The sun is shining: on your dirty windows, dusty baseboards and soiled carpet. Spring is here with all the cleaning challenges the season implies. Want to get your home tidy for summer entertaining? It doesn't have to be a chore -- well, it does, but not an overwhelming one.
Smart homeowners and cleaning pros everywhere have secrets that can help make spring cleaning a little more manageable for those of us who think the only good household chore is one that's somebody else's responsibility.
Get Organized with the Right Tools
There's a lot to be said for getting organized with a cleaning caddy. These nifty carryalls are designed to tote your supplies from room to room. If you want a sponge for that nasty crayon streak on the dining room wall, you won't have to stop everything and go find one if you've got all your cleaning goodies in one handy location. Caddies are available in wicker, wire and rubber varieties. To make sure you've covered all the bases, put one together for bathroom-related tasks and another for everything else.
Speaking of sponges, these all-purpose tools get a bad rap. Yes, they can harbor some pretty nasty bacteria, but that's only if you don't get them clean after each use. You don't need a cupboard full of antibacterial cleansers to clean your sponges. Use the microwave. A couple of minutes in a microwave set on high will kill 99 percent of bacteria on a household sponge (just make sure the sponge is wet when you put it in the microwave). If you've stopped using these convenient and inexpensive aids, lose the paper towels and grab a bag of quality sponges the next time you go shopping. A good microwave cleaning daily will keep a sponge sweet-smelling and ready to swipe and scrub on a moment's notice.
Start at the Top
When you tackle a room, start from the top and work down. That way anything you knock off the ceiling, fixtures and drapes will land on the floor where you'll pick it up last. These general cleaning tips will help, too:
- Invest in a couple of artist's paint brushes and use them to dust those hard to reach areas, like lampshade folds, textured vases and picture frames.
- Buy a dusting mitt or use an old sock to dust blinds.
- Invest in a microfiber cloth to clean electronic equipment, ceiling fans, windows and mirrors.
- Make good use of your vacuum cleaner. A quick once-over with the soft brush attachment of your vacuum will get the dust and some of the odor out of your sofa, chairs and pillows.
- While you have the vacuum out, strip the beds and give them a thorough vacuuming. Dead skin cells and dust mites have probably added some weight to your mattress since last spring. A thorough cleaning will get rid of allergens and help you breathe easier.
- Before you vacuum the floors, run the soft brush attachment over your baseboards. If they're really grimy, they may need a soap and water scrubbing. Otherwise, a little wand work will get rid of last winter's dust.
- Shampoo pesky carpet stains in high traffic areas, and consider hiring a professional service to clean your carpets twice a year.
- Protect your carpet from future assaults with area rugs near all of your exterior doors.
- If you have pets or smoke indoors, keep carpeting fresh-smelling with baking soda. Just sprinkle baking soda liberally on the carpet, and let it stand overnight.
Lose the Bathroom Gunk
Bathrooms are usually small space-wise, but cleaning them can be a big job. You don't have to scrub until your fingers are sore and your back is aching, though.
- To keep water spots off your shower enclosure and doors, apply a thin layer of car wax twice a year. The spots won't stain if they can't get a grip. Wax is slippery, so keep it up off the shower floor.
- Get rid of soap scum by spritzing the crusty grime with baby oil. Combine four parts warm water to one part baby oil, and spray the mixture on soap scum. Wait 15 minutes and wipe the area clean. It's that easy. If you hate soap scum buildup as much as we do, switch from bar soap to liquid soap. Liquid soap has fewer solid particulates to contribute to the soap crud we all love to hate.
- Keep your grout and caulk mildew-free with a half-and-half solution of water and hydrogen peroxide (3-percent solution). Just spritz the solution on with a pump sprayer and let it dry.
- Use a steam or vapor cleaner for fast cleanup without heavy scrubbing or caustic chemicals. Hand-held units are available for less than $30 dollars and can loosen grime and kill germs in a few seconds. The steam can be too hot for some plastics and other materials, though, so read the directions carefully before you start steaming your way to a cleaner bathroom.
- Want to clean your toilet without using super caustic toilet bowl cleaner? Use a can of cola. Yes, cola. Pour the cola in the toilet, wait an hour and flush. Follow up with a cup of white vinegar, scrubbing lightly with your handy toilet brush. Flush again and you're done. This is one suggestion that's easy, inexpensive and green -- all in one tidy (bowl) package.
Keep Up on Kitchen Chores
Kitchens can be hard to clean after even minor neglect, so the best spring cleaning advice we can give is not to wait till spring to tackle your kitchen messes:
- Vacuum the refrigerator vents and condenser coils monthly.
- Clean your garbage disposal with a sprinkling of baking soda and vinegar to foam away gunk and eliminate odor once a week.
- Place a wet sponge in your microwave for a minute on high heat every few days to loosen baked on food. Then give the interior a good wipe down.
- Use a mild soap to clean your cabinets every month, especially the doors and drawer fronts.
- Remove everything from your countertops, and wipe them down with an antibacterial soap once every few days. Some people like to do this daily. While you're at it, clean the can opener, too.
- Always cover or wrap foods intended for the refrigerator, and clean up spills in the fridge right away. Give your refrigerator and freezer a thorough cleaning twice a year.
- Clean up oven messes immediately, and keep your stovetop sparkling. It will cut down on the stale food smell that lingers long after the meal is over.
Spring cleaning doesn't have to be a blight on your precious weekend. With a couple of hours and a strategy, you can get your interior spaces clean and still have time to do something fun before the sun goes down.
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