Spring Has Sprung

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Spring has Sprung, and what better time to pick the Winter Blues than to start your spring cleaning!! Nothing beats that feeling of accomplishment when you get a head start on spring cleaning. If you space out your spring-cleaning list over a couple of weeks, it might not seem like such an overwhelming task. The easiest way to begin cleaning and organizing is to take it room by room or appliance by appliance.

Whether you have only five minutes to freshen things up or you happen to have an entire weekend to dedicate to full-out spring cleaning, it doesn’t matter. Read on for tips to help you clean the usual spots more quickly and effectively — and for reminders to tackle harder-to-reach (and harder-to-remember) spots around the house too.

Keep crumbs out of hard-to-reach places.

If there’s a gap between your stove and your kitchen counters, there’s a good chance food has made its way into this tight, dark space. Use the crevice tool on your vacuum to reach into this space; then, place a stove gap cover between the counter and stove to cut down on the debris that falls out of view.

Organize the fridge.

Large refrigerators are great for big families, but they can get cluttered fast. To keep your fridge organized, remove the packaging from multipacks of drinks and single-serve yogurts, use roll-out refrigerator bins to keep small items together, and, to help reduce food waste, rotate older food items to the front before adding new groceries.

Keep storage spaces organized.

If you use your garage or an outdoor shed as a storage space for things that don’t fit inside the house, consider adding this step-by-step strategy to your spring-cleaning checklist. Start by organizing all your items into three piles: keep, donate, and toss.

After you’ve removed the donated and tossed items,  vacuum and clean the floor thoroughly. Then, begin sorting the things you’ll be keeping. Organize smaller items by product type in labeled bins and store them on shelves along the walls to maximize floor space.

Clean your doormats.

Trap more dirt by using two mats at exterior/outside doors: one mat outside and one inside. Vacuum indoor mats on both sides. Going over the backs of the mats will push trapped dirt out onto the floor, where it will be easier to pick up. To refresh outdoor mats, hose them off, then air-dry.

Spray down the windows and dust the blinds.

Wait for an overcast day to clean your windows and start on the shady side of the house. Choosing a sunny day is one of the most common window-cleaning mistakes to avoid. “Raise blinds or shades, and wash windows with glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth. Then lower the blinds or vinyl shades and dust them with a duster. Finish by vacuuming the fabric shades and drapes.”

Wipe down the walls.

Rid-painted walls of greasy fingerprints, dust, and stains by wiping them with a damp microfiber cloth or a clean, damp microfiber mop. Be sure to start from the top and make your way to the bottom; bonus points if you wipe the doorframes and baseboards, too. In between springtime deep-cleans, do spot-cleanings with a damp microfiber cloth whenever you see stains and marks. Tile walls in bathrooms can be cleaned the same way, though you may want to pair the damp microfiber cloth with a disinfecting bathroom cleaner to take care of any germs, too.

For walls with vinyl wallpaper, make sure to wring out the damp microfiber cloth or the clean, damp microfiber mop well to avoid damage. Skip the water altogether if you’re dealing with paper, fabric, or grasscloth wallpaper.

Freshen up musty carpets.

Refresh your carpets between deep cleanings by using a portable carpet cleaner with a rotating brush. To rid your carpet of odors, sprinkle baking soda or carpet deodorizer on your carpet. Using a soft brush, work the baking soda into your carpet and let it set for 15 to 30 minutes. Vacuum the baking soda off the carpet with a fresh bag or clean dirt cup.

You may also want to consider investing in an at-home carpet cleaner appliance to get the job done without having to call a cleaning service.

De-stink the kitchen sink.

Got kitchen stink you just can’t kick? You might already have the necessary ingredients to freshen up your sink in the fridge right now. Try dropping a couple of lemon rind slivers into your garbage disposal and turn it on for 15 to 30 seconds. Follow with cold to flush out any bits of lemon rind that remain.

Clean the microwave.

Clean up those pesky tomato stains once and for all. To clean your microwave, fill a large microwave-safe bowl with one cup of water and a lemon, lime, or orange cut into thin slices — or several tablespoons of vinegar — and stick it inside. Turn the appliance on high for several minutes or until the solution boils and the window is steamy; then, let it cool for five minutes before opening the door. Remove the bowl and wipe the inside and outside of the microwave with a sponge.

Reusable Bags

Reusable grocery bags cut down on wasteful plastic, but they can get grimy over time. Look at the care label on your reusable bags to determine the best way to clean them. If they’re not machine washable, clean them thoroughly with a sponge or cloth dipped in sudsy water. Rinse with a clean cloth, and let air dry.

Spruce up granite countertops.

Dig out the granite polish to help restore shine and repel stains on your kitchen surfaces. For daily wipe-downs, use a specialized granite cleaner, such as  GH Seal Star Weiman Granite & Stone Disinfecting Wipes. The mild formula cuts grease and removes surface stains without the damaging effects of vinegar or ammonia, and it won’t leave behind a dull film like ordinary dish soap can.

Give Your Home a Refresh!

Discover brilliant ways to get organized, declutter, and make over any room. These downloadable digital guides make it easier than ever to give your home a refresh.

Bring stained cutting boards back to life.

With regular use, even the best cutting boards can become stained. If you think that nasty mark on your cutting board is permanent, you could be wrong. Run the cut side of a lemon over the board to help remove food stains and smells. For extra oomph, sprinkle it with salt or baking soda first.

Deep-clean the fridge.

In addition to wiping down your fridge’s interior shelving regularly, also give the removable bins and shelves a deep clean now and then. Pop out the door shelves and bins, and wash them in warm, soapy water to help get rid of food bacteria and spillage. Don’t forget to rinse everything well before putting the shelves and bins back in.

Shine up pots and pans.

Soften burned-on residue by adding water and dish liquid to your cookware and letting it simmer on the stove. After it’s cooled a bit, use a scrub sponge or pad to remove any remaining stuck-on bits. Ketchup (yes, really!) helps dissolve tarnish on copper pots and other copper cooking accessories. Just massage the sauce over the surface and add a pinch of salt if you come across exceptionally stubborn spots.

De-gunk your oven.

Cleaning your oven is an essential part of spring cleaning. Use the appliance’s self-cleaning function to remove stubborn, baked-on grime. If your oven doesn’t have one, place a hot, wet cloth on top of burned spots to help soften the gunk. Then, apply an oven cleaner and let stand for as long as the manufacturer recommends. Rinse with a wet cloth and wipe dry.

Scrub down kitchen cabinets.

Unsightly kitchen grime is a mix of dust and grease that builds up over time. Run the exhaust hood over your range every time you cook to keep grease from settling. To de-gunk, use a cabinet cleaner to cut through dirt and leave the wood moisturized. Do an extra pass around any places where grease collects, like door and drawer pulls.

DIY a stainless-steel cleaner for sparkling appliances.

To clean stainless steel appliances and sinks, mix a solution of one teaspoon dish detergent and one-quart hot tap water. Using a microfiber cloth, rub the solution onto the marks in small sections, going with the grain. Rinse with clean, hot water, and dry immediately with a clean cloth.

Reorganize the junk drawer.

Once you empty your drawer, suck out dust and crumbs with your vacuum’s nozzle. “Toss or relocate any items you no longer need or that don’t belong there.” Everything else goes back, but this time in an organized manner. Repurpose pretty plates and bowls to store cords, stamps, and other odds and ends, or consider a drawer organizer that can also be taken on the go. A nonslip liner helps keep everything in place.

Machine wash your shower curtain.

Put your plastic or vinyl shower curtain in the washing machine on the gentle cycle with your favorite laundry detergent (and a couple of old towels for scrubbing power). Let the curtain hang dry before showering. To keep white and clear shower liners cleaner longer, spritz them a few times each month with a bleach-containing all-purpose cleaner. Then, simply let the shower rinse it off — before you hop in, of course.

Toss expired cosmetics.

Getting rid of expired makeup, skincare, and hair products is a quick way to declutter. Not all products note an expiration date, but many say how many months the product will last after opening. “To stay on top of their expiration date, use a thin-tipped permanent marker to write on the date you opened it.”

Clean your makeup brushes.

To clean makeup brushes, squeeze a few drops of baby shampoo or Dawn dish soap into your palm, and rub the bristle tips into the soap; then, gently work the suds through them. To rinse, hold the brush (bristles down) under warm running water. Gently shake over the sink to remove excess water; then, lay the brush down on a paper towel to finish drying.

Keep drains smelling fresh.

To freshen drains (not unclog them) and help keep them free-flowing, mix a half cup of baking soda with one-fourth of a cup of table salt. Pour the mixture down the drain, followed by one cup of heated white vinegar. It will foam and bubble. Let it stand for 15 minutes, tops.

Run hot tap water for at least 15 to 30 seconds. This is especially helpful for seldom-used drains, like those in guest bathrooms. Clogged drains require a dedicated product, like one of the best drain cleaners, all recommended by our experts.

Remove hard-water buildup from your shower head.

Hard water buildup can cause unsightly stains and even affect your shower head’s water flow. If scrubbing with a sponge doesn’t clear the debris from the holes, you can clean your shower head and restore its flow using a few kitchen products you probably already have in your home. (Take note: This method is best suited for chrome fixtures.) Mix equal parts white vinegar and water in a plastic bag, and tie the bag around the shower head, making sure to immerse the shower head entirely. Secure it with a twist tie. Leave the bag around the shaft for up to an hour; then, wipe away any residue left behind. Run the shower’s hot water to flush the vinegar out of the shower head’s openings.

Caution: To help prevent damaging decorative shower head finishes, choose instead to dunk a brush into the vinegar-and-water mix and scrub the shower head nozzles. Then, flush the openings by turning on the hot water, as above.

Vacuum soft furniture.

“Pull furniture away from walls and vacuum behind and under it.” Do the woodwork and air vents while you’re back there.” Then, switch to the upholstery tool on your machine to go over both sides of the cushions and underneath them. The crevice tool is a great way to remove any gunk along the trim and stitching.

Spruce up curtains and decorative pillows in the dryer.

Put your dryer to work: toss drapes/curtains, and even throw pillows into the dryer for 15 minutes on air-only or the lowest temperature your dryer offers; then, immediately rehang to avoid wrinkles.

Give your bookshelves new life.

After all those cozy winter reading sessions, your library may need a cleanup. Take a few minutes to organize your coffee-table books, bedside novels, or favorite magazines. You can choose to alphabetize them, coordinate them by color, or sort them by size. Make sure you dust the shelves before putting anything back in its place. Donate old books and magazines that are still in good condition to local organizations or your neighborhood’s Little Free Library.

Dust those ceiling fixtures.

Spring cleaning is all about tackling the areas you forget about during the rest of the year. Grab an extendable duster, like the one from GH Seal holder Swiffer, and attack ceiling fans, hanging and recessed lights, moldings, and more. Make sure to start your cleaning here, from top to bottom, so you don’t have to vacuum your floors twice.

Replace air conditioner filters.

Spring is a great time to clean or replace HVAC and window air conditioner filters before you start to use them regularly in the summer months. It’s best to check with your unit’s manufacturer for the recommended way to clean filters if they’re washable.

Of course, these are just a few of the things that need to be done; there is still changing the bedding out and getting it all washed, getting the closets switched out, and tossing and donating old clothes. But these are enough to get you started. And so, it begins… I need to get to my spring cleaning, too. Happy Cleaning!!

Toi N. Degree, Associate Family & Consumer Education Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension. Toi may be reached by phone at 704-216-8970 or by email at toi_degree@ncsu.edu.