Spring cleaning tips
Spring cleaning ideas to help refresh your home.
Use these tips to help you tackle your annual spring cleaning before spring showers turn to summer’s flowers. Take some time to give your home a checkup to help it operate more efficiently with some home maintenance tips.
Gearing up for the task of spring cleaning
Spring brings warmer temperatures — a time to tidy-up, de-clutter and attack all the crannies, crevices and dust bunnies you've ignored all winter. Even with a long to-do list, be sure to practice spring cleaning safety.
Can’t find the motivation to get going? Here are some thought starters to help get you through the day:
- If you enjoy music, before you get started, pull together a playlist of songs that will get you up and moving.
- No one wants to cook dinner after a full day of cleaning. Prepare dinner either the day before or in the morning before you get started.
- Prioritize your list of things you want to do — there's nothing like "checking off" items and seeing what you've accomplished.
Get started with decluttering
You’ll want to follow a pattern of decluttering and organizing before breaking out the scrubbers and dusters. Begin to declutter your home in one room and pull out everything in that room. Ask yourself, “Do I love this item or really need it?” If the answer is no, start a donate pile and a toss pile and place items appropriately. Be sure to get rid of all those things as quickly as possible — before you change your mind. If the answer is yes, organize what you plan to keep.
After you declutter and get reorganized, it’s time to tackle some house cleaning projects.
Cleaning out the kitchen
Cleaning and organizing your kitchen has several benefits. When organized, you can see things much more easily in the refrigerator, freezer, cabinets and pantry. First, you’ll want to pull everything out of each space. Then check the expiration dates. Toss anything that is expired along with those items that are too tempting to eat (and you probably shouldn’t eat). If you have food items that aren't expired and you don't plan to keep, consider donating them to a local food pantry.
You might consider organizing by categories — cereals, canned goods, dairy products, fruits and so on. Then add labeling for where the items are to go. Labeling can make it easier to put your groceries away after shopping.
And be sure to follow the “FIFO” inventory method — first in, first out — meaning, use the oldest items first and store the newest items in the back. It’s always a great idea to check stock of what you already have before you leave for shopping — you won’t spend extra money buying something you already have.
Cleaner bathroom, safe home
In the bathroom, think beyond the basic wipe down. You’ll want to pull out everything in the bathroom — especially from those hard-to-reach areas in the back of drawers and cabinets. Keep only what is being used and dispose of everything else in the correct manner.
Consider disposing these types of items:
- Makeup more than a year old.
- Sunscreen more than two years old.
- Toiletries no longer being used.
- Old or expired medication — check out how you can dispose of old or unused medications. Many communities offer a drug take back program. If a take back program isn’t available in your community, some drugs can be flushed or thrown in household trash. But you’ll always want to be sure to check before doing so.
Spring cleaning deep dive
Look over and under for the places that you miss in your usual cleaning routine. And be sure to look under those easy to forget things — beds, dressers, nightstands and couches. Now is the time to move furniture and rugs to clean the floor. You’ll want to vacuum the underside of throw rugs before putting them back down. Vacuuming of your carpets, in the average household, should be done at least twice a week. And they should be cleaned about every 12 months — and that can vary depending on usage, traffic, children, smoking and pets.
Don’t forget to look up — yikes, are those cobwebs up in that corner? Is the ceiling fan or light fixture covered in dust? How do those air vents and exhaust fans look? Be sure to wipe off all those surfaces. You can take your vacuum to some of them.
Don’t forget those window treatments. You can toss sheer curtains in the dryer on the fluff setting to help remove light dust. For window blinds, grab a pair of cotton gloves, a bucket of water mixed with a tiny bit of soap, add some vinegar if the blinds are really dirty, slip your hand in the bucket, then wipe the slats between your forefinger and thumb. Start at the top and work your way down. Wipe each slat with a dry, clean cloth.
Tools of the trade
Hardwood floors: You’ll want to be sure to remove any dirt before adding any kind of moisture. Using a broom or a microfiber dry mop will help remove the dirt. Water might be your floor’s worst enemy and cause damage. When it’s time to deep clean the floor, make sure you use the appropriate type products for the wood. The floor manufacturer can provide information regarding how to clean your floor — you don’t want to damage the floor or void a warranty by doing it wrong.
Microfiber: They’re hygienic, don’t usually need cleaning products and are easy to use. Microfiber acts like a magnet causing even the tiniest dirt particles to stick to the cloth and not just moving the particles from place to place. A good microfiber cloth feels “prickly” against your skin. If you don’t like that feeling, you can wear latex gloves, and if you have a latex allergy try vinyl.
Scrubbers: Don’t toss that old toothbrush. They do a great job of cleaning — especially in tight spaces. Old, zero-balance gift cards make for a good scraper — instead of using that perfectly manicured fingernail.
Solutions: Rub a lemon half on water stains on faucets. Squeeze the other half of that lemon in to ½ cup of water, drop in the rinds, microwave the solution for three minutes, then leave the door closed and let it sit. After five minutes, wipe down the grime that has been loosed by the steam. There are many household products that you can use to make cleaning solutions that aren’t harmful and have no chemicals.
Quick tips for house cleaning throughout the year
- The top of a freestanding fridge collects dust and grease. Once clean, cover it with plastic wrap to keep it that way. Replace as needed.
- Use a pillowcase to clean ceiling fan blades. Roll the case back, slide it over the blade and then close it while pulling it back along the blade.
- Use a lint roller to "dust" lampshades.
- Cotton swabs make it easier to clean crevices such as fridge gaskets, behind the faucet and keyboards.
- To clean the shower head, fill a plastic bag with white vinegar, secure it over the shower head — a rubber band should hold it — and let it sit overnight. When removed the next morning, be sure to run the water for a minute before jumping in.
Annual deep cleaning
- Clean woodwork such as baseboards, door frames and doors.
- Pull out all your appliances and clean behind and under them.
- Clean fridge and freezer gaskets.
- Wipe down cabinet fronts and clean drains and stoppers.
Save time and money
Don’t overuse products - It’s wasteful and costs money not only for the extra product that needs to be purchased, but also for the extra water you might pay for the additional rinsing.
Follow directions - If a cleaner says to “allow five minutes,” then allow five minutes — there’s a reason for those instructions. While it’s drying, move on to something else so you don’t lose that time. Be sure to stick to whatever the time frame is suggested — you don’t want the product to dry.
A couple more “inside” things
You’ve done all that cleaning and things look great. Here are a couple home maintenance tips you might also want to consider:
- Water heater - Look around the base of your water heater for leaks. The average lifespan of a water heater is 8 to 12 years. If your water heater is over 5 years old, it should be checked monthly for any leakage or rusting at the bottom. If water leakage or rust is found, the water heater should be replaced. If you live in an area with particularly hard water, you may need to periodically drain the water heater to remove sediment buildup in the tank. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Basement and attic - Does your attic or basement smell musty? If you have an attic, check it for leaks from the roof. Inspect the underside of the roof and the insulation closely for any discoloration, deterioration or dirt stains, as the leaking water might have dried up. Check the basement walls, floor and trim for water stains or any signs of seepage through the foundation. There are a number of flooding causes and you can read more about wet basements for preparation. While you're down there, keep a close eye on your sump pump, making sure your sump pump is still in good working order and has a battery backup in place if necessary.
Outside the house
- Check the air conditioner - Have a qualified HVAC contractor, preferably one that belongs to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America organization, come out and give your air conditioning system a tune up. To help lower your energy bills, do this every year to ensure the system is running at its manufacturer-rated efficiency. Also make sure to inspect your system's condensate drain hose, especially if you live in a humid climate. This hose could become clogged with algae and sediment and your contractor may charge you more to clean it out. Avoid this extra cost by checking the hose periodically yourself. Use a wet vac to suction out any blockage.
- Check the roof and gutters - The hot summer sun can quickly damage a roof's shingles, so you may want to call a contractor if you haven't inspected your roof in several years. Clean the leaves out of gutters and downspouts. Then check to see if the gutters are safely attached and haven't sprung any leaks. Also, make sure the downspouts are positioned to direct water away from the home's foundation
- Check the foundation - For further basement flood protection, inspect the foundation around your house before the spring rains. Seal any cracks or imperfections or call a contractor if necessary. Also look for low areas in the yard near the foundation that might pool water during a heavy rain. Level these yard depressions by filling them with compacted soil. Tend to any other "ponding" areas around the yard, too, because after a hard rain, standing water can develop. These puddles can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- Apply deck sealant - If you have a patio deck, inspect the wood for stains, discolorations or warping. If you find any, consider resealing the deck. To verify that your old application still works, pour some water onto the dry deck and see that it beads up. Most deck-sealer manufacturers recommend resealing annually. Check for any sharp edges, splintered or rotting wood. Also look for rusting nails or any nails that are coming out or weakening their connections. And be sure to check the railings and stairs to make sure they are secure and not wobbly.
- Ready the soil - Spring is the season to prepare for new growth in your garden. Rake beds of leaves and other leftover winter debris. Use a hoe to churn and loosen the soil and mix in compost for nutrients. If you'll be planting new seeds, follow the instructions provided on the seed packet for the best results.
It might sound like a lot of work, but with some organizing and regular maintenance, you’ll get through your spring cleaning and help keep your home in tip-top shape.