Is it the sunlight? It’s finally spring, and you feel energized and excited in a way that you haven’t for months. As nature comes alive and beautifies what you see outdoors, don’t be surprised if you’re inspired to roll up your sleeves and get your house top-to-bottom clean. You want the inside to reflect the shiny, happy rejuvenation you see through your windows.
Granted, the idea of spring cleaning can be daunting. But we’ve spotlighted and demystified the key steps to cleaning trouble spots, named some of our favorite supplies and identified the “Speedy Three” — the trio of tricks that make well-trafficked rooms look neat and tidy when you’re racing against the clock (and unexpected guests are headed up the front walk!).
Whether you aim to clean the windows, the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom or any combination thereof, follow our advice and give it a morning or an afternoon. Then, by all means, get outside and enjoy the sunshine.
A SIMPLE CLEANING SOLUTION, SOME CLOTHS, A SPONGE, AND A SQUEEGEE ARE ALL THAT STAND BETWEEN YOU AND CRYSTAL-CLEAR GLASS.
Avoid washing windows in direct sunlight, since the heat will dry the liquid too quickly, causing streaks.
• Dust windows first with a soft-bristled brush. Place a rolled-up towel across the sill.
•Mixequal parts white vinegar and hot water in a bucket. Wet a sponge in the mixture and use it to wipe dirt away, avoiding the frames.
• Dampen a squeegee’s rubber blade (so it won’t skip). Draw it down the glass in a straight stroke, then wipe the squeegee. Repeat, slightly overlapping your strokes.
TIP: For mullioned windows, use a mini hacksaw to cut a squeegee to a size slightly narrower than that of the panes. (Snip the rubber with scissors.)
• Bag and label any loose hardware before you begin. Note the room and position (e.g., “den, left of TV”).
• Work in the yard, garage, laundry room or tub; ideally, you want to be in an area that has drainage.
• Granite: Wipe it with a cloth dampened in a mixture of warm water and pH-neutral stone cleaner.
• Soapstone or laminate: Wipe it with a soft cloth dampened in a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and warmwater. Spot-treat stained laminate with a thick paste of baking soda and water.
• Stainless steel: Use a mild abrasive, such as Bon Ami, and warm water. Fully dry; buff with a clean, dry cloth.
• Tile: Wipe tiles with a soft cloth dampened in a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and warm water. Clean grout with a thick paste of baking soda mixed with water.
• Unfinished butcher block: Wipe it with a soft cloth dampened in a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and warmwater. Spot-treat stains with fresh lemon juice or vinegar. Lightly wipe on mineral oil.
Vacuum or sweep away all crumbs and small particles. In a bucket, mix a cleaning solution: If you have glazed tile floors, mix warm water with a squirt or two of all-purpose cleaner. For sealed wood floors, use 1/4 cup of white vinegar for every quart of warm water. Working from the far corner of the room toward the entrance, mop, wringing out the mop head very well after resoaking it in the mixture. Too much water will simply spread the dirt around; properly mopped areas should look dry almost immediately. Move the mop back and forth two times: once to wash, then again to remove any residual cleaning solution.
Stainless Steel or Enamelware Sink
Sprinkle it with a mild abrasive, such as Bon Ami, and scrub with a soft cloth. (You can also try a thick paste of baking soda and water.) Avoid scouring powders containing chlorine bleach, ammonia or hydrofluoric acid.
TIP: A mild dishwashing liquid like Mrs. Meyer’s can be mixed with water and used as a cleaner all over the house.
Refrigerator coils: Clean coils will let the refrigerator use less electricity. The coils are usually found behind a grill near the floor: Unplug or turn off the unit, remove the grill and clean them with an appliance brush, or vacuum them with the crevice tool. Universal appliance brush, by GE, $10 for 2, homedepot.com.
Wipe the exterior with soapy water; dry. Fill the carafe with equal parts white vinegar and water and run the machine: When a few cups have filled the carafe, turn it off and let sit for one hour. Then turn it back on and “rinse” with a few cycles of water.
Remove them from the cooktop or range, and wash them in a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and warm water. Thoroughly dry before refitting.
Outside, rinse it with a hose; use a long-handled brush to scrub the inside with a mixture of white vinegar and warm water. Rinse and let dry.
Clean and de-scale the inside of the dishwasher by filling a cup with white vinegar, placing it on the top rack, and running the otherwise empty machine at its hottest setting (e.g., “high-temperature,” “heavy” or “sanitize”).
Cabinet knobs can get grimy. If they’re easy to remove, unscrew them, then scrub with a cloth dampened in a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and warm water; dry. (If they’re tricky to remove, just wipe them with a cloth dampened in the same solution, then dry.)
Take off the stove top’s grates and reflector bowls and soak them in a mixture of hot water and mild dishwashing liquid. Clear any clogged gas ports by inserting a wire into each hole.
“Martha introduced me to these sponges when I was lucky enough to go to Japan with her, and I’ve used them ever since. The scrubby side is not too abrasive, and they’re easy to wash. I put them in the laundry once a week.”
-Eric Pike, editor in chief
Cellulose sponges, $2.50 for 2, muji.us.
THE SPEEDY THREE
When you’re in a rush, try these steps.
1. Sweep the floor, paying special attention in the corners and along the toe kicks of lower cabinets.
2. Clear the counters of any dishes, clutter and incidental items (like small appliances). Thoroughly wipe the counters with a damp cloth.
3. With a damp cloth, wipe the faucet and sink hardware to give it a quick polish, then wipe the inside of the sink. Clean any splatters or smudges off the stove top and refrigerator door.
THE LIVING ROOM
WHETHER IT’S THE FAMILY ROOM, THE TV ROOM, OR A MORE FORMAL SPOT, IT NEEDS A PROPER CLEANING TO BE COZY AND COMFORTABLE.
For tight upholstered pieces - meaning you can’t remove the cover - try these steps:
• Reach down into tight spots (like the back corners of a seat) with a vacuum’s crevice tool.
• Vacuum with the upholstery brush on the fabric surface. If you’re cleaning a delicate fabric, such as linen or chenille, reduce the suction.
•Use the vacuum’s dust-brush tool to clean leather furniture.
Twice a year, remove slipcovers and have them dry-cleaned. If they’re machine-washable, pretreat stains while they’re still on the furniture (so you can see trouble spots better). Then remove them and wash in cold water on the gentle or permanent-press cycle, and opt for the “extra rinse” setting. (Do not overload the machine; wash multiple loads as needed.) Promptly transfer to the dryer, again choosing the gentle or permanent-press setting. When damp-dry, remove and replace on the chair or sofa; let dry overnight. For loose cushions, put the covers back on and dry on a drying rack or leaning against a wall.
Always vacuum last, so you can get all the dust that’s settled. The best technique is to work in long, slow, overlapping strokes. Start inside the room and back your way out toward the door.
Lightbulbs and Lampshades
Dusting lightbulbs can make rooms much brighter. Gently wipe away dust with a clean paintbrush. Try dusting the drum of a lampshade with an electrostatic duster and the edges with the paintbrush. For a very delicate shade, try a blow-dryer on its lowest, coolest setting.
Once a year, remove all your books from the shelves. Dust the ones you want to keep along the spines and tops, and flip through them to inhibit paper deterioration. Thoroughly dust each shelf before putting the books back.
Dust ceiling-fan blades with an old pillowcase to contain particles and grimy buildup. Stand on a step stool and drape the case over a blade. Pressing both hands against it, slowly slide the case off. Repeat for each blade, then launder the case.
Special kits for flat-screens (containing a spray and a soft wipe) are sold at electronics stores; do not use anything else. Spritz the screen when it is cool (heat can cause permanent streaks), then very gently wipe away the liquid.
I love my Swiffer Duster
“When I don’t have to drag out the step stool, my dusting doesn’t feel like such a chore. This fuzzy bit of microfiber reaches up high, thanks to its telescopic handle, then stores away with my smaller cleaning supplies.”
-Jenn McManus, deputy design director
Extendable-handle duster, by Swiffer, 36”, $9, homedepot.com.
THE SPEEDY THREE
When you’re in a rush, try these easy steps.
1. Neaten all surfaces: Put away remotes and random items, and stack and straighten coffee-table books and magazines.
2. Dust end tables, coffee tables, the mantel and windowsills with an electrostatic duster.
3. Plump up any sofa and chair cushions, drape or fold blankets and arrange throw pillows.
IT’S A SPOT WITH A SPLIT PERSONALITY: YOU QUICKLY WASH UP OR LUXURIATE IN THE BATH. EITHER WAY, YOU WANT IT SPARKLING- CLEAN.
Pour 1/2 cup white vinegar or 1/4 cup chlorine bleach (never mix the two) into the bowl; let sit for several minutes. Brush the entire interior with a toilet brush, then flush. If the toilet has a hard-water ring, let the vinegar or bleach sit for an hour before brushing clean.
Shower & Tub
•Bathtub interior: Clean it with a sponge or cloth and a mild abrasive, such as Bon Ami. (Never use a brush inside the tub; it can damage the surface.)
•Soap scum: An acidic cleaner - like white vinegar or Lime-A-Way - will cut through soap scum. Wear gloves when cleaning with acid, and be sure to rinse well, since the residue can etch surfaces if left on too long.
• Glass shower door: Clean the track with an old toothbrush and mild dishwashing liquid. Wipe the door with a cloth dampened in white vinegar, then rinse and wipe dry with a clean cloth.
• Shower liner:A vinyl, nylon, cotton or hemp shower liner can be machine-washed in hot water and mild detergent, like Ivory Snow. Rehang the liner to dry.
Scrub it with a soft-bristled brush and a mild abrasive, such as Bon Ami, or a mixture of mild dishwashing liquid and warm water. Mix 10 parts water to 1 part chlorine bleach to treat mildew buildup. Use a soft-bristled brush; wear gloves.
•Wipe faucets, handles and other hardware with a soft cloth and white vinegar.
TIP: Treat a stubborn mildew spot by placing a bleach-soaked cotton ball over it for several hours.
Don’t forget the showerhead
Fill a gallon-size plastic bag with white vinegar, submerge the head in it and secure it to the showerhead with rubber bands; let sit overnight. Rinse and wipe dry. If it’s still clogged, remove the head and soak it in warm white vinegar for several hours. Then scrub it with an old toothbrush. Rinse completely.
Remove the cover; vacuum the unit with the crevice tool. Soak the cover in warm soapy water; scrub it with a soft brush.
Natural oils in your fingertips can smudge switch plates. Wipe them with a cloth dampened in a mixture of warm water and mild dishwashing liquid. (Never spray cleaner directly on a switch.)
I love my Dyson Handheld
“I use this rechargeable vac at least once a day to pick up scattered cat litter and stray hair from blow-drying. I leave off the wand extension, so it stows in a cabinet.”
-Rory Evans, editor at large
DC 59 Digital Slim Cordless Animal vacuum, by Dyson, $600, macys.com.
The Speedy Three
When you’re in a rush, try these steps.
1. Run an electrostatic duster along the perimeter of the bathroom and around the base of the toilet.
2. Clean the mirror, and wipe down the sink and the surrounding counter.
3. Refresh, straighten or fold the towels.
“Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home” by Martha Stewart: Learn how to clean and organize everything with this 750-page homekeeping bible. $30, amazon.com.
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