Spring’s Clean Sweep

Spring’s Clean Sweep

Bucket of cleaning supplies on a table

Don't let the dreaded job of spring cleaning ruin your fair-weather season! We've gathered intel from top cleaning and organizing professionals to help you tackle the to-do list long before spring showers turn to summer's flowers.

Gearing Up for the Task

Spring brings warmer temperatures and the annual spring clean—a time to tidy-up, de-clutter and attack all the crannies, crevices and dust bunnies you've ignored all winter. But don’t let the to-do list intimidate you! We've asked top cleaning and organizing experts for their savvy advice for tackling annual and semiannual chores.

The hardest part, they all say, might be getting started. "Finding the motivation can be a challenge," says Jamie Novak, organizing specialist and author of Keep This Toss That. "Try making a spring cleaning playlist of get-up-and-go songs," she says. "And if you’re opting for a full day of cleaning, you’ll be tired afterwards, so cook dinner first or plan to order in." Once you're in the "Let's Do This!" frame of mind, focus on de-cluttering and organizing before breaking out the scrubbers and dusters.

Pam Clyde of BritLin Services in Austin, Texas, suggests "pulling everything out of the room and only putting back what you absolutely love or need. Then donate or dispose of anything before you change your mind or another family member comes along."

Cleaning and organizing expert Donna Smallin says in her book Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness, "According to an eBay study, the average American has thousands of dollars worth of unused items that could be sold or donated." We call that motivation.

Once you've controlled your clutter, you're ready to tackle the deep-clean projects that get you set for warmer weather. Turn the page for our favorite spring cleaning tips and tricks from the pros. Your home can be back in order—and dust bunny free—in no time!

Clean Out

Kitchen Confidential

Cleaning out and organizing the kitchen has a number of benefits, says Deborah J. Cabral, certified professional organizer and author of DeClutter Your Life NOW! "When the kitchen is organized, you can see things clearly and access items in the refrigerator, freezer and pantry. It sets you up for success," she says.

To get your foodstuffs in order, "Take everything out and sort it, checking expiration dates," says Cabral. Toss those tempting treats you don’t want in the house. When items go back on the shelf, group them by category—fruits, cereals, canned goods. "If you have stuff you will never use, take those items to a food pantry," she says.

Use labels. "Give things a home, and be sure everything has a place," Cabral says. "Labeling makes putting stuff away easy. When you come home from shopping, everything in the fridge and pantry should move forward and new items go to the back."

This practice ensures that older items get used first instead of wasting away out of sight. Finally, Cabral says, use what you have! "Before you go grocery shopping, take stock," she says. "Most of my clients save money right away when we organize their kitchens, because they discover that they already have a lot."

Cleaner Bath, Safer Home

Think beyond the basic wipe-down. "Pull everything out from hard-to-reach areas in drawers and cabinets," Justin Klosky of O.C.D. Experience says. "Put back only what is really being utilized."

Be sure your discard pile contains items that may be unsafe to continue using: "Makeup that’s more than one year old, sunscreen more than two years old, anything past its expiration date and any toiletries you no longer use, even if there’s still some left," Smallin suggests in Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness. Flushing pharmaceuticals is not recommended. "Ask your local pharmacy if they collect expired prescriptions," Smallin says. Remove any identifying personal information from empty pill bottles before tossing.

Don't Forget: Highs & Lows

Look over and under for the places that you miss in your usual cleaning routine. Now is the time to move furniture and rugs to clean the floor. "An overlooked area is underthings—under beds, night stands, dressers, couches," Clyde says.

Smallin recommends cleaning under area rugs. "Roll them out of the way, clean the floor underneath, and vacuum the underside of the rug," she says. Wall-to-wall carpet manufacturers suggest a professional cleaning every 12 to 18 months. Smallin says to take the leap and call in the pros—"It will be done better, faster, than you can do it yourself."

"Most people forget to look up," Clyde says. "Do you see cob-webs? Is your ceiling fan or light fixture dusty? What about air vents and exhaust fans?"

Window treatments also collect dust. Smallin suggests putting sheer curtains in the dryer on a fluff cycle fora quick "dusting." To clean blinds, she says: "Slip on a pair of cotton gloves, and dip your hands into a bucket of water with the tiniest bit of suds. If they are really grimy, use a bit of vinegar." Wipe slats between your thumb and forefinger, working top to bottom; then wipe each slat dry with a clean cloth.

Tools of the Trade

Floors: "I’m a big fan of Bona for hardwood floors," Klosky says. When cleaning floors, "The secret is to change out the microfiber pads often," Clyde says. Smallin loves the Libman Wonder Mop. "It is a really cool, simple, inexpensive mop, with a microfiber-strip head and a built-in squeezer." Also, many pros agree that a steam mop is a good addition to the cleaning tool collection.

Mircofiber: "I can’t live without microfiber towels!" Novak says. "I use them for absolutely everything, including those often-touched items such as doorknobs and light switch plates." Smallin recommends washable Quickie microfiber cloths that come in a variety of weaves. However, Smallin warns, "Never use fabric softeners or dryer sheets when you wash them" to avoid picking up lint.

Scrubbers: Smallin goes old-school when it comes to scrubbing: "Toothbrushes do a great job," she says. And for scraping, Novak says, "Zero-balance gift cards make perfect gunk scrapers." Smallin likes the Scrigit Scraper, which is designed as an alternative to scraping with your fingernail.

Solutions: Grab a squeezed section of lemon slice to shine faucets, Smallin says. Or, according to Novak, dip the cut edge of a lemon half into baking soda for a gentle scrubber and grease cutter. Smallin uses hydrogen peroxide to disinfect. First, clean the surface—"you can’t disinfect a dirty surface," she says. Then spray a mist onto the surface, and continue to the end. Let it sit for a few minutes; then wipe the surface dry.

Quick Tips

Smart Shortcuts

  • 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.

Deep Clean Annually

  • 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 in the kitchen sink and bathroom.

Save Time and Money

"Use a lot less product," Clyde says. "When people use too much product, not only do they waste it, which increases costs, but they also create more work for themselves during the rinsing process and end up using more water than necessary."

Smallin says following directions saves scrubbing. “There’s a reason a cleaner says to 'allow five minutes.' Let it do the work for you! Move on and do something else. Don’t let the cleaner dry, but do allow the time suggested on the product."