The Best Cleaning Tools for the Job

A set of durable, versatile cleaning tools will make the work go easier.

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Floor Cleaners, Part 1

Mops
Whether used for wet or dry cleaning, mops are the foot soldiers in the battle for clean floors. Every organized home needs at least two: a wet mop, to pick up wet spills and wash hard-surface floors; and a dry mop, to collect dry dust, dirt, and pet hair.

When choosing a mop for wet cleaning, bear in mind its purpose; not only should it dissolve dirt, but it must also lift it from the floor and remove it. For this reason, avoid string mops. They are heavy to lift, awkward to use and nearly impossible to rinse clean.

Instead, look for large-headed wet mops with a swivel base and removable terry covers. These innovative tools do dual duty; a dry cover makes quick work of spilled liquids, while a cover wrung out in cleaning solution dissolves and lifts dirt easily. As the cover becomes soiled, simply replace it with a freshly wrung one.

To finish, a dry cover polishes away the last of the water and since the terry covers can be machine-washed and dried, then reused, you’ll avoid the expense and environmental problems of disposable mop liners.

Sponge mops, too, offer efficient cleaning for spills and floors. Larger cleaning heads make the job fly faster. Because these mops get a workout, make sure hinge mechanisms are made of metal; plastic won’t stand up to the job.

Dry mops are available in many forms. Small disposable mops have the advantage of sliding easily into tight corners and are a favorite with young helpers, but they can be flimsy and replacement pads are expensive.

Reusable microfiber mops offer a less costly alternative. Some microfiber mops use hook-and-loop tape to attach washable dry-mop pads to the mop face. Others replace disposable pads with reusable microfiber sheets. Use them on dry soil and to sweep up crumbs in the kitchen.
When buying a dry mop, examine the handle and hinge assembly. Mopping stresses these areas, so look for metal connectors and swivels.

Floor Cleaners, Part 2

Brooms
These come in three basic types: push, synthetic and corn. Push brooms are made from synthetic bristles arrayed in a wide flat base. They’re used to sweep large areas like the center of indoor rooms, garages, and patios. Rougher bristles allow the push broom to tackle irregular surfaces. Choose a push broom with tacked-in bristles, avoiding brooms that are merely glued together. Look for a metal coupling between the handle and the head; the stresses of sweeping will wear out plastic fittings quickly.

Angled synthetic brooms are lightweight and work well to clean near baseboards, behind furniture and in corners. Use them indoors, as their lighter weight makes them impractical for heavier outdoor jobs. Store synthetic brooms head-up to avoid bending the bristles.

Corn brooms are made from natural bristles, and they’re the all-purpose solution for sweeping chores. Pair them with a dustpan for quick kitchen cleanups; the rough bristles do a superior job on flooring material with a coarse or pitted surface that holds dirt, such as brick or concrete.
When buying a corn broom, look for a smooth, strong handle and multiple rows of stitching to hold the bristles in place. Store the corn broom head-up to prevent the bristles from bending. As the broom ages, trim the bristles an inch or so to restore it to youthful vigor.

The corn broom has flexible bristles that reach easily into corners. A push broom clears large spaces quickly. A whisk broom makes short work of spills and crumbs.

Vacuum Cleaner
Equipped with proper filtration, a vacuum cleaner swoops up dust finally and forever and removes it from the home. Vacuum cleaners come in two basic styles: canister and upright. Generally, upright vacuums do a better job on carpeting, are less expensive, and easier to store, while the canister vac does a superior job on hard flooring, stairs, and hard-to-reach places, such as automobile seats. For dusting, use the vacuum’s extension hose and specialty heads, such as an upholstery brush, dust brush or crevice tool.

A handheld mini-vac comes in handy for stairs, tight corners and small spills. Choose a mini-vac model with disposable bags for best air quality. Rechargeable mini-vacs are cordless and convenient.

Dust-Busters

Where there’s life, there’s dust! Household dust is an airborne mix of soil particles, lint, insect parts, animal dander, pollen, molds and fungi. Dust comes in through the open window or door, or hitches a ride inside on shoes and clothing. It is stirred into the air by walking or careless dusting. Airborne dust irritates breathing passages and triggers allergic reactions in sensitive people. As it falls, it settles on fixtures, surfaces and floors, and clogs furnace filters and refrigerator coils, causing these appliances to work harder and consume more energy. Because dust is abrasive, walking on dusty floors can damage carpet, vinyl, or hardwood floors.

Regular dust removal is essential for a clean and well-kept home. Try the following tools and techniques to control dust.

Dust Cloths
What’s the pedigree of a great dust cloth? It’s white, and it’s made of 100 percent cotton. Cotton is absorbent, trapping dust instead of scattering it, and it won’t scratch fine furniture. White dust cloths show the dirt as you work and are washable, reusable and may be bleached. For an eco-friendly, frugal touch, recycle and repurpose old-fashioned unfolded diapers, squares of terry toweling or stained damask napkins as durable dust cloths.

Lambswool Duster
A lambswool duster with a long handle extends your reach and is useful for dusting delicate, detailed items. Long wool fibers attract and hold fine dust until you release it outside by twirling the wand firmly between your palms.

Electrostatic Dry Cleaning Cloths
Made of special microfibers that attract and trap dust, these cloths are superb for cleaning electronic equipment or removing fine, blown-in soil. Choose washable, reusable cloths over disposables.

Tools to Avoid
Paper towels contain wood pulp products that can scratch delicate surfaces. Feather dusters move dust into the air instead of collecting it, they can’t be washed, and a broken quill can scratch delicate surfaces.

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Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer

Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited

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