Living away from mom and dad has its perks—i.e., being free from the constant nagging to clean your room. Is it any wonder, then, that your place can easily turn into a pigsty?
Granted, between balancing school, work, and your social life, cleaning can get pushed to the bottom of your priority list. That’s why, in this latest installment of our College Student’s Guide to Living on Your Own, we prove it’s possible to tidy up your space with minimal effort and supplies. Really, minimal effort!
1. Learn the many uses for vinegar
Distilled white vinegar is one of the most useful cleaning supplies around, according to Leanne Stapf, the vice president of operations at the house cleaning service The Cleaning Authority. Here’s how Stapf suggests using it to keep your stuff squeaky-clean:
- Shower: To erase soap and scum, wipe your shower doors with a rag or paper towel soaked in vinegar. To fix a clogged shower head, pour vinegar into a plastic bag and tie it around your showerhead. Let the bag sit overnight, and remove it before your next shower.
- Drains: Keep your drains clog-free by pouring a cup of vinegar down them once every two weeks. Allow the vinegar to sit in the drains for 30 minutes, then run cold water to flush it out.
- Mattress: “It’s important to clean your mattress often, to avoid dust mites and dead skin cells,” Stapf explains. For regular cleaning or possible stain removal, spray the mattress with vinegar and sprinkle baking soda on top. Set a towel over the area and let it sit for one to two hours. Then take your vacuum and go over the mattress for one final sweep.
- Microwave. Place a microwave-safe bowl filled with a half-cup of vinegar and a half-cup of water in your appliance. Microwave this on high for several minutes until the solution boils and the window is steamy. Turn off your microwave and let the bowl cool for 15 minutes. Then remove it and wipe out the inside with a paper towel. To clean the outside, spray a paper towel with your vinegar and water mixture and wipe.
- To ward off colds and flus. Vinegar can also be a handy disinfectant during flu season. Before you catch a cold and have to miss class, use a half-cup of vinegar mixed with a half-gallon of warm water to wipe down anything in your place that could contain germs: doorknobs, handles, light switches, etc.
Believe it or not, dryer sheets can work outside the laundry room. The next time you use a dryer sheet to soften your delicates, don’t throw it away. Instead, run it along your baseboards, TV, and computer screen. Dryer sheets are designed to reduce static cling, so they can easily remove dirt from every nook and cranny. Plus, they keep dust from resettling for a few days, says Stapf.
Stapf also recommends using dryer sheets to remove any funky smells from your space. Start by lining the inside of your garbage can with a few scented sheets, to keep the cans smelling fresh. You can also place dryer sheets in the bottom of the can to help absorb odors and leaks. And if your gym bag or sneakers are stinking up your room, put a dryer sheet (or two!) in them to get rid of the aroma.
3. Use the dishwasher for more than just dishes
If you have a dishwasher, you should know that it can wash a lot more than coffee mugs and shot glasses. “If you’re only using your dishwasher to clean dishes and silverware, you aren’t using it to its full potential,” notes Stapf. Many everyday items can be thoroughly cleaned in the dishwasher, saving you time.
For example, put your contact lens case in the silverware bin to sanitize it at least once a month. Clean your mouth guard by running it through the dishwasher on the top shelf.
Makeup and hairbrushes can gather gunk over time, so Stapf recommends cleaning these on a low setting, so that the glue that holds the brush hairs together doesn’t melt. Shoes, such as sneakers, Crocs, and sandals, can also be run through the dishwasher. Because who wants dirty Crocs?
4. Keep a lint roller on hand
To clean up dust fast, use your lint roller on your furniture. Roll it over the top and bottom of a lampshade, couch, or small rug. Lint rollers can also pick up crumbs and dirt from the corners of hard-to-reach spots in drawers and behind cushions.
Stapf notes that lint rollers are great tools to snag messes that a vacuum cleaner may miss, like broken glass, sprinkles, and glitter.
5. Live by the 12-12-12 rule
If your room becomes so messy you can’t see the floor, you may need to quickly declutter before you can start cleaning. “An easy way to pick up your space at warp speed is to go by the 12-12-12 rule,” says Melissa Pollock, an organizational expert and senior brand manager at the storage service PODS.
Living by the 12-12-12 rule means not being afraid to throw away some of your stuff. Pollack recommends that you start by tossing 12 items (such as paper plates and empty bottles) into the garbage. Next, pick 12 more items you no longer need, and donate them. Finally, return 12 items to their proper place. In a matter of a few minutes, you can clear around 36 items from your space—and hopefully be reunited with your carpet.
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