Things that have happened since I came to the University of Southampton:
CERN discovered the Higgs Boson. Indy Ref. Russia annexed Crimea. Flappy Bird was a thing. But the most world-altering event from my eight years of studentship was the realisation that cleaning stuff is actually good. We’d rather avoid it, but it really can give you a satisfying feeling. The more painless the better however, so here’s a neat list for you:
1. Find what works for you
My housemates and I used to split up chores, not based on some kind of equitable rota, but rather based entirely on preference. Hoovering takes way longer than doing the bathroom, yes, but when you don’t mind one and hate the other, it’s kinda fair. I highly recommend this approach as soon as you develop an arbitrary preference for household responsibilities!
My forte has always been ‘the bits that you don’t think are important, and aren’t really, but as soon as you do them you’ll realise that’s kind of why the house always looked a bit rubbish’. So this is dusting the TV, skirting boards, and extractor fan, cleaning the mirrors and scrubbing the sink. It’s the stuff that makes your student digs feel less grotty – trust me on this!
2. Tidy ≠ clean
I had always been a tidy child – a fact which I don’t feel my mother, until she poked her head around my housemate’s bedroom door one time, really gave me enough credit for. I never had a ‘floordrobe’. Used mugs made it back to the kitchen within the hour. Everything was neat, in its place, and covered in a layer of dust a solid centimetre thick.
Maybe you’re good at keeping things tidy, or maybe you’re good at keeping things clean. Maybe it’s neither, or both. They’re not one and the same – prioritise the latter, because moulding plates of three-day-old beans on the floor don’t a healthy ecosystem make. Ensuring things are clean helps prevent nasties, and jobs such as giving the shower and window corners a wipe with some anti-bac will stop mould from taking over.
Nonetheless, tidiness shouldn’t fall off of your radar. A clean and organised space is going to put you in the right mindset to view your bedroom as a relaxing and productive environment. You know this, and eventually you’re going to want it tidy; better to do it little by little than have to dedicate a solid afternoon to the task of what we came to call ‘un-f**king’ your bedroom.
3. A free and easy recipe for concrete
Look, you don’t have to wash up that cereal bowl right away but you absolutely need to fill it with water, stat. Otherwise, that Weetabix will cement itself to your bowl with the gravitational force of a neutron star. Save yourself – this is the one time that ‘leaving it to soak’ isn’t just a cop out.
4. Limescale is the enemy
Hampshire is a hard water area and limescale can be gnarly. Clean it before it builds up, because when it gets thick, cleaning it will take the chrome finish off and leave you with a charge from the letting agent. Viakal (Sainsbury’s, £2.00) is a lifesaver for this, as well as for the screens in showers.
Seriously, the best solution is to get a squeegee, stick it up, and wipe the shower after use. If you don’t, you’ll remember this article when you’re in your second consecutive hour of scrubbing that glass screen with a dish sponge the day before moving out.
5. Tried and tested for a reason
At one point, you think the idea of sprinkling baking soda on to the carpet to absorb smells sounds dumb. Then, sometime later, you get acute sunstroke after sitting in the sunshine outside The Dancing Man and, despite only drinking one pint, spend the next 24 hours repeatedly vomiting up your stomach lining. Should this unlikely chain of events ever also happen to you, I can attest – baking soda works.
If you need to clean out your microwave, don’t coat the box you cook in with chemicals. Add vinegar to equal parts water in a bowl, and put it on for four minutes. Wipe the sides clean with a bit of kitchen roll, and you’re done.
Actually, don’t use kitchen roll – keep your single-use down and take it back to those post-war days. Before you toss that ruined shirt in the bin, cut up squares and use them as rags for doing the bathroom, kitchen, or work-surfaces. They’re sturdier than those blue square cloths from a supermarket packet, and far more so than a paper towel. Toss them in the washing machine with your tea towels and socks and, when they eventually get grotty, you can throw them away guilt-free. People have been cleaning houses for as long as there have been houses – sometimes, the old ways are the best!
6. BRILLO PADS
On that note – Brillo pads (Sainsbury’s, £1.50). They get a section all on their own. They are God’s cleaning product. I’d never tried one until this year because, in my mind, they were a thing that old ladies used back when they used to boil everything and also you could catch polio.
But it’s not true – despite appearing in 1913, they are as useful as ever. They can’t be used on everything (definitely not non-stick pans), but for ceramic or stainless steel plus all the racks and trays inside an oven, they’re an absolute dream. I use them mainly on my ceramic pie dish, but, when you have one on the side, keep it going and go round the hob, get the dirt off from around the kitchen sink, clean the plughole. The wonders never cease.
You can even cut them in to quarters! I think my mum actually bought me my first packet for Christmas last year (gift-giving is clearly a deeply significant event in my family) and I’m still going through it. Getting them good and lathery is the secret… they’ll work a treat.
Long live the Brillo pad!