High-Speed Cleaning

Got a life? Then you probably don't want to spend any more time on housework than you have to. Here's how to clean your house better and faster.

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But you must have the right tools to get the most out of every movement: 100 percent cotton cloths, a professional toothbrush for getting into tight spots, scrapers, an ostrich-feather duster and ? my personal favorite ? a pumice stone for rubbing out toilet-bowl stains. Jeff sells the products through his catalog, but you can find similar items at local retailers.

Then the system itself. And you have to follow the rules without exception:

  • Make every move count.
  • Use the right tools.
  • Work from top to bottom.
  • If it isn't dirty, don't clean it.
  • Don't rinse or wipe a surface before it's clean.
  • Don't keep working after it's clean.
  • If what you're doing isn't working, shift to a heavier-duty cleaner or tool.
  • Keep your tools in impeccable shape.
  • Repetition makes for smoother moves.
  • Pay attention.
  • Keep track of your time.
  • Use both hands.
  • If more than one person is available, work as a team.

Jeff says his method works whether you live alone or have five kids, two dogs and a parakeet. But it has to be done regularly so the schmutz doesn't accumulate.

"How often? It doesn't have to do with size," he says, "but with how the house is lived in. In most houses it needs to be done every week or two." This is maintenance cleaning, not heavy-duty spring cleaning, he points out. But you can build in seasonal jobs if you want.

Involve the Whole Family

Although 65 percent of Jeff's customers are women, he believes it's best to involve the whole family. "Some husbands have a fairly good excuse ? that they don't know how to clean ? but teaching is a big part of the equation," he says. "Speed cleaning is kind of linear, which appeals to men. Being good at something and being fast is satisfying."

As for the kids, "Children you have a little bit of clout with. And by teaching your children, you can spark an interest," he says. "Make it a game; do it together, and add rewards."

He suggests giving children assignments based on their skills, even if you know you'll have to do the task over yourself. As the kids get older, gradually make the assignments more challenging.

Jeff is no Heloise, so he doesn't offer helpful cleaning tips. "You can't learn much from a hint or tip," he insists. "You need to know the system."

Not only does it free up time, it also inspires cohabitants to keep up the daily chores. "If you get the regular cleaning under control, it encourages you to do the daily stuff to keep the place civilized," he says.

Who cleans the Speed Cleaner's abode? "I clean my own house," says Jeff. "I enjoy cleaning. When I worked for the phone company, my job was to install phone systems for big companies. I'd write up papers that went to different departments, and six months later something would happen. But when you clean your house, there's immediate satisfaction, and you get all the credit."

Caron Golden is a San Diego-based writer and editor.

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