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Domestic Cleaning

By: Hsin-Yi Cohen BSc, MA, MSt - Updated: 24 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Domestic Cleaning Kitchen Bathroom

Domestic cleaning is probably one of the most hated chores and often causes arguements about who's turn it is to clean the loo! Running a vacuum over a carpet is fairly easy but it's the specific tasks - such as scrubbing toilets - that make domestic cleaning so unpleasant and boring. Anything that can make these cleaning jobs easier and quicker would help enormously - so here are some common "problem areas" and how to tackle them:

Bathroom Stains

These are usually due to hard water deposits or rust - or just poor cleaning. Most stains can be treated with neat vinegar or with a paste made of borax powder and lemon juice. Rub the vinegar or paste onto the stain, let it dry and then rinse thoroughly. In order to completely remove the stain it may be necessary to repeat the treatment a few times. If you have hard water deposits around the shower stall or a sink faucet, treat this by soaking a cloth in neat vinegar and laying it over the area for as long as possible. Next scrub the area with a cleaning agent and then rinse thoroughly.

Before tackling the toilet, make sure you empty the bowl of as much water as possible, by turning off the water source and then flushing the toilet. Next, always give the bowl a general clean first. Use liberal amounts of cleaning agent or disinfectant and a bowl brush, which should be all-plastic - avoid the toilet brushes with metal wires as these can scratch and permanently damage a toilet. To treat any reamaining stains, pour a large quantity of bleach, or vinegar into the bowl and leave, possibly overnight and flush away in the morning. Stains which are more stubborn may need to be scrubbed with some borax powder and then left for at least half an hour before flushing away.

Mould & Mildew

These can leave unsightly black and green spots and staining in walls and corners. You may need to resort to a commercial remover specially designed for mould although you can try a few home solutions first, such as wiping with a dilute alcohol solution. The most important thing about mould is prevention, which means keeping things clean - as grease or soilage on dirty items can provide the perfect growing conditions for mildew. In addition, it's important to keep the area dry, as mould thrives in moist conditions. For example, storing clothing with moisture inhibitors and/or spraying them with fungicidal products especially designed to give mildew protection is a good way to prevent problems. Also ensure good air circulation by opening windows regularly; using electric fans if natural breezes are not sufficient and opening wardrobe doors periodically to air the interior. Don't forget to make sure clothes are hung loosely to allow air circulation around them. This will also reduce any musty odours.

Common Kitchen Stains

Coffee and tea rings on countertops are very unsightly and irritating but they can be easily removed by rubbing them with a paste of baking soda mixed with water. Never use harsh abrasives to scrub the stain, especially if you have a countertop surface with a protective coating or that is made of stone or marble, as this can seriously damage the surface.

Tannin stains from tea and coffee can also make mugs and cups look old and dirty and the baking soda paste is also a great solution for this. An alternative is lemon juice, which is a mild bleach and so will remove the brown stains. For very stubborn stains, it might be necessary to soak them in a dilute bleach solution (eg, 1 teaspoon cholorine bleach in 1 cup of water) for about an hour. However, note that this does leave a strong odour of bleach, which may not be very suitable for crockery.


Aside from carpets, many modern households have laminate or tile flooring. Although these are generally stain-resistant and hard-wearing clesaning them regularly with the correct products will help to keep it clear of marks.

For floor tiles, first vacuum thoroughly to remove as much dirt and grit as possible, and then mop with an appropriate household cleaner (note: for tiles which are porous and unglazed, use a colourless, soap-free detergent). Again, avoid using abrasives and harsh cleaning agents, such as steel wool pads, as these can scratch and damage the tile surface.

Laminate flooring is easy to care for, provided you ensure regular vacumming, dust mopping or sweeping. If there is heavier dirt, a damp mop or cloth can be used but never use excessive water and always dry the flooring immediately and thoroughly with a soft cloth. If there are any spills of any liquids or water from wet feet or shoes, mop these up immediately. The point to remember is to never leave excess liquid on the surface of laminate floors, as it can seep through and damage the floors. Similar to tile flooring, avoid using abrasive cleaners and also make sure that you never use soap-based detergents, wax or polish on your laminate floors, as well as never steam cleaning or using chemicals which may damage the surface.

General Precautions

Whatever chemicals you use, remember to respect the directions given and follow them exactly; never mix chemicals as this can be extremely dangerous; in particular chlorine bleach and ammonia when mixed can give off lethal fumes. Make sure that there is sufficient ventilation in the area you are working in and ideally, wear eye and skin protection, such as goggles and rubber gloves.

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