8 Amazing Cleaning Secrets I Learned from My Veteran House Cleaner
Armed with these professional cleaning tips, you can transform your messy home in no time flat
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Did you teach yourself to bake bread during the pandemic? Learn how to knit or start writing that screenplay? I didn’t set out to develop a new quarantine hobby, but after getting some great cleaning advice, I learned how to clean the house sustainably, cheaply and happily. If it weren’t for the man who shared many professional cleaning tips, my house might still be a mess.
I first met Flloyd, owner of Sister Green Cleaning in New York City, at the end of 2020. We were months into the pandemic, and my husband, son and I had gotten accustomed to working and learning remotely from our two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn. Finally, after eight long months of social distancing, vaccinations were in sight, and city dwellers like me were excited to socialize again.
The extended time cooped up at home was hard on our mental health and even harder on the state of our apartment. Why bother cleaning? With one teen and two adults spending most of their time inside, our home quickly dissolved into a bachelor-pad-meets-frat-house wreck. There was no schedule at all, never mind a cleaning schedule or routine housework. If we weren’t on Zoom for meetings or school, we were on Netflix, XBox or group video chats to escape our narrow lives and all the clutter that surrounded us.
We wore masks and gloves and went to extreme measures to avoid germs when outside of our home, but inside our apartment? We let it all hang out. Over time, the dust and soap residue accumulated, the laundry sat unwashed and crumbs built up on the floor. We needed professional cleaning help—stat. And since we weren’t eating out, traveling or doing much of anything, we could afford it.
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The best professional cleaning tips
Flloyd was a metaphorical breath of fresh air: fun, funny and full of stories from more than 55 years of life. We got on immediately, and I looked forward to his weekly visits, when I’d follow him around to chat as he worked, sometimes pitching in. Before I knew it, I’d absorbed some of his expertise.
1. Remove sticky goop with a razor blade
When used as a scraper, a razor blade is really good for removing tape, glue or strong adhesives, such as fluorescent price tag stickers, Flloyd showed me. He uses a razor blade scraper—a dull blade housed in a plastic holder that allows the user to slide the blade in and out—to get the job done.
2. Ditch the paper towels
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Stop cleaning with paper towels, pretreated wipes and polyester rags. The ideal cleaning towel, says Flloyd, is a 100% cotton facecloth that absorbs water and effectively removes your cleaning soap.
When cleaning walls and mopping floors, he attaches a soapy facecloth to the head of a Swiffer broom rather than using the manufacturer’s dry disposable cloths. “I carry a bucket of soapy cloth rags around, and I just put a new one on every five minutes,” he explained as he showed me how to clean the floor. “I’m never putting dirty water back on the ground. If you have a polyester or microfiber cloth, you’re just gonna push soap around.”
3. Make your own all-purpose cleaner
You can certainly buy cleaning products in stores, but it’s also easy to whip up a homemade cleaner for a fraction of the cost. Simply combine 1/4 cup liquid castile soap with 1/4 teaspoon essential oil. Next, mix the soap and oil into a quart of water in a spray bottle.
Flloyd favors the unscented baby version of Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap. As for the essential oil, let your nose guide you. After all, scents are personal, he says.
Typically he adds about 10 drops of 100% pure essential oil, such as lavender, eucalyptus or lemongrass, to the mix. It’ll give your cleaning solution antibacterial properties—and, of course, a delicious smell.
4. Believe in the magic of Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
Durafoam pads sold under the brand name Magic Eraser are indispensable cleaning tools, and they’ll help you check more than a handful of items off your daily cleaning list. “They save me hours of work when it comes to surfaces like tile and metal enamel, like the stove,” Flloyd says.
Magic Erasers aren’t green or cheap, but they’re so powerful that Flloyd makes an exception. You can make yours last longer with another professional cleaning tip: Cut each eraser in half, he says, because smaller pads wear out more evenly than full-size ones.
5. Clean the bathroom with hydrogen peroxide
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The usefulness of hydrogen peroxide isn’t limited to skin cuts and scrapes; you can use it to erase grime and clean the bathroom too. In a 1:1 ratio, Flloyd mixes hydrogen peroxide with water, sometimes adding a drop of soap to help bind the mixture. It is easy to apply with a spray bottle. Buy a heavy-duty one at the hardware store, or simply rinse and upcycle an empty product bottle.
6. To clean glass, combine vinegar and rubbing alcohol
You won’t have to spend money on glass cleaner with these super simple professional cleaning tips: Make like Flloyd and mix up a solution of 50% white vinegar and 50% isopropyl alcohol. As he explains, the alcohol makes the cleaner dry faster.
Nose not a fan of that vinegar scent? A few drops of lemon essential oil can help improve the strong smell. “You’re never gonna get the sour out of it,” he admits, but he has found that adding fresh herbs to the mix, like a sprig of rosemary or a few oregano leaves, helps soften the pungent odor.
7. Polish your furniture with an olive oil mix
Yes, you read that right. Instead of using store-bought polish, make an oil-based mixture to dust wood furniture. “When wood furniture looks dried out, it probably needs oil to restore its deep and rich appearance,” Flloyd says. Dull marble and stainless steel come to life with oil too.
He likes to use food-grade oil for safety and convenience, often opting for olive oil. Try a ratio of one part oil, one part castile soap and two parts water for the mixture.
8. Get moving to get into the right mindset
Big mess? Start right away. Don’t stop moving, and don’t overthink it, says Flloyd.
“It’s easy to be overwhelmed by a big cleaning project, but it’s really not that hard,” he says. “It can be hard work, but it’s not complicated work.” If you’re still struggling, try this TikTok cleaning hack that’ll help you break down a cleaning project into manageable steps.
Perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself is rethink your relationship with cleaning. “Cleaning can be very therapeutic,” Flloyd says. “And it’s a way to help people.”
I can attest to that. Cleaning with Flloyd helped me cope. Hopefully, his professional cleaning tips will help you too.