In house cleaning, like any task, it is essential that you have the right tools for the job. There is an increasing variety of cleaning equipment on the market aiming to simplifying and speed up the cleaning process: but are they always worth the money? There are usually a few key tools you will need for certain surfaces or rooms and most new equipment is just a version on this theme. Below is highlighted some of the main tools for cleaning and the basic different versions available.
The mop is used for cleaning hard surfaces like the kitchen and bathroom floor, as well as being used on wood and walls. It is a long-handled implement with a wooden or plastic handle and an absorbent head.
Sponge mops: These are not in the traditional mop shape, but have a sponge attached to the end of the handle either by a clamp or by sliding it on. They are for wet cleaning and for applying floor wax. Sponge mops are lightweight to use and the heads are easy to replace. The basic type is fairly inexpensive, although there are pricier variants with cleaning liquid inserts and roller heads available.
Wet/Cotton mops: Cotton mops used for wet cleaning can hold over seven times their own weight in water. This is good for absorbency but not so good for its weight. They can be used on any surface and can be bought in a range of head sizes so that you can select the appropriate size for your needs. Smaller sizes are best for home cleaning, while large size mop heads are generally purchased for commercial premises. The cotton mop head has either looped or straight cut fibres, however as they quite course they can leave lint and streaks. Synthetic mop heads are available; some from sponge-type material but made to appear as a traditional mop.
In our hasty dusting before a visitor arrives, there is a tendency to scurry around the house clutching our yellow dust cloth and doing little more the shooing the dust to the floor. It is possible however to find dusters that actually trap the dust bunnies and giving you time to discreetly shake them outside.
Microfibre dust cloth: The microfibres catch and keep in dust in fine fibres and can be cleaned anew by washing. The quality of the cloth is dependent upon the fineness of the fibre; the finer the fibre the more dust is held. The weave shape also helps to charge the cloth statically and therefore attract the dust. The microfibre is a blend of polyester and polyamide. It should be a good percentage mix to balance the strengths and weaknesses of each, (approximately 80% polyester to 20% polyamide). Polyester is more absorbent but less hardwearing, while polyamide is the opposite. The end result however is both non-abrasive and lint free.
Ostrich feather duster: Feather dusters tend to get a bad press and are dismissed as an ineffective cleaning tool that just disturbs the dust, not clean it up. This is probably quite true of the cheap synthetic kind, but ostrich feather contains natural oils that are attractive to dust and gather it in its fine feather barbs. Ostrich feather dusters have a large surface area and can glide gently between objects to dust awkward areas. The dust is trapped in the feathers and then can be shaken vigorously outside.
Lambswool duster: Lambswool dusters are more elongated and solid looking than feather ones, but are also adept at attracting and holding dust. The fibres are fine and crimped, and with their rough wool surface and natural lanolin they are a magnet for dust. Lambswool dusters are long lasting and at their best on flat, broad surfaces.
The vacuum cleaner is the most expensive piece of cleaning equipment and it does the hardest working job. The vacuum sucks up dirt and contains it in a bag or within a separate compartment to be thrown away or emptied when full. Vacuums are ideal for cleaning carpeted areas and upholstery, usually coming with a variety of nozzle attachments so that different surfaces at different sizes can be cleaned effectively.
There are two distinct types of vacuum cleaner and different options available for both. It is important to decide which will be easiest to use around your home, and which will be the most effective at cleaning all the areas you want it to.
Upright vacuum: As the name suggests, upright vacuums have the dust collection section built vertically into them with a flat base to vacuum the floor making them appear like electronic brooms. They are particularly effective over large carpeted areas due to multiple cleaning heads, and they also may be less likely to cause backache over time. Rotating brushes found on an upright are good for collecting pet hair, and modern models often have the bonus of being adjustable to the height of the carpet pile. They are however awkward to lift and move freely, and although new ones come with extendable hose attachments are still not very flexible; an upright will be pulled over rather than pulled along behind you.
Cylinder vacuum: These models are more expensive, but are quite compact and therefore more portable. They do not feel as heavy and are less awkward to lift and manoeuvre, which makes them ideal for cleaning stairs and harder to access areas. The long hose attachment means that you can reach all the difficult corners, behind and under furniture, down the back of the sofa and even reach stray cobwebs on the ceiling. Nozzle attachments and accessories are contained within the vacuum so they are easily retrieved and put away. Most also contain a cord rewind feature.
In both cases, the higher the wattage, the better the vacuum will perform. A good wattage for an upright is about 1300, or 1400 for a cylinder.
Bag or No Bag? - Both cylinder and upright cleaners have the further option of coming with or without a dust collection bag. Due to the technology required for bagless vacuums, they are often the more expensive option. However, you will be saved the cost of replacement dust bags so the initial outlay can be worth it. Bagged vacuums also have a tendency to struggle as the bag fills, although they can be a healthier choice. The dust and dirt is collected in a bag whereas bagless cleaners must be emptied which allows the dust particles to be released again. For this reason, bagged cleaners are a preferable choice if those who will use it are asthmatic or allergic.
Filtration - The quality of filtration has no relevance to how much dirt the vacuum can consume, rather it denotes the size and amount of dust particles that will be in the air when exhausted out of the vacuum. Filtration should play a significant role in what vacuum is chosen if you are asthmatic or allergic. The three levels are:
The humble vacuum cleaner has been developed into more versatile variants to suit different tasks:
Handheld vacuums are designed to be portable. Small and light, they are ideal for quickly cleaning up crumbs or knocked over ashtrays, as well running over the stairs and upholstery. They are not particularly powerful but are suited to small jobs where the vacuum is too much hassle.
Wet and dry vacuums are highly versatile and are designed to undertake the tasks other vacuums cannot. As well as cleaning general debris they can even be used to unblock sinks.
Steam cleaners work well at providing a deep clean for carpets and upholstery. The steam extraction removes dirt deep within the fibres and makes it look less worn, though the whole process including drying takes some time. As steam cleaners are expensive, it is often better to hire them.