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Tips & Tricks for Cleaning with Lupus

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Cleanliness is good for physical and mental health, but pain and fatigue are obstacles to clean spaces for people with lupus. There are ways to make it easier, though. 

Lupus can make it difficult to manage everyday tasks (and age does not make it better! ) Lupus fatigue is a huge reason why sometimes clean-up chores fall by the wayside. Everything feels like it takes so much effort, like you are moving through molasses. Sometimes, it feels as though there is a limited amount of energy available for lupuswarriors, and just existing takes up most of it. 

So how can you manage your lupus but also keep your space clean? Here are a few tips and tricks!

Note: While we do link to specific products in the list above, this is not a direct endorsement of these products by Lupuscorner.com. However, these tools were specifically recommended by people who struggle with chronic illnesses that cause fatigue, mobility, and blood pressure issues, and even if you do not use that particular product or brand, something similar might be helpful for you. Amazon is a great resource for finding these tools.

Use Tools to Make Life Easier!

Mobility is often a problem for people with lupus, but there are adaptive devices and tools to help with cleaning. Long-handles for brushes and sponges, grabber tools such as grabber claws, and even automatic cleaning robots such as roombas can be game-changers for people with lupus (and not just for cleaning!) Modifying tools that you already have for your personal comfort and ease of use is also a good idea, as long as it’s done safely. Just a bit more comfort can make a big difference. You can read more about adaptive devices here.

Here are a few tools in particular that you may find handy for cleaning:

Battery powered scrubbers take the scrubbing out of scrubbing! They do the hard work for you, which can save time, energy, and pain. They also don’t have cumbersome wires to drag around and can be bought with long or ergonomic handles for comfort. Some electric scrubbers are also dishwasher safe, which makes it easy to clean and sanitize them.

Examples:

Rubbermaid Reveal Cordless Battery Power Scrubber Home Kit  

SonicScrubber Household Combi Pack  

The search terms to look for are “electric cleaning brush,” “spin scrubber,” or “electric scrubbing brush”.

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Ergonomic handles can be found built into many different types of tools, but there are attachable handles that can be put onto any tool. For example, you can use an ergonomic handle on a broom to sweep easier and with less pain. Ergonomic handles are especially designed to fit in the hand comfortably, without putting stress on the joints in the hand and arm. While it increases comfort, ergonomic handles also improve the strength you can bring to bear on a particular mess, making you more effective, too! Crochet hooks, grippers, knives, water bottles, gardening tools, scissors, and even pens and pencils can all benefit from ergonomic handles.

The search terms to look for is “ergonomic handle” or “labor-saving handle”.

Cordless vacuums were once considered weak, but are now powerful enough to handle heavy dirt in a normal home. Barbara and Jim Twardowski’s blog post on Ability.com discusses the usefulness of vacuums with lightweight handles and the famous roomba cleaning robot.  Vibration is also a factor, but there are powerful, anti-allergy cordless vacuums with low vibrations out there. 

The search terms to look for are “cordless vacuum,” “lightweight cordless vacuum,” “cordless vacuum allergen”

Roombas and other robotic vacuums are also very handy because they clean automatically. Though they can’t handle certain types of messes and are stuck on the floor, they can keep the levels of dust and dirt down and make things a lot easier when you do have the spoons to clean.

Grabber Tools and Grippers are the classic “claw” tool that is useful for grabbing objects out of reach or picking up items without bending over. These tools come in a variety of handle types, claw types, and grip strengths, so find one that is right for you. Many people recommend that you have a gripper tool in every room for easy access, so you might end up with different types of grippers for different rooms in your home or for different tasks. 

The search terms to look for are “Grabber reacher tool”.

 

Microfiber dusters allow you to dust without throwing the dust into the air, protecting your airways from dust that gets tossed up into the air. They can be cleaned with soap and water. Microfibers come in duster form, but also in cloth form and as brooms or mops.

Examples: Set of four microfiber dusters on Amazon

The search terms to look for are “microfiber duster,” “microfiber hand duster”.

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Air purifiers, filters, and touchless vacuums are a great way to remove potentially triggering dust and particles from the air. Some products, activate when you sweep and will suck up any dirt that you put in front of them, others just turn on and run, cleaning the air. 

Examples: 

Touchless Stationary Vacuum

The search terms to look for are “Stationary vacuum”.

Masks can help with dust and mold and, also, protect your airways from cleaning chemicals in the air. These days, it’s easy to find masks in a variety of types and fun designs.

 

Mopping Slippers are a unique way to clean the floor without bending down, using your arms or back, a broom, or a vacuum. Instead, you use your feet, by simply walking around. If normal or long-handled mops are painful to use or draining, this can be a great (and comfortable!) option. All you need to do is walk in the area you need to dust and then wash the slippers themselves. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, so they suit many people’s needs.

Example: Frjjthchy Warm Microfiber Slippers

The search terms to look for: Mopping Slipper

 

Wheeled laundry baskets and cleaning carts can be a big help when you need to move laundry or cleaning supplies or, really, anything else through the house. They can be organized as needed and easy to use on different types of flooring, depending on the brand, and can help you avoid bending and lifting. There are a wide variety of these types of carts, and 

Examples:

Laundry Baskets with Wheels

The search term to look for are “Wheeled carts.” 

Wheeled or mobile chairs such as office chairs can also be a big help, since you can bring it with you and rest on it as needed.

 

Ergonomic sponges can make a difference in effort spent. Several people with mobility issues have spoken highly of the scrub daddy brand, which has a face-shaped grip that provides ergonomic support. Their main product, scrub daddy, uses a special foam that changes texture in warm or cold water. A sister product, scrub mommy, is double sided for smoother wiping.

The search terms to look for are “Ergonomic sponges”.

Cleaning gloves can save sensitive skin and protect you from temperature, textures, and harsh chemicals. Cleaning gloves come in many different materials and sizes, but rubber gloves are generally very good at protecting the skin. You can buy different color gloves for kitchen and bathroom use, but even if you only use gloves in one place or another, buy multiples so that you always have a spare set.

“The search terms we recommend are “reusable cleaning gloves, rubber gloves”.

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Sterilize Surfaces with Steam and Natural Materials

Sterilizing surfaces is important for people with lupus, since the immune system is less effective, and many lupus drugs suppress the immune system to prevent symptoms. If you are trying to avoid harsh chemicals, heat and steam are good options, as is lemon juice and white vinegar. The smell can be off-putting, so be sure to wipe off these substances after using. They also don’t completely disinfect on surfaces. Hydrogen peroxide is a natural and safe way to kill bacteria and mold – it even turns into oxygen in the end. It also removes stains, but it can also bleach. 

Essential oils do have some antibacterial properties, including tea tree, citronella, geranium, lemongrass, orange, and pachouli. They work best when mixed with other cleaning solutions, such as rubbing alcohol or soup with water. Be careful – we don’t know all of the properties of essential oils or all of their interactions with each other or with medications. If you are sensitive to scents, these may not be a good solution and they aren’t as effective at sterilizing surfaces as chemical cleaners or hydrogen peroxide. However, they are an option, and best purchased at local stores.

A steam mop is a mop that, as the name implies, steams the floor that it cleans. This removes stains and also disinfects with the steam’s heat, while not leaving much water to clean or slosh around. It comes in corded and cordless forms, and some brands have different mop heads that work for different floor types such as wood or tile.

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Take Frequent Breaks 

Cleaning is hard work, physically and mentally and though satisfying, can be fatiguing even for people who aren’t dealing with lupus. Take a moment to sit and rest in between chores to rest and recharge.  These breaks are also great opportunities to practice meditation, including mindfulness

Taking breaks works especially well if the cleaning tasks are broken down into smaller tasks – the smaller tasks are less likely to be a drain on energy and provide easy break points between tasks.

Use Disposable Items

But what if you didn’t need to clean at all? Preventing the mess before it happens is very useful, but how do you do it?

Paper plates may mean more trash and paper waste, but also mean fewer dishes that need to be washed, so this may be a win in your book.

Try disposable aluminum pans and silverware as well – biodegradable versions are available, but keep in mind that these will sometimes degrade in hot foods such as soup, so be careful about what kind you buy. 

Disinfectant wipes can be used for more than just wiping hands. They are also good for wiping table surfaces, sinks, chairs, the fridge, phone screens, and the floor. Then they can be thrown away. There are biodegradable wipes such as Bioclean (which can biodegrade in a landfill,) and Clorox (which can biodegrade in a composter,) among other brands if you are worried about the trash you would be producing. 

Plain white vinegar and baking soda are a surprisingly effective cleaning agent. mix them together in a plastic tub with some water, let anything dirty soak for 30 minutes, and wipe. They are relatively inexpensive and are not as harsh as other cleaning chemicals.

Put Supplies in a Good Location

Keep these cleaning supplies near the places you need to clean the most in a reachable spot. That way, you can clean the high priority areas easily and only need to move further afield when you have the spoons for it. Obviously, having cleaning supplies in every room would be ideal, but having maybe a set of disinfectant wipes in each room, a broom, or a pair of mopping slippers might help. 

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Break Down Large Must-Do Tasks

Cleaning your living space and other large tasks can seem like a monumental task. Even more focused tasks such as “clean the floors,” “wipe down surfaces,” “clean the kitchen,” or “take out the trash” can look as difficult as a hike up Mt. Everest. When the chore feels too big, people are unlikely to get started. Even people who don’t have to deal with chronic diseases procrastinate on these tasks. Since people with lupus have to manage pain and limited energy, they have every right to be intimidated by these daunting tasks.

The trick, though, is to break these down into a bunch of smaller tasks. Instead of “clean the floors,” maybe instead have “vacuum the bedroom, vacuum the living room, wash the kitchen floor, etc.” Instead of “wipe down surfaces,” break it down to, for example, wiping the surfaces room by room. You will end up with a larger list of tasks, which is intimidating in its own way, but these tasks are smaller and so you will be able to check them off your list one by one and they’ll be done – the morale boost from that will be more than worth it. Smaller tasks are also useful for pacing and managing your fatigue.

Scheduling and reminder apps can make basic chores less of a pain by making them a habit or routine instead. Routines take less energy because you aren’t thinking about it as much. It can also help to portion out time into manageable chunks that will be less fatiguing than spending hours on the same overall task and spread out the chores over time.

Prioritize Tasks and Do the Necessities First

What do lupuswarriors need most regarding cleaning? If there are multiple things that need to be cleaned, it’s more important to deal with the essentials. Lupuswarriors should make sure to do any tasks important to maintain good hygiene and protect their health. Anything related to self-care, safety or flare-trigger prevention should be definitely put ahead of the rest. For example, cleaning food-related messes (removing areas where bacteria can grow,) sterilizing surfaces, cleaning your body, moving aside objects that are blocking paths and could cause tripping hazards or falling, and taking care of pets.   

If those tasks are all that you end up being able to do that day, then you should take that as a victory!

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Go Easy on Yourself

There is a lot of societal pressure on people with lupus, and everyday life is not and has never been easy. Lupus is a hard fight and sometimes just getting through the day is more than enough, even if the dishes don’t get done that day and the floor still needs cleaning. You are unlikely to achieve perfection and get your space so clean you can eat off the floor – sometimes you just have to settle with good enough.  And that’s okay! What hasn’t been done today can be done for tomorrow. Sometimes, taking away the pressure to do everything at once can actually help get more things done! It’s amazing what having reasonable expectations of yourself can do.

A Lupus Warrior’s Takeaway

People with lupus thrive in clean spaces. A clean space can help boost your mood and also is a way to get moving (cleaning is definitely light exercise), which has many benefits for people with lupus including combatting depression. A clean space can also help combat certain flare triggers like dust or allergens. Cleaning with lupus can be overwhelming, but it is worth it.  Hopefully these tips, tricks, and tools help. 

Comments (1)

One thought on “Tips & Tricks for Cleaning with Lupus

  1. These are all great suggestions. I have another one. I have stashed duplicates of my most trusted cleaners, where they are used most often, so I don’t have to hunt them down in another room when needed. For example, I leave a container of Clorox wipes in the laundry, kitchen, and bathrooms. I keep two smaller brooms where most needed – in the kitchen and near the litter box in our master bath. The initial cost for multiple daily cleaners was quickly offset by my being able to conserve my energy for much more enjoyable activities!

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