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Well That Wasn’t Fun

Heather says

Hi, it’s been a couple weeks, hasn’t it?

Things started off with the best of intentions, but then my youngest decided to play Typhoid Mary (only she was sick, too) with a fun thing called Rotavirus.

Parents of very young children probably know this term and are cringing. I took the kids to a water park and she thanked us by giving us the gift of a highly transmissible stomach virus. And one by one we fell.

While I’m doing laundry, cleaning the bathroom, and disinfecting all of the hard surfaces, why don’t you tell me how you have been?


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How Long Will it Take to Clean My House?

Dear Home Ec 101,
How long will it take to clean my house?
Curious in Corpus Christi

time to clean

Heather says:

Well Curious, what is your favorite color?


Ok. I’ve plugged that variable into the top secret Home-Ec 101 House Cleaning Algorithm and I’ve determined it will take you exactly 18.36 hours to thoroughly clean your house. Oh. Wait. That doesn’t make much sense does it? A question like “How long will it take to clean my house?” has an incredible number of variables.

What kind of home do you have?

Someone who lives in a McMansion is going to have a lot more surface area to clean than someone who lives in an efficiency. In that case, just doing surface cleaning? Just mopping? The person who lives in the tiny apartment will be done in no time. Even if the floors are equally grubby, it simply takes longer to mop more square footage.

How many people live in the house?

More people means more messes. Humans are rather nasty creatures and in this case I’m not even counting what the young ones do -one of my minions has a cold and she’s at the age where I have to remind her to blow her nose, good times. People shed skin cells and hair, they track in dirt, even if they wipe their feet. The oils from our skin lingers on keyboards, remote controls, wall plates, and door jams.

Did you know there is actually a guideline for how often you should vacuum? Don’t feel badly if you didn’t know I was recently involved in a focus group discussing a vacuum cleaner and it surprised the hosts. Each week you’re supposed to thoroughly vacuum a carpeted room AND add a quick vacuum of high traffic areas for each additional family member, including large dogs. So, if you have a family of four, that’s one deep vacuum and three quick. . . do you see how this adds up? For what it’s worth, babies don’t count, but you’ll probably vacuum even more often once they can crawl.

Are there pets?

We love our animal friends, but anything other than beta fish tend to bring their own measure of mess into a home. From tracked in dirt to litter boxes, shed hair and damage to furniture. They all have a cost when it comes to extra work. -How long until someone tells me about the hairless cat they trained to use the toilet? That’s the exception that proves the rule, people-

Are there children under the age of reason?

Do I really even have to explain this one? It’s chaos in a 3 feet tall package -unless you’re my kid and then you bump it up to under 5 feet-. Sure children can be taught to help with damage control, but for years even the most perfectly behaved, helpful, and polite children create more mess than they can possibly undo.

How many people actually clean in the home?

How well chores are divided will help reduce the amount of time any individual has to spend cleaning a home. For even the most well adjusted adults, this often requires a lot of effective communication of wants and needs on both parts.

Do you cook in your home?

Cooking food adds moisture and often sends aerosolized grease particles -yes, even vegetarians, just less so- into the air. The particles float around and cling to surfaces. Once they are on a surface a dust magnet has been created. The longer the dust magnet sits on the surface, the harder it will be to remove.

Let’s consider clutter.

Imagine two book cases. One has neat rows of books and the other has glass figurines, odds and ends, a pile of papers, etc. The first only requires the soft bristle attachment of the vacuum or a feather duster. The other? You’re going to have to unload each shelf, wipe the item carefully and replace gently. Multiply this around every horizontal surface in a home and it quickly becomes obvious that the amount of STUFF in a home drastically affects the time it takes to clean.

How often has the home been cleaned?

If you’ve lived in a home for five years and never cleaned the tub, it is going to take a long time to undo the damage. Some of it may not even be fixable. Regularly attending to chores keeps grime from building up. Without a lot of grime to remove, cleaning takes less time.

I wish I had a simple answer for you, Curious. The truth is I can’t give you a good answer, just trying to figure out how long it should take a person to clean their home without any other variable is a very overwhelming task. Here is what I do know.

house cleaning help

Click the picture for more cleaning help!

How to reduce the time it takes to clean:

  1. Communicate
  2. Delegate.
  3. Don’t procrastinate.

Good luck.

Send your questions to

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The Home-Ec 101 Guide To Taking Care Of Furniture

furniture care guide

Since I have 3 young children, a dog, and 3 parrots it’s just not the right season of life for me to buy brand new furniture. I buy secondhand and then try to take care of it – or cover it – until I get my money’s worth out of it. Here are some articles that will help you take care of your furniture whether it is wood, leather, microsuede, stained, stinky, and more! Just click on the title of the article to read the complete answer.

How to Care for Acacia Wood

We are young and with a house full of Ikea furniture it did not even dawn on us that we would have to take special care with our new lovely table in this dry, desert climate. We did some googling and found that it is recommended to use a wax on acacia wood. However, my husband’s parents said NOT to use a wax but an oil instead. Help!

How to Care for Leather Furniture

What is the best way to care for a leather couch? I have had my leather couch and loveseat for four years, and they have held up well, but a few scratches are starting to show up.  What can I do to keep them looking good in the long run?

How to Clean a Couch

I have tile floors and a couch, this sounds normal enough, but the couch slips and slides all over the tile and drives me crazy. How do I stop the couch from sliding? And the cushions, don’t get me started on the cushions, why won’t they stay on my couch? While we’re talking about couches, is there a specific way I should be cleaning mine?

How to Clean Microsuede Furniture

I have tan microsuede dining room chairs and, with four children, you can imagine what they look like.  I’ve looked, but there isn’t a cleaning recommendation tag on them.  What is the best way to clean them?

How To Fix A Stained White Dresser

We have a lovely bedroom set of furniture from a big box baby store. In white. One sick child + one classic orange popsicle + one apparently cracked emesis basin + one day = one bright orange stain on the white dresser. I tried a diaper wipe thinking the mess was still wet. It wasn’t. Then I hit it with one clorox wipe. Haha. HELP!!!

How To Remove Cat Hair From Furniture

We are getting a sofa and two chairs from my brother-in-law today. I know they will be covered in cat hair. I’m allergic to cats. Do you have any good tips for getting as much cat hair as possible off of the furniture fabric??

How To Remove Cigarette Odor From A Couch

The set appeared to be in great shape, and I got the furniture for what appeared to be a bargain.  When I got them in place in my basement rec room, I noticed a horrible odor of cigarette smoke emanating from both pieces of furniture.  They are upholstered pieces with foam cushions.  Do you have any idea how I can get rid of the cigarette smell?

How to Remove Feces ( Poop ) from Upholstery and Fabric

Do you have any tips for cleaning poop off of the cover of a cloth bean bag chair? The tag reads “Do not open under any circumstance.” It’s a $20 bean bag chair from Target and I don’t just want to “get anodder one” as my toddler suggests. As you may have guessed, the toddler was the poop culprit.

How to Remove Urine from an Upholstered Couch

Help!! Our adorable, yet slightly dumb dog has decided to use back of our lovely microfiber couch as a toilet! We contacted the manufacturer, who suggested spot cleaning the urine stained area with diluted dish soap. This got the stains out. Unfortunately, the smell of pee still remains. I’ve (unsuccessfully) tried some pet cleaner and multiple soakings with Febreze, but it just won’t go away!

How to Keep Fur off of the Furniture

My cats seem to drop enough fur to make a few new cats on my furniture every day. It’s ridiculous. How can I both prevent this and keep my furniture fur-free?

How to Remove Musty / Mildew Odor from Furniture

I recently retrieved a table from my garage that was stored for about a year and it smells like there could be a mold or mildew issue. How do I clean the table to remove any traces and the odor of mold and mildew?

How to Remove Wax and Silicone Build Up

My mother has wax build up on an antique secretary. It is a dark wood with a shiny surface. Over many years of waxing the wax has built up and in places the shine has dulled. Can you help?

How to Remove Candle Wax from Fabric

I accidentally spilled some candle wax on my favorite pair of jeans. What should I do to get it out?

How to Remove Grease from Upholstery

My husband works in a kitchen, so he comes home sweaty and covered with kitchen grease and steam and all that good stuff (Ivy, you know what I’m talking about).  After a year and a half of him coming home exhausted and flopping into his beloved chair, we’ve got a nice dark mark right where his head rests.

How To Remove Heat Marks From Furniture

At Thanksgiving I was being so careful not to put anything down with out a trivet but then I did it- I knocked over one of my candles and spilled wax all over it. There’s now a huge white mark from the heat of the wax. Is the finish of my table completely ruined? Is there anything I can do?

How to Remove Ink from Upholstered Furniture

My three year old son decided it would be fun to draw on our car upholstery with black pen. In the past I have been able to use hairspray on crayon with wonderful success (couch and table cloth), but I have never attempted it on pen. Any tips or am I better of just leaving the unsightly mess? I’d hate to try something and have it look worse.

How to Remove A Musty Odor from Dresser Drawers

An old roommate of mine borrowed a dresser from me and used it while we lived together. After she gave it back the drawers had a musty smell that I couldn’t get rid of. If I put any clothes in the drawers they come out smelling funky and musty too. What should I do??

How To Remove Dried Milk From Wood

How does one remove dried milk from wood? Every low surface in my kitchen (chair legs, table legs, cabinets) is full of dried milk spots from spills that always go farther and cover more area than you can initially see. No matter how I try to clean them, I get the same result: it looks clean while it’s still wet and I think I’ve won, but as soon as it dries, the spots are still all there!

How To Handle A Nail Polish Remover Spill

My daughter spilled finger nail polish remover on her dresser.  What can I do to repair it?

how to clean appliances

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guide to clean floors

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Home-Ec 101 Guide to Cleaning The Bathroom's guide to cleaning the bathroom

If guests are coming over the bathroom is the first room I head to with cleaning supplies. It definitely helps to give it some attention weekly, and once I met a woman that wiped hers down daily so she never had heavy cleaning in the bathroom. Whatever your choice is – or if it’s a bit more of a random thing like my bathroom – these articles have lots of good bathroom cleaning advice for you. Click on the title to read the complete post.

Bathroom Cleaning 101

Thursdays mean clean bathrooms here on Home-Ec 101. Don’t be ashamed, we all start somewhere and not everyone’s parental units taught them basic life skills like cleaning toilets.

How to Clean Up After a Toilet Overflow

So I have all the towels to mop up the water and um mess, from the toilet overflow itself. Then I have to wash the towels, floor, and toilet. And then I feel the need to run a bleach cycle in the washing machine, just in case…

How to Clean the Bathtub

The phenomenon of which you speak is the dreaded bathtub ring. Every time someone takes a bath, all of the dead skin cells, grease, and oils wash off their body and float in a layer on top of the water. Add soap to the mix and theses lovely little particles are trapped in a sticky residue that clings to the side of the tub.

How to Clean a Very Dirty Bathtub

My bathtub is so funky, it makes James Brown look stodgy. Especially since he’s dead. But I digress. The yuck in my tub is so nasty, I’m afraid to take a shower, and my co-workers are starting to complain. Help me, Luke Skywalker Home-Ec 101, you’re my only hope!

How to Clean Tile

We just moved into a home with white mosaic tile in the bathroom.  The grout is sealed.  How do I clean it and what was I thinking?

How to Repair Stained Grout

Yes, you can make permanently stained grout look white again! I want to warn you the solution is a little labor intensive -especially in a large room like a kitchen, but the payoff is high.

How to Clean a Toilet

…how a toilet cleaning is done. Besides the obvious-  Outside first: top, sides, bottom then  Inside: scrub.  I have read you can use toilet bowl cleaner, diluted to clean the whole toilet. One must wear gloves of course. Please advise.

Toilet Cleaning Tips

Cleaning toilets is one of those adulthood sucks kind of things. It’s not fun and there’s no big reward for having a clean toilet.  Most of you know that I rarely recommend convenience products. This is one of those rare exceptions.

How to Clean the Bathroom

Getting your house back in shape absolutely requires that you clean the bathroom. Let me tell you, you could have mounds of laundry piled everywhere and a spotless bathroom and I totally wouldn’t think you’re gross. But make me use a dirty bathroom and I’ll take pictures and post them here on Home Ec 101 with the Home Ec 101 Seal of Disapproval. Just kidding.

How to Clean Cultured Marble

First, we have a relatively new shower whose walls are cultured marble. What is the best way to give them the occasional clean to remove soap scum, etc? Second, in the same shower, we have sliding glass doors. While doing a deep clean yesterday, I discovered that there is a fairly well established colony of mold under the railing…..

How to Clean a Jetted Tub

Help! I’ve got funky stuff coming out of my jetted tub. I turned it on the other night and bits of black sludge ruined my bath. How do I clean out the jets?

How to Get Rid of Hairspray Residue

How do you get stuck on hairspray off walls and a cheap linoleum bathroom floor?

How to Get Rid of Pink Shower Mold

We keep getting these pale pinkish stains on the shower curtains and at the base of the tub… Could it be mold?

How to Clean Moldy Shower Tile

What is the best way to clean that black yuk that tends to grow in the corners of the shower? I have a ceramic tile shower and I have used every mixture I can think of to rid the shower of the black stuff from straight Clorox to the gimmicks from “As Seen On TV” and nothing seems to work. Help!

Hard Water Spots in the Shower

I’ve always hated cleaning shower walls – they just seem so impossible to clean. And now we have a shower stall with clear doors that shows sports from our hard water in DAYS (even with squeegee-ing after every shower).

Why Do Hard Water Spots Come Back?

No matter what I do, the hard water spots on my shower and tub keep coming back?  What am I doing wrong?

Have a questions about cleaning your bathroom that hasn’t been answered? Send your questions to

guide to chemical cleaners

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how to clean appliances

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The Home-Ec 101 Guide To Taking Care Of Your Floors

take care of floor

The floor of a home is the canvas that family life gets lived on. Sometimes it is a fresh clean canvas and other times it is full of stains and spots. It often gets overlooked, but keeping it in good shape does improve the room. Here are some articles about taking care of flooring; there are questions about hardwood, carpet, linoleum, laminate, and more. Just click the title of the article to read the whole thing.

One quick tip from Austin O’Malley before you go on reading: “When you are dealing with a child, keep all your wits about you, and sit on the floor.”

Are my Hardwood Floors Sealed?

I once read somewhere that hardwood floors do need to be “sealed” every few years or so. What does this mean? Should we put something on the floors to seal them?

Carpet Care and Spot Cleaning

Is there any tried-and-true method for spot-cleaning a carpet and KEEPING it clean? There’s nothing worse than mystery stains that return every few months.

How to Remove Rust Stains from Carpet

I recently moved some furniture only to discover rust rings on my carpet. Can you help me figure out how to safely remove the rust stains from my carpeting?

How to Remove Potty Training or Poop Stains from Carpeting

My two year old has started potty training.  She’s very good at taking off her clothes and getting naked, not so good yet at actually making it to the potty on time.  So, I was wondering if you had any brilliant tips for cleaning toddler poop out of carpet?

How to Clean Laminate Flooring

Since installing the floors, we’ve had plumbers and tilers in…and now the floors are filthy! We need advice on how to clean them. You can’t get laminate flooring fully wet, so regular mopping is out. We have a layer of remodeling dust that seemingly won’t be phased by a broom and Swiffer Wet. Can you help?

How to Clean Linoleum

I was hoping you could help me with a cleaning problem I have been having lately.  I can’t get my floors clean!  No matter if I wash the floor on my hands and knees or if I use a mop, there’s still a dirt residue that will not go away.

How to Clean Hardwood Flooring

Any helpful hints on cleaning wood floors? I can get them clean and I can get them shiny, but not at the same time without doing two rounds. First with water/vinegar, then going over it with Orange Glow wood floor cleaner. But who has time for that?

How to Clean Pet Urine On a Linoleum Floor

How do you get chewed up plastic off the carpet? My puppy and my big dog chew everything! When I had hardwood it was easy. . . carpet, not so much.

How to Scrub a Tile Floor

I was looking on your site for information on the best (and hopefully most efficient) way to scrub floors. I have tile floors in my kitchen and bathroom and 3 young children.  They are always dirty, and I have a baby who is crawling on them.

How to Repair Stained Grout

I just read your post about scrubbing tile floors. I need to do this! I’ve swept and mopped for three years on my tile floors, and I’ve been knowing I need to do something to make the grout white again. I did the test to see if my grout had been sealed. It hasn’t! Is this why it turned brown? I feel like a terrible housekeeper! Is it too late to seal the grout after three years? Will I be able to restore them to white again? I’m looking forward to your future posts!

What’s the Point of Welcome Mats, Door Mats, and Runners?

It takes an average of six to ten steps for all of the dirt on shoes to fall away and let’s face it, not everyone is diligent about wiping their feet. All but the smallest dogs can carry a surprising amount of dirt in a house between their paw pads -especially in winter when there is less grass.

Choosing Flooring with an Incontinent Pet

The carpet is now stained and smelly from both general wear and tear and also my greyhound becoming incontinent and having accidents everywhere, especially in the hallway. So I need to do something. What is the best/most durable/easies to clean & maintain flooring choice?

bedroom and closet cleaning

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clean the outside of your house

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