soap and clothes are well-mixed. Turn the machine off and let stand for 10 minutes; any longer and the dirt will start clinging to the fibers again. Now go back and start the washer again, let it run through entire cycle.

  • Train every one in the household to empty all pockets, and turn the garments the way they should be washed.
  • Wash all jeans inside out to prevent fading.
  • Turn all printed T-shirts inside out to preserve the printing.
  • Have a different colored small basket for each family member. When you fold the clothes just put items into their baskets so they can put their own laundry away.
  • Use a laundry marker and write each child's name on the inside pocket of jeans. That way you can easily tell whom the jeans belong to.
  • Try cutting down on the amount of soap you are using as this can make your clothes dingy. Use half the amount of soap and feel the water; if it feels silky you have enough soap.
  • Never overload your washer, as clothes cannot swish around properly if there are too many of them in the washer. Check your user manual, if you still have it; a good rule of thumb if you don't is to leave at least a palm's worth of the agitator fins showing.
  • Improper rinsing is the main cause of gray and yellow clothes. Rinse them a second time, adding a cup of vinegar to the water to remove all soap film. [Note: I use a Downy ball to release the vinegar into the rinse water automatically--just pour in the cup of vinegar instead of the Downy and throw the ball in! This works so well I don't even have to give the clothes a second rinse.--Ed.]
  • Keep a small spray bottle filled with vinegar in the laundry room to treat perspiration odors before washing.
  • Get double duty from fabric softener sheets: Use them in the dryer and then throw in the next load of wash in the washing machine.
  • Choose different color sheets for each bed. You will always know which sheets go where.
  • Keep a plastic mesh pot scrubber near the dryer. One quick swipe with the scrubber and the lint basket is clean.
  • Adding a tablespoon of epsom salt to each gallon of rinse water helps keep colors from fading or running.
  • If you've accidentally shrunk a wool item, wash it in a mixture of hair conditioner and water. Gently reshape and let air dry laying flat. It won't completely restore the item, but it helps.

Walls, Stains, Fingerprints
Never rub stains or fingerprints with a cloth. Spray area to be cleaned with your detergent spray bottle before wiping area with the cloth. By spraying the area first you will be lifting the spots, etc. off the wall instead of rubbing them in.

Miscellaneous Cleaning Tips

  • Clean silk flowers by putting in a bag with some salt and shake. The dust will stick to the salt. Another method is to use your blow dryer on low setting and blow the dust off. This one is good for delicate flower arrangements.
  • Brushes and combs can be cleaned by putting a couple of tablespoons baking soda and bleach to a sink full of warm water. Let them soak for 5 minutes, then rinse and let dry.
  • Clean your decorative candles by using a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
  • To remove candle wax, place in the freezer for a few hours and the wax will peel off.
  • To clean your computer keyboard, turn it upside down and gently pat the back to dislodge any dust, then wipe with a dry clean lint free cloth.
  • Use an artgum eraser to clean smoke-stained areas on your fireplace.
  • Clean old photos by gently rubbing with a piece of bread.
  • Clean the telephone with cotton balls dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Richard A. Meserole is retired from the housecleaning business, unlike most of us. You can email him at ricam@northnet.org for information on how to clean an average 3 bedroom apartment or home 10 times for about $60.00. His website is http://www.greenpointusa.com/meserole/default.htm. This article is © 1999-2014 Richard A. Meserole and is reprinted with permission.


KrystaI's picture

I found this article so helpful. I am not a natural home maker...I find even the most simple tidying awful and find it so difficult to stay focused on what needs to be done without making excuses of how to avoid te choes. I do not want to set a bad example for my son as he grows and want to provide him withe clean fresh home he deserves. These practical, step by step tips are wonderful - they set out the things I need to do each day and I tick each off as I go so I really feel I am getting something done, rather than one of a never-ending pile of tasks. Thank you. If anyone has some similar tips on how I can be a more efficient, organized and productive home maker, I'd love to hear them. email: deandavids76@hotmail.com

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