It’s time to clear away winter cobwebs and invite in fresh spring breezes. Here’s how to make everything in your home spick-and-span.
By Mary Lynn Bruny
Ah, spring! The sun is shining more brightly, and if you take a close look at your home, you may see it needs some spring-cleaning. If you want to put a fresh face on your house, here are a few cleaning tips. But always check manufacturers’ instructions (often found online) before cleaning any item. Happy spring-cleaning!
Clean with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Waxy Glass Candleholders
Put glass (but not lead crystal) candleholders on paper towels in the microwave. Heat on low for 3 minutes, or until the wax drips off. Put petroleum jelly where the candle is inserted to make future stub removal easier.
Gunky Computer Keyboards
Disconnect the keyboard, turn it upside down and gently shake to dislodge large debris. Use a vacuum cleaner brush attachment to push out debris beneath keys. For additional dusting, use a soft, clean makeup brush or paintbrush, or compressed air manufactured for this purpose. Then wipe keys with a slightly damp cloth. Lift dirt out of crevices with a cotton swab dampened with rubbing alcohol. Let the keyboard dry before reconnecting. For a quick cleaning, use a baby wipe.
Dusting these items is a breeze if you put an old cotton sock on your hand, spray it with dusting spray, and then use your fingers to wipe around rungs, spindles and other tight, hard-to-dust areas.
To rid a coffeemaker of hard-water buildup, run white household vinegar through the brew cycle. Then run several cycles of water to eliminate any vinegar residue. Clean the exterior with a mild bleach-and-water solution, but never use bleach on the interior or inside the carafe.
Filthy Artificial Flowers
For a light cleaning, use a blow dryer set on cool, or a can of compressed air, to blow off dust. If the flowers are well attached to the stems, put them in a bag with some salt and shake. Check the color of the salt to see how much dirt was removed. To deeply clean silk flowers, place them in a pillowcase, tying a knot to close the end, then put it in the dryer with a damp washcloth on the air-only cycle for 20 minutes. For polyester flowers, run them through warm, soapy water or warm water mixed with window cleaner. Rinse with clear water and shake dry.
To remove dust and pet hair, put curtains in the dryer on air-only cycle for 10 minutes. When done, immediately remove the curtains and shake them out. Promptly rehang the curtains to avoid wrinkling. For spot cleaning, use a dry, soft brush. If this doesn’t work, test a damp-cloth application in a hidden area to see how the fabric responds (many dry-clean-only fabrics will discolor or change texture).
Remove the utensil holders and racks, and remove any stuck-on food. Press paper towels onto the washer bottom to pick up any food gunk. Add 2 cups of white household vinegar to the bottom and turn the machine on energy-saving or low wash. Stop mid-wash, allowing the vinegar to sit on the bottom. Let stand for 20 minutes, then finish the wash cycle. When done, wipe out the inside.
Sticky Remote Controls
Use a wet wipe. They contain very little moisture (thus they don’t cause damage), but are excellent grime cleaners.
For a dusty lampshade, depending on its texture, use either a hair dryer on cool, compressed air, a lint roller, a feather duster or a microfiber cloth. Use vacuum cleaner brush attachments only on cloth shades, as they may rip paper shades. Spot clean paper shades with a soft, dry brush. Spot clean fabric shades with a damp cloth. To wash a fabric shade, first confirm it is sewn (not glued) and made completely out of fabric (no paper lining). Test clean in an unnoticeable spot to determine how the fabric reacts to water. If it dries well, wash the shade briefly with a clean sponge using lukewarm water and mild detergent. Work the sponge top to bottom. Rinse with clean water in the same manner. Air dry away from direct sun.
Dirty Honeycomb Shades
Check with the manufacturer’s instructions; some shades must be professionally cleaned. Most blinds can be dusted with a feather duster, compressed air or a blow dryer set on cool. Use a warm, damp cloth for spot cleaning. Allow the blinds to dry in the down position. Immerse cleanable blinds in a bath with mild detergent, then rinse with clean water and hang dry in the down position. Never immerse the headrail.
Grubby Piano Keys
If they’re plastic, rub piano keys with a chamois cloth dipped in white household vinegar mixed with warm water. If they’re ivory, use a barely damp cloth and a bit of gentle soap to wipe. Do not let moisture leak down the sides. Dry right away. Use another damp cloth for the black keys. Buff with a third, lint-free cloth. Never scrub or use chemicals. Yellowed keys can be cleaned but not whitened.
Grimy Stove Burners
Wipe down grates and burners with a damp sponge to remove all debris. Then remove grates and soak for 30 minutes in hot, soapy water with a teaspoon of ammonia to help loosen gunk. Scrub with a stiff brush to remove any remaining grime.
Scummy Shower Curtains
Read the manufacturer’s instructions, but most shower curtains and liners can be put in the washing machine. Add a bath towel or two for scrubbing action, along with your regular amount of detergent. Hang dry.
Soapy Shower Doors
Apply white household vinegar or cheap shampoo to the door with a plastic scrub- ber sponge or a microfiber cloth; rub over the area to help dissolve the film. Let sit for a few minutes, then use a squeegee to clean off the residue. To maintain a clean door, keep a spray bottle filled with vinegar handy; apply when you start to see a haze.
Take the showerhead off and soak it in white household vinegar. Or partially fill a plastic bag with vinegar and affix the bag around the showerhead so the nozzle is submerged in the liquid. Either way, let it sit overnight. The vinegar should dissolve mineral deposits. Use a toothpick to clear any debris from the holes so the water can flow more freely.
Corners accumulate crumbs, coffee grounds and other debris that a vacuum cleaner just can’t pick up. Simply rip off a sticky lint-roller sheet, press it into the corners and no more crumbs.
Use a wet wipe or damp cloth to get rid of surface grime on cases (but not screens or keyboards). Clean LCD screens with a dry microfiber cloth—paper towels are too abrasive. For stubborn marks, dampen the cloth with a bit of distilled water and a few drops of 90-percent isopropyl alcohol.
To dust blinds, make them flat and work top to bottom, using either a feather duster, microfiber cloth or vacuum brush attachment. Then flip the blinds and do the reverse side. Spot clean with a slightly damp cloth. For a deeper cleaning after dusting, use a slightly damp cloth with or without wood cleaner, working top to bottom. Do not use too much liquid or the wood may warp. Change cloths often to avoid making the connective strings dirty.
Overly Loved Stuffed Animals
Read the toy’s care label. If it can be washed, put it in a pillowcase, tying a knot at the end, and wash it on the delicate cycle using mild detergent. If the toy has any kind of synthetic hair, which may melt, let it air dry. However, some “fur” may fluff better with a few minutes of drying on the air-only cycle. If the toy is not washable, spot clean it by placing it in a plastic bag, sprinkling the toy with baking soda and shaking vigorously. The baking soda will absorb grease, odors and dust. Then shake off the baking soda and/or lightly vacuum the toy.
Scummy Vase Bottoms
For the bottoms of tall vases and bottles that you can’t reach with a bottle brush, denture tablets can do the trick. Fill the vase with a little water, drop in a denture tablet and let it fizz for a few minutes. Dump out the water and rinse. You can also use denture tablets in toilet bowls.
If your mat is rubber-backed, toss it in the washing machine and tumble dry on low (letting it air dry will preserve the backing longer). If your mat is vinyl-backed, simply hose it off. If it’s filthy, blast it at a car wash. If you have a coir (natural coconut shell) mat, shake it, then vacuum with a wet/dry vac. Scrub caked-on dirt with a stiff brush. Washing is not recommended, as it breaks down the fibers.