It is that time of year again and it can be overwhelming facing all the dust and clutter that’s accumulated over the cooped-up winter months. That’s why we’ve broken down a complete spring cleaning routine into more manageable daily tasks. It’s up to you how you’d like to divide them (by chore, by day, by family member or how ever is best for you), but broken down into an easily individual list of projects, these spring cleaning tasks will hardly feel like tasks at all. Before you know it, your home will feel as sparkly and cheery as the sweetest spring day.
Washing windows can seem like a laborious chore, but with the right tips, tools and techniques, the task can be accomplished in record time!
- Clean inside and outside of windows. Remember that commercial window cleaners can harm the paint or varnish of ledges, so take care not to let the solution drip off the glass .Use instead a solution of white vinegar and water and crumpled newspaper as your rag for a streak-free finish.
- Clean corners and remove cobwebs. Use a soft toothbrush or cotton swab to access those hard-to-reach corners.
- Clean sill and dust ledges. For sills (on the inside of the window), make the surface shine with just soap and water. No need to buy a special product. For ledges (on the outside), be sure to use a soft, dry rag to remove dirt, as a wet cleaner may damage the wood. An old dish towel or diaper would work well.
- Dust blinds. Use cotton gloves, paper towels or dryer sheets and run them lightly across slats; open, close and repeat to remove any residual dust.
The family couch is a magnet for dust and dirt. Here are a few tips for reviving yours.
- Vacuum the surfaces of your couch using the upholstery tool on your vacuum. Don’t forget to clean under the cushions and down in the crevices!
- If you have a pet, use a lint roller to lift off the hard-to-remove hair.
- If you do not own a steam cleaner (which you can often rent from a local supermarket or home center), remove your cushion covers and machine wash them; hang to dry. Be sure they can be washed first.
- Want to freshen up the look of your couch? Give it an easy makeover with some colorful new throw pillows.
If you have a fireplace, now’s the time to remove the soot that’s accumulated over a long, cold winter. Here are some tips and tools to make the task easier!
- Plastic goggles for eye protection
- A stiff nylon scrub brush
- Rubber gloves
- A cheap plastic drop cloth or large trash bag
- A plastic bucket
Basic soot removal:
- Using a plastic liner or garbage bag, line the floor in front of your fireplace to protect any bordering rugs or carpeting.
- Remove the grates; bring outdoors and polish clean.
- Sweep loose ashes from the floor of your fireplace and collect them in a plastic bag.
- Next, line the fireplace floor with old newspapers. Scrape the chimney walls with a soot brush. Dispose of the newspaper and collected debris in a plastic bag, along with the previously gathered ashes.
After a long winter, it’s essential to purge your home of built-up dust and debris, which can cause damage to floors and other household surfaces. Here are some helpful tips to ensure your home is a dust-free zone.
- Get organized before you begin; fluff pillows, store away blankets and remove anything that may reintroduce dust to the room. A good way to remove dust from your pillows and blankets before you store them away is to put them in your dryer for a few minutes. You can run on air only if there is a danger of shrinkage.
- Work from top to bottom; that way you’ll be sure to catch any dust that’s been dislodged as you work your way down.
- There are many different types of dusting tools; choosing the right one for the job will make quick work of the chore. Feather and lambs wool dusters are good in small, irregular places, making them ideal for shelves or spaces that hold display pieces. Microfiber and electrostatic cloths (along with used fabric softener sheets) are great for removing dust without stirring it upwards. For spaces that are inaccessible for any other tools, such as within the cracks of a computer keyboard, compressed air is an excellent choice.
- It’s a good idea to continue dusting furniture and electronics once a week; overhead fixtures, wall corners and door frames can be purged on a monthly basis. If anyone in your household suffers from dust allergies, however, we recommend doing a thorough dusting of everything once a week. Keep in mind that if you tend to leave windows open during the warmer months, the increased buildup of dust and debris from outdoors will also require more frequent upkeep.
There’s much debate about the effectiveness and long-term safety of commercial furniture polishes. Instead of heading into a potentially sticky situation, why not go the au-natural route? After all, the most effective polishing oils are natural oils, which can be found in regular household items. Use our eco-friendly home solutions below to buff your furniture to a high shine.
- For furniture made of mahogany, use a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and warm water. Wipe onto wood with a chamois cloth, and polish with a second dry chamois cloth.
- For furniture made of unfinished wood, apply mineral oil using a soft cloth. Remember to apply sparingly, as mineral oil is flammable.
- To rub away scratches on wood, mix equal parts lemon juice and vegetable oil. Use a soft cloth saturated with the mixture to buff away scratches.
- Avoid over-polishing furniture, as residue from the polish can accumulate over time, dulling wood surfaces. Stick to polishing your furniture only 2-3 a year.
- Before trying any new polish on your furniture, try this easy spot test: Apply a generous amount of polish to a piece of glass. By observing its rate of dissipation, you’ll be able to estimate its lasting power, as well as the type of finish it will leave on your wood.
We know—the bathroom is a project unto itself. (The floors? The tub? All those half-empty shampoo bottles?) Still, cleaning the bathroom is a cornerstone of the spring cleaning routine—once it’s done, you’ll feel the effects throughout your entire home. Read on for an easy step-by-step guide.
- Start with the hardest part: Sprinkle your tub, sink, toilet and tile walls with Ajax (with bleach). Using a sponge, scrub all surfaces until a filmy layer of bleach covers every inch of porcelain (don’t forget to scrub around the drains and behind faucets). Let the bleach and water set while you organize.
- Remove all products and supplies from under sink cabinets, medicine cabinets, shelving and the bath. Sort through each: Toss anything products that have expired or that you haven’t used in over three months; rinse off and dry any bottles you choose to keep.
- Wipe down shelves and the interior of bathroom cabinets with a disinfecting cleaning solution, such as Fantastic or Lysol. Arrange products back on shelves, grouping similar items together.
- Rinse tub, sink and toilet with cold water, using a sponge or the showerhead.
- Empty the wastebasket and wipe down both interior and exterior surfaces of the receptacle.
- Finally, wash floors with a Swiffer or a regular mop.
7. Refrigerator & Cabinets
Cleaning and organizing the fridge and pantry is one job that can bring out the procrastinator in all of us. However, with a bit of elbow grease, it’s possible to whip your kitchen into shape both quickly and efficiently. Here are some tips to get you started.
Cleaning the Refrigerator:
- Unplug the fridge or turn the temperature gauge to the “Off” position.
- Remove everything from the fridge; throw out anything that’s expired or spoiled as you go. Then, remove the shelves and compartments; let them come to room temperature on the kitchen counter.
- Wash shelves and compartments in a sink or bathtub full of warm water and mild dish soap (or, go the natural route and use a mixture of vinegar and water). Kitchen sponges are a good tool for the job; use a toothpick or toothbrush to get stubborn gunk out of hard-to-reach crevices. Rinse and let air dry.
- While the fridge is empty, use a wet sponge to wipe down all interior and exterior surfaces, taking care to remove any food debris from the rubber molding. Also wipe down any bottles you took out of the fridge, cleaning away any sticky residue.
- If your fridge has exposed coils in the back, pull it away from the wall and use a handheld vacuum to clear away any major dust bunnies; take the opportunity to sweep up any debris that has been lurking under the fridge.
- Make sure all the shelves are clean and dry before you return them (and the food) to the fridge.
Organizing the Refrigerator:
- Take a cue from the professionals and store your food according to cooking temperature. It’s best to store ready-to-eat foods on upper shelves and raw ingredients lower down.
- Keep food groups together—veggies with veggies, meats with meats, etc. This saves time and frustration when you’re cooking, since it’s easy to locate what you need. Also store items in height order: tall items together behind shorter items, so everything is clearly visible.
Cleaning the Pantry:
- Start at the top and work your way down. Remove everything from the cabinets, and throw away anything that’s expired or gone bad. Wipe down each shelf with a dishcloth or sponge dipped in warm water. For hard-to-remove spills, a mixture of baking soda and water should do the trick.
- The exterior of cabinets can be trickier to clean, given that they tend to accumulate grease, and many have special finishes that don’t respond well to regular soap and water. “Queen of Clean” Linda Cobb recommends wiping down the outside of wood cabinets with car wax and buffing, while doityourself.com has some good recommendations and safety tips for different types of products that work on various surfaces.
Organizing the Pantry:
- When you’re arranging items in kitchen cabinets or the pantry, group similar food items and appliances together—this way, they’ll be easier to locate later on.
- Keep spill-prone items in containers or bags; store cookie and muffin sheets in a row on their sides between two bookends to save space.
There are several types of flooring, and usually more than one type in each home. Below, find tips for how to clean the most common floor surfaces, plus the right tools for the job!
Wood: Sweeping and vacuuming are usually enough to refresh your wooden floors, but for spills or stains, Use the Swiffer Sweeper handle with and old rag that is barely damp with white vinegar and water to mop your floors. Excessive moisture can leak between the planks, causing lasting damage to the backing.
Carpets: Choosing a good quality vacuum and keeping the vacuum filter clean will make all the difference when tending to rugs and carpets. For spot cleaning, always try to remove the stain using water before moving on to harsher cleaning solutions, and use a blotting rather than a rubbing motion to dab at the stain.
Vinyl: Typically installed in kitchens and bathroom, vinyl flooring is said to be a no-maintenance flooring; a quick sweep or vacuuming will keep it clean on a regular basis. Mop occasionally with water mixed with a mild detergent for a deeper clean. Tip: In order to maintain the shine and luster of vinyl flooring, coat it with a thin coat of acrylic polish (available at home supply centers).
Ceramic: Unfortunately, to keep tiles at their most sparkly, daily maintenance is necessary. Avoid the buildup of mold, mildew and grime on tiled surfaces by cleaning daily with plain water; dry them thoroughly with a clean towel or cloth. If grout has become stained or discolored, try mixing a solution of 1/4 cup of mild detergent with 1 gallon of water and scrub at the stained areas with a non-abrasive fabric. You can use a toothbrush for the grout. Once you get it clean, use a good sealer (available at all hardware or home improvement stores).
The average person spends about a third of their time in bed. While most of us wash our sheets regularly, the mattress, ruffle and frame also need tending to. Now’s the time to give your sleep sanctuary a refresh. Here are our best tips for spring cleaning the bed.
- Strip the bed and let it air out for a few hours.
- Vacuum the mattress and box springs with a handheld vacuum or the upholstery attachment on a regular vacuum. Use upholstery shampoo to remove any surface stains. If you don’t have a mattress protector, buy one now to prevent any future stains.
- Flip your mattress. Unless your mattress is a “no flip” design (check with the manufacturer) you should flip it over and switch the top to the bottom every six months to help it wear evenly.
- Clean the pillows. If your pillows are made from polyester, machine wash and tumble dry on low.
- If you have a bed skirt or dust ruffle, wash it per the care instructions; dust the bed frame while it’s bare.
- If you’re planning to store your winter bedding, place dryer sheets into unsealed envelopes and tucking them into the folds of thick sheets or blankets before you stow them. This will keep them smelling fresh until you need them again.
- Before reapplying sheets, spritz the mattress and mattress cover with fabric freshener, such as Febreze. Make sure it dries completely before redressing.
“If you’re craving change, start with your closet,” say Julie Morgenstern, dubbed the “queen of putting people’s lives in order” by USA Today. “By shedding and getting current, you’re poised to change your life.” And with a new season approaching, it’s the perfect time to dispose of unnecessary closet clutter. Start with these basic tips!
- Start with a clean slate! Remove clothes, shoes and other items. Dust all shelves and bars then vacuum or mop the floor.
- Go through your garments and set aside any out-of-season wear. Before storing winter clothes, put aside anything you didn’t wear this season to donate to a second-hand shop or charity.
- While your closet is empty, visualize how you’d like the space to look and function. Could you use more shelving? Do you need hooks on the door for scarves and other accessories? If so, now’s the time to install them.
- Make sure all of your hangers are the same size and shape. Mismatched hangers take up unnecessary space and detract from an organized appearance.
- Group like items together. Hang skirts by skirts and pants by pants to streamline search. It may also encourage creative new outfit combinations.
11. Home Office
Don’t get buried under piles of files and other office clutter. Clearing your work space helps clear your mind, too. Here are a few tips for keeping your home office organized.
- Clear out your entire desk; empty drawers and clear off all surface spaces. Set aside paperwork aside to sort through later.
- Designate one desk drawer to office supplies. Dispose of out-of-ink pens, and replace with a new box. Store writing utensils in a holder, such as a cutlery tray.
- Rearrange your desktop space; at any given time, your work surface should be clear of everything except essentials and your current project. Experts recommend that you place your computer at a 90 degree angle to your desk. If you’re right handed, place your phone on the right side of your desk; do the reverse if you’re left handed.
- Sort through your desk files. As you organize the paperwork, keep these guidelines in mind: If you don’t use the file on a weekly basis or if it’s not personal or confidential, either dispose of it or store it in a separate filing cabinet.
Quick Reference Tips:
TO KEEP: Birth or death certificates; health records; insurance policies (keep current year); mortgage loan (keep at least 3 years after pay-off); passport; deed; warranty receipts; stock/bond certificates; tax records; will; citizenship papers; investment statements (keep monthly then discard after yearly statement arrives )
TO TOSS: receipts for bills (toss after one month unless needed for warranty); ATM records (toss after monthly statement is posted); bank/credit card statements (toss after one year unless you itemize)In referring to “toss” it is a better recommendation to “shred”. You do not want to share your personal information with anyone.
12. Digital Files
The biggest advantage to digital filing is that if you use a system that works for you, locating a document you need is infinitely easier than shuffling through piles of papers. Today, take a break from “conventional” cleaning and follow these tips for reorganizing your digital records.
- On both major operating systems, a Documents (Mac) or My Documents (PC) folder for storing files should be pre-installed on your computer. Most computers will also have folders for different file types, including email, photos, music, etc.; if not, create them. This gives each file an obvious, easy-to-find home and streamlines the search process instantly.
- If you’re creating folders within each main folder, decide on a conventional naming method. Use abbreviations; otherwise, keep folder names as short as possible (just because you can use full sentences doesn’t mean you should.) If you notice your file names are becoming too long, consider building a structure of subfolders. (For example, if you are reviewing a book, let each subfolder be named after a chapter.)
- Only work with active folders; for files you aren’t using on a regular basis, make a practice of emptying them into a specially-created archiving folder on your desktop, or to an external hard drive, USB drive or a CD.
- Create a shortcut to your documents folder. To do so, drag the favicon, which is the folder emblem in the browser bar which sits in front of the path, onto your desktop.
- Organizing your files is one issue, and finding them again is the other. Use the system that works best for you, or use this example as a jumping-off point: When labeling your files, name the file type, followed by the date. For instance, if you’re organizing your online journal or blog entries, and the name of the blog is Dinner Diary, use dd031109. To make file names even easier to read, it’s helpful to use either a dash or underscore to separate details (dd_egg031109). This way, when your computer organizes the files alphabetically (this is the default setting; other options for sorting are available, such as Size, Type and Date Modified), they’ll remain grouped together.
- If you find it helpful, further organize your file type by color. For Mac users, that option is integrated; for PC users, third party color-coding programs such as File Tactics are available for purchase. Now that you have your data organized, protect it! To do so, chaostoclarity.com recommends that you have the bare minimum of security in place: one antivirus software program, one firewall program and one anti-spyware program to protect against malware, malicious software designed to infiltrate a computer system without owner consent.
13. Media Center
The entertainment center might look innocuous, but it’s actually one of the trickiest places in the house to clean. Dust and debris can accumulate in hard-to-reach places, cords and wires can turn into a tangle and DVDs can become a cluttered mess. Get it all under control with these tips.
- Dust. First unplug everything and carefully remove all items (heavier televisions and other electronics might require a second person), then use a duster, furniture polish or a damp cloth to wipe down all the surfaces and shelves (depending on the finish of the furniture). Wipe the outside of the television and other electronics with a damp cloth—a solution of 1 part mild detergent and 3 parts plain water and a Q-tip for buttons and hard to reach crannies, cords and controllers. Use this solution and a damp cloth to clean cords and remote controls.
- If possible, pull out your entertainment center and vacuum the space behind it, making sure to remove any spider webs.
- Get cords under control. Once everything has been reset, make sure all the cords are untangled and free of dust (if too much dust builds up on the cords, it can damage electronics). If cords are frayed or damaged in other ways, it’s time to replace them.
- Organize your CD and DVD collections. You can organize alphabetically, by genre, by favorites, or whatever works best for you—but pick a method to your madness. It also helps to keep a digital list of the CDs and DVDs you own, in the order in which they are organized.
14. Paper Pile-Up
If not properly tended to, the slow build-up of newspapers, magazines, bills and junk mail can overrun your home like a pervasive weed in a flowerbed. Here are a few tips for clearing the paper clutter—and keeping it organized for good.
Sort through stacks of paper and separate according to category: bills, reading material and junk mail.
Go through the pile of junk mail, and separate the “safe” from the “sensitive.” Sensitive trash includes anything containing your name, address, phone number or any other personal information; shred these before recycling.
Tip: Most cities now have either drop-off locations or pick-up services for recycling paper.
Now, create a place for your two remaining piles: reading material and bills. Store your reading material in a place you’re most likely to make use of it; when you’re done reading an item, either recycle it or file it away to make room for new material.
Place the bill pile at your desk or wherever you tend to sit to pay your bills. Organize the items in the order they need to be paid. To keep track of the bills you have paid, Essortment.com recommends you file them away until you receive your end-of-year statements, at which point you may discard the monthly ones.
To prevent papers from piling up, sort items as soon as you’ve picked up each day’s mail. Drop junk mail into the recycling bin, and separate each family member’s bills and reading items to his or her own designated spot.