Professional cleaners and housekeepers know the importance of a tidy home. While some things may slip under our radar, cleaners get into all the important nooks and crannies. Perhaps most importantly, they also take care of items we often neglect. Here, professionals share the regular items you should be cleaning, but probably aren’t.
#1 Where You Eat
Kitchens in general. If you're going to be messy, be messy. But for the love of everything, at the very least, keep the place where you eat and store food spotless. Seriously. Kitchens are generally small, so divide them into imaginary little squares and clean them up one by one in order. You'll be done before you know it and after that, you just need to maintain it bit by bit.
#2 Cleaning Other Things
Clean the things you use to clean other things. Replace your kitchen sponge at least twice a month. Wash your towels weekly. Leave the door to your washing machine open after each cycle so it doesn’t mildew. You get the idea. If these things aren’t clean, they can manifest in big ways. Ever met one of those people who has a faint musty smell even after showering? Chances are they’ve been using the same nasty bath towel for weeks and don’t notice the smell anymore.
#3 Never Going Back
Years ago, I knew a lady who had this “water filter” that was just a sponge thing that screwed onto her kitchen tap. It was literally black with mildew. When I mentioned it, she shrugged and said she was too lazy to take it off. It literally would have taken the same time and effort as taking the cap off of a bottle of Coke. But, she simply refused to do it. At first, I vowed never to drink anything at her place again. Then I saw her bathroom and just decided never to go back instead.
#4 I’m Not Kidding
Here's one people never do but really should: vacuum your mattress. No, I'm not kidding. When you change your sheets you should vacuum that thing so you can suck out whatever dead skin and crumbs have made their way down there. Also, we all know to wash the fitted sheet. But below that, mattresses sometimes have another removable cover. Please wash that, too.
#5 Curtain Stench
When I did housekeeping during college, I noticed that many people neglect to take down their shower curtains periodically for washing. That's the accumulation of body oils, fluids, etc. that has splashed off your body. You can disinfect and make a bathroom sparkle, sure. However, the stench of the ripe curtain… ick.
#6 An Absolute Nightmare
Honestly? Even in the wealthiest of homes, the bathrooms were an absolute nightmare. Grime so thick on the walls you could make an entire bar of soap out of it. Hard water stains were even harder. We had this fancy pumice stone that we’d use to scrub the majority of it away. A lot of us would use toilet bowl cleaner on the entire bathroom. It had some really strong compounds that would just cut right through that stuff.
#7 A Light Dusting
I’ve done professional house cleaning and I was also raised by a clean freak. So, it's normal for me to dust the ceiling fans every time I clean and to wipe them down every couple of months. I swear some people never ever clean them. I’m horrified when I go to some of my friend’s houses. I have nightmares about all the dust falling off into my food or drink. Ew.
#8 Finishing Touches
The finishing touches people miss are polishing or wiping down their kitchen bin, kettles and other shiny things on their counters. One job I struggle with is removing hair from a plug hole. As a rule, I don’t do it because I’ll spend the day dry heaving. People forget to clean their taps, door handles and light switches, yet they are probably the most used item.
#9 Hot Zones in the House
I used to clean luxury apartments in the Upper East Side in college. No matter how "clean" the apartments looked, there were a few places people will often forget to clean. First, microwaves. Second, behind the stove (yes, food falls down there). I once cleaned someone's stove and there were popcorn kernels from 2010! This guy had a strict diet, so he was able to remember the last time he ate popcorn.
Third, window blinds (the guy had white blinds and over time, they looked yellow). Fourth, behind the fridge and inside the fridge! I used to clean apartments from doctors and lawyers and their places would be dirty! They would always be amazed at how I was able to find "hidden" garbage. They would always appreciate my work and always gave me a tip or bonus.
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#10 Saturated in Grease
The one that always gets neglected is the extractor fan hood over your cooker. There are filters on there that need replacing (or just cleaning depending on the type). If you don’t after about six to 12 months, they turn into a fire hazard because they get saturated with grease. If you put your hand onto the flat underside of your extractor hood and it feels greasy, that’s because it is. Clean it once in a while, folks.
#11 Hidden Spaces
Outside your entryways. If you keep your stoop swept and the garage floor relatively clean, you will track in a lot less crud. Also, if you have pets, vacuum your furniture once in a while. I spent over an hour once removing dog and cat hair from a living room set. Also, behind your toilet. It gets dusty there, plus urine. Also, spiders like that spot for some reason.
#12 Neglect to Clean
I've been cleaning for a few years now. The biggest things I've seen people neglect to clean for literally years are underneath toilet seats, inside bathroom drawers, inside medicine cabinets and bathtubs. So, so many bathtubs are caked with pink sludge that's a mixture of soap scum and skin. It really made me start paying attention to the little things when cleaning my own spaces.
#13 Finding Cat Treasure
When my guy and I first started living together, he didn’t understand that couches need to be cleaned! Underneath and inside. He will still try to get away with vacuuming and not moving the couch. We have two cats and a dog, so it gets disgusting under there. One of the cats is a hoarder too and likes to hide things, so it’s always in our best interest to move the couch around to find her treasures.
#14 Good as New
Does vacuum filter count? I’m not a professional cleaner, but I work as a carpet laying apprentice. You think I wouldn’t see too much, but I do. Sometimes, we use the customer’s vacuum to tidy up. Usually, they’re a useless pile of garbage and you have to empty it and clean the filter. Then, they’re good as new.
#15 Black Crumbs
I wish people would just flush after every use. I have always wanted to discover new flora and fauna, but not in my customers’ toilets! Also, please empty your toaster crumb trays. I have found crumb trays so full that some of the crumbs were BLACK from being burned. In case you didn’t know, that’s a fire hazard!
#16 Brownish, Sticky Paste
I maintain apartments and dorms in college and we often have to replace a lightbulb or fan above the students’ ovens. The range hood is the most disgusting thing in the kitchen. I cleaned out a few sinks and did plumbing, but the range hood accumulates unbelievable grease and you can’t see it. The grease has layers and layers until the metal is covered in a brownish, unbelievably sticky paste. If you get enough condensation in your hood, it can drip down into your food, so that is gag-worthy itself.
#17 Most People Forget
I worked for a home inspection company. You should probably check out your home’s foundation once in a while if you live on a raised foundation. Not necessarily to clean it, but stick your head in with a flashlight for a cursory look to make sure you're not accumulating tons of dead animals down there. Also, wipe down the walls in your house every once in a while. Lots of people forget to do this. It will cut back a lot of dust and possibly mold growth.
#18 Black on the Inside
Retired professional housekeeper here. If you have a front-loading washing machine, take a look inside the detergent drawer. Pull it right out. The inside will be black and this goes on your clothes, every wash. The number of people who don't realize this is shocking. The same goes for behind the rubber door seal on your dishwasher, especially the bottom. Clean around the seal at least once a month.
#19 Ghost Outlines
In my experience, I’ve noticed that not many people move furniture to clean, resulting in what appears to be ghost outlines for furniture if you move it. Oh, and people should also invest in renting a carpet shampoo machine. Get ones that make sure you get the entire floor clean, otherwise you just waste money.
#20 You Don’t Need That
Seriously, clean your TV remotes. Also, most people use way too much detergent making everything super sticky. More dirt sticks, you get more germs. Use a lot less detergent. Dry surfaces afterwards to pick up the remaining detergent. This is probably the most antibacterial thing you can do in a household. You don't need disposable wipes.
#21 Things to Keep in Mind
Chef here, not a professional cleaner. The filters in your air conditioning unit and your vents gather a ton of dust and grime. Clean them for a better performing unit. Additionally, the water lock under your sink. It can really fill up with some nasty stuff if not emptied. Also, the bottom of the cutlery drawers. No need to explain that one.
#22 The Dirtiest Places
My mom cleaned houses when I was a kid. I tagged along a lot since we couldn’t afford daycare. I remember the dirtiest places were bathrooms, but the funny part was a lot of people pre-cleaned their house so they wouldn’t be embarrassed. That just left the deep cleaning things like dusting and vacuuming with a good high-quality vacuum.
#23 Regular Cleanings
Most people don't do regular cleaning on their drains, they just wait for a clog. Every week or two, just dump a load of baking soda down there and pour vinegar on it. Five minutes later and your drains will flow. In the bathroom sink, I fill the drain with soda completely so that when I pour the vinegar in, it comes through the overflow as well.
You'd be amazed at how gross it is in there. People also don't think to clean water dispensers and coffee makers. Again vinegar. I pour a half a jug through my water cooler every month and I brew a pot of vinegar every month as well. Oh, and your kitchen sink drain plugs. That rubber ring gets so disgusting underneath it. You can usually just unscrew the top and disassemble the whole thing to wash it.
#24 Almost Every Day
I clean in a restaurant and I'd say door handles, buttons, knobs, switches, etc. Everything people touch with their hands, especially if they do so without thinking. I clean the door handles and flush buttons every single day. I clean the doors once a week, especially the area around the handles. Also, because I know many people use the restroom and don't wash their hands, so their gunk gets on the handles. The hand soap in the men's room always lasts twice as long as that in the women's. And yes, the underside of the toilet seat, the top of the lid, around the hinges. I clean those every day as well.
#25 No Magic Wand
I cleaned carpets and rugs for about ten years and I will never understand how people can live with the amount of cat urine that they do. It ruined ever getting a cat for me. I guess people really do go nose blind to it. And the funny thing is, when I tell them to throw the thing away and get a new one, the reply is, “But you’re a professional. Isn’t it your job to get it out?” Um, you let your pet ruin the rug for five years. What do you think I can do? It’s a carpet wand, not a magic wand. I’m glad I don’t do that anymore.
#26 Long-Lasting Fridge
Not very many people mention vacuuming the lint off the refrigerator coils. It’s strange to me because that’s so important. Pop the lower cover off, no tools needed, then use a brush and vacuum brush to take the hair and stuff off. This is especially important if you have pets. Your fridge will run less and last longer.
#27 Preventing Mildew
Make sure to change your towels frequently enough. Also, don't put wet towels directly in the hamper. Towels develop mildew when they get damp and stay damp. If you notice that your hand towel is staying damp for hours, replace it with a fresh one. Hang damp or wet towels over the shower curtain rod or on a wide holder with good airflow so that they dry efficiently before you put them in the hamper.
#28 Severely Neglected
Your vacuum cleaner. Take it all the way apart. Don't just empty the bag. Do this once every four to six months depending on how often you vacuum. Take the hose apart. The filters. The brush things in the main base where things get sucked up. Wash everything. (I'm not a professional but this is one thing that gets severely neglected.)
#29 I Can See Clearly Now
Wipe down the tops of your door and window frames. You also need to wipe down the top edges of picture frames, your ceiling fan blades, and take down any ceiling light covers to toss out the dead bugs. You can also then replace light bulbs and wash the glass cover. Now you should be able to see the rest of the dirt better!
#30 Hiding in Plain Sight
I'm not a house cleaner, but get yourself a good UV flashlight on a dark night and take a walk around your place. You'll see exactly what you avoid cleaning. (Except in a laundry room, as the whiteners in detergent fluoresce brightly too.) Bonus! Take that UV light outside and see what hangs out in your lawn at night…
#31 We’re All Human
I would say there's probably nothing I see that I haven't seen in my own home. I'm there to do a job. I wouldn't have a job if everyone just cleaned up themselves. I will say that I have a client I visit three times a week, an hour each time. I feel so accomplished when I leave her house. It makes me happy to know that both parents come home to no dishes in the sink, the beds made, the laundry folded. It is exactly what I wish I could have, myself. I hope they feel the service is worth every penny since they don't have to lift a finger.
#32 Crumb Traps
I’m a housekeeper. I feel like so many people don’t realize there are usually one or two crumb traps on the back of toasters that you can remove and empty. At the end of the day, I know it’s easy to ignore. But, you really shouldn’t. I say this because whenever we take on a new house, their crumb traps are always super full.
#33 Distinctive Line
If your bed is against a wall, pull it away and wash the wall. You'd be amazed at the distinctive line of body oil and grossness that gets rubbed onto it while you sleep. Walls in general need washed periodically. Kids leave marks and handprints at their level, dogs leave nose marks all over, areas around switchplates (especially the kitchen) get very grimy. You may not notice it but once you wash them, it's so much brighter. Also, clean the blades of your fan. They're nasty on the top.
#34 Extra Protection
I don't understand why some people don't use a mattress pad under their fitted sheets. It boggles my mind, especially when they’re adults. They are almost always white, so you can toss it in the washer with some bleach every few months. Same with pillow covers, the zippered bags that go between pillow and pillowcase.
#35 The Executive Bathroom
I was the manager of a university-owned property where a C Level executive lived (while being paid $75k per month, not including other allowances). Their bathroom was a nightmare . I had to respond to calls about broken toilets (from them rocking on them) and “funny sewage smells.” The plumber and I decided it was the god awful pantry that rarely got touched by the university house cleaner. Anyway, it was awful.
#36 A Collection of Items
Oh my God, window frames. I worked as a housekeeper in Cairns, QLD for a few months. You need to clean the frames. Remove the sliding windows entirely, if possible, and use a kitchen knife and a cloth to get all the dirt and debris out of there. You will find pebbles, dust, sand, dead insects, even geckos if they live in your area.
#37 Before It’s Too Late
Oh God, oh God. I used to do "property preservation" on foreclosed homes. The absolute worst things are the toilets, bar none. You can clean literally everything, but you will never clean your toilet as clean as you think that drag of toilet paper is making it. Get real. Get down on your knees and scrub the waste and off your toilet before it’s too late.
#38 Just Wipe it Up
Most people seem incapable of cleaning their toilets. I feel like everyone I visit has a nasty toilet, with dry urine caked on the rim of the bowl and dripping down underneath, congealing around the base in the crevice between tile and toilet. Just. Wipe. It. Up. But then inside the bowl, there’s that stain from the waterline as evidence that no one bleached this thing in over a year.
#39 First-Time Visits
I cleaned houses with my mom for a decade. The “first-time” visit was always double because people never bother to clean these things, but expect them to sparkle when we leave. Baseboards (even under the kitchen cabinets!), the top of the refrigerator, the underside of the hood over the stove (and change the filter if you have one!), under the stove burners (and the silver trays), the microwave, cabinet doors especially around the handles, and light switches.
You also need to tend to the fan blades and wash the blinds and curtains. People also tend to neglect bleaching their trash can, which should probably be done every three months or so. To clean all the buildup from your shower or bathroom sink fixture: get a spray bottle and fill with half vinegar and half dish soap. Spray down the scummy area and let sit for an hour or two. It should come right off with a scrubby now.
#40 Old Sponges
The dish-drying rack next to the sink, the tray it sits on and the cutlery cup. Dirtier and more bacteria-ridden than the dishes when they went in the sink. Also, I know someone who thinks his wooden cutting board is clean after he wipes it with his old sponge that he wipes the rest of the kitchen with. The stinky sponge sits next to the board and the board never leaves the countertop. Ack!
#41 Always Forgotten About
I run a small cleaning company in New England. By far the most neglected place in everyone's home is the floor behind the toilets. 100% of my first-time customers have never cleaned it. I know that a lot of other professionals see the same thing. As for what people need to clean but don't? You don't really need to clean anything.
#42 Milk Stains
Your mugs and teaspoons. Don't just rinse them, scrub them properly. I don't know why, but loads of people I know don't clean their mugs properly after months or even years of use with tea. That results in a delightful tea stain ring that five seconds with a scourer would sort out. That ring isn't just caused by tea, either, but milk. You probably wouldn't want to drink out of a glass that had a yellow-white milk stain around the rim…
#43 Mother of Many
I’m not a cleaner, but a mother of many. Please, for love of God, wash and replace your hand towels and sponges weekly at the least. Vacuum and remember to get under furniture, air vents, and crevices in general. Take everything off counters and wipe thoroughly. Wash pet bedding and childrens’ favorite stuffed toys weekly. Wash or beat rugs, too.
#44 Think About It
Light switches and doorknobs! I’m not a professional house cleaner, but my mom taught me to do this and now I do it whenever I clean. Think about how many people touch those, especially the one in your house! Not to mention, if you have roommates? Think about the bathroom light switches and knobs in particular.
#45 Inhaling Bacteria
Showerheads. The problem with showerheads is that they can grow pathogenic bacteria inside them, and then when you have a shower you're inhaling that bacteria into your lungs and sinuses and washing all over with them. One trick is just to turn them on, super hot (70C or more), for a minute, about once a month. That will kill most of the nastiest stuff. Also, descale them occasionally.
#46 Dry Them Out
I used to clean houses full time. Remove your shower mats after use and let them dry out. If you don’t, there’s a chance black mold will grow on the bottom. It's a pain trying to clean mold out from around those little suction cups. Also, clean your kitchen sink strainers. They can get pretty gross after a while if left unattended.
#47 Built-Up Hand Grime
The tops of cupboards and other ceiling stuff (fans, vents, etc.). Also, skirting boards and door frames. Almost every house I do an initial clean on has neglected these areas. Also, those dark spots around your light switches and door handles wipe off.... they are (for lack of a better word) built-up hand grime.
#48 Typically Gross
I manage a licensed, bonded, and insured residential cleaning company. Baseboards and molding of doors are typically pretty gross. The same goes for tile grout. You'd be surprised to see what a quick scrub of grout will bring up. If you have dark tile in your walk-in shower, spray it down with some simple diluted Lysol and watch the sludge pour down. The inside of the toilet, under the rim. Also, the floor behind the toilet. Also, the entire exterior of the toilet bowl area.
#49 Cleaning Those Vents
No matter whose place or how clean it is already, cleaning the air vents always seems to get neglected. At the very least, swipe the return vent with a dusting wand, but a good suck with a vacuum attachment is even better. The vent slats are supposed to point downward so dust isn't able to settle as much and to hide the duct. If you can see through the vent into the duct, you have it upside-down.
#50 Unknown Fire Hazard
I don’t clean houses, but clean behind your fridges. This is important. I know two different people who have had house fires from a refrigerator being completely neglected and dust buildup and lack of ventilation behind it. It caused the compressor to overheat and catch fire. Bathroom fans are another one. Vacuum out those bad boys. They’re another big unknown cause of fires.