11 must-haves for an easy-clean house


How do you design an easy-to-clean house? With some smart choices in paint, flooring and heating and cooling systems.

Here are 11 smart tips to keep that household spic ‘n’ span and improve your curb appeal.


1. Install carpet tiles

Instead of wall-to-wall carpeting, consider carpet tiles. If a tile gets a spill, pull up the one tile and wash it in the sink. Once it’s dry, put it back down.

It’s a great idea for kids’ rooms or bonus rooms, and the decorative ideas run the gamut from thick shag to animal prints. Chicago-based floor-tile maker Flor also makes tiles from recycled materials, so you can send back your carpet to be recycled when you’re ready to redecorate.

If you do go with traditional wall-to-wall carpeting, a number of styles are fairly stain-resistant, including those made from wool.


2. Go with sealed floors

If you want easy to clean, look for materials that are nonporous with minimal seams. Stained concrete with a protective sealer is a snap to sweep and mop, and it’s nearly impervious to anything that might spill. Porcelain tiles are extremely durable and even come in long planks that look like wood, says Pangaea, a Seattle interior designer who goes by a single name. Plus, there’s no grout to clean.


3. Install a central vacuum system

Central vacuum systems use tubes hidden in walls to suck up and transport dirt outside or to a remote area of your home. A system’s power source and collection receptacle typically are located in a garage or basement, and vacuum hoses and attachments connect to inlets in walls.

Manufacturers say that the vacuums offer four times the power of traditional upright vacuums and vastly improve a home’s indoor air quality. A University of California-Davis study showed that people with hay fever saw a 61% improvement in allergy symptoms after installing a central vacuum system, says Bill Brewer, a spokesman for Beam Central Vacuum Systems.

You can get one installed for $1,200 to $1,800, depending on the size of your home.


4. Choose paint with an eggshell sheen

Your walls should be easy to clean, especially if you have children or pets. Eggshell sheens work best because they provide a soft light distribution and are easy to wipe and touch up, says Tara Novak, owner of TerraFaux, a faux-painting company in Vail, Colo.

“Add a tinted transparent glaze, and you can transform the mood of the room and camouflage those pesky dings and marks that inevitably happen in a busy household,” she says.

Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint is low on volatile organic compounds, is washable and offers great coverage without a primer, she says. Metallic paints are great for your backsplash or powder room because they have a slick sheen that’s easy to clean. You can get a number of different textures with metallic paints simply by using different roller covers.


5. Boost your laundry efficiency

Avoid hauling big loads of laundry up and down stairs by putting the washer and dryer in a closet inside your bedroom or bathroom – rooms where people remove their clothing, Pangaea says. Another option is using a rolling cart that can help you move laundry to the washer.

If your laundry room is in the basement and if local codes allow it, consider a laundry chute or a dumbwaiter to help you get dirty clothes to the laundry more efficiently. Most laundry chutes are framed into a home when it’s built.


6. Think smooth for countertops

Stay away from traditional, 4-by-4-inch tile on your countertops. Instead, consider large slabs of quartz, Corian, laminate, granite or stainless steel. Single slabs do not have grout to scrub or seal.

Stainless steel is less expensive than granite and could be a good choice for the neat freak. It’s especially easy to disinfect and is impervious to heat, rust, decay and stains. But a warning: It gets scratched easily. A textured countertop can hide a lot of those marks.


7. Go for a clean cabinet look

Ornate cabinet molding may be beautiful, but it can be a devil to clean around all the nooks and crannies. If you want to minimize your elbow grease, choose slab-front cabinets or Shaker style, which blends with any kitchen style.

Don’t forget the inside of your cabinets. Companies such as Rev-A-Shelf make handy pull-out drawers for cabinets in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room and pantry. A roll-out drawer makes it easy to put away pots and lids. Thin slide-out doors can hide kitchen appliances, and drawers under the kitchen sink let you pull cleaning supplies into view and within reach.

“If there is a place for everything, it’s easier to put away,” Pangaea says.


8. Get an undermount sink — or two

An integrated or undermount sink can make wiping messes off the countertop a cinch. Unlike drop-in sinks, which have a lip above the counter, there are no bumps to wipe around. You can wipe directly into the sink.

Avid cooks often design their home with two sinks in the kitchen to keep the kitchen tidier. One is used for prep and the other for cleanup, Pangaea says. Another idea: built-in drain boards that send water from your countertop directly into the sink. These can be pricey — starting at $500 — because the series of slanted grooves often must be carved into stone or granite slab. But they ultimately result in less water to wipe up and less mess.


9. Keep trash in check

Putting your recycling bins and trash can on rollout shelves makes it a snap to sort items. Herbeau Creations of America, based in Naples, Fla., even makes a push-button rubbish chute that can be installed on a kitchen counter or on a wall. The $1,300 chute is 10 by 10 inches and keeps your kitchen tidy by funneling items into a trash can or composting bin.


10. Avoid grout altogether

“When I mention tile to my clients, the first thing out of their mouth is, ‘I hate cleaning grout,'” Pangaea says. Her advice: Use solid-surface choices for your bathroom and kitchen walls to save that elbow grease. Stone slabs are thin and have few seam lines.

In many kitchens, the trend is to run the tile up from your countertops to your cabinets. If you do that, pick larger tiles that come as big as 24 by 48 inches. New epoxy grouts are more stain-resistant than traditional grout.


11. Select a linear drain for your bathroom 

Your bathroom floor can be easier to clean if you install a linear drain in your shower. The drain runs parallel to one shower wall, rather than sitting in the center of the shower, like a traditional drain. The floor is pitched slightly in one direction, to avoid puddles. This linear design allows you to use large tiles in the shower instead of relying on little mosaic tiles to accommodate multiple directions of slope.

These drains aren’t cheap: Count on paying as much as $1,000. But by using larger tiles, you get less grout, which is the bane of most homeowners.

Source: MSN Real Estate

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