Put your feet up and sweep away the grind of everyday chores for good


Invest in the householder’s best friend – a good doormat. Floors need less cleaning if you provide an efficient trap for dust and dirt where people come in. Make the doormat as large as the floor space will permit – at least 120cm by 90cm. The best are the commercial ones you see in entrances to shops or offices. They’re machine-washable, lightweight, but pretty indestructible. They are rubber-backed with a flat rubber edge, so don’t slip around on the floor.

Cleaning expert Barty Philips provides her top ten tips to make your home sparkle


Keep a bowl of lemons in the kitchen. Not only are they perfect for your next G&T, they’ll clean your microwave, freshen up the sink and detox your chopping board. Cut them in half for two fit-in-the-palm cleaning pads for rubbing on to greasy stains on anything from worktops to taps. Stand a bowl of water in the microwave with half a lemon squeezed into it and heat for ten minutes – the gadget will be pristine and smell delicious.

In conventional ovens, fill a third of an oven tray with water and the juice and rinds of two lemons. Bake at 250C for half an hour. With a filthy hob, worktop or chopping board, sprinkle on baking soda and wipe with half a lemon. It’s a mild bleach, so can be used on delicate fabric stains and will even get rid of dog urine stains on a vinyl floor.


Baking soda, or bicarbonate of soda, can clean almost anything. Make your own natural cleaning fluid with one cup each of vinegar, baking soda and hot water in a jug. Stir and let it cool, then pour into a squeezy bottle and use it to remove fly marks on walls, grubby finger marks around light switches or dozens of other marks around the house.

Use it on the inside of the fridge, and keep a little pot of it there to absorb nasty smells. It’ll clean stainless steel sinks or baked-on food in oven dishes.

Sprinkle it on pet bedding or sofas, leave for 15 minutes, then vacuum. Sprinkle into smelly trainers and leave for half an hour before shaking out. Place a spoonful in your food caddy or rubbish bin to neutralise smells.

Lemons, pictured, are not only ideal for a G&T, but they can be used to clean your microwave, freshen up the sink and detox your chopping board

Lemons, pictured, are not only ideal for a G&T, but they can be used to clean your microwave, freshen up the sink and detox your chopping board


A cup of vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher before use will stop glassware becoming cloudy. If your kettle suffers from hard-water deposits, half-fill it with water and add an eggcupful of vinegar, then boil it up and leave for ten minutes. Vinegar will also remove hard-water scale from taps and shower heads. Tie a plastic bag containing vinegar around a tap head so that the end sits in the vinegar; leave for a few hours while you are out, then brush off the scale with an old toothbrush.

It can even unblock drains: pour half a cup of bicarbonate of soda down the drain, followed by half a cup of vinegar and one of very hot water. Wait ten minutes, then pour down more hot water.

Barty Phillips provides a list of the top five items every home needs

Barty Phillips provides a list of the top five items every home needs


Act fast on pests or they will multiply. To protect against moths, store clothes which aren’t being used regularly in vacuum bags. Brushing clothes vigorously in bright light can dislodge most eggs and larvae.

Try also freezing a piece of fabric for several days at below minus 8C; or take affected clothes to be dry-cleaned. Stop ants coming in by blocking up entry points with cotton wool soaked in curry paste.


Use crumpled newspaper instead of a cloth to finish off your window cleaning. It may leave some ink on your fingers but it gets smears off the glass.

The easiest way to clean a blind in situ is to slip on a cotton glove and run your hand along the slats. Specially designed tongs with foam rubber pads are almost certainly more trouble than using your hands.


Remove mildew from plastic shower curtains by washing them on a gentle cycle together with a couple of bath towels. For marks round the bath, use bleach according to the manufacturer’s instructions (wear rubber gloves and an apron) and rub small areas of mildew, one at a time, with an old toothbrush. Rinse and dry.


Spray fabric protector on upholstery and carpets to prevent stains being absorbed. If wine is spilled on a carpet, absorb as much as you can immediately with salt (leave it in a heap overnight). If a slight discoloration remains, try dabbing and blotting it with one part hydrogen peroxide to six parts water. And keep a stain kit handy – this should include paper tissues, a small sponge, cottonwool balls and a soft, old toothbrush.


Three cleaning agents in squirty bottles are all you really need to clean your whole home: an all-purpose cleaner for surfaces, a disinfectant for killing germs, and a grease-busting cleaner for kitchen build-ups. Bin the rest of your bottles.


When it comes to housework, doing little but often will lessen your overall workload considerably. If you have ten minutes in the morning before catching a bus, you could use that time to put away five pairs of shoes, clean the sink, or put boxes in the recycle bin. Run a cloth around the bath or sink or shake out a couple of rugs.

© Barty Phillips, 2018 

  • Outwitting Housework, by Barty Phillips, is published by Michael O’Mara Books on Thursday, priced £8.99. Offer price £6.74 (25 per cent discount) until June 24. Order at mailshop.co.uk/books or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.

Cleaning cultivates the mind


A monk’s day begins with cleaning. At the Komyoji Temple in Tokyo, we sweep the grounds and gardens, and polish the main temple hall. We don’t do this because they are dirty or messy. We do it to eliminate the gloom in our hearts.

We sweep dust to remove our worldly desires. We scrub dirt to free ourselves of attachments. The time we spend cleaning is extremely fulfilling.

But it’s not only monks who need to live this way. Everyone needs to do it. Japanese people have always regarded cleaning as more than a common chore. It’s normal for students to clean their classroom together. It probably has to do with the notion that cleaning isn’t just about removing dirt. It’s also linked to cultivating the mind.

Cleaning should be done in the morning. Do it as your very first activity of the day. By the time everyone else in your house is waking up, you are all set for your day’s work.

The various chores that monks must take care of while in training change periodically. Changing household duties is an effective way to teach children what needs to be done. Family ties are the strongest of all human bonds. Use household chores to deepen them.

‘Zengosaidan’ is a Zen expression meaning that we must put all our efforts into each day so we have no regrets. In the context of cleaning, it means ‘Don’t put it off till tomorrow’. The longer you neglect the impurities of the heart, the harder it is to remove them.

  • A Monk’s Guide To A Clean House And Mind, by Shoukei Matsumoto, is published by Penguin, priced £4.99.



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