Everything You Need To Know About Spring Cleaning

A detailed guide to your once-a-year cleaning projects with tips from local experts.

Spring Fling!
Once a year, every house needs a major cleaning. Here’s a floor-to-ceiling guide to get you started.

When dusting walls, start at the top and use a light hand, being careful not to scratch the surface.

With a duster, begin at the top, gently sweeping over crown moldings. Once you’ve ringed the perimeter, brush the wall with horizontal strokes, whether painted or papered. Proceed with restraint, as a heavy hand could cause the buried handle tip to scratch the surface. Finally, run the duster around the base and shoe moldings, and wipe with a damp soapy rag, as these crevices are notorious resting places for dust and dirt. Sorry, hands and knees.  

Lighting fixtures
Cover tables and beds with drop cloths. Dust ceiling fans and ordinary hanging fixtures  first. Then, remove glass shades and globes, and wash by hand in soapy warm water in the kitchen sink. Be careful, as dishwashers can remove colored tints and cause breakage. You might cover the basin of the sink with a rubber sheet, such as a fruit and vegetable bin liner, to avoid chipping the glass. Chandeliers are trickier. If yours is crystal,  screw the bulbs in tightly and use a spray product to clean says Terry Kryger, owner of Royal Touch Lamp and Fixture Service. Try Sparkle Plenty spray (www.sparkleplentyinc.com), which evaporates and dries without all the mess. In places that can catch moisture, dry by hand. For fixtures that are beyond spritzing, Kryger says, take off all hanging pieces and soak them in one of three mixtures: half parts each of water and Windex, water and rubbing alcohol, or water and vinegar. Clean and dry by hand. For brass, first determine whether the fixture is solid or plated. Hold a magnet to the metal. If it’s solid, the magnet won’t stick. Use a brass polish only on solid metal. Finish by removing lampshades and vacuuming with a flat attachment.

Window treatments
Experts warn against taking down draperies for cleaning. Instead, vacuum from the top down, says Louis J. Fozman, director of housekeeping, The Adolphus Hotel. “There will be less dust at the bottom, where movement shakes it off. At the top, the curtain is more stationary. Vents blow in it, and there are pleats which hold the dust tightly.”

Remove and launder breezy sheers, as well as shower curtains and liners.

If you have blinds made of resin, you can detach and soak them in the tub or hose them off in the yard. Use a damp fabric-softener sheet on metal blinds to eliminate static.

Strip beds completely. Follow laundering or dry cleaning instructions for dust ruffles, pillow shams, duvet covers, mattress pads, and blankets. Before you make the bed, vacuum the box springs and mattresses. Then, find yourself a helper. It is time to flip and rotate. Though manufacturers advise performing this activity every two months, we think that is borderline insane. Twice a year should be sufficient. First, stand on opposite sides of the bed, grab a pair of handles and turn 180 degrees. Second, lift the mattress from one side until it’s upright. Then, tilt it toward your partner and yell, Catch! Finally, help him lower it onto the box frame. Voila.

“I could probably do it by myself,” says Fozman, “but I might knock the lamps off the tables.”

The History of Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning has its origins in ancient cultures around the globe. In India, Hindus for centuries have celebrated a festival of lights, marking the triumph of good over evil. They tidy the temples, placing flowers to welcome the goddess of wealth and prosperity. They scrub their homes, bodies, and minds, praying, meditating, and eating a strict vegetarian diet. In Iran, major cleaning takes place a month prior to the New Year, at the exact moment of the equinox, when the day and night is equally long. During this time, Iranians wash and paint their houses. And in Thailand, Sangkarn Llong Day is a send-off of the former year, on which images of the Buddha are bathed, along with personal belongings.

Before technology cleaned up the way we build and maintain our homes, good old-fashioned grime from coal furnaces, for instance, required serious work when the temperatures rose. Heavy drapes and slipcovers were swapped for lighter ones, kitchen shelf paper was tossed and re-laid, and winter wools were hung on the line to breathe. Now, we incur less strenuous labor, but the need to start new is just as powerful.

Heavy appliances and furniture
Heave ho. Don’t let the nice strong bed assistant take off until he helps you pull out the stove, oven, and refrigerator (if you can) from the wall. Gather up a broom, degreasing products, scrubbing implements, and a bolstered constitution. First, sweep away debris. Wash wall and floor with a strong mixture of water and cleanser or apply Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner/ Degreaser, using a scrub brush if necessary. Stainless Steel Magic, a product made specifically for cleaning stainless steel, repels water and reduces fingerprints.

Lift sofas, settees, chairs, tables – anything that is flush against a wall –  and carry to the center of the room. “Before you vacuum,” suggests Fozman, “sweep the edges of a wall-to-wall carpet with a broom, sending dust to a place that can be vacuumed.”

Remove loose cushions and sweep out furniture frames. Bat the pillows around for fluffing, then vacuum with a flat hose attachment.

Once a year, clean your wood furniture – inside and out – with mineral spirits. Let dry, oil, and polish.

Inside your appliances
Don’t forget to clean the inside of your oven. Commercial products, such as Easy-Off Oven Cleaner,  are toxic to inhale and can leave fume-creating residue, so consider a safer option. Sprinkle generous amounts of water over the bottom of the oven, then cover with baking soda.

Let it sit overnight and wipe up the next morning with a mild abrasive pad. Add washing soda (also known as sodium carbonate, and similar to baking soda) to burnt-on areas to help cut the grease, then rinse well. Always wear gloves when handling, and do not use on fiberglass, aluminum, or waxed floors.

Remove stove knobs, burners, burner covers, and spill catchers and wipe thoroughly. Vacuum stove vents.

Refrigerator coils may be vacuumed, too, and the tray at the bottom taken out for rinsing. Water drips into the tray and can produce mold. Don’t forget to wash shelves and storage bins with a non-abrasive all-purpose cleaner (Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner) or a solution of baking soda and water.

Once a year, clean the food trap in your dishwasher, then add vinegar or baking soda to the empty appliance and run through a cycle.
Carpets and rugs
Take your area rugs outside and shake. Extend the rug fully, grab a short end, and snap. If you have a willing helper, shake from both ends. Or, hang the rug from a line and hit it with a rug beater, an effective method for high-pile carpets. Send area rugs out for steam cleaning.”

Wall-to-wall carpets can be cleaned and deodorized with easily purchased shampoos or with professional cleaning.

For sealed wood floors use water-based or non-water-based cleaners. Wax-finished floors should be rewaxed every few years.

Wood floors
To clean floors coated with polyurethane, decide whether you prefer to use a water-based product or a non-water-based product. Murphy Oil Soap is a tried-and-true water-based product that you dilute in warm water and apply to the floor with a damp mop. Want to avoid water? Pledge Orange Wood Floor Cleaner can be mopped directly on sealed wood floors with no water. For wax-finished floors, use a formulation that strips off buildup and embedded dirt, such as 4-Care Heavy-Duty Cleaner & Stripper (www.custombuildingproducts.com), before rewaxing the floor. You can apply  wax  by hand and buff with a machine, or use Johnson One Step No Buff Wax and save yourself some time.  

Haggerty Silversmiths Spray Polish is your best bet for polishing silver with ease.

Carry houseplants outside and clean carefully, leaf by leaf, with a gentle feather duster. Spray with water and let dry. Remember to return them to their usual positions indoors, as some delicate plants can wither and wilt in direct sun.

Decorative accessories
Gather up your objets and proceed to the sink. Even glass stored inside cabinetry can become cloudy. Wash by hand in mild soap, such as Dove or Palmolive, and rinse until squeaky-clean. Ceramic pieces can be shined up the same way. And for silver, break out the polish and start rubbing. Hagerty Silversmiths Spray Polish (www.hagerty-polish.com) is easy to use and won’t leave residue in crevices.




* “We are all about degreasing. Our secret is to clean as you go. One teaspoon of bleach in a bucket of water will take care of anything stainless.”

* “Our floor, which is 1,000 square feet, gets 350 barefoot and sweaty visitors on it each week. We are big Swiffer people. We use the duster first, then we mop it with a Lysol germ killer.”

* “Our strategy is to start with the showers, then the mirrors, then the counter and sinks, all with Scrubbing Bubbles. You should rinse your mop at least five times while doing an average bathroom.”

* “When we get to a stain, unfortunately, it’s already set. The trick at home is to get to it fast before it seeps into layers below. A foam that lifts the stain up is best. We like Oxy-Clean. It can get blood out of concrete.”


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