The Worst Cleaning Jobs Made Easy

The quickest, smartest strategies for battling eight universally despised tasks.
By Sarah Stebbins

Dirty Job No. 1 : Changing or Emptying the Vacuum Bag or Bin
Scott & ZoëScott & Zoë
Time it takes: 5 to 10 minutes.

Why it matters: When the bag is more than half full, the vacuum loses suction. The fuller it gets, the harder the machine works. Eventually it could work so hard, the motor will burn out.

Step 1: Run the vacuum for 30 seconds to push any residual dirt in the machine into the bag. Unplug.

Step 2:
If you have a disposable bag: Before pulling out the bag, stick a piece of duct tape over the hole where the bag connects to the vacuum, says Louanna Henning, director of housekeeping at the luxury hotel Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, in Dallas. This will prevent a dust cloud from erupting in your face.

If you have a reusable cloth bag or a plastic bin (as on a bagless vacuum): Work outdoors. Put the bag or bin inside a garbage bag and shake out the dust, says Debra Johnson, training manager for the Memphis- based Merry Maids cleaning service. Rinse the bag or bin in hot water before reattaching (or toss the bag in the washing machine, then let it air-dry).

Try to do this: Every month or two if you have kids and/or pets; twice a year otherwise.

Related: 22 Surprising Uses for Your Dishwasher

Dirty Job No. 2 : Clearing Dead Bugs From an Overhead FixtureScott & ZoëScott & Zoë

Time it takes: 15 minutes.

Why it matters: The corpses pile up, especially in summer. They're not dangerous to your health, but who wants to look at them?

Step 1: Turn off the light and tape down the switch for safety. Wear an apron with pockets to stash supplies. With a screwdriver and a cotton cloth in your pocket, climb an extra-tall stepladder (try the six-foot Werner 356; $71,, which will get you eye to eye with the fixture. Unscrew the dome. Dust the bulb with the cloth.

Step 2: Climb back down and head to the kitchen. Dump any dead bugs into the trash. Line the sink with a large dish towel (to prevent breakage) and place the dome on top, open-side up. Fill with warm water and a squirt of dish soap and let soak.

Step 3: Wipe with a sponge, rinse, and dry. (You can also pop most domes into the dishwasher, says Henning, who does this with all but painted and very delicate covers.)

Step 4: When it's dry, reattach the dome. (Consider switching to frosted-glass domes, which camouflage the body count better than clear ones.)

Try to do this: Whenever you're sick of looking at the bugs.

Related: Double Duty Cleaning Items

Dirty Job No. 3 : De-crumbing the Toaster
Scott & ZoëScott & Zoë
Time it takes: 5 to 10 minutes.

Why it matters: Besides being a mess, the crumbs can smoke, stinking up your kitchen and possibly setting off your smoke alarm.

For a toaster
Step 1: Unplug and remove the crumb tray. Dump out the crumbs, then wash the tray with dish soap and wipe dry with a cotton cloth. Hold the toaster upside down over the trash can and gently tap out any remaining crumbs.

For a toaster oven
Step 1: Place a small oven-safe container filled with water inside the oven and heat at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes to soften everything up, says Findley. Unplug the oven and remove the crumb tray and the rack; dump out the crumbs. Use a plastic spatula to scrape off stuck-on morsels. Wash the tray and the rack with dish soap and wipe dry with a cotton cloth. Wipe the inside and the burners with a damp cloth and a drop of dish soap, then let dry.

Try to do this: Every other month.

Related: Organize Your Cleaning Supplies

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