Spring Cleaning Fever: Clean Where the Sun Shines

It’s spring, the time of year when raw unfettered daylight busts into your home like a swat team armed with floodlights catching you unaware: “You, you in the kitchen, put down the spoon and the ice cream carton and put up some rubber-gloved hands!”

The bright light of spring exposes homes for the Petri dishes they have become over the winter. The light beams are exposing the dust that’s been collecting in corners since school started, and the surface grime you didn’t notice because the drapes were drawn and the fires were lit.

And those cobwebs! How did I miss that one hanging in my closet like a trapeze, a Cirque de Soleil for spiders?

Unless you are truly a troll, this just makes you itch to clean. And so the spring cleaning frenzy begins.

“Spring is the time to clean the stuff you let slide the rest of the year,” said Anna Moseley, a self-proclaimed homemaker from Redding, Calif., who answers household cleaning questions — like how to clean the space between the oven door glass (I know you’ve been losing sleep over that) — on her blog, askannamoseley.com.

“I hit all those places I hate to clean, but love to have clean,” said Moseley. I’m glad to hear her say that. I mean, I am so over those people who tell you they just loooooove to clean. They are either high, or have been watching too many commercials.

Before I rolled up my sleeves and grabbed the bucket, I looked for a little motivation and found a few new products, some tips to make this year’s spring cleaning less of a chore, and a list of 10 places to hit.

First two basics:

Start high, work down. Clean so dirt ends up in the floor, which you clean last. You need a system, and this one is as good as any.

Don’t shake indoors what you can shake outdoors. And don’t sweep what you can vacuum. Both habits prevent you from setting more dust loose in the house.

Next 10 areas to tackle beyond the usual vacuuming, wiping and disinfecting, which you do regularly — you do do this regularly, right? Starting from the top:

Start at the ceiling. Dust ceiling fan blades and light fixtures. Remove glass on the fixtures, shake out the bugs, and clean the glass. While you’re up there replace batteries in smoke detectors.

Hit high shelves. Dust tops of cabinets and plant racks. Remove books and accessories. Wipe them off then wipe shelves before putting items back.

Wash windows and their coverings. Remove and clean screens. Hose them off, scrub them with a soft brush and a mild detergent solution, and then let them air dry. Clean windows with a solution of one part vinegar to one part hot water, and wipe them with a squeegee. Give drapes a good shake outside; vacuum them with a hose attachment. Wash those that are washable. Dust blinds or wipe with a soft rag. Moseley likes to take hers down and swish them in a washtub filled with a mild soap solution, then with plain water. Clean the tracks with a rag and a Q-tip dipped in vinegar and water, she said.

Spot clean walls. To spot clean walls, I’ve found Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works great on smudges. Wipe down moldings, cabinet and drawer fronts, and switch plates. 

Clean furniture. Take cushions outside and gently beat them to get dust off. Then vacuum cushions, and in all the crevices. Wipe down wood furniture with a damp rag and mild detergent. You don’t need dusting sprays, but you can apply a coat of paste wax.

Refresh the beds. Launder your pillows and comforters. Flip and rotate the mattress. To freshen their scent, sprinkling mattresses with baking soda, let it sit, and then vacuum it. Moseley suggests mixing in some essential oil — lemon, lavender, or eucalyptus — into the baking soda before sprinkling it on. Put bedding outside to air, and switch out winter bedding for summer weight linens.

Clean floors. Shake area rugs well outside, then vacuum them. Cordless vacuums now available from such makers are Bissell and Dyson work better than you would think, and eliminate the hassle of switching plugs when you run out of cord. (It’s the little things.) Polish, wax and buff floors that have lost their sheen.

Clean your grout. This requires good old-fashioned scrubbing. Sorry. Beware using steamers on grout, say grout cleaning expert. The hot moisture can expand the material and loosen the tiles. Use a mild soap and a tough brush, rinse well, then have the grout sealed.

Shine kitchens and baths. Deep clean refrigerators, freezers, range hoods and stovetops. I  recently tried a sample of Bounty with Dawn, a new product that combines a tough paper towel with grease-cutting soap. It took me a while to get the hang of it. (This was the first time ever I needed to read the instructions on a paper towel package.) But now I love these pre-soaped towels. They are strong enough for washing dishes, and also work well for cleaning counters, and wiping appliances. Unlike other soap products, they don’t leave a hazy film.

Reward yourself. Now go buy yourself a bouquet of spring flowers. You earned it.

Marni Jameson is the author of six home and lifestyle books, including Downsizing the Family Home — What to Save, What to Let Go and Downsizing the Blended Home — When Two Households Become One, and coming in June What to Do With Everything You Own to Leave the Legacy You Want. You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.