Book Review: Life After Housework

The idea that someone could write a book about cleaning techniques was a revelation to me. I bought Is There Life after Housework in the local used bookstore because I couldn’t resist the title. The author, Don Aslett, explains everything you need to about cleaning your house. If you are thinking about becoming a professional cleaner (apropos recent comments on Orthonomics), Aslett tells you how.

My sister-in-law once bought another of his books, Clutter’s Last Stand, only to discover that she already owned a copy.)

Aslett advocates “going with the flow” and tackling chores when you have the most energy. He doesn’t believe in cleaning things when they aren’t dirty, as opposed to SHE’s Pam and Peggy, who rely on a strict schedule. This might be an example of Pam and Peggy’s claim that most books on home organization are not deisgned for people who really need them.

Strict schedules don’t work for me for more than a limited time, so I prefer a combination of the two approaches.

Aslett focuses on specific cleaning techniques, some of which require specialized equipment. Here are the tips I found most helpful:

  • Arrange your house to make it easy to clean. Built-in furniture is easiest to maintain because you don’t need to move it. I had a friend who was always complaining about things that rolled under the sofa. I used to tell her that you don’t think about those things when you buy a sofa, but maybe you should.
  • Use the 4-step method for cleaning flat surfaces like floors and counters: a) Sweep or brush away dirt; b) Wet the surface with soapy water and let it soak a bit. If necessary, scrape sticky areas with a brush or “scotch-brite” pad. c) Squeegee the dirty water into a dustpan or drain. d) Wipe the area once more with a clean damp cloth. This is exactly how Israelis do “sponja,” that method of cleaning floors that baffles us Americans.
  • Use a sprayer (recipe included) and cleaning cloth (made from an old towel) for the bathroom and kitchen; you can easily maintain a bathroom by spraying, waiting for three minutes, and wiping. A sponge and bucket of soapy water means that the first time you dip the dirty rag into the water to rinse it out, your water is already dirty and you are spreading it.
  • When using a squeegee to clean windows, wipe the blade with a damp cloth in between swipes to prevent streaks.

Aslett explains the challenge of homemakers with hard water. When water evaporates, the minerals in the water remain. That is the source of hard-to-remove “crust” around a faucet. Drying fixtures after use prevents this problem. I think hard water is the reason Israeli bathrooms are renovated so frequently.

Those anxious to hear about Flylady will have to wait a bit longer.



  1. I think it’s hysterical that your sister-in-law bought that clutter book. Twice.
    I have so much to say on the subject of cleaning, that I think I’m going to post about it (you’ve inspired me). In the US, I worked full time and had a CLEANING LADY. Here I am not working so I AM THE CLEANING LADY. Would you believe I had the audacity to tell my friends, “she’s okay, but she doesn’t clean the way I would”??? Now I clean and I hate it. It makes me TIRED. I do have a system. No real schedule, but sometimes I’ll see something needs particular attention and I’ll clean it. On Friday I do a major cleaning. Let’s not get crazy, by that I mean dusting and a sponga. Then I “maintain” until Tuesday nite. Wednesday I wake up and say well, Friday is just around the corner and let the place rot. (Please don’t visit on a Wednesday).
    And I so appreciate my cleaning ladies!
    But seriously, I’m off to post…

  2. So I WISH I could sponja my whole house but they don’t have drains in the floors here. I totally think this method works better than any “mopping” on hardwood/tile/stone. I even use a modified version for “dusting” the bookcases/shelving/large items that always get dusty.
    Yes I’m a cleanfreak, no I can’t help it.

  3. Good points but:
    The poisons get into your eyes, lungs, skin etc. Use a long handled brush on all the surfaces.

  4. mominisrael says

    My spray bottle has vinegar and water.

  5. mominisrael says

    In the old country we used a mop and a bucket. No squeegees, no cleaning cloths. Doing sponja is a skill that I have only recently mastered.

  6. satiricohen says

    Why would sponja baffle Americans? How else would you clean a floor?

  7. Well, seeing as I spent the day yesterday cleaning up after a major “Shitafon” (FLOOD!) in my house, I feel like I’ve sponga’ed more than I ever wanted to in one day. (Just posted about it, if you’re interested in more info). NEway…….I also don’t have drains for doing proper sponga, but here’s what I do:
    fill the bucket, dip the smartoot (rag), and wring it out here and there over the floors on esp. dirty areas. Then, I ‘mop’ with the rag, rinsing in the sink, then dipping again in the clean water. The soapy water lasts much longer like this. I don’t usually go over it with a dry cloth, cuz by the time we’re finished with it all, it’s usually dry.
    I must say though, I HATE DOING IT!!!

  8. I don’t have a proper drain on my floor, even though I live in Israel. I pretty much use the floor-cleaning system Aslett recommends, leaving out the squeegeeing step. I sweep, pour water in every room I’m washing (letting particularly tough areas soak for a few minutes), and then I wash the floor. I use *some* water, not a lot. I copy some professional cleaners I’ve seen who cut a hold in the middle of their floor cleaning rag, so it doesn’t fall off the floor squeegee. After I wash the floor, I rinse it out in my (still clean) bucket, and wring it out very well. Then I go over the floor again to pick up the excess water. I repeat the rinse-wring-go-over step for every room, approximately. Yes, I suppose I’m spreading a bit of dirty water around, but my experience is that my floor gets really clean this way, and it’s not that hard or time consuming.

  9. Sponja. Ack. Hate it. I do find it easier to cut a hole in the cloth.
    The areas under my couches are also “black holes.” They’re just a bit too high off the floor and EVERYTHING winds up under them. I will definitely not make that same mistake next time we buy couches.

  10. mominisrael says

    SL, you know you are welcome, but I may send you to someone else for the floor-cleaning tips.
    Your comment reminds me of something else Aslett said: He claims that bleach causes some rubber part of the toilet to disintegrate gradually. I pour some vinegar in the bowl and let it sit for a few hours (if I can guarantee that no one will flush it during that time–not an easy task). After brushing the bowl will be spotless.

  11. I follow the clean when it needs it advice. I guess that is part of why I don’t “get” the cleaning lady business.
    After I use my mixer, I clean the countertop immediately. Yesterday I walked into the kids bathroom and saw the toilet needed a scrub. I finished getting my soup on the stove and grabbed my bleach and a rag. Five minutes later, I was done.
    I’d really like to figure out a better way to clean my floors. Perhpas a vacation to Israel is what I need. đŸ™‚

  12. I will give vinager a try when all but the baby are out of the house. I tend to use a bleach cleaner spray because the bleach is too unwieldy and I lost a cute, sporty warm up jacket due to my own sloppiness.
    G-d willing we will meet in Israel. I’ll be happy to take a lesson from a neighbor.