Yesterday morning, ten minutes before I walked out the door for my root canal appointment, an email popped into my inbox from my girlfriend Joanie. She was asking how I do my spring cleaning. Like my laundry how-to, she wondered if I would do a spring cleaning "how-to." Well, at least I had something to think about while I had my root canal. Just kidding, I was totally hand-clenching and praying. But it did give me something to think about afterward while I nursed my sore mouth.
If you think that my girlfriend has visited me and found my house to be so spotless that she wants to emulate my cleaning method, you'd be wrong. My house is not perfect and her house is immaculate. I don't even think she needs to spring clean. I think she must secretly have a weekly cleaning lady, but she's just nice enough to ask me to show her how.
My house is really not all that clean. Like Joanie, I have four children and they are very normal, dirty children. And (surprise), I do not enjoy housecleaning, so it's not like I clean in every available moment. I tidy up -- dust, sweep, cleans bathrooms -- once during most weeks, and especially if we are having company, and I deep clean about twice a year, once in the spring, once in the fall. (It's easy to keep track of the last time you deep cleaned if you do it seasonally or bi-annually.) Frankly, houses today get cluttered, but do they really get that dirty? If you stay on top of dust, floor and wall dirt on a weekly basis, probably not. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, however, your house probably gets dirty. Soot is messy stuff and there's no way to avoid it if you burn wood. If you burn a lot of wood you probably need to deep clean four times a year.
As I thought about what I do to deep clean my house, I realized what I do is really not complicated, at all, but it is fairly efficient, and it gets the job done. I learned from my mother. She cleaned twice a year like clock work. And I'll tell you, her bathroom floors are still clean enough to eat off of. Mine are not clean enough to eat off, but they are clean enough to be healthy. Let's shoot for that.
I understand, however, that every woman did not have another woman to teach her how to clean. Some mothers didn't clean very well. Some mothers paid people to clean for them (and then stayed out of the way). If you are in the middle and your mother taught you, thank your mother. It's doesn't come naturally for everyone.
If you love to clean (God bless you), you should own Home Comforts. It is a really lovely book about keeping home. It will inspire you to be a great housekeeper. I learned a lot of what I know about laundry from Home Comforts. The book, however, is a little complicated in the housecleaning area. I want my house to be clean, but I really don't work that hard to make certain I am doing it perfectly. Frankly, the dust falls way too quickly to be meticulous about dusting each week. I make certain it gets done well often enough, tidy up each week, and then I just take off my glasses for the rest (I am legally blind).
To help my friend Joanie, I am giving you a description of what I do during a deep clean. I think it stands without reason that on a normal week you would clean what appears to be dirty. It's not at all rocket science. If you've never participated in a deep clean, however, you might not be sure where to start. I'll tell you where I start.
But first, I would like to say that I do not recommend that you attempt to spring clean in one day or even a few days. If you have a house with, say, three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, maybe a family room, and a couple baths, you'll need at least four to five days in order to not wear yourself out (of course, you'll still be tired). Unless you pack the kids off to grandma's for the week, you still have to cook -- or at least feed your family, and do laundry, and keep the children from killing each other. Don't over do. Take a break to sip some tea and reconnect with the family. Take a breather, throw some laundry in and collect your thoughts about what you've done and what's left to do. If you overdo, you'll be tempted to give up. I highly recommend that you prepare a crock pot meal on a spring cleaning day, or like the women of the South used to do on laundry day, a pot of Red Beans.
Today, I'm going to talk about cleaning the bedroom and the living rooms -- not the kitchen or the baths. For the purpose of writing this post, I am going to talk about bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and family rooms as though they are all the same. Of course bedrooms have beds and not sofas, but they all have approximately the same dirt and dust, wood furniture and stuffed furniture, walls and floors. I treat them differently than bathrooms and the kitchen, but by-and-large the same as each other. I will mention the specific difference (like dealing with the bed or sofas) as I go.
As long as you haven't let anything go too long, they should all be manageable to do in a few a days.
First you have to gather your tools. I use very few tools and very few chemicals. Gather some clean rags -- preferably cotton (old dish towels make great rags and old diapers make great dust cloths), a bucket, a broom (one dedicated to indoors), an old t-shirt (one that shall not be worn again) and a couple of large rubber bands or string/yarn, the vacuum with a clean bag and its attachments, a couple of empty laundry baskets or boxes, white vinegar (or window cleaner) and Murphy's Oil Soap. I also keep one of these Mr. Clean Magic sponges around in my cleaning supplies, but cleanser and a clean sponge will likely perform the same duty, albeit not as quickly or simply.
If you clean your carpets twice a year, this would be the time to do it, but you'll clean carpets on a different day than you clean the room, because you just can't do them at the same time. If you have hardwood floors, you'll need a mop or some knee pads and extra rags. I would do all the floors on another day entirely, after the rooms are clean, of course.
Start by moving furniture away from the walls (get yourself some furniture sliders or find one of these -- don't give yourself a hernia moving furniture). You don't have to move it miles, just enough to get behind it with enough clearance to move around. If you have fragile items on the furniture, put them in the drawers, or place them in an empty box and move it to a closet. As you move things, examine each item that is setting on a horizontal surface and determine if that place is where that item should be. If it should not be setting out, and it belongs in this room, put it away. Anything that does not belong in this room should be placed in a basket or box to be replaced later. Don't leave the room to put things away or you'll lose focus.
If you are in the bedroom, strip the bed down to the mattress because you might as well flip it around now. You'll want to launder the bedding, down to the dust ruffle if necessary, so place the items in a laundry basket now or take them to the laundry room.
If you have drapes or fabric window treatments, think about when was the last time they were cleaned. I wash or dry clean fabric at the windows once a year. If it's not time to take them down, then you'll at least give them a good sweeping with the vacuum attachment. If it is time to clean the drapes, take them down now -- remove the rods and slide them off -- and fold them in on themselves (outer edges in), making an attempt to collect the dust inside the drapes until you can shake them outdoors. Remove them from the room, and shake them outside. If they are washable, take them to the laundry area and put them in the washer, following manufacturer directions. If they are "dry clean only," place them in the car trunk or cargo area of your car for the next trip the dry cleaner. If you have a rod that is exposed, use a damp cloth to wipe the dust off and place it in a corner until your drapes are ready to rehang.
If you have mini blinds or wood blinds, or other non-fabric window treatments, there are a variety of ways to clean them. I only have wood blinds in a few rooms of the house, and the rest are drapes. That's because blinds are a pain to clean, honestly. I clean the wood blinds with warm Murphy's Oil Soap water and a clean rag, top to bottom, side to side. It's tedious and I hate it, but it has to be done. If you have mini blinds, hopefully you have already figured an efficient way to clean them.
After you remove the drapes or clean the blinds, or vacuum the fabric draperies with the sweeper attachment, wash the window with white vinegar water or window cleaner. If you can clean the outside of the window from the inside, do that now also.
With the furniture moved away from the walls, take your broom, an old t-shirt and a couple large rubber bands or string/yarn. Place the t-shirt over the broom top (the neck goes around the handle and the open end is where the bristles stick up. Use a rubber band or string to gather both ends of the t-shirt in a bunch -- one at the end of the broom, and one around the handle.
Use this to sweep the corners of the ceilings and walls to remove cobwebs and gathered dust. Take it all around the perimeter of the room. Of course, you can purchase a duster made for this purpose, but why? You can throw the t-shirt away, or wash it and use the broom for other purposes. If you purchase a brand new broom to spring clean (go ahead -- you deserve a new broom) and keep it dedicated for this purpose, you can also use the broom (because it's clean under the t-shirt) for sweeping off lamp shades and other items.
If you have a ceiling fan, get yourself a bucket of warm Murphy's Oil Soap and water (the soap bottle tells you how much to use) and clean the blades of the fan. Soak a cotton rag and wring it out. Clean the bottom of the blade first, and then the top, rinsing your rag as necessary to remove the dust. You'll change the water in the bucket after your done so don't be shy -- get the fan clean. Also clean any lights that may be attached. If they are really dirty, you should remove the light shades (if they are glass) and wash them in the sink with ammonia water.
Next is the walls, door and window frames. Get a clean bucket of warm Murphy's oil soap water and a clean rag. With a wrung-out rag, wash the surface of the door frames and the doors. If you have paneled doors, they likely have accumulated dust on the "ledges." Rinse your rag as necessary to keep it clean. Clean the door frame and door inside and out, and wipe the door knobs. Wipe down the window frames and the sills. If you have painted wood you won't need to dry the wood, but if you have stained wood, you should.
I do not wash walls from top to bottom, because we don't burn wood. If your walls are relatively clean, except for finger prints and such, clean the spots, using the Mr. Clean eraser if you have stubborn spots. Just move around the perimeter of the room washing as necessary. If you burn wood, you'll have to decide if your walls need to be washed from top to bottom. If they do, just keep a clean bucket of Murphy's Oil Soap water and wring your rag as necessary to keep the walls clean. You don't have to rinse the walls with clear water, but keep your warm water relatively clean or you'll be putting dirt back on the walls. Just wash from top to bottom moving a few feet at a time, around the perimeter of the room. You might be sore tomorrow from all the up and down. Use a sturdy chair or step ladder to get to the top of the wall.
Now it's time to deal with the furniture. If you are in the bedroom, get a strong helper to help you flip the mattress and while you have a helper, have that person help you lift the box spring and mattress and temporarily hold it up so that you can sweep under the box spring, within the bed frame, and behind the bed. Then move the bed frame back against the wall where it belongs. Put the box spring and mattress back in place. (When you flip the mattress flip it head to foot and then flip it over.)
With clean Murphy's Oil Soap water and a clean rag, wring out your rag really well and wash the wood on the bed -- wiping the dust off the wood. You'll want to dry it as well, so you don't leave water spots.
If you are in the living room or family room, or you have stuffed furniture in the bedroom, you'll want to give the stuffed furniture a good sweeping. Use your sweeper attachments and run them over all the surfaces, vertical and hortizontal, of the stuffed chairs and sofas. Remove cushions and sweep under them as well. Sweep behind each stuffed item before you push it back to its original location.
After you finish the bed, or sofas, move to the other furniture in the room, moving around the perimeter of the room. With each piece of furniture, first sweep behind it and move it back to its original location (use your t-shirt broom to remove any dust on unfinished backs of furniture). If there are any items sitting on top of the furniture, move them to a temporary location and then wash each piece of furniture (with warm Murphy's water), horizontal and vertical surfaces, and dry them. Change the water in the bucket as needed.
Wash any mirrors with white vinegar water or window cleaner. Use a clean rag to dust off any picture frames hanging on the walls or any other items hanging on the walls -- dust them all the way around and clean the glass of pictures with window cleaner.
After all of the furniture has been cleaned, and all of the items that sit on the furniture are back in place (they should each be dusted with a damp cloth -- just water), sweep the rest of the room with the vacuum. If you have wood floors, take care cleaning the floors so as to not raise the dust too much. Lamps should be dusted well, either with Murphy's water or a damp cloth. Lamp shades can be swept with a vacuum brush attachment or brushed with clean rag (or your clean broom end -- unscrew it from the handle) outdoors. I have also heard that pet hair remover rollers are good for cleaning flat lampshades but I've never tried it.
If you have built-in bookshelves, remove items from the shelves, starting at the top, removing only the items on one shelf at a time (in case you get pulled away from your job, you don't want everything off the shelves at once). Wash the shelf and dry it, wipe the knickknacks and books with a damp cloth, and replace them. Proceed the same way with all the shelves starting at the top and moving to the bottom. Wash any cabinet fronts as well, and doors or drawer fronts.
After the drapes are clean, replace them, as well as the bedding, taking care not to shake any dusty bedclothes as you do it.
If you plan to steam clean the carpets do that on a day after you have deep cleaned and take care not to mess anything else up. If you have wood floors, use Murphy's Oil Soap water and a clean mop, or wash them on your hands and knees like your grandmother did, again on another day when you can do all the floors at once.
Because your rooms are probably very different from mine, you probably have some questions that I didn't cover. If you 'd like to ask, please feel free to use the com box.
To be continued...