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House Cleaning: The “How Often” Guide

By: Liz Harrell
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House Cleaning: The “How Often” Guide

By: Liz Harrell
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My home is currently not clean. It is not clean at all.

In my defense, I’m working from home, have two kids, and I’ve always been of the mind that writing and creating are way more important than having dustless baseboards (or even noticing if said baseboards exist). However, there comes a time when you realize you’re not being a good steward of the home you were blessed with. And my home just looked me square in the eyes and said, “Liz, seriously, clean or invest in some hazmat suits.”

But I have a lot of questions. Do sheets really need to be changed every week? Can your bathroom make it more than a week without a good scrubbing? I need solid answers and a way to organize my house cleaning schedule. While I don’t care for the menial scrubbing and vacuuming, I value organization and a good plan. I may have a dust bunny in the dining room big enough to be considered a small pet, but my pantry is organized in clear boxes and labeled. 

So, like all epic procrastinators, I decided to research cleaning before actually cleaning. This is what I discovered.


The Verdict: Every Single Week

The bathroom is my least favorite room to clean, and yet my room of choice when it comes to hiding from my children and getting some peace and quiet. Hence, I clean it more than I’d like because there’s no peace to be found if you’re sitting on the floor beside your bathtub, drinking a root beer and reading when you’re distracted by toothpaste splatters on the mirror. 

My main question to gauge how often cleaning needs to take place is “How far can Ecoli travel when you flush a toilet?” According to a dear friend, “It depends on what you had for lunch.” But according to science, toilet spray can carry up to 6 feet. So, while people debate whether you need to clean your toilet once a week, but your shower every two weeks, or wash your hand towels every week, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that unless you don’t use your toilet (which opens up a whole different subject of concern), just clean the whole kit and caboodle every week.


The Verdict: (Some Parts) Every Day

It is said that kitchens are sometimes dirtier than bathrooms, allegedly because people are more diligent about cleaning their bathrooms. And to that, I say, guilty. It stands to reason that bathrooms need more bleach attention than any other area of the house. However, apparently, E-coli and other bacteria are equal-opportunity capitalists who don’t care about the room’s usage, only their unfettered ability to run amok. In plain words, they like our kitchens.

Countertops and sinks are breeding grounds for E. coli and all manner of bacteria, so be sure and wipe those down daily with a cleaning solution or Clorox wipes. Hand towels should never go more than a week without being washed (or immediately after coming into contact with any raw meat or food). When cutting up raw meat, never use wooden cutting boards and always wash plastic or glass cutting boards immediately (or for good measure, run them through the dishwasher).

Another potentially gross area is the bottom shelf of the fridge, which is apparently a haven for all kinds of dripping and bacteria flourishing, so clean that at least once a week. And don’t forget to change out your refrigerator’s water filter every six months (or earlier if you have a big family).


Verdict: A Little More Grace

Thankfully, this is one domain that’s not quite the food/bacteria/E. coli epicenter as other areas of the house. But it still needs more regular upkeep than most of us give it. Many times, I’ve thought, “eh, I can change my sheets next week,” and then next week came and went, and I thought, “eh, it’s still not so bad. 

But apparently, thanks to dead skin cells and body oil, we should be changing our sheets once a week, every two weeks max. We should also regularly be vacuuming once a week (think allergens), and pillows need cleaning attention as well. Depending on whether your pillow is down-filled, alternative down-filled, or memory foam, the cleaning instructions will vary. But a good rule of thumb is washing them every few months (or buying a pillow protector and then washing that instead). Throw a few tennis balls in the dryer to fluff them afterward.

What about duvet inserts and covers? They should be getting washer attention every few weeks as well. Tennis balls serve to keep your duvet insert fluffy after drying, and the burrito method is an easier way to put it all back together once washed. Turn your duvet cover inside out and lay it flat on the bed. Then place your duvet insert on top. The third step is the easiest; simply roll it up like a burrito.

So, these are the general house cleaning rules handed down by the powers that be. But in everything, there is beauty in moderation. I encourage you to keep writing/painting/gardening/reading/rebuilding cars or whatever else fills your creative soul. The dust bunnies can (mostly) wait. The E. coli, not so much.

Meet the author

A little about Liz Harrell

Elizabeth Harrell is an author, freelance writer, and lives in Conway. Her book, My (not so) Storybook Life, was published in 2011. Her blog projects and articles have been featured in At Home Arkansas, Apartment Therapy, Better Homes and Gardens, Design Sponge, and here on Only in Arkansas. Visit her at https://elizabeth-harrell.com

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