Routine and regularity — there’s no denying the time-honoured but dull bedrock of keeping a house reasonably clean and orderly.
Rather than dreading the chores or living with the inevitable chaos, become an upbeat domestic scientist with our essential primer.
* Make a time and motion study for your home and habits, altering the latter where possible to decrease the burden.
You probably have a loose outline of a cleaning plan for each room over the course of a week, so make a fuller survey of problem areas, creating a set routine, and breaking your week into ten-minute blitz bites.
* Don’t sacrifice yourself as the family drudge or enable lazy children.
If you have a specific day on which you do the linens, at least tell the family you expect them to strip their beds on say, Sunday morning.
Impose consequences. Make a rolling ‘project for the day’ list.
This could be to wash out the kitchen bin, swat the skirting downstairs, clean one en-suite or dust off all bulbs in the house.
Anyone in the household can, and should expect to be assigned these tasks — a wipe board to flag and point at is useful here.
* Starting in a specific room, open the window to give yourself light and ventilation.
Try deliberately stretching, lifting and safely bending during the clean — a useful, range-of-motion workout in comfortable yielding clothes.
Put a podcast or energising music through your headphones for mundane jobs.
* Follow the cleaners at top hotels — work down from top to bottom.
For a deep clean, start by glancing up at ceilings, shelves, light-fittings and pelmets.
Give them a swat with a long handled micro-fibre duster or your vacuum cleaning tools.
* Shake out some bicarbonate of soda to freshen the carpets of adjoining rooms. Return to vacuum later.
Invest in a machine with a cord (or extension) long enough to handle an entire floor level. Sweep and vacuum energetically for a 200-per-hour calorie hit.
* Shelving is best handled by moving groups or individual items and working across rather than the hassle of emptying out the entire shelf.
Consider cutting down on, or circulating ornaments on display full stop. Try a micro-fibre duster over a damp spray.
* In the bathroom, work clean to dirty, starting with the basin and finishing with the loo. Keep your toilet cloths in one bucket away from everything else.
Wipe off handles, mirrors and glass with a solution of water and vinegar.
Dry floor tiles can be brushed or vacuumed for regular cleans.
Mop and go - but it’s often easier to use an old towel and get down and polish off any marks.
* If a bedroom is littered with teenage clothes and detritus that doesn’t actually reek, don’t work around it, make a pile in one area without sorting through, ignoring even their personal bin.
Concentrate on wiping down surfaces, pulling up the bed and cleaning the floor.
* Empty laundry baskets. Baskets coded by colour and left near or in bedrooms are more likely to be used.
Two sets allow you to circulate a fresh set.
Clothes that are being ‘stored’ in the basket rumpled but clean, should be returned to their wearer.
* In the kitchen, fill the sink with hot soapy water (washing-up liquid is fine) with a sprinkle of bicarb’.
This will clean the sink as you dip and refresh your cloth.
Put tougher jobs on the ‘Project of the Day’ list on a wipe board in family central.
Now, let’s green up those chemically-weighted products glittering under the sink.
Green Clean Arsenal
Cotton, microfibre — keep a selection and launder them rather than reaching for the kitchen towels.
a tough antibacterial and bleaching agent, it smells wonderful.
Treat any acidic fluid with caution. Unsealed marble and grouting will be ruined with a neat application.
Cut a lemon in half and work over your chopping board to disinfect. Rinse with warm water and blot dry.
: the 3% solution is the safest, but 6% (stocked by most chemists) is only dangerous if swallowed in quantity.
Use it in a spray for counters, to clean and disinfect the fridge and to brighten tile and grout in combination with flour and water in a paste.
Scouring, cleaning and deodorising, keep a large tub of soda separate from your baked goods to reduce the potential for contaminating foodstuffs.
Use it in place of shake-out chemical combos, sprinkled over the carpet an hour or so before vacuuming.
Place a handful in a container and leave anywhere you need to shift a whiff. Use the powder straight onto a damp cloth to scrub out the bath or shower base.
Mix 1:4 with vinegar in a cup and pour around the toilet bowl. Work with a brush wearing gloves and flush.
Bread soda in combination with vinegar is a highly effective oven cleaner.
Leave a paste of 1:1 on the surfaces for a few hours (overnight is fine) and collect with wads of kitchen towel.
That’s white, not white wine, nor malted — just clear distilled white vinegar.
Dilute vinegar for all but the toughest of jobs.
Diluted half and half with water it makes a great SOS spray for carpet stains.
Run a 1:3 solution of vinegar to water through your coffee maker to leave it sparkling.
As a floor wood and tile cleaner add a healthy splash to 5L of warm water. A couple of teaspoons per litre (no more than 1:8), polished off with balled newspaper is all you need for lightly dirty windows.
Unclog the sink? Pour down half a cup of baking soda, throw in half a cup of white vinegar and follow instantly with boiling water.
Milder than just about any chemical cleaner, the softer the product the better in combination with good old fashioned elbow grease.
Flaked hand soap can also be used dissolved in hot water to soak away all sorts of greasy rubbish.
Look out for biodegradable, natural products such as the Ecover range that utilise raw ingredients such as coconut oil, citric acid, sodium chloride, and vegetable glycerine rather than petrochemicals and phosphates.
Ecover also do a dishwasher tablet — €14 for 25.
Anything you can smell in a commercial cleaner, is in almost every case a synthetic, toxic pretender. Stop broadcast spraying chemical air fresheners and surface cleaners — they are going into everyone’s lungs.
Use natural oils (sparingly) in combination with natural ingredients to create the feel good freshness.
Make up a spray of water with a dash of vinegar and a drop of your favourite oils for everyday wipe downs.
Would you, could you hire a woman or indeed man to do your cleaning? I picked up predominantly positive reviews during some casual research in my immediate area.
A surprisingly private world, with independents working largely cash-in hand, this is a demanding job hinged primarily on trust. Self-employed cleaners were wary of even a quote.
On the downside for householders were instances of granite-faced intruders, nibbling on Kimberly Mikado, Neighbours trilling on the TV, nursing the defensive but idle prop of a damp duster.
Bedroom drawers were given an exploratory stir, or in the worst case, items (all inexpensive) had gone missing.
These fruitier tales were rarities, and in general I heard unbridled praise.
A personable, discreet, efficient house-help is hard to find and true wonders are jealously guarded.
One friend became genuinely panicked at the idea of losing her loyal domestic right-arm. Respect goes both ways.
House cleaners are not babysitters (unless paid extra as such).
Anything outside agreed duties should be financially acknowledged.
Agencies are the pricey choice with a written contract as standard, formal screening and insurance cover is included.
Otherwise, recommendations are your best route to a diamond find.
Failing a blessed share, a local advertisement is worth following up.
Try advertising your needs too — an empty nester or retired person with decades of vital experience might be prompted into applying. Get some sort of reference.
Draw up a list of your expectations, and ask your interviewees for theirs.
Offering less than the minimum wage is immoral, and agencies will have a set fee.
Cleaner search engine, pigstye.ie indicates €10 to €13 per hour as the norm.
Complaints about stiff knees, bad backs, pronouncements about what he/she will not do that fall within the realm of a standard housework — (washing, tidying, ironing, vacuuming) or any sniff of a combative attitude are signs that you’re about to get cleaned out.