How to clean a child's bedroom

Tackling your child's room gets easier when you enlist the help of little hands. After all, if your kids are old enough to make a mess, they are old enough to help put it back to rights.

Start with decluttering: Kids as young as 3 can help by tossing toys into open bins, putting books back on low shelves and placing dirty clothes into a laundry basket.

Washable toys can be cleaned with a soft brush and soapy warm water. Disinfect plastic toys by soaking them in a mild bleach-water solution for 10 minutes. Rinse and dry before returning to your child's toy chest.

Use a lint roller or lint brush to whisk dust off of fabric lampshades. With the lamp off, dust the base and bulb with a soft cloth or dusting wand. Enlist your grade-schooler to help. This technique works on ottomans, soft furniture and even fabric toys.

Remove all items from the tops and shelves of dressers, bookshelves and nightstands. Next, give each piece a thorough dusting. Don't forget the sides and feet. Use a thin cloth moistened with cleaner appropriate to the furniture's material to wipe away fingerprints. For a deeper clean or to maintain fine wood furniture, rub lemon oil or other polish onto the surface of the piece. Wipe and buff with a dry, soft cloth for a final shine.

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Wipe down mirrors and windows with a lint-free cloth or paper towel or ask older children to clean them using this green technique: Dip crumpled newspaper into a shallow dish of distilled white vinegar and wipe the mirror until it begins to dry. Give it a final shine with a soft cloth or another piece of dry newspaper.

Dust ceiling-fan blades with a long-handle fan duster. Or, wipe blades with a cleaning cloth or paper towel moistened with all-purpose cleaner. If there is a lot of dust on the blades, place an old towel or drop cloth on the floor or bed below the fan to catch any runaway dust bunnies.

Strip linens at least every two weeks (little hands can help with this task) and wash in the hottest water recommended on the care labels. Wipe down headboard and footboard with a cloth and cleaning solution appropriate to the bed's material. Vacuum under the bed. Use brush attachment to vacuum under the top bunk and around the edges of the mattress and box spring.

When it comes to the study desk, get your child involved by suggesting tasks such as stacking books, organizing school notes and corralling supplies in kid-friendly canisters or bins. Require a full desk clean-off once a week so the desktop can be wiped down with an all-purpose cleaner.

For a hardwood floor, a weekly sweeping with a dry mop or broom is sufficient. Deeper cleaning will require a little more elbow grease. A floor sealed with polyurethane can be damp-mopped. On floors treated with other sealants (such as shellac or varnish), use a cleaner or polish and a wax mop. Rub in the direction of the grain.

Shake out small area rugs outside. (Older kids can handle this and might actually think it's fun.) Check care labels: Some small rugs are machine washable.

Vacuum carpeted floors weekly, using a crevice tool attachment to get into corners and edges.

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