Thursday, December 27, 2007

The How-To of “Dry Work”

When you are putting an untidy house to rights, once the rooms are cleared of clutter and debris, you broken the job down into manageable chunks and you have a plan, actually cleaning the rooms is the next step. But what if you literally do not know how to do certain cleaning tasks? What if you have never been shown how to dust or sweep or properly clean a mirror or window? Believe it or not, this is the case for a surprising number of people. Many of us were simply sent to our rooms with the instruction to clean it, but with no instruction as to how.

Dry work first
We do the “dry” work first because we don’t want to stir up dust and clouds of airborne debris that will just dirty up our already-clean areas. We’ll remove all that stuff first.

Dry work is dusting, sweeping, and vacuuming. You can pretty much do it in any order, although sweeping really should take place before vacuuming in order to remove large items from the floor that might choke the vacuum cleaner.

Vacuum cleaners exhaust air as they work and unless your vacuum is one of those expensive new gadgets with HEPA filters and such, you can be guaranteed that a certain amount of fine dust will be emitted with the vacuum exhaust. Knowing this, the most efficient order of doing the dry work in a room is sweep, vacuum, dust.

Let us assume that you have decided to clean your bedroom and you will take the various tasks in their most efficient order. You will therefore start with sweeping.

(Tip: sweep with a broom that has the ends dampened with water This will prevent dust from becoming airborne and settling later onto clean surfaces.)

Your basic task is to sweep all debris to the centre of the room where it can be collected with the dustpan and then discarded.

Starting at one end of the room, put the broom against the skirting boards and use short, sharp strokes to remove accumulated dust, dirt, fluff, and debris. Sweep along the wall and sweep the collected stuff towards the centre of the room. Sweep the entire perimeter, then the open floor, always directing the debris towards a single, central location.

In order to get the room clean, furniture must be swept under and behind. This may not be possible in all cases (you may not be able to move an armoire full of stereo equipment, for example), but to the degree possible, pull items away from the wall (onto the floor already swept) to sweep behind. Leave the furniture out, as you will next vacuum.

In the case of carpeted rooms, sweeping may still be a wise first step. Vacuum cleaners don’t like large items, strings, rubber bands, wads of paper or pet hair, or fiddly things like paper clips, hair pins, or coins. Sweeping up and discarding such items from a rug before running the vacuum can save you considerable aggravation and expense.

If the room has a floor and rugs, remove the smaller rugs from the room…just deposit them outside the room for now (when you are finished cleaning the room you will either take them outside to shake or you will take them to the laundry). Rugs too large to easily remove should be left in place, but their edges flipped back so you can sweep as much from beneath them as possible.

When all debris has been swept to a single location, collect it in the dustpan and discard into one of the plastic trash bags that are in your cleaning basket. Step back for a moment and admire your freshly swept floor and congratulate yourself on having accomplished your goal. Now you are ready to set your next goal:

(Tip: dampen a cotton ball with a fragrant oil or your favourite perfume and place in the vacuum’s tank or dust bag. As the machine works, the exhaust will be scented by the cotton ball and leave a pleasant fragrance in the room.)

If the room has both flooring and large carpets, begin by vacuuming the flooring. This way you will not track residual dirt and dust onto the carpet when you step on and off of it during vacuuming.

Locate the crevice tool (a short tube with a slanted tip). Most upright machines will allow you to disconnect the hose that goes to the bag or tank and connect a wand with an attachment to it. Begin by using the crevice tool to suction dirt from corners of the room and from the tops of the skirting boards and where the skirting boards meet the floor/carpet. When this is finished, switch to the floor attachment and vacuum the floor.

Choose the proper height/attachment for vacuuming a floor. Upright machines usually have a three-level (or more) adjustment that will raise and lower the head for floors (lowest), low pile carpet (medium), and high for a deep pile carpet. If the vacuum is a canister type, there should be a carpet attachment and a floor attachment for the end of the wand (tube). The carpet attachment usually has a roller with brushes attached to it. The floor attachment is usually as wide as the carpet attachment but the suction opening does not have a roller (although it may have a brush).

Vacuum the floor in a regular pattern, in one direction, being careful to empty the bag or cup when full. If there are carpets, flip them back and vacuum beneath them to the degree possible. If there is furniture that can be moved so that it can be vacuumed behind or under, do so.

After the floor is finished, switch to the proper height/attachment for the carpet. Vacuum the carpet in one direction, slowly pushing and pulling the vacuum head over the carpet. Depending on how dirty the carpet is, you can go over a spot once or twice (very light soil) or half a dozen or more times (visible dirt on the carpet). Once the entire carpet has been vacuumed in one direction, vacuum a second time, this time perpendicular to the first pass. In other words, if you vacuumed the room along its length the first time, this time vacuum across its width. The vacuum should be leaving visible marks on the carpet where it has been cleaned, so it is easy for you to

Large area rugs should be vacuumed in the same manner, but with care taken not to suck the fringes into the vacuum. If fringe is sucked in, immediately shut the vacuum off and release the trapped fringe by hand.

After the floors and carpets are vacuumed, step back and look at the curtains, upholstered furniture, and the ceiling. Using the crevice tool, you can remove cobwebs from ceiling corners, and using the soft brush tool, you can vacuum the ceiling where there are bits of hanging fluff. Most vacuums have a small attachment that looks like a miniature floor attachment. This is for upholstery and curtains…and it does a marvellous job of removing embedded dust from them. To vacuum the curtains, put the upholstery tool on the end of the wand and place the tool at the top of the drapes/curtains. Pull the wand slowly towards the floor, repeating the process until the entire curtain has been vacuumed. When vacuuming upholstered furniture, remove cushions and vacuum underneath them as well as the underside of the cushions and the sides and bottom edges.

When the vacuuming is finished, put the vacuum cleaner out of the room, push all furnishing back into place, then stand back and admire your handiwork and the lovely fragrance from the scented vacuum cleaner exhaust.

Dusting is the final bit of dry work. The objective of dusting is to remove the dust from objects so it can be discarded or washed away. And while may seem like a no-brainer, there really are right and wrong ways to dust.

Wrong way: feather and/or lambswool dusters. These items not only can scatter dust back into the air, sending it out onto your freshly vacuumed and swept surfaces, they can cause tschochkes to be knocked over and damaged.

The right way to dust is with a dampened cloth…oiled, if you are dusting wood furniture). Dust will cling to a soft, damp or oiled cloth, rather than be scattered back into the room to land elsewhere. Here’s how to do it:

If there are both wood and non-wood surfaces to dust, dampen a cloth (smooth…not a fuzzy or fluffy or nappy surface) and wring thoroughly. Fold the cloth as many times as necessary to make a size comfortable to hold in your hand. Also fold a dry cloth in the same manner and take a bottle of teak oil.

Remove items from the surface to be dusted. If the surface is wood, pour a small amount of oil onto the cloth (never directly onto the wood!) and wipe the wood in the direction of the grain, lifting the cloth at the end of each stroke to collect the dust onto the cloth.. After the surface dust has been removed, fold the cloth to a clean section and polish the surface with circular strokes, making sure to remove any excess oil. Wipe any other parts of the wooden piece (legs, rungs, skirting, etc.) that are made of wood, polishing away any excess oil.

Now, using the damp cloth, wipe all the articles that were removed from the wooden surface to remove all dust. Replace in their proper place and move on to the next item.

1. Wood that has fancy work (carving, grooves, turned legs or arms) will need a bit of special attention: use a thin edge of the cloth to get into the little grooves and carved bits to remove dust and dirt, then polish with a dry cloth.

2. Wood work needs dusting and cleaning: tops of door sills, window frames, mutton bars on windows, window sills, etc. If the wood is unpainted or unvarnished, it could use oiling, too.

3. Tops of books get dusty

4. Fabric flower arrangements, lamp shades, and the lamps themselves can get dusty, too.

5. Don’t forget the feet of chairs, sofas, display cabinets, and coffee tables.

The absolutely final touch in the dry work is changing linens. If it is a bedroom, fresh bedding is a must. In other rooms it might be doilies, scatter rugs, a table cloth, or towels. Whatever kind of soft goods belong in the room, your last “dry” task is to replace them with clean ones.

When the dry work is finished in a room, the work is nearly finished. Stand back and admire the gleaming wood and spotless accessories and know that, once the wet work is done, you’re done too!

Wet work, of course, is what we’ll deal with next.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I got your comment on Thelly's blog

having been hijacked - I have tried to get Google to fix it and turn it back over to her or me but they refuse.

I will try asking them again - it has been a while since I gave up.

Thank you,