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On Your Mark, Get Set - Clean! Jeff Campbell's method is fast and thorough - but get ready for a workout. HOUSEWORK IN A HURRY

By Maggie LewisSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / April 26, 1989


FOR a man who founded the Clean Team, a service that regularly scours 500 San Francisco single-family homes in 41 minutes each, Jeff Campbell uses the word ``fun'' a lot. In his book ``Speed Cleaning'' (Dell Publishing, New York, $5.95), Mr. Campbell shares the secrets of the trade. He tells you how to cut your cleaning time in half by working in teams and not wasting a motion. He tells you in no uncertain terms:

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``No arguments. No discussions. No compromises,'' he writes, before he even gets to the instructions. But follow them, and in about 12 minutes, the grout on the bathroom tile is white again, that awful daisy sticker is gone from the mirror, the toilet gleams, and you feel as if you'd just had an aerobics class.

Campbell came to Boston to promote the sequel, ``Spring Cleaning,'' and this interviewer was surprised when a tall, relaxed, positively sunny Californian stepped off the elevator. He wasn't wearing a whistle around his neck, nor did he check for dust gathering around the light cords as he ambled through the newsroom. He did hang up his raincoat, but admitted right off that no one remarks on how clean his house is, and that his personal cleaning goal is ``to have two minutes with no dog hairs - that's about as long as you get.''

He started a cleaning service only because his job in marketing at Pacific Bell didn't suit him. It was 1979. There was a recession on, housewives were returning to work, and someone was going to have to clean their homes. Campbell saw an opportunity, but ``I only wanted to do it in teams, because it sounded like the only way it would be fun at all,'' he recalls.

THINGS really picked up when he discovered the apron. The idea ``comes to a man faster than a woman, even though you associate an apron with a woman. But the way we use it, it's more like a carpenter's apron. You wouldn't even hire a carpenter who had to come down the ladder every time he needed a nail.'' Yet that was the way he, his mother - everyone, probably - had always done housework.

``You have one thing in your hand, and anytime you need anything else, it's a trip somewhere.'' Wearing everything they needed around their waists, Clean Teamsters ``did'' a room from picture rails to baseboards by walking around it once.

But the fun - and efficiency - really began when he made them partners in the business. ``There's 35 of us. We split profits. We're like a little law firm; we have meetings. That's also what allowed me to get speed cleaning information.''

The partners, artists and writers in need of cash, people on leave from other jobs, and some who just liked housework, ``all interested because we all loved it,'' had a common desire to bring cleaning time down and profits up. They would debate the best way to clean shower doors. Three different teams would try three different ways, time them, and compare results.

``So we'd find out which way was the best, and we all switched to that and moved on to a different subject.''

He wrote down this body of knowledge as a manual for new partners. In 1985, it was published as ``Speed Cleaning.'' Campbell received more than 10,000 fan letters.