How To Not Suck At Spring Cleaning

The birds are singing. The flowers are budding. Yup, it’s time for spring cleaning.

After a nasty winter, throw open the windows and let the sun shine in; but that’s just the beginning.

To tackle this big job, use a checklist to create a plan of attack, and don’t plan to get it all done in one day.

Most of these tasks take fewer than 10 minutes each, so give yourself smaller blocks of time with breaks in between so you don’t get discouraged or sick of it.

There’s no need for massive amounts of store-bought chemical sprays. You can clean just about anything with items you probably already have in your home, with mostly white vinegar, baking soda, and lemons or lemon juice.

One must-have is an empty box or laundry basket. As you clean, add any homeless or misplaced items in the container, and when you’re done cleaning, you can find a permanent place for clutter or paperwork.

Here’s how to not suck at spring cleaning.

THE KITCHEN

•The sink: It’s one of the dirtiest places in your kitchen. Start by cleaning with soap and water, then create your own disinfectant with a mist of vinegar, followed by a separate mist of hydrogen peroxide (that stuff that stung when mom put it on your scraped knees). If you have a garbage disposal, put in a cut-up lemon, salt and a few ice cubes, run the water and flip the switch. The folks at Woman’s Day say it will get rid of residue and odors.

•The Dishwasher: You can kill bacteria by running the machine with 1/4 cup of ammonia. To get rid of grime on the outside and in the harder-to-reach edges, add baking soda to a damp rag and wipe. Use a Q-Tip-like cotton swab for any little spots you can’t reach with a rag.

•The Microwave: You have a few options here. To make stains easier to wipe away, put lemon slices in a bowl of water and run the microwave for 45 seconds. Or try the same with a water and vinegar mixture, and heat it for two to three minutes. The vapors will make the ugly stuff easier to wipe down.

•The Coffeemaker: Run the machine with equal parts water and vinegar, but shut the machine halfway through the cycle. After letting it soak for an hour, turn the machine on again.

The Refrigerator: Water and a damp cloth will get rid of most of the stuff mucking up your fridge. When you clean, don’t forget the coils, which will help extend the life of your machine and prevent overheating. Use your vacuum cleaner’s attachment to suck up dust and dirt.

•The Oven & Stove: If you don’t have a self-cleaning oven, use baking soda and with steel wool — or create your own abrasive with crumpled up aluminum foil. Or try one of these recipes.

To clean your burners without scrubbing, place them in sealed plastic bags overnight with 1/4 cup of ammonia. Wipe them clean the next morning.

THE BATHROOM

•The Toilet: There are lots of non-toxic ways to clean the throne. Woman’s Day recommends adding a teaspoon of Tang Drink Mix. After it sits for a few minutes, the citric acid will get to work, and then you can use the good old toilet brush and flush. To get rid of limescale and other stains, some folks claim you can use good old Coca-Cola. Can’t say we’ve tried this one, but the video looks promising.

•Shower Doors: To get rid of scummy build-up, dampen a used dryer sheet and wipe. To clean the glass, put a few tablespoons of lemon juice mixed with water in a spray bottle, spray and wipe it down. If you want to prevent water spots on your shower doors, try rubbing a teaspoon of lemon oil on the glass. Spraying vinegar on the shower walls and curtains is supposed to prevent mildew.

• Shower Head & Faucets: To remove mineral deposits from the showerhead, put vinegar in a plastic bag and tie it to the shower head, letting it soak overnight. Rinse with water in the morning. For the faucets, rub with lemon juice or an actual lemon.

•Grout: If your tiled floors and walls are looking grimy, make a paste from lemon juice and a teaspoon of cream of tartar, which Earth911.com says is a natural bleaching agent. Grab an old toothbrush and get scrubbing.

•Moldy walls: Yuck. But if yours are growing unwelcome bacterial guests, spray with vinegar and rinse after 15 minutes.

EVERYWHERE ELSE

•Couches: Sprinkle with baking soda and vacuum to get rid of odors emanating from upholstered furniture. You can do this on your carpets, too.

•Wood Floors: A few tablespoons of white vinegar added to water will clean your floors and help them shine.

•Wood Furniture: Make some homemade polish with a teaspoon of lemon juice and a pint of vegetable or mineral oil.

•Tile Floors: Half a cup of baking soda mixed with water will clean no-wax and tile floors without scratching them. When you’re done, you can use the same mixture to clean lawn furniture.

•Glass: Whether it’s windows or a glass table, mix a few tablespoons of lemon juice with water.

•Hard-to-Reach Spaces: To clean the crevices of tracks for sliding glass doors or windows, dip a Q-Tip into a little vinegar or dampen and dunk in baking soda.

•Vents: Take off your vents, wash them with soap and water, then add a coat of wax to minimize future dust build-up.

•Electronic Screens: Wipe your television and computer monitor with a coffee filter to remove lint.To remove dust between the keys of your keyboard, use a sticky-note or tape wrapped around a credit card.

•Blinds: Use an old sock, a feather duster, a rag wrapped around a ruler, a paintbrush or even a can of compressed air. To prevent dust build-up, wipe each slat with a dryer sheet.

ONE LAST TIP

Don’t ignore your closets. You can make room by getting rid of old clothes and donating them to charity (and getting a tax write-off at the same time, so get a receipt). If you’re not sure what to get rid of, try a year-long experiment. Hang all your clothes with the hangers facing the same direction. As you wear something, turn the hanger to face the opposite direction. Anything that’s still facing in the original direction after a year should be given away when you spring clean next year.

Have a topic you’d like to see covered in How To Not Suck? Or maybe you’re an expert who would like to share your insight with Consumerist readers? Send us a note at notsuck@consumerist.com.

You can read Karin Price Mueller’s stories for The Star-Ledger at NJ.com, follow her on Facebook, and on Twitter @kpmueller.

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