By Angie Hicks
How do your cleaning skills compare to those of pros who’ve earned homeowners’ shining reviews?
Just in time for spring, here are some tips, tricks and tools of the maid trade, supplied by highly rated cleaners our research team recently interviewed:
Vacuum right with the right vacuum: Weekly vacuuming is key to clean carpet. Do it more often if you have pets or kids. And consider this three-step approach to power-sweeping a room:
1. Clean the perimeter with the edging tool.
2. Begin at the far corner and move backward so you don’t leave footprints.
3. Vacuum slowly and steadily; this works better than numerous quick passes.
Cleaners prefer lightweight machines that feature HEPA filters to remove allergens and which come equipped with easily released attachments and long hoses that fit under furniture and reach ceiling corners.
For best results, raid the pantry: Kitchen staples get rave reviews from maids, who share these ideas:
Put bowls of white vinegar or coffee beans in a room to absorb odors.
Freshen carpets, sofas and mattresses by shaking or spraying a mix of one part vinegar, one part water and five to 10 drops of eucalyptus, lavender or tea tree essential oil.
Sanitize doorknobs, doors, walls and other surfaces with a bit of antibacterial dish soap mixed with white vinegar and hot water.
Sprinkle baking soda in showers and sinks as a deodorizing cleanser.
Freshen drains and help clear clogs by pouring baking soda over the drain, then pouring vinegar. Use boiling water to rinse the bubbling mixture down the drain.
More expert cleaning tips: Remove rust stains from a shower by making a paste of hot water and powdered oxygen cleaner.
Apply to walls and glass doors and let sit for 30 minutes. Scrub with a nylon scrubber, rinse with hot water and buff dry.
To clear smudges from dark granite countertops, wipe down with soapy water and buff dry with a clean, dry microfiber cloth
Remove dirt and debris from tiny crevices with a toothpick.
Before you hire a cleaner: If you’d rather outsource all or some of your cleaning, line up possible candidates by checking reviews on a trusted online site. Then, ask these questions:
How long have you been in business? Can you provide references?
Are you bonded? Insured against liability? Are employees also insured or are they considered subcontractors?
Do you conduct background checks?
Will the same crew clean my house each time?
Do you provide equipment and supplies, or do I?
Most cleaning companies offer free estimates. An initial “deep” cleaning can average from $300 to $400, with $100 to $150 for biweekly cleanings, though other schedule options are available.
Specific prices depend on your home’s size, whether you have kids or pets, if you smoke, your flooring types and how many items require dusting and care.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care; www.angieslist.com/.