Becky Rapinchuk began sharing her cleaning routine on the internet in 2009, before Instagram and influencers were a thing, during the “wild wild west of blogging,” as Becky describes it. Before Becky had kids, she could take all day to clean her home, but once her family grew, she realized that wouldn’t work. She had an epiphany: “Maybe I need to be cleaning a little bit every day.”
As a teacher and a mom to three, Becky developed a system that worked for her family—she created printable checklists for herself and thought maybe she could share them on a blog. And that’s how Clean Mama was born.
Becky’s website, CleanMama.net, is now chock full of checklists, how-to guides, cleaning tips and more. Her Instagram has more than 300K followers, and she even sells her own line of cleaning products. On March 5, Becky released her third book: Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home.
With spring cleaning just around the corner, we spoke with Becky about her best tips for getting the job done during this season and beyond.
Grok Nation: Well, first of all, your whole system is that you clean a bit each day. I’m sure you have had people say that’s impossible. What do you tell them?
Becky Rapinchuk: It isn’t impossible. You need to actually try it to buy it. People think, why would I want to clean like I do on Saturday every single day of the week? I don’t have time for that. But when you actually break it down, you see it a little bit differently. [You can] spend five minutes a day cleaning, set your timer for five minutes and get what you can get done in a bathroom. Go as fast as you can and when that timer goes off, finish up where you stopped on a later day or the next week on that day. But it’s definitely a different kind of mindset. By maintaining those little maintenance things all week long that build on each other, every week gets easier.
Obviously, people can visit your blog—but could you give us a quick rundown of your daily system?
I assign specific tasks to days of the week. So I recommend doing all your bathrooms on Mondays. To me the bathrooms are the grossest. And if you peter out by the end of the day, you don’t want to not have done your bathrooms. Tuesdays I say to dust. You’re going to shake the dust from wherever you’re dusting, whether it’s a surface or a wall or a corner in the house and then after that you’re going to vacuum on Wednesday. Then after you have dusted and vacuumed, then you wash your floors on Thursday, and Fridays are my catch-all day.
The beauty of my routine is that things happen. If you didn’t do bathrooms on Mondays, you could do them on Friday or save it until the next week. No one died of unclean bathrooms. Whatever it is, you can always pick up next week or on Fridays. And then I recommend washing sheets and towels on Saturdays. The reason for that is I like to get the kids involved with that; helping with changing their sheets, taking their sheets off, washing them and putting them back on.
What are some others tasks that families can do together, to help get kids involved in cleaning?
If you have small children, preschool age, tell them before nap or lunch, pick up your stuff and then before dinner pick up your stuff. Now my kids are older and gone all day, but I always have them put their stuff away before bed because then we’re starting clean. I teach them how to make their beds, too, so they can make their beds. I also have them help with unloading and loading the dishwasher.
With kids, if you’re groaning and moaning about cleaning and making a big deal out it, they’re going to internalize that and be like, “Cleaning’s horrible. Why would we ever want to do this?” But if you like, “Okay, now it’s time to do this.” And it’s just part of being in a home, being in a family is taking care of your stuff.
So you have your every day system that people can follow, but what are the best things to tackle during spring cleaning?
I like windows during spring cleaning. And carpets. Some really thorough dusting. Crack the windows open, get the house circulated again. I live in Illinois, so it’s cold and everything is closed up for a good five, six months. In spring we can actually throw the windows open, let the fresh air in and dust and wipe things down.
Oh, and I like a clean baseboard. That’s another spring cleaning task that I recommend: Take your vacuum cleaner and run along the edges of the baseboards and then wash those, too. And clean out the vents; especially if you live in a cool climate where you have been running your furnace, they’re probably dusty. Vacuuming the vents is great. You can also unscrew them and wash them in warm, soapy water too if they’re really bad.
What about for organizing? Do you have any Marie Kondo-esque tools you use?
I use four categories if I’m going through an area. I work in smaller batches because I don’t want to have a mountain of whatever and then have to make dinner and then try to come back to that and have lost my momentum. So for example, if I’m working in the kitchen, I’ll do a few cabinets in one day and a few cabinets the next day. But I’ll go through, I’ll empty the space, wipe it down with a damp cloth just to make sure that it’s clean and then I’ll usually put things in keep, toss, donate/sell, and another room baskets. [For the last basket], it’s for things in the wrong place. Then I take that basket, and I’ll run around the house and put those things where they need to go after I’m all done.
What are just a couple things people could do to freshen their home for spring even if they’re not wanting to do a full spring clean?
I would recommend bringing a couple of plants or purchasing a couple plants or a plant for your home. It helps to clean the air too so it kind of works without you having to do anything.
You can put your throw pillows in a hot dryer and let them spin around for 15 or 20 minutes to get any dust off and freshen them up. Or vacuuming drapes with a vacuum cleaner attachment to get the dust off, too. If you have lamps in your home, you can take a lint roller and roll over the top and then down the sides to remove dust.
What are some places in the house that people forget to clean the most?
I would say the kitchen sink. It’s the dirtiest place in your home. They say kitchen sinks are dirtier than toilets, which is fascinating to me. That’s why I always recommend scrubbing the sink at night with a little sink scrub just to make sure that you’re cleaning it, it looks better, it’s a quick and easy thing to do.
And then the other thing that I always recommend doing is every time you clean a toilet, spraying it down from top to bottom—the entire toilet all the way down to the base and making sure that you’re wiping that in order. I always wipe from the top of the tank down to the floor, and then not using that cloth on anything else after.
What are a few supplies or cleaning products that everyone should be using—all year round?
White Vinegar is something that you should have in your house. I buy the big jug from Costco. It’s $2.99. I use it as my fabric softener. You put your detergent in the detergent drawer; you just put the vinegar right in your fabric softener spot. Or you could put it in a Downy ball. It helps to set the colors. It keeps your washing machine from smelling bad and it adds a little bit of softness naturally to your clothes. But besides using it in the laundry, you can also it for cleaning. It’s a really good all-purpose thing to have.
Everyone should have baking soda. Baking soda makes an awesome scrub. If you like Comet or a scrub powder, all you really need is baking soda. You sprinkle it in your sink and pour dish soap on it and scrub with a scrub brush and your sink will look so shiny.
I always recommend wool dryer balls. I don’t know if you could consider that a cleaning product, but I liked them for in lieu of fabric softener. Fabric softener is one of the most toxic things in our house, which is shocking. There’s so much artificial fragrance in them and then when you think about how much you wash your clothes, you put them on your body, you sleep in your sheets, that fabric softener, laundry detergent is touching you pretty much all the time.
Castile soap I think is a wonderful product. You can use it to make hand soap; you can use it for a dish soap for hand-washing dishes, you can mix it with different products to create cleaner. It’s a great natural product.
And I like rubbing alcohol for wiping down door knobs or remotes, light switches, that sort of thing. If someone writes with permanent marker, it will take that off. It’s good just to have it in your arsenal.
Oh, and hydrogen peroxide. I just put it in a sprayer, and I’ll spray my sink or if I have cut up raw chicken on a cutting board, I’ll spray it with the hydrogen peroxide. If someone’s been sick, I’ll soak a toothbrush in it and then rinse it.
Your new book is all about “clean” cleaning. You mentioned that fabric softener is toxic—I was surprised to hear that!
Even the ones that you think are good and natural are, if you look on the Think Dirty app or ewg.org and you search it, [you’ll see they’re] horrible, horrible. It’s shocking! I’ve been using natural cleaning products since 2008 or 2009. But I researched my book for two years, and even I was even shocked!
So since you’ve done all this research, what are things you don’t want people to have in their home?
A lot of oven cleaners are bad; the fumes from that are highly toxic. A lot of spray bathroom cleaners say, “Make sure you use in a well-ventilated area.” That’s because there are toxic fumes! Even if you’ve got the fan on and the window open, you are still breathing that in and it’s still harmful for you.
The problem is that, and you can read this in my book, companies don’t have to disclose any of those ingredients. If you look at, in Europe, there are all these products that they don’t allow and haven’t allowed for years. We still have them. So you really have to be aware of what the products are—and I think we need to not be so concerned with “killing germs.” If you spray and wipe down the surface, the germs are going to be gone. They don’t just sit there forever. Even if you don’t touch the surface, most germs die in 24 hours anyway.
You can purchase Clean Mama’s Guide to a Healthy Home on Amazon.