Spring cleaning: From top to bottom
There's a fresh scent in the air, the birds are sweetly singing and the warm air is giving you renewed energy. The idea of tackling spring cleaning—to spruce up the old nest—somehow doesn't seem as daunting when the weather turns nice.
Real top-to-bottom housecleaning can take a few days, so pace yourself. Set aside a few days (or an hour a day, depending on your schedule) and stop when you've had enough for one day. If you keep at it systematically and follow our tips, before long your house will be shining and ready for another year!
Before you begin, go from room to room and make a list of everything that needs to be done. Try a classic organizers' trick: stand in the doorway and visually divide the room into three-foot wide "stripes," listing every task you see in that space; for example, the "stripe" nearest one wall might include dusting the bookshelf, cleaning the window, washing the curtains, and organizing a cabinet. Then move to the next stripe and keep going till you've covered the room.
Work on one room at a time, even if you'll be doing similar chores like washing walls or vacuuming in several rooms. You'll get a greater feeling of accomplishment, and save steps. Put all your cleaning supplies, including dusting cloths and paper towels, into a clean bucket to carry from room to room.
• Thoroughly dust and vacuum all surfaces, from crown mouldings to baseboards and under furniture. Carefully dust lightbulbs, chandeliers and wall sconces.
• Use all those funny little attachments that came with the vacuum cleaner to do lampshades, pictures, upholstered furniture, shelves and chair legs.
• Take down sheers and curtains and wash or send out for dry cleaning. Wash interior windows as well as windowsills.
• Wash the walls. This is easier than you think, if you use a sponge mop, a bucket of diluted all-purpose cleaning solution and start at the bottom, not the top; drips are easier to clean when they run onto an already-cleaned wall.
• Organize bookshelves and storage cabinets; if possible, remove and dust or vacuum books and knick-knacks, and thoroughly clean the shelf before putting the books back.
• Roll up area rugs and vacuum the floor beneath them; then vacuum both sides of the rug thoroughly. With valuable rugs such as Persians, send them out for professional cleaning, or hang them on the line and beat with a broom or rug beater.
• Open the windows wide and let the fresh spring air in.
• Thoroughly vacuum tops of cabinets, fridge coils and stove vents. If possible, move appliances out and clean or vacuum under them. Wash outsides of appliances; shine up stainless steel with a few drops of vegetable oil on a paper towel.
• Clean out the fridge. Throw away never-used jars of food and what my mother used to call "furry friends." Then thoroughly clean the interior with baking soda and water, or use an all-purpose spray cleaner (rinse afterward). If possible, remove shelves and wash in the sink with dish detergent.
• Clean cabinetry inside and out, one cupboard at a time. Remove contents; wash interior, then replace the contents, throwing away or recycling all those strange things you'll never eat or use. Then wash the outside of the cabinet. When you're done, wash tops and bottoms of cabinets.
• Scrub floor with an all-purpose cleaning solution and a scrub brush to get out ground-in grime. Vinyl floors can be sprayed with a foaming cleanser, left for a few minutes, then wiped clean with a damp mop. Use tile cleaner to clean grout on ceramic tile and some stone floors.
• Scrub around faucets with bathroom cleaner and an old toothbrush to get rid of built-up soap scum. If mildew on tile is a problem, use the toothbrush and tile cleaner to get rid of it.
• Take down shower curtains and plastic liner and wash.
• Clean and wash cupboards, throwing away expired medicines and cosmetics you'll never use.
• Strip all bedlinens, including bedskirt, and wash. Vacuum mattress and box spring and spray lightly with fabric freshener.
• Unless your mattress is the no-flip kind, flip and rotate the mattress.
• Open and clean out closets and dresser drawers. Give away clothes you haven't worn for a year; dry-clean or launder what you're keeping.
For eco-friendly tips and tricks, check out our easy green spring cleaning guide.