Spring Cleaning Made Simple

Dreading the expenses and time commitment of the spring cleaning ritual? This season save your time, money, and energy with these cleaning tricks.

Use a Certified Germ Killer

Use a cleaning product that carries the word “disinfectant” on its label when you’re cleaning food-preparation areas in the kitchen such as the counters and sink. You may be impressed at how all-purpose cleaners remove visible grime, but what you’re not seeing is the bacteria that are left behind, laughing at you. “Disinfectant” is a government-regulated term that means the product kills bacteria and viruses. So read the fine print of those squirt bottles.

Watch Out for Microfibre Cleaning Cloths

This isn’t something the manufacturers of these little gems are going to tell you, but the authors of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Cleaning, Mary Findley and Linda Formichelli, will: Microfiber cloths are made out of plastic, and therefore they can scratch. Don’t use them on sealed surfaces such as wood floors, marble, granite, Corian, and painted surfaces.

Clean Your Windows for Pennies

Why should a gallon of glass cleaner, which is mostly water, cost you more than a gallon of gasoline? Because the manufacturers want you to pay for their fancy advertising campaigns. Here’s how to whip up high-powered glass cleaner for pennies. Pour 1 gallon warm water into a bucket. Add 1 cup white vinegar and 1 teaspoon grease-cutting dishwashing liquid, and then stir. If you’re cleaning a lot of large windows, apply the glass cleaner with a squeegee straight out of the bucket. Otherwise, pour the mixture into plastic squirt bottles and label them.

Dirty Disposer?

Dive in. Well, not literally. The point is to do it yourself rather than call a plumber or handyman. And don’t pay for expensive foaming disposer cleaners. Disposers are easy to clean, since they provide the muscle. First, keep food waste from building up inside the disposer by only grinding small amounts of food at a time. And when you’re done, run a steady flow of cold water through the spinning disposer for up to 30 seconds. Cold solidifies fatty and greasy wastes so they will be cut up and flushed down the drain. Hot melts them and smears the grease around the disposer and drainpipe.

To remove grease buildup, periodically grind a handful of ice cubes mixed with 1/2 cup baking soda. Together the powder and cubes will safely scour the inside of the disposer. Flush any residue by plugging the sink and filling it with 5 to 8 cm of water. Then run the disposer while the water drains. Grind lemon peels to freshen the smell.

Give Your Sink a Bath

One of the most frustrating things about porcelain sinks is that they scuff if you so much as look at them the wrong way. Forget the Ajax. Instead, Linda Mason Hunter, coauthor of the book Green Clean, recommends an herbal bath. Steep several bunches of rosemary or thyme in hot water for a few hours, then strain. Stop up the sink, pour in the mixture, and let it sit overnight. In the morning you’ll find a glistening white sink that smells like an herb garden.

Clean Your Grill Grate In the Oven

Put away that time-consuming wire grill brush and leave that caustic oven cleaner in the cabinet. Here’s the zero-effort, nontoxic way to clean the mess off your barbecue grill’s grate. Simply remove it from the grill, pull the racks out of your oven, slide the grate into your oven, and set the oven on “self-clean.” This same superheated cycle that incinerates everything inside a self-cleaning oven will scorch away any greasy remnants from the grate.

Clean Your Curtains

Dust Them Regularly

Don’t bother taking them down. Simply run your vacuum cleaner over them (from top to bottom) using the dusting brush or upholstery attachment. Focus on the tops and hems, where dust tends to gather. Avoid sucking the fabric into the nozzle by either reducing the vacuum pressure or grasping the bottom and holding the curtains tight. If you don’t have the proper attachments, use a feather duster. Dusting drapes prevents dirt buildup and lessens the chances that the drapes will need a major cleaning.

Wash the Ones That Can Be Washed

If your drapes do need cleaning, start by looking for the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations, which should be on a tag sewn inside the hem. No tag? Identify the fabric, including all trim and linings, and use that information to choose the best cleaning method. You will either machine-wash, hand-wash, or dry-clean your drapes. The delicate cycle is usually best for curtains that can be machine-washed. You never know how much the sun has weakened the curtain fibers. The same goes for the dryer-use the delicate cycle. And instead of tumbling curtains until they are dry (which could leave them in a wrinkled ball), remove them from the dryer and hang them damp. If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid having to iron them.

Find an Experienced Dry Cleaner

Few dry cleaners know how to properly handle drapes, but you won’t see them advertising that fact. It’s up to you to ask around. The best will measure your curtains beforehand and guarantee they will come back the same length.