How to: Clean your house inside and out
There are many surfaces in our homes that we either don't clean often enough, or don't know how to do properly. Others can often be done yourself for a fraction of the cost of professional cleaning. And many everyday jobs can often be accomplished less expensively, and more pleasantly, with homemade substitutes using vinegar, lemon juice and other familiar ingredients. Here's our complete guide to better housecleaning - inside and out!
Stainless steel appliances
Wipe clean with dish soap and water and lint-free cloth; dry with clean towel. Polish with baby oil, club soda, rubbing alcohol, or vinegar (experiment to find what works best for your appliance), and a lint-free cloth, wiping and polishing in the direction of the grain.
Fill a microwave-safe bowl with one to two cups of water and microwave on high for two to three minutes. Remove, along with tray, and wipe interior with damp cloth. Wash tray in soapy water, rinse and replace; wipe exterior with soft cloth and all-purpose kitchen cleaner.
Wipe with water and cleaner formulated for stone counters. Avoid harsh abrasives, though plastic scrubbing pads and sponges are fine. Periodically seal to protect surfaces.
Wash after every use with dish soap and water, and disinfect with spray bottle filled with one tablespoon of bleach to one litre of water; periodically, season with mineral oil (NOT olive oil or vegetable oil, which can go rancid).
Periodically check spinning arms for debris in spray holes and clean with pliers or a chopstick; wipe around edges of door and gasket; check drain for debris. Remove scale deposits by running on short cycle with powdered lemon drink mix, lemon juice or vinegar in a bowl on the top rack, or commercial dishwasher cleaner, following package directions.LIVING ROOM
Blot liquid spills immediately with dry, white absorbent cloth or paper towels; DO NOT scrub. If needed, apply spot remover and rinse with cold water. Dry spills should be removed with a spoon, then cleaned with spot remover.
Vacuum all surfaces and crevices thoroughly. Mix one-quarter cup laundry detergent or liquid dish soap with one cup warm water in a large bowl; whip with an electric mixer till solution forms soft peaks, like whipped cream or meringue. Test in an inconspicuous area, and if fine, working one area at a time, rub suds gently over surface with a soft cloth or sponge; dirt will rise into the foam. Use a scraper to remove the foam and rinse with a damp cloth. Allow to dry overnight.
Handle gently; if valuable, have them cleaned professionally. Otherwise, take down and place on top of a drop cloth to protect the floor. Using a loaf of doughy bread like sourdough, pull out a handful from the middle and gently scrub the surface of the painting; when bread starts to disintegrate or gets very dirty, use a new piece. Finish by gently brushing the entire surface with a soft paintbrush to remove all traces of breadcrumbs.
Draperies and sheers
Vacuum regularly with brush attachment; don't forget tops of draperies and valances. Periodically, run through the dryer with a fabric softener sheet (which helps repel dust); annually, clean or have dry-cleaned, depending on the type of fabric.
Use a damp, lint-free cloth, working in circles out from the centre; dry with a dry cloth if necessary. Avoid commercial cleaners, and never spray directly onto screen.
Every three months or so, remove batteries and replace if leaking. Wipe body of remote with a damp cloth. Use Q-Tips dipped in rubbing alcohol to gently clean all around and under buttons, drying with the dry end of a Q-Tip if needed.
Stereo, DVD player, Wii Console, etc.
Clean case with a damp cloth, being careful not to get any moisture inside vents. Use Q-Tip and rubbing alcohol to gently clean glass display panels, grooved areas and under knobs or switches.
Regularly dust vents to prevent dust buildup, which can harm the computer. Thoroughly vacuum keyboard, and use Q-Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to clean keys and surface under them, as well as the mouse. Use a soft lint-free cloth, dampened if needed, to clean monitor and case. Clean laptops the same way, working very carefully so as not to force anything, which could break it.DINING ROOM
Murphy's Oil Soap has been around for a hundred years because it cleans many types of wood surfaces and won't harm the environment, but use sparingly or surface can become sticky. Dusting or wiping with a damp cloth is fine for most sealed woods. Waxed or oiled surfaces should be gently cleaned with a damp cloth, and the oil (or wax) replenished when water no longer beads or the surface looks dull. Commercial furniture polishes contain silicone, which can dull surfaces if allowed to build up.
Turn off power; cover any upward-pointing bulbs with sandwich bags and seal with rubber bands. Place drop cloth below chandelier. Mix one part ammonia or isopropyl alcohol with three parts distilled water in a spray bottle and spray entire chandelier, avoiding wires or other electrical components. Allow to drip dry. If crystals are still dirty, they may require individual hand cleaning with the same solution. Remove sandwich bags and clean light wells and other non-crystal parts with a cloth dipped in cleaning solution.
Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil. Fill with two to three inches of warm water mixed with one teaspoon of baking soda. Soak silverware for 10 minutes; rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.
Flip every spring and fall unless it is a no-flip mattress. Vacuum regularly, especially crevices around piped edges and grooves under pillowtops. Use upholstery spot cleaner to treat most stains; try not to get mattress wet, and dry thoroughly if so. Bloodstains can be treated with hydrogen peroxide (blot while still bubbling), or rinsed with cold water till clear; dry thoroughly.
Machine-wash in cold water in a large-capacity or commercial washing machine; dry on low heat, adding a few clean tennis balls to the dryer to help pillows retain their shape. (down) Dry-clean, or hand-wash in warm soapy water and air-dry out of the sun, fluffing occasionally while drying to retain shape. Pillows can be aired out if not too dirty: Set outside on a dry, sunny afternoon, then refluff in dryer with a fabric sheet and tennis balls as above.
Use half as much detergent as you would for a normal load; pretreat stains. If large, wash in a commercial machine. Dry in dryer with half a dozen clean tennis balls to keep it fluffy.
Most blankets can be machine-washed (check label), but do not dry wool blankets in the dryer.FRONT HALLS
Wipe down with damp cloth to remove surface smears and dust. Mix one cup vinegar with one litre warm water in a bucket; crumple newspaper (avoid ones printed with soy-based inks), and rub in circles over entire surface. Dry with dry crumpled newspaper.
Naturally finished woodwork (with linseed or tung oil) can be cleaned with lemon oil polish; restore tung or linseed oil periodically. Varnished and urethaned surfaces can be cleaned with a damp cloth (or mop, for hardwood floors).
Brass door numbers, hardware
(Lacquered) soft cloth and cleaning spray or water; avoid hot water and abrasives. (Unlacquered, brass-plated or full brass) Use acidic compounds sparingly, to remove tarnish without damaging the brass beneath. Severe tarnish can be removed with commercial brass cleaner; relacquer if necessary.
Working one area at a time, wet surface, scrub with a wire brush (with or without detergent, depending on extent of grime), and rinse thoroughly. Years or decades of grime and soot can be removed professionally with an acid wash, which in most cases removes none or only a very slight amount of the brick surface.
Aluminum, wood or vinyl siding
Powdery "chalk" on the surface is normal and should not be removed. Clean dirt from the bottom up to prevent streaks, using warm soapy water and a hose. Climb a ladder if necessary to wash upper floors; never aim hose up, as this can get water under the siding where it can damage the substrate. The spinning car wash heads that attach to the hose are great for gently scrubbing dirty siding.
Oxygen bleach is kind to the environment, and your deck. Wet one area at a time and gently scrub with a push broom or hand scrubber; rinse. Commercial deck washes are also available, but some are quite harsh. Avoid strong power-wash hoses, which can raise the grain on the wood surface.