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Vanquishing ULOs Unidentified Lying Objects

Author: Mary Keating

For:  Family Living Magazine

Date:  April 2006

1373 words (including sidebars)

Pick up a magazine or paper this spring and inevitably there will be at least one article promising to help solve the mystery surrounding spring cleaning. Further, the article will share with readers a handful of quick tips to locate dust bunnies, put an end to their restful winter slumber and deep clean in such a way as to end the reign of the bunny.

Don Aslett, America’s #1 cleaning expert and foremost seeker of dust bunnies said “contrary to popular belief and tradition, spring is possibly the worst time to do a heavy annual house cleaning.”

So let it be known that the expert said that it is ok to dream about a spring free from cleaning carpets, windows and walls.

“Spring cleaning gives you a clean house for a month or two, like April and May,” Aslett said. “Then from June through September, the heavy outdoors-use season, the house accumulates dirt and grime, which will then remain in your house all winter.”

“Spring cleaning is an example of our expectations not catching up to our domestic realities,” said Cynthia Townley Ewer, founder of the home-management Web site and author of the new book “House Works.”

For one thing, who has the time for an old-fashioned, top-to-bottom house scouring?

Marathon spring-cleaning rites date back from a long-ago era when the domestic sphere was a full-time job for most women. But between 1965 – when women started entering the work force in greater numbers – and 1995, the amount of time women spend on housework has fallen from 32 hours a week to between 18 and 19, according to time-use research done at the University of Maryland. (Women still spend nearly twice the number of hours on housework each week that me do: 18.2 for women, 9.8 for men, the research shows,)

For another thing, Ewer says, “We don’t have the kind of old-fashioned, smoky heating sources that made spring cleaning necessary. We can live without washing our walls.”

Design historian Gail Winkler says the practice of spring cleaning dates from the early 19th century, even before gas lighting and coal-fired furnaces began to leave their sooty marks on a home.

“Spring cleaning was also about taking a house from winter dress and switching it over to summer dress,” says Winkler, who teaches in the preservation program at the University of Pennsylvania.

That switch involved take up wool carpets, which had to be beaten and spot-cleaned before they were stored, and replaced them with grass matting. Furniture was slip covered to protect it from the dirt blowing in open windows, and draperies were either “bagged” in what looked link long pillow cases, or were replaced with washable muslin.

However, with all that said, Aslett advocates ending ULOs, exercising the thumb and fingers this spring and shares his secret time for deep cleaning.  Throughout this month’s magazine, readers will find out more about ULOs, discover thumb work exercises to replace the traditional deep spring cleaning rituals of the past and the key time to embark on deep cleaning. Just look for the little cleaning cartoons.


One recurring Aslett theme is the need to de-clutter.

“Too much of cleaning is almost nonstop picking up of litter and clutter,” said Aslett. “And household litter and clutter also cause plenty of fights and frustrations.”

When a member of the family cannot find something, even if they lost it themselves, everyone else has to take the blame as they whine and stomp through the house trying to locate the items they should have put away in the first place.

40% of all cleaning time and expense is the direct cause of uncontrolled cutter or ULOs (unidentified lying objects.)

Litter has three general causes: 1) your family owns too much junk; 2) your home has inadequate storage spaces – racks, shelves, closets, hooks, towel bars, and toy boxes; 3) you (the adults) have accepted the position of “family janitor” to a thoughtless bunch of litterers.

“You are smart enough to cure all three,” said Aslett.


Saddle up the garbage cans, put the nozzle on the sprayer and blow the grime out of the bottom of the garage cans.

If this seems to be a bit more work than your spring cleaning thumb will handle, turn the garbage can upside down on the automatic sprinkler and let the sprinkler do the work. Just remember to remove the garbage can before the grass turns brown.


One of the best investments in spring cleaning supplies would be a pressure washer, said Aslett. An electric washer with 1300 psi should be able to do most of the thumb work      

Spray the house, spray the doors and spray outdoor furniture.

For a little extracurricular thumb exercises, spray the driveway and the walks.


Mats are one of the most important time-saving investments.

“Mats prevent housework,” said Aslett.  “The first principle of smart housecleaning is not to have to do it. At least 80 percent of the dirt in your house originates outdoors, and most of this is tracked in on people’s feet.”

Invest in a doormat not a maid. Doormats lie there day after day keeping dirt out of the house, maids don’t. And, mats only need a good deep cleaning in the spring and in the fall. Use your handy pressure washer and spray away all the dirt and grime.


Many people think that the bathroom or perhaps their kid’s room is the dirtiest place in the house. Nope, the dirtiest place in the house – doorknobs: give them a spray

“Hands scratch rumps, pick noses, get coughed and sneezed into regularly, and handle all kinds of things, and they can and do transfer soil and germs,” said Aslett.

 He recommends once a month grabbing a spray bottle of disinfectatnt cleaner and spray and wipe all of the following:

  • All doorknobs
  • All drawer and cabinet handles
  • All fridge handles
  • All faucet hands
  • All chair backs
  • All broom handles
  • Handles of buckets and baskets
  • All suitcase handles
  • And the spray bottle itself.

When cleaning the next three items, spray the cleaner on the cloth, not on the item and use it to wipe them clean.

  • All phones
  • Knobs on TVs, VCRs, whatever
  • All light switches

 A word on Homemade cleaners

“All those witches brews’ and cleaning concoction recipes you find in books and magazines are desperate ‘fillers’ of odd bits of space and that’s about all they are good for,” said Aslett. “You not only take up your time, but you also run the risk of making chemical combinations that might be physically harmful.”

Commercially manufactured cleaning chemicals, polishes, waxes, and other supplies are safer, more convenient and cheaper in the long run.  And, if the truth be told, he advises only four types of cleaners:

  1. An all purpose cleaner that is gentle and safe on most surfaces.
  2. a disinfectant cleaner for the bathroom and other areas that need germ and odor control like the bathroom (check the label – quaternary is the kind you want)
  3.  a quick evaporating, alcohol-based glass cleaner and
  4. a heavy-duty cleaner/degreaser.


Every house does need a good deep cleaning once a year. 

Aslett suggests deep clean the house a week or two before hunting season begins in the fall.  Test your husbands hunting skills and work together to rid the house of dust bunnies.

Dust, damaging dirt, flies, bugs, tar, and other spots and debris that enter your home during the spring and summer months should be removed at the end of summer.  Otherwise, the dirt stays around for most of the next eight months if you only deep clean in the spring, said Aslett.

When you clean your house thoroughly in mid-fall, it will stay cleaner for a greater length of time – October through April – and it is cleaner for the three major holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Say goodbye to spring cleaning, pull the trigger on the pressure washer, control the ULOs and enjoy the May flowers.