Spring is the time of year when homes often get a thorough cleaning.
Using the right tools, techniques and products for different surfaces and types of dirt, from windows to counters to floors, is key to doing the job easily and effectively, said Debra Johnson, training manager for the Merry Maids housecleaning company in Memphis, Tenn.
"It makes the job easier if you have the right products," she said.
Begin with the rooms or areas that seem the dirtiest, suggested Carolyn Forte, director of the Home Appliances and Cleaning Lab at the Good Housekeeping Research Institute.
"Start with the thing that bothers you most," she said. "Do the bigger jobs first."
Johnson and Forte offered the following advice for effective spring cleaning.
Use an ammonia-based cleaner and microfiber cloth, Forte said. Make sure to use plenty of cleaner to remove the dirt. Change the water and cloth as necessary. Avoid washing windows on sunny days because the cleaner will dry too quickly and leave streaks.
Close plastic blinds and wipe with a damp cloth, Johnson said. Reverse the slats and clean the other side of the blinds with a clean, damp cloth. Use a tool designed for blind cleaning to clean between the slats. For cloth blinds, use a vacuum attachment to remove dust and dirt.
Wash floors with a cleaner designed for wood surfaces, Forte said. Choose the cleaner that's appropriate for the finish on the floor, either wax or polyurethane. She favors using a microfiber cloth on a mop with a swivel head.
Since laminate is a very durable surface, it can be cleaned with a variety of cleaning products, hot water and a mop or microfiber cloth, Johnson said.
Send area rugs that cannot go in a washing machine to a professional cleaner to avoid discoloring or damaging them, recommended Johnson. Set smaller rugs outside for a good airing, she added. When vacuuming a rug in a doorway or other high-traffic area, turn the rug over and run the sweeper on the underside of the rug, Forte said.
Work from the top down to avoid dirtying areas that were just cleaned, Johnson said. Use a vacuum attachment to remove cobwebs and dust in corners. The vacuum also is a good way to remove dust from lampshades and upholstered surfaces. Avoid feather dusters, Johnson added, as they just move the dust around.
Wipe furniture with a damp cloth because dust can scratch wood surfaces, Forte said. She suggests spraying a microfiber cloth with a small amount of furniture polish.
Spray a foaming bathroom cleaner on tiled surfaces and leave it on for a few minutes. Remove the cleaner with a clean rag or sponge. If the grout has mildew, use a product designed to remove it. It may take several applications and a lot of scrubbing with a grout brush to thoroughly clean the grout, Johnson said.
Bathroom sinks, counters
Foaming cleaners or those designed to remove soap scum will work best. Make sure the cleaner you choose is safe for any special stone or countertop in the bathroom.
Kitchen sinks, counters
Use cleaners that are more acidic or anti-bacterial in the kitchen, Johnson said. Read the labels on cleaners as some may need to be left on the surface for a few minutes before being wiped off, Forte added. Make sure the cleaner is appropriate for the counter material.
Here are a few additional tips for successful housecleaning from Allen Rathey, president of the Housekeeping Channel, a website dedicated to efficient cleaning:
* Clean dry to wet. Always sweep a floor before mopping. Wetting dirt will make it harder to remove.
* More is not always better. Follow the labels on cleaning products to avoid using too much. Residue from cleaning products can attract more dirt.
* When trying to remove a spot or clean a dirty area, start wiping or scrubbing gently. Too much pressure can damage the surface under the dirt.
* Get extra life out of a clean cloth by folding it in quarters. When one side becomes dirty, refold the cloth to reveal a clean side.
* Purchase doormats for the interior and exterior of your home. The mats will collect and absorb dirt and prevent it from being spread indoors.
* Cleaning equipment should be washed regularly. Put sponges in the dishwater or microwave to sterilize. Wash microfiber rags in hot water without fabric softener. Clean brooms and scrub brushes in soapy water or hydrogen peroxide.