Messes don’t make themselves. Before rolling up your sleeves, analyze each room in your home to determine where disorganization is happening and figure out proactive ways to keep clutter under control. Do items tend to pile up on your countertops? Find storage space for common offenders such as mail and backpacks, and label where each belongs. This will help family members know where to put things away (plus where to find them). Purchase storage containers after you’ve had time to assess your organization needs. Once you have a plan of attack, clean the house and each room from the top down. Don’t procrastinate. Follow the steps below for a thorough cleaning that will leave your home refreshed.
8 Things to Do Daily
As satisfying as spring-cleaning can be, maintaining your home doesn’t need to be a yearly feat. Done regularly, these quick chores will keep clutter under control.
- Pick up and put away.
- Do the dishes.
- Wipe down counters.
- Make beds.
- Throw in a load of laundry.
- Open new mail and file away.
- Sweep or vacuum main areas.
- Take out trash.
Step 1: Clutter
- Group items into categories: trash, donate, take to another room or put into deep storage.
- Ditch the duplicates; try not to own more than two of something.
Step 2: Laundry
- Remove all curtains, linens, pillows and rugs from the room and vacuum, steam-clean or wash them according to care labels.
- Wash throw-pillow covers and inserts separately.
- Keep laundry running constantly; have a timer on your phone so you know when to switch loads.
Step 3: Dust
- Use an old pillowcase to clean ceiling fan blades—it’ll keep dust contained.
- Remove the filters from window air-conditioner units and use your vacuum’s crevice tool to remove dust around the unit.
- Use your vacuum’s dust brush or a long-armed duster to remove cobwebs from ceilings.
- Microfiber and lint-free cloths or flannel rags work great for dusting most surfaces.
Step 4: Windows
- To prevent streaks, wash windows when the sun is not shining in directly. Keep windows (and mirrors) streak-free by using microfiber cloths. For larger windows, use a squeegee.
Step 5: Floors
- Remove scuff marks on baseboards with baking soda toothpaste on a nonabrasive pad.
- Sweep, vacuum, launder or mop floors and rugs, then deodorize by sprinkling baking soda near walls or corners, letting it sit for a few hours before vacuuming. To avoid getting dirt on a floor you’ve just cleaned, work from the corner furthest from the entryway to the corner nearest to it.
- Fill in scratches on dark wood floors by taking a walnut and rubbing over scratch in a circular motion. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then polish with a soft cloth. The natural oils in the walnut will seep into the wood, disguising the scratch.
- Remove stubborn food residue in your oven by covering the interior with a paste of three parts baking soda to one part water. Let it sit overnight and wipe the next day with a sponge.
- Place 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of vinegar in a microwave-safe bowl and heat for 5 minutes. Open the door and let cool, then carefully remove the hot bowl from the microwave and wipe down the interior.
- Stainless steel has a grain, just like wood. When cleaning stainless steel appliances, wipe in the same direction as the grain.
- Clean the interior one shelf at a time, starting from the top. Remove all items on the shelf you’re cleaning, clean the shelf, and then check the expiration dates on items before returning them to the fridge. Use baking soda and water for gentle scouring.
- Place an open box of baking soda in your refrigerator to absorb unwanted odors.
- Unplug your fridge and move it forward. If it doesn’t have wheels, use furniture-moving discs. Use vacuum tools to clean the condenser coils. Sweep and mop the area of the floor usually concealed by the fridge.
- Remove dust from your bathroom fan easily by spraying the vents with canned air.
- Clear out mineral deposits clogging a showerhead. Fill a sandwich bag with vinegar, pull it over the showerhead and secure it in place with a rubber band. Let it soak overnight. Remove bag in the morning.
- Use a solution of one part vinegar and one part dish soap to get hard water deposits off shower doors.
- Unclog bathroom drains using the drain cleaner recipe in “DIY Cleaners,” below.
- Remove difficult toilet stains by scrubbing the bowl with a wet pumice stone.
- Deodorize your toilet and bring out the shine by dropping two Alka-Seltzer antacid tablets in the bowl. Let sit for 20 minutes before you flush the toilet.
- Lampshades are easily overlooked when cleaning. Dust shades in no time with a lint roller or brush attachment on a vacuum.
- Launder your pillows to get rid of dust mites, stains and odors. Keep your washing machine balanced by washing pillows in pairs.
- Toss pillows in the dryer with dryer balls or tennis balls wrapped in white socks to restore fluff without transferring dyes.
- Combat the buildup of dust mites and dead skin cells on your mattress. Strip all bedding and mattress covers from the bed and wash your mattress with a damp—but not soaking—sponge and hot water. Sprinkle baking soda over your mattress and let it sit for 30 minutes or longer. Use the upholstery tool on your vacuum to clean up the baking soda.
- Once the mattress is clean, turn your mattress clockwise.
- Use a microfiber cloth or electrostatic dusting cloth to dust off all exterior surfaces of your washer and dryer.
- Wipe down all exterior surfaces with the all-purpose spray in “DIY Cleaners,” below. Focus on the edges underneath the washer lid where dirt builds up easily.
- Use a vacuum attachment to clean the lint trap and slot.
- Rid washing machine of musty smells by running an empty load on the hottest setting with one cup of vinegar.
- Wipe down interior of dryer with a rag and all-purpose spray in “DIY Cleaners,” opposite.
- Use a toothbrush to clean grime off bleach and softener dispensers. The bleach dispenser cup is likely removable and can be hand-washed.
- Use the crevice or brush attachment on your vacuum to clean dust behind appliances. Disconnect dryer hose, if necessary.
- Sweep up lint and dust that has gathered behind, between and underneath your appliances.
Tools to Try
SQUEEGEE: We like the Squeak squeegee from quirky.com. It’s an all-in-one cleaning-liquid dispenser, sponge and squeegee.
MICROFIBER CLOTHS: Try Norwex EnviroCloths for their versatility in cleaning all types of surfaces, including windows and shower doors and walls.
VACUUM: Our favorite is the super lightweight Electrolux Ergorapido Essence 2-in-1 Cordless Stick and Hand Vacuum, above, because of its 180-degree swivel head and handheld vacuum attachment.
For more helpful spring-cleaning tools, check out “Clean Slate.”
ALL-PURPOSE SPRAY: Combine equal parts vinegar and warm tap water, and a few drops of lemon juice.
MOLD AND MILDEW CLEANER: In a spray bottle, combine 2 teaspoons tea tree oil with 2 cups water.
WOOD OR PLASTIC CUTTING BOARD CLEANER: Sprinkle with kosher salt, rub with half of a lemon, let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse.
WOOD FURNITURE POLISH: Combine ¼ cup lemon juice with ½ cup olive oil.
CLEANING WALLS WITH LATEX PAINT: Combine ¼ cup vinegar with 1 quart warm water. Note that darker, flat paints are more susceptible to damage when scrubbed too harshly.
CLEANING WALLS WITH OIL-BASE PAINT: Combine 1 teaspoon liquid dish detergent with 1 quart warm water, and add ¼ teaspoon vinegar.
TILE FLOOR CLEANER: In a bucket, combine one part vinegar with two parts warm water. No need to rinse off.
WOOD FLOOR CLEANER: Combine 1 cup vinegar with ¼ cup liquid Castile soap in a bucket of hot water.
DRAIN CLEANER: Pour ½ cup baking soda down the drain, then slowly pour warm water.