You’re spending more time at home than ever before, and chances are cleaning is the last thing on your mind. The thought of tackling every room can be overwhelming, so we asked the experts to break down their go-to routines into bite-sized hacks that will leave even the messiest corners of your home spotless—no matter how little time you have.
Meet the experts
Go Clean Co.
Sarah McAllister knows a thing or two about keeping a spotless home. Since starting Go Clean Co.—a Calgary-based cleaning company—in 2018, she has amassed more than 1.9 million followers on Instagram, where she spills the dirt on everything from scrubbing shortcuts to her favourite products.
Shaneka Shaw Taylor, Patience Omokhodion and Alecia Burgess are the tidying trio behind reFRESH, a Toronto-based professional housekeeping and concierge company. Big on working smarter, not harder, this team makes cleaning look easy with plenty of savvy tips and tricks to keep your space under control.
Regain control of this often-neglected high-traffic spot with quick and easy tasks that can each be tackled in less than 10 minutes.
1. Shoe tray
From mud to salt buildup, this overlooked spot could probably use a little TLC. Mix hot water with a few drops of dish soap and use a scrub brush or an old toothbrush to loosen the dirt and get into the crevices. Rinse and let dry. (Do this outside to save yourself more work later!)
Wallpaper doesn’t stand up well to cleaning, and anything too abrasive—like Mr. Clean Magic Erasers—will take the paper right off the wall. In some cases, an art gum eraser might do the trick. For tough scuffs, McAllister recommends using a damp cloth and a gentle soap, taking care not to watermark the surface.
3. High-touch surfaces
For disinfecting surfaces, McAllister swears by a family recipe of one-third cup bleach mixed into one gallon hot water, with one teaspoon powdered Tide laundry detergent stirred in to cut through dirt. Once you’ve wiped surfaces with a microfibre cloth (the texture helps get gunk out), let them air-dry. The solution doesn’t need to be rinsed.
Take the mat outside, shake well and vacuum. To get rid of stubborn dirt, the reFRESH co-founders recommend scrubbing with water, dish soap and a soft-bristled brush. Rinse and let dry.
Vacuum or sweep up dust, hair and dirt. Then damp-mop with a floor cleanser or McAllister’s solution of hot water and one teaspoon powdered Tide (bleach can damage hardwood and marble), switching the water when it looks dirty. “Once dry, vacuum one last time to pick up anything that’s still stuck to the floor,” says McAllister.
“When disinfecting, don’t just focus on light switches and doorknobs; the frame and the door itself are typically covered in fingerprints and just as germy,” warns McAllister.
Start by vacuuming the area. McAllister recommends investing in a horsehair brush attachment—which you can get at any big-box store—as it works well on both hard and soft surfaces. The reFRESH team uses Magic Erasers to make scuffed baseboards look new again. Be sure to wipe down the wall with a damp cloth afterward to get rid of streaks.
To manage spills and splatters, fit in cleaning sessions whenever you can and try these tips that make quick work of tough messes.
Dissolve one dishwasher tab in a bucket of hot water and use a microfibre cloth to clean. (No need to rinse.) “It cuts through grease without leaving a film—even on dark cabinets,” notes McAllister.
2. Kitchen sink
Wet your sink, sprinkle with baking soda and work into a paste. Line the sink with paper towels soaked in white vinegar and let them sit for 20 minutes. “Rinse with warm water and a soft cloth, using an old toothbrush to get into hard-to-reach areas, like the drain,” advises the reFRESH team.
3. Clogged drain
Pour one kettleful of boiling water down the drain, says McAllister. Add one cup baking soda and one cup vinegar. Let the solution bubble, and follow with more boiling water.
They’re a big investment, so learning how to care for them is crucial. Both McAllister and the reFRESH co-founders say that using dish soap, water and a damp cloth is a safe bet on all surfaces. Bleach should never be used on marble and quartz, as it can dull their shine, but tough stains can be cleaned with diluted isopropyl alcohol and a wet cloth.
5. Dishwasher filter
Look under the bottom rack to locate it. (Check your owner’s manual for specifics.) The reFRESH team recommends using a toothbrush dipped in hot water and dish soap to scrub.
6. Range hood
“On the exterior, hot water and dish soap work well to cut through grease,” says McAllister. “We clean the filters with an undiluted heavy-duty degreaser (like Mr. Clean Multi-Surface Cleaner) and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then we scrub with a soft brush and rinse.”
“The cleaning method depends on what type of cooktop you have,” explains McAllister. To clean a gas stove, she suggests removing the grates and soaking them in hot water with a dissolved dishwasher tab. To clean an electric stove, remove the burner elements, spray with an oven cleaner according to instructions and scrub with a non-abrasive sponge. Repeat until clean.
Create a paste of baking soda, white vinegar and water, and apply to the inside of the oven. Leave it overnight. In the morning, use a cloth dampened with hot water to wipe the surfaces. (You may need to break out the scouring pads, warns the reFRESH team.) Once the oven is clean, save yourself time in the future by using aluminum oven liners.
9. Oven racks
“Soak them overnight in a large plastic storage bin in very hot water with four to six dissolved dishwasher tabs, and then scrub clean,” says McAllister. As tempting as it may be, don’t do this in your bathtub, as it can scratch the enamel.
10. Garbage can
“Add one-half cup bleach, fill with hot water and let the solution sit for a few hours—or overnight to get rid of strong odours,” says McAllister. Scrub with a brush to loosen stuck-on food, rinse and let dry. To fight bad smells between cleaning days, keep cotton balls soaked with a few drops of essential oil under the liner, or sprinkle baking soda in the bag.
Zap a bowl filled with water and a few tablespoons white vinegar until the solution boils and the window steams up. The steam will soften hardened food and make it a breeze to wipe clean, while vinegar acts as a deodorizer.
Empty out and vacuum the insides—you’ll be surprised how much can accumulate in there!
13. Inside of the fridge
Remove all shelves and drawers, vacuum crumbs and wipe everything—including the inside of the fridge—with a sanitizing solution of hot water and bleach (McAllister likes to add her signature powdered Tide). Make sure glass components are at room temperature before washing with hot water to keep them from cracking.
14. Outside of the fridge
Don’t forget to clean the top of the fridge, and vacuum behind it and around the cord. Wipe handles and doors, too.
15. Greasy windows
Cut through buildup with dish soap on a damp cloth, then wipe with a squeegee. Wipe off drips with a paper towel. “Your windows will never have been cleaner,” says McAllister.
From tackling wine stains to getting rid of pet hair, go beyond the occasional dusting.
Take them down, and wash and dry according to the labels. Or vacuum both sides with a bristle attachment to pull any dust and pet hair off the fabric. “Make sure to get into the folds as that’s where pet hair and dust accumulates,” notes McAllister.
2. Pet hair
Vacuuming goes a long way with pet hair but doesn’t always get the job done. For microfibre upholstery and carpets, McAllister uses a dry scrub brush or squeegee to get into the fibres and pull off pet hair.
“As soon as you get a new couch, treat it with a fabric protector, like Scotchgard, and reapply every six months—you’ll thank us later,” says the reFRESH team. The product acts like a shield, preventing stains and dirt from penetrating the fibres and making cleanup easier.
4. High ceilings
When you can’t quite reach those ceiling cobwebs on your own, the reFRESH team suggests wrapping a damp cloth around an extendable dusting brush or mop handle.
“First, take everything off the shelves—there’s no way around it,” says McAllister. Vacuum from top to bottom with a horsehair brush attachment. Then clean with a damp cloth or glass cleaner, depending on the surface.
Clean every two weeks with disinfecting wipes. “Avoid liquid solutions and sprays that can seep under the buttons,” say the reFRESH co-founders.
7. TV screen
A duster and a damp microfibre cloth work well,” says McAllister. She recommends dusting the surface first to avoid wetting down the grime, which can leave streaks.
8. Picture frames
“Dust frames with a dry cloth, then use a glass cleaner and paper towels,” says McAllister.
9. Smoke marks
Clean walls with a few drops of dish soap mixed with hot water, scrubbing with a clean sponge and rinsing as you go. McAllister also likes to use her solution of hot water, bleach and powdered Tide to clean smoke-stained walls, as well as the insides of fireplaces.
10. Wine stains
Blot the area, cover the stain with coarse salt as quickly as you can and let it soak up the mess. Once dry, vacuum. Avoid rubbing at all costs.
A messy bedroom is a one-way ticket to a restless slumber. For sweet dreams and refreshed mornings, get every surface sparkling clean.
Place dryer sheets in drawers and stash them on closet shelves to keep clothing smelling fresh. “Think like Oprah—you get a dryer sheet, you get a dryer sheet, everyone gets a dryer sheet,” say the reFRESH co-founders.
2. Hardwood floors
In addition to sweeping or vacuuming regularly with a soft-bristled attachment that won’t scratch the finish, you can easily deep-clean hardwood floors. The reFRESH team uses Swish Clean & Green, a gentle cleaner that shines floors without leaving them slippery.
Keep laundry baskets in each bedroom—one for brights and one for darks—so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
4. Hair tools
To clean styling-product buildup off curling irons and hair straighteners, pour a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a cotton pad, rub gently and wipe with a damp cloth. (Make sure tools are unplugged and completely cool.)
“You can unscrew the covers and run them through the dishwasher,” says McAllister, adding that you should always vacuum the inside of the vents. “They’re full of pet hair, dirt and dust, which blows back into the room and settles everywhere.”
6. Ceiling fan
Using a stepstool, slide an old pillowcase over each blade, then pull back. “The pillowcase will catch all the dust,” explains McAllister.
“Blinds are tricky to clean, but a vacuum with a horsehair brush attachment will easily suck up dust and dirt,” says McAllister. If needed, wipe each slat down with a microfibre cloth afterward.
Sprinkle baking soda all over the top and let it work its deodorizing magic for three to four hours. Then vacuum up every trace of powder. “It’s like sleeping on a brand new mattress,” swears McAllister.
For bloodstains, use a mix of baking soda, peroxide and original blue Dawn dish soap (McAllister—who has tried them all—says it’s the only one that works). Scrub the paste onto the spot, and then rinse by blotting with warm water, taking care not to soak the mattress.
“Use your dryer’s high-heat setting to kill any lurking germs,” says McAllister.
10. Upholstery stains
Upholstered headboards can get stained from hair rubbing on the fabric night after night. “Dish soap is a strong degreaser, so it works a treat on this type of stain. Gently dab the spot with a couple of drops on a damp cloth,” says McAllister. Test it first by applying the solution on an area that isn’t visible.
Wash your sheets every week. Most duvets—even those filled with down—can (and should) be laundered every six months. It’s important to read the labels first, though, as sometimes a trip to the dry cleaner may be required.
12. Dust bunnies
To tackle the clumps of dust that tend to accumulate behind nightstands and bed frames, move furniture away from the wall and vacuum thoroughly.
This area should be deep-cleaned every two weeks, so turn on some tunes and get to scrub-a-dub-dubbing.
1. Shower head
Mix one part white vinegar to one part hot water and immerse shower head for at least three hours. If you can’t remove the fixture, put the liquid in a plastic bag and secure it over shower head with a twist-tie or an elastic. Let soak, and run the shower to rinse.
2. Shower curtain
“To get rid of mildew, throw the plastic liner in the washing machine with bleach and detergent, and then hang to dry,” says McAllister. Most fabric shower curtains can also be laundered, but skip the bleach to keep colours from running.
3. Shower walls
To clean soap scum and mildew from shower tile, McAllister and her team use a mix of dish soap and vinegar. Use a brush to scrub, then rinse.
4. Shower drain
The reFRESH team recommends investing in a drain cover to catch hair, debris and product buildup. Pull the gunk out and rinse in warm water once a week.
“Keep a Magic Eraser near the tub and scrub stains as they appear—you won’t have to worry about a big job on deep-clean days,” say the reFRESH co-founders.
To make old towels fresh and fluffy again, McAllister swears by laundry stripping, a technique that lifts oils, mineral buildup and residue left behind by softener and detergent. Fill your bathtub with piping hot water and mix in 2 cups powdered Tide detergent, 1/4 cup borax, 1/4 cup washing soda (like Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda) and 1/4 cup Calgon Liquid Water Softener (optional). Stir every hour for four hours, and then transfer towels to the washing machine and run a full cycle without detergent to rinse. Strip lights and darks separately; repeat every six months.
The reFRESH team uses a recipe of 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide, 1/2 cup baking soda and one tablespoon water or dish soap to make a paste. Apply to grout, let sit for 10 minutes and use a soft bristle brush to scrub. Rinse well.
Pro tip: Vacuum before you spray
“When you spray down hair, dust or lint with cleaner, it turns into mud and becomes much harder to wipe away,” explains McAllister. Solution: Vacuum the entire room first (including the tub and the outside of the toilet) using a horsehair brush attachment. (To clean the vacuum brush, dunk it in a mix of hot water and bleach, and let dry completely.)
To keep mirrors fog-free, apply shaving cream to the surface and wipe clean with paper towels.
“Coat your faucet with a mix of vinegar and dish soap and let it sit for about 20 minutes,” says McAllister. Wipe off with a soft cloth and rinse. For extra shine, polish with a glass cleaner. To clean crevices around the faucet, use an old toothbrush and a cleaning solution of your choice. “The soft bristles won’t damage the caulking,” note the reFRESH co-founders.
10. Toothpaste globs
Hot water does the trick. For additional reinforcement, McAllister uses Bar Keepers Friend, an acidic cleaner that works on anything from rust stains to soap scum.
11. Hard-water deposits
“If your toilet bowl is stained, liberally squirt with liquid Bar Keepers Friend, scrub with a toilet brush and let sit overnight so it has time to work,” suggests McAllister.
12. Toilet brush
After cleaning, spray the toilet brush and holder with disinfectant or diluted bleach. The reFRESH co-founders recommend sandwiching your toilet brush between the toilet seat and the bowl to let it drain, placing it back in the holder when completely dry.