Christmas may be a time for merriment but the prospect of cleaning your home before fussy relatives come to stay is anything but joyful. Get prepared well in advance and you will have nothing to fear from a houseproud in-law.
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Deep cleaning your home isn't just for spring time and a thorough clean in the run-up to the festive season means you will be on top of things should any unexpected guests arrive.
Before you can even begin the actual business of dusting, wiping and polishing, it's time to put everything (or at least as much as you can) away.
Most of us are guilty of storing things we don't really need so be ruthless and chuck out the chipped mugs, old receipts and useless pens from drawers and cupboards and make some space for more important clutter.
Then make a list of everything that needs doing so that you can check things off as you go - not only will it feel good to tick them off but you'll be sure that nothing has been missed.
As a general cleaning rule, be sure to dust from the top down (don't forget cupboard tops and skirting boards in case anyone sneaks a white glove in) and be methodical in your approach - go left to right or vice versa to ensure nothing gets missed.
There are always a few trouble spots though, so here are our top tips for those hard-to-clean areas.
Blinds and windows
For a thorough clean, it is best to remove any blinds and lay them on a dust sheet before using an all-purpose cleaner to get rid of dirt, dust and grime.
With the blinds removed it's a good time to get those windows clear and sparkling. A bottle of window cleaner will only get you so far - while it's fine for a quick clean, you'll find it often simply attracts more dust and dirt. It's worth using some diluted washing up liquid and a sponge or squeegee to really get to the bottom of it and then buffing up with newspaper or a lint-free cloth for a really good shine.
The old vinegar, water and newspaper trick really does work if it's all you have to hand but for speed and a little less mess, you can't beat and E-cloth, which contains tiny fibres that actually pick up the dirt (also excellent for stainless steel and ceramics such as sinks and hobs).
The bathroom is always a key must-clean area - while you no doubt whizz round on a regular basis, it's now time to empty cabinets and drawers, clean within and rearrange. Shower curtains should be removed and washed but here's a handy tip if your shower door has succumbed to soap scum. Mix two parts soda to one part vinegar or lemon juice to produce a paste - apply this with a damp cloth and leave for 10 minutes before rubbing with a sponge.
As it rinses away it helps keep the drains fresh too. This technique can be used on sinks, tiles and grout (use a toothbrush for grout).
If your tiles (kitchen or bathroom) are home to a particularly stubborn stain, apply a little nail polish remover to the affected area and then rinse.
The kitchen must, of course, be scrupulously clean and the same tips for tiles, grout and glass surfaces apply. If you spot stains on your 'stainless' steel though, be sure to avoid any abrasive cleaners - a touch of baby oil on a clean microfibre cloth should do the job.
You will, of course, have your fridge, oven, hob and cupboards spotless by the time the in-laws arrive.
Vacuuming might remove the dust and dirt on a daily basis but it's a good idea to steam clean every two years if possible. You can, of course, hire a professional to do the job but it does come at a price so hiring a steam cleaner might prove a cheaper option.
Remove as much furniture as you can, vacuum and spot clean any obvious stains with a stain remover first (be sure to test the product in a small hidden area first). Then follow the instructions for the cleaner and, ideally, make one pass over the carpet so as not to get it too wet. The carpet must be allowed to dry completely before the furniture goes back and it is best to leave windows open for ventilation.
If you are keen to stay eco-friendly with your cleaning, there are now plenty of options available. Popular brands such as Ecover and Bio-D are widely available in supermarkets but if you simply can't do without bleach, opt for one that is chlorine-free and choose fragrance-free products where possible.
It's a chore, there is no doubt, but once your home if thoroughly clean you can relax and enjoy Christmas without fearing the sharp eye of the mother-in-law!
If you have any unusual cleaning tips, let us know below...