10 RA Cleaning Tips

Patient Expert

When you have RA, you need some tricks to help you chase away the dirt devils, dust bunnies, and clutter critters that regularly hold meetings in your home.

Unfortunately, your ability, energy, or mobility is not infinite, so it pays to have a cleaning plan, regardless of which one of these cleaning philosophies you subscribe to:  my house is dirty enough to be healthy, or my house is so clean you could eat off the floor.

K.I.S.S. your way into a cleaner home - keep it simple, sweetie - and adopt or adapt these 10 cleaning tips:

1. Fresh start. If you're in the market for your first home,  you are already ahead of the game. This is when you can save yourself a lot of extra work by planning for the future. Imagine your worst flare ever, then choose a house, furniture, flooring, and fixtures that are easy to maintain.

When we bought our townhouse, I was in excruciating pain while awaiting a hip replacement. In retrospect, this was a blessing, especially since I tend to be very optimistic when I'm not in pain. The pain ensured that we purchased a home that was without stairs - and, I am thankful for that every time I enter or leave the house.

2. Schedule, or not. Dependent upon your cleaning style, you might dream of a cleaning regimen like the one that is followed by the likes of Betty Draper in Mad Men, or like this one describing the 50's housewife.

To help you stay on track, you can sign up for a daily email from  Fly Lady. Bear in mind that even though you might like to follow her schedule, there may be times when your disease has other plans. Be prepared to adjust your expectations and energy, accordingly.  Build rest periods in to your cleaning schedule. You don't have to do it all in one go.

3. Ten minutes. Perhaps pre-diagnosis you were a cleaning machine, powering through your home in record time. Now, you may find it difficult to get dressed, or get a decent meal on the table. Break your tasks down into 10-minute, or even five-minute segments, doing the most important (and visible) things first. You may wish to top up on your pain medications prior to a big clean.

4. Wear indoor shoes. Tender tootsies tend to take a thumping when you get into a cleaning groove. Oh, the pain of hitting the edge of the bed when you change the sheets, or when you give the vacuum a good pull and your foot gets in the way.

5. Floor surfaces. Each time I drag the  vacuum cleaner out I dream of new flooring - where I would dance across the easy-to-clean surface with a light-weight mop. Instead, I struggle - if it's not with the pulling, pushing, and prodding of the vacuum, it's with the changing of the attachments.

So, while carpeting is kinder to arthritic feet, it can also be more difficult to maintain, especially since no one has built the ideal RA-friendly vacuum cleaner. Yet. (I'm still waiting for that call from a vacuum cleaner manufacturer to be their RA consultant)

6. Washing the floor. I remember when I would get down - no,    I'm not referring to my disco days, but rather to a time when I was able to get down on my hands and knees to wash the floors. I've graduated from using a mop to wash my floors to skating them clean. I put two wet rags on the floor, then use the stronger muscles of my legs to carefully clean backwards across the room.

7. Blinds, curtains, drapes, and shutters. Curtains and drapes, can be taken down and washed or dry-cleaned. I have yet to find the ideal blind cleaning tool - a damp rag and lots of patience (and time) are required to get each slat clean. I noticed a neighbour had installed wooden shutters inside their windows. I imagine that it would be easy to just wipe 'n' go.

8. Dusting. You may wish to do some de-cluttering. The more stuff you have, the more you have to move it around to clean it.

Look for easy-to-dust pieces of furniture. I made the mistake of buying mission-style coffee and end tables. All those slats take time to dust, so I sit on a chair as I make my way around the coffee table and other low areas. If you find it difficult to grip a duster, slip two old pairs of socks over your hands and do double-dusting duty.

9. Dishes. During a flare-up, I discovered that I could combine contrast baths with doing the dishes. I filled one side of the sink with hot, soapy water, and the other side with cold rinse water. Clean dishes and more flexible hands, all in one go!

10. Delegate. If you have children at home, it's important to assign them chores. Not only are they learning invaluable life-skills, but they are contributing to the well-being of the family. Start children off with age-appropriate chores. Encourage them as they grow into their tasks.

Perhaps you can't afford a regular cleaner. Some of the daily deal sites, such as Groupon, often feature cleaning companies. You might like them so much that you'll bring them back several times a year to help you tackle the big cleaning jobs.

Well, I'm off to round up some dust bunnies, and other assorted critters who apparently break into the house and make a mess.

Do you have tips for cleaning with RA?

See More Helpful Articles

Keeping Mobile: Physical Therapy and RA

Pain Management

A Beginner's Guide to RA: Being a Chronically Ill Parent

How Can I Help My Loved One who has Chronic Pain?

_Marianna Paulson is known as Auntie Stress. On her website, you'll find links to her two blogs, Auntie Stress Café and the award-winning,  A Rheumful of Tips. She also publishes a mostly monthly newsletter - The Connective Issue. Sign up on her website to receive information, tips, and to learn about giveaways.  _