When I think of spring cleaning, I think of Full House’s Danny Tanner getting a little too into the annual spring-cleaning tradition (much to his family’s chagrin). Contrast that with their neighbor Kimmy Gibbler: “We never clean at my house. We move in, trash the place for five years, then move out.”
The key is to make it fun for the whole family. Turn on some music, promise yourself a glass of wine afterward or talk to a friend on a headset while you clean. You can even get the kids excited by making it a competition or a game for them.
And of course, you don’t have to clean every inch and take all of this on at once. If spring and fall cleaning stresses you out, break it down into smaller, doable chunks. “Keep a home maintenance list and once a month pick a really big task,” suggests Pam Helms, chief innovation officer for Caldrea and Mrs. Meyer’s. “You could say, ‘January is my closet month, February is my light fixture month.’ Break it down across the calendar.”
Even if you’re busy and less-than-enthused about cleaning, a spring spruce-up can wipe away the winter blues and give you a fresh start for the summer. To help you out, we’ve ranked the spring-cleaning task list from must-do’s to bonus points do’s so you can pick what works for you—guilt-free.
The Must-Do List
Oven. Before you break out the barbecue, give your oven a once-over. “People go outside to cook more in the summer, so it’s important to do a final cleaning inside before you move outdoors,” says Helms. The black sludge that builds up on the bottom of your oven can be a beast to scrub off, but you can do it naturally: Sprinkle it with baking soda, then spritz it with water and let it sit overnight. In the morning, it should come right off, and if any is still caked on, a regular all-purpose scrub can do the rest.
Refrigerator. The key with the fridge is cleaning the rubber seal around the outside of the door and getting into those little creases. That’s because they get food and mildew buildup, which makes the seal less effective, explains Helms. “The refrigerator becomes less efficient and wastes energy,” she says. While you’re at it, take out all the food and do a thorough wipe-down of each shelf and drawer with some baking soda water.
Air vents. If you have a forced air system, then your air vents collect tons of dust that just gets pushed into the house every time you blast heat or cool air. That’s especially bad if you have allergies. “Pull the grates off and stick a vacuum down there,” says Helms. “And if you have an air filter, then it’s good to change your filter in the springtime as well.”
Mattress. You don’t want to spend all night breathing in dust and dead skin, do you? We didn’t think so. Take this opportunity to give your mattress a thorough cleaning. “Mattresses don’t typically need to be flipped the way they used to,” says Helms, “but you at least need to vacuum it.” To do that, take the mattress off the box-spring and run a handheld vacuum over both of them.
The Maybe-Do List
Ceilings. This is a really easy way to make your space feel brighter and airier. “Ceilings often get overlooked, but if you don’t get to it, it’ll start to look dingy,” notes Helms. Especially when there’s more natural sunlight, you want clean ceilings that reflect the light. To reach that high, you don’t need any fancy tools. Just tie a cloth around the brush of a broomstick and swipe it across the ceiling.
Faucet heads. “Faucet heads tend to get hard water residue that can build up,” explains Helms. To clean them, she suggests applying a little lemon or vinegar—anything acidic—on an old toothbrush and scrubbing away.
Garage floor. During the messy winter months, your car tracks all kinds of salt and dirt into the garage. “The easiest thing to do is to just sweep it out,” says Helms. If you’re ambitious, you could even take a mop to it, but really, it’s a garage, so a little dirt can slide.
Windows. Let in the light by tackling grimy windows. “I always try to take care of my windows in the spring,” says Helms. “It makes such a big difference.” If you don’t have a ladder, you hire someone to come help you or borrow one from a neighbor, but make sure you get the whole window—inside and outside. “It makes the house feel new,” adds Helms.
The Bonus Points List
Bathroom cabinet. You know all those lipsticks you bought and didn’t like? Or the toners and primers you swore you’d use but never did? Time to clean out that overstuffed bathroom cabinet. “Spring is a good time to go through and get rid of products you’re not using,” says Helms. “If you didn’t use them the first time around, you probably won’t now.”
That’s especially true for bottles of medicine and sunblock lingering well past their due dates. “Get rid of all the leftover bottles of lotions and potions and medicines beyond their expiration dates,” says Helms. Would you really want to take expired cough syrup or apply expired sunscreen? We think not.
Light fixtures. “Light fixtures often get overlooked,” says Helms. “We dust the outsides [of lamps], but don’t get up inside the light fixture. Over time, that dust builds up.” Make sure to wipe down the insides of your light fixtures—even the ones that are installed permanently—especially if you have a dust allergy.
Washing machine. Yes, you do need to wash the washing machine. “Especially if you’re a family that does cold water laundry for energy reasons, you can get a buildup of bacteria if you’re not washing in hot water,” explains Helms. To keep it clean, she suggests: “Run super hot water in there and if you want to feel like you’ve sanitized it, then use an oxygen bleach product.” Then you’ll be ready for another energy-saving year.
Junk piles. “The next step beyond cleaning is organizing,” says Helms. She recommends purging all the clothes that you never (or can no longer) wear, the housewares you don’t ever use and the piles of papers you haven’t touched in months. “Getting rid of what you don’t use gives your mind a more advanced state of clarity,” she says. “There’s a great sense of satisfaction when you’re complete.”