14 speedy tricks to spruce up your home for Christmas12/20/2020
14 speedy tricks to spruce up your home for Christmas, by cleaning queen AGGIE MacKENZIE
- Aggie MacKenzie is best known for Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House?
- Cleaning expert shares her top tips for staying healthy this Christmas
- She says if you’re having guests, everyone should have their own hand towels
With guests on the horizon, every host feels the pressure to get the house clean and tidy — especially ahead of Christmas.
But now the annual preparations are taking on new importance, as cleaning plays a part in limiting the transmission of Covid-19, according to official advice.
If you’re mixing with three households during the Christmas Day amnesty, some risk is difficult to avoid, but the cleaner the house the better. Plus, in the age of Covid, a grubby-looking home simply feels even more unwelcoming than unusual.
Yet just what, exactly, do we need to sanitise, and how? Is sharing hand towels OK, and how about hot water bottles? Why are light switches potentially a problem? And does the turkey really need to be put in quarantine?
Aggie MacKenzie (pictured), who is best known for Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House?, shares her top tips for keeping you and your loved ones healthy this Christmas
Here, cleaning expert Aggie MacKenzie, former presenter of Channel 4’s How Clean Is Your House?, shares all you need to know to keep you and your loved ones healthy this Christmas — without scrubbing away the festive spirit . . .
NO NEED TO GO WILD WITH CHEMICALS
Luckily, even in the time of Covid, you don’t need to go mad with fancy products. Fairy Liquid is excellent for cleaning surfaces. And the coronavirus reacts to good old soap and water, so this is your most effective option. I’ve heard of people mixing bleach with other household chemicals, which is inadvisable, unless you want to welcome guests with an explosion. Also, the fumes could be bad for anyone with asthma.
DON’T QUARANTINE YOUR FOOD SHOP
Delivered food will have been stored in a more or less sterile environment, but of course there’s human contact when it is packed up. Some people spend ages cleaning everything. The virus is invisible, so we must assume it’s lurking, but not to the extent of paranoia. Be sensible and take reasonable precautions.
Avoid hand-to-mouth contact, or ingesting the spores from a cough. You might prefer to remove some packaging — I always take the cellophane off packs of grapes — but the main thing is to wash your hands properly after handling it, and dry them on a clean towel.
WASH KITCHEN CLOTHS DAILY
I’m not a fan of disposable cloths. I recommend getting a good microfibre cloth. In fact, get a stack of them. Look for a high number of plastic fibres per square inch. Those fibres cause friction, breaking down dirt and lifting it away from the surface.
This is a very eco-friendly way of cleaning. They can be washed hundreds of times in the washing machine at 40, 50, or 60c, or in the dishwasher. But do change your cloths every day.
I put my cloths in a bowl of hot water and a couple of squirts of bleach and soak them overnight, so they’re clean in the morning. Bleach is bad for the environment, but a little goes a long way.
Aggie recommends a microfibre mop if your’re expecting to have toddlers crawling over the floors this Christmas, as old-style bucket and mops quickly become grim (file image)
DRY UP YOUR CHOPPING BOARDS
To clean a wooden board, stick it under a very hot tap, squirt on concentrated washing-up liquid, and use a pot scrubber to get into the grain. Dry it rather than leave it to air-dry, or else it may get warped, and even cause germs to multiply.
ONLY A MODERN MOP WILL DO
If you’re expecting to have toddlers crawling over the floors this Christmas — or even if you aren’t — you can’t clean the floor with a dirty mop. So forget the old-style bucket and mop, as they quickly become grim.
I don’t have shares in microfibres, I promise, but it’s much better to get a microfibre mop — it has a rectangular head with a strip of microfibre on the end. All you do to wash your floor is dampen it. You don’t actually need any products as the microfibre removes the dirt. Then you tear off the strip and stick it in the wash.
This means you’ve always got a clean mophead and don’t have to bother with a bucket of water slopping around. You can get spare mopheads if you wash your floors every day or so, but don’t want to keep doing a wash.
SWAP HAND TOWELS FOR KITCHEN ROLL
Some of us will have vulnerable loved ones coming into the house on Christmas Day, so we should stay alert.
Aggie says everyone should have their own hand towels, however if that’s a faff put kitchen roll in the bathrooms and kitchen (file image)
If, for instance, your parents-in-law are visiting, everyone should have their own towels, and hand towels, too. If that’s a faff, put kitchen roll in the bathrooms and kitchen. It’s a bit wasteful, but this is hopefully a one-off, and a good short-term measure.
It’s also better to have a foot-operated bin than one you have to open with your fingers.
If you go for Christmas walks, wash your hands every time you come indoors, and dry them on your own towel or a paper one.
FOCUS ON POPULAR TOUCH POINTS
Door handles, doors, the toilet flush handle, taps, light switches, remote controls, banisters, the game console controller — clean all surfaces and items that are touched frequently by different people before guests arrive, and while they are with you, too. And it wouldn’t do any harm to have hand sanitiser dotted around the house, just to remind everyone to do their bit.
If you’re using cleaning sprays, spray your surfaces then leave them for a few minutes so the product starts to work — that way you’ll need less elbow grease. Aggie’s Bathroom Surface Cleaner (£1.99, poundstretcher.co.uk) is safe for disinfecting food prep surfaces, too, and it’s fragrance-free (preferable if any guests are sensitive to chemical scents).
MAKE YOUR SHOWER SPARKLE
Aggie recommends lining the shower screen with kitchen paper soaked in clear vinegar overnight to remove limescale (file image)
If the shower screen is scummy, soak kitchen paper in clear vinegar, line the screen with the papers and leave them overnight — most of the limescale will have dissolved by the morning. Then wash the screen down and dry it with microfibre cloths, which are great for mirrors and glass.
Vinegar will also help if your plughole has a dark ring around it. Put in the plug, add a little water and a cup of vinegar to the sink, leave it overnight and the next day that ring will most likely be gone. A nylon scrubber will do the rest. You can’t welcome guests with a clogged bath or shower plug, either. Stick a handful of Soda Crystals (79p, tesco.com) down there. You can pour a slug of vinegar in as well. Follow that with a kettleful of boiling water to clear away the fat and scum.
I do like a plunger, too. To stop it from clogging again, try Oxo’s drain cover (£8, johnlewis.com).
GO ABOVE AND BEYOND IN THE BATHROOM
You don’t want a guest seeing an extractor fan that looks like it’s growing a beard in the slots. Turn off the mains and use a soft dustpan brush to clear out the dust and fluff. It also keeps it running efficiently.
To get grouting clean, mix bleach and warm water in equal amounts and scrub it with an old toothbrush to make it white again. Unfortunately, when the sealant gets a bit grotty with black marks, it’s because it’s no longer a firm seal. Then you have to strip it out and start again. Use a sealant with a fungicide in it.
IMPRESS GUESTS WITH YOUR FRIDGE
Aggie recommends removing all the shelves in the fridge for a complete clean before bringing in your Christmas shop (file image)
Before you bring in a big Christmas shop, take the salad drawer out and make sure everything’s still alive. Mop up any spillages immediately. Take all the shelves, including the ones in the door, and wash them. Get into the grooves they slot into, too. If you’ve got a big fridge, check you haven’t forgotten stuff at the back. Use a wet microfibre cloth to clean it out once a week. You could use a vinegar and water solution.
Most fridges get messy after a few days, particularly with a lot of people in the house — if you don’t wrap cheese, bits fall off and the next thing you know, there’s a little bit of mould sitting there.
The seal in the door is especially prone to harbouring mould, so clean it with an old toothbrush. Crumbs tend to fall onto it, too, so wipe it all the way along with a cloth.
A grubby fridge is not nice for visitors. They think, ‘If that’s the fridge, what’s going into my food?’ The fridge handle and door need to be cleaned often, whether or not your guests will be opening it to help themselves.
GET A HANDLE ON YOUR CUTLERY
I like proper napkins for Christmas meals, but if you don’t want to wash cloth napkins after every meal, use disposable ones. Make sure everyone has washed their hands before they come to the table.
Most cutlery will have been in the dishwasher, and you should always take it out by the handle rather than the prong — if children are helping to unload it, remind them.
I’ve heard the suggestion that guests should bring their own cutlery, but as far as I’m concerned you might as well be asking them to bring their own food!
Aggie (pictured) says sofas and armchairs will be used heavily at Christmas, cover them with throws that can be washed as often as needed
CREATE THE SCENT OF CHRISTMAS
If you like a particular scent — rosemary and clove are especially lovely at this time of year — but don’t want to burn expensive candles, place a few drops of essential oil on a piece of cotton wool and place it around the back of the radiator, or dot a little on a lightbulb. When they heat up, the scent fills the room.
SAVE YOUR SOFA WITH A THROW
Sofas and armchairs will see heavy use at Christmas, of course, but whether you’re prepping them for guests or want to give them a wash afterwards, it’s quite an operation to take all the sofa covers off. You’ll also worry that they might shrink in the wash, and each wash slightly wears the material, too. Instead, cover them with throws, which you can wash as often as you need.
If you’re worried about germs on soft surfaces such as upholstery and carpets, a steam cleaner is great for freshening them up and getting rid of any dirt. And when you dust (yes, they need dusting, too), use slightly damp cloths. A feather duster just moves the dust elsewhere.
Most dust is made of human skin cells, and pets also deposit a lot. A friend who’s a bit of a stranger to a vacuum cleaner was at a loss as to why his beautiful rug was being devoured by moths. There is, of course, a link — moths love dust. It’s yet another reason to dust and vacuum fabrics regularly.
BUT ENSURE THAT YOU RELAX TOO
Everyone should help. No one person should be responsible for making Christmas Covid-safe. Most guests will be grateful you’re looking after them without going over the top. But talk about what’s involved. Rather than being a silent martyr, explain what’s needed, and get everyone to join in so you have a chance to relax. Most importantly, enjoy the togetherness.
Find Aggie’s new surface cleaner range at Poundstretcher (aggiestips.com)
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