Welcome, spring! Time to open the windows and wash away the grime left over from months of sloppy shoes and winter hibernation. You might be someone who digs into spring cleaning with gusto, or you might wish you had a fairy godmother to take over the task. If you’re the latter, and your fairy is nowhere to be found, don’t panic. We have some cleaning hacks to help you banish the dirt, germs, and other junk that accumulated over the winter.
Tackle small tasks first
While you may be tempted to shampoo every carpet in your home in one day, this single task might leave you too tired to take on more. Instead, look for small projects to give you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment:
Clean the microwave. If one of your family members ever reheated an uncovered bowl of chili, you probably see remnants every time you open the microwave door. So put some lemons to work. Fill a bowl with a cup each of water and vinegar and add two tablespoons of lemon juice. Microwave the bowl for two or three minutes, then let it sit for five more minutes. Remove the bowl and wipe down the microwave’s interior. Sparkling clean!
Don’t throw away that lemon. To deep-clean that dirty cutting board, rub some salt into the grain and let it sit a few minutes. Follow up by rubbing the cut side of a lemon into it. You’ll be rewarded with a cleaner and better-smelling board. Afterward, cut the lemon into small pieces and throw it down your garbage disposal to freshen it, too.
Clean your sponge. If you’re going to clean, start with a sanitized sponge. Otherwise, you’re just moving germs around. The microwave is handy for disinfecting the nasty from your kitchen sponge. Saturate it with water and microwave it for one to two minutes. You can also throw it in the dishwasher, top shelf or utensil caddy.
Cut down on the clutter
There’s something about a pretty spring day that makes you crave open spaces. If your home became a dropping point for books, blankets and half-done projects this winter, now is the time to organize.
Toss the expired stuff. Yes, you needed that cold medicine three years ago when you thought you were going to wake the neighbors with your cough. Now you realize it’s two years past its expiration date. Toss it, along with other toiletries and trash, such as old makeup and sunscreen and moisturizers that are past their prime.
Designate a donation site. Be honest about those shoes you bought but never wore or the books the kids have outgrown. By designating one site in the house for donations, you’re teaching your family to quit cramming unwanted things into the back of their closets.
Let it go. Your children are fabulous artists. Their drawings put Picasso to shame. Your walls are covered in mini masterpieces that curl at the edges and look untidy. Remember, the joy in that artwork came from the creation process. Your kids were proud to show off their hard work, and you were thrilled to receive it. That pride doesn’t go away when the artwork does. Use technology to your advantage and take a picture of your favorites before letting them go and making room for a new batch.
Work baskets. Everyone has clutter. The key to an orderly house is to have an orderly method of hiding that clutter. Buy some inexpensive baskets for collecting toys, spare cables, and assorted batteries. You’ll be able to enjoy a little style without eyeing what’s hidden inside. Consider color-coding the baskets for the kids to take to their rooms at the end of the day.
Clean the carpet
Now it’s time to tackle the carpet. A thorough carpet cleaning freshens your home and can extend your carpet’s life, too. Follow these tips to banish the grime:
Vacuum it often. Vacuuming the carpet gets rid of the dirt that dulls its sheen and wears away at the fibers.
Use a carpet shampooer. Rent a steam cleaner from the grocery or hardware store or invest in your own. The rental machines do a better job, but they’re also heavier and harder to handle. Pretreat stains and dirty areas first with a mixture of hot water and detergent in a squirt bottle. After the initial cleaning, run the machine over the carpet two or three times to extract the water.
Hire a pro. Alternate your DIY cleaning with a professional job, which is more effective at removing allergens, pet stains and stubborn dirt. They’re more expensive than renting a machine, but they give a more thorough clean and ensure you’ll end up with a drier, less-saturated carpet.
Wash your windows
The winter did a number on your windows. Now it’s time to let the sunshine in. Pick a shady day, so you’re not left with streaks from the sun. Consider making your own solution from 2 cups water, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 1/2 teaspoon dish detergent. Spray the window, wipe away the solution, and then rinse the window with water to remove any residual buildup. Use a squeegee to reduce streaking.
Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore, nor does it have to be done in one weekend. Give yourself time to shake out the dust and wipe down the surfaces, and you’ll be rewarded with a fresh and clean space you’ll be happy to come home to.