13 Spring-Cleaning Tips
It's spring-cleaning time. To make things a little easier, we have 13 tips that will help you keep your house in tip-top shape any time of year
Taking Care of Stainless Steel
To keep your stainless steel bright and clean, Adam Kamens of Amuneal Manufacturing Corp. suggests using a light mist of wax-based aerosol spray once or twice a week. Don't put on too much — you don't want to soak the surface and make it greasy. Wipe the mist with a clean, lint-free cloth, and never use oils to keep away fingerprints — lint will stick to the oil. Also, don't use cleaners with bleach after you've put on the waxy layer, or it will dry out and lose some of the luster. And finally, don't use anything abrasive, not even mild products like Soft Scrub or Scotch-Brite pads. You don't want to scratch or ruin the surface.
Organizing your closet is the first step to organizing the rest of your home. Get rid of unused clothes and accessories, and organize the rest by how you get dressed in the morning and by color. Your closet will look appealing, and your everyday routine will be easier.
Removing Stains and Odors
Ruth Travis, president of the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification, says that to remove stains and odors, blot up as much of the smelly mess as you can right away. While you're blotting the upholstery, put a plastic liner or a garbage bag between the cushion and the fabric so you don't push the contaminant into the cushion. Then flush with cold water as best you can. Blot and flush again. Cold water doesn't set stains as much as hot water. You can also use a portable spot cleaner or wet/dry vac. If there's still a residual odor, use a half-vinegar, half-water solution and rinse again. If that doesn't work, call in the professionals.
Cleaning Painted Walls
To clean your painted walls, Carl Minchew, director of Product Development at Benjamin Moore, suggests starting with a clean cloth or sponge and water. If that doesn't work, dip the rag or sponge into water mixed with a little dishwashing liquid, the milder the better. If the stain persists, apply a few drops of soap directly onto the wet sponge or cloth you're using. For more stubborn cases, you could apply a little soap right onto the stain. If you need to resort to a stronger product like Fantastik or Formula 409, realize they have strong solvents in them and can soften the paint surface. Make sure that whatever you do to get rid of the stain, you rinse the wall afterward with plain water.
Creating a Different Mood
For easy makeovers, designer Thomas O'Brien says, "I've always collected textiles, and you can make a fast, easy change with bedding, towels, and table linens to create a different mood. Switch things out seasonally, or for a special event, or whenever you want to play with a certain color or pattern."
Cleaning Your Carpet
To keep carpets looking nice, Paul Iskyan, owner of Rug Renovating, suggests taking off your shoes when you get home — but leave your socks on because walking around in bare feet leaves natural oils that attract dirt. Try to vacuum every day and use a top-load vacuum, so the dirt falls inward, and HEPA filters. Change the filters often, so you don't blow pollutants back into the air. For less-trafficked areas, you can get away with cleaning the carpets once or twice a year, and every 18 months for a bedroom. For higher-traffic areas, the most often you'd need to bring in professionals would be three or four times a year, although once you see that your carpet's dirty, you probably should have it cleaned for health reasons.
Caring for Your Tiles
Marty Hoffman of Hoffman Brothers Floors suggests cleaning bathroom and kitchen tiles with a cleaner that has "neutral pH" on the label. You can also mix baking soda and water for a homemade cleaner: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into 2 gallons water and mix very well. Then apply the liquid with a string mop or sponge mop. For grout, use the same baking soda and water mixture, but for tough stains, call in the
Removing Stains from Countertops
Getting rid of stains on granite can be tricky, but the key, according to kitchen designer Florence Perchuk, is to wipe up stains ASAP. Also have your countertop sealed a few times as soon as it's installed. You'll know it's sealed properly when water beads and forms droplets on the surface. Then have it sealed again a year later. You can poultice away rust, and you remove soap scum or mildew with a solution of 1/2 cup ammonia in a gallon of water. For most coffee or juice stains, you can use a little hydrogen peroxide in water, plus a few drops of ammonia. For everyday wear-and-tear, buff away small scratches with superfine dry steel wool, called "grade 0000." For all other stains, check out the Marble Institute of America's Website or call in the professionals.
Sort books by size and subject. Remove and discard any ripped dust jackets (unless you think they might have value). Line books, some vertically, some horizontally, in a rhythmic pattern. This will relieve the monotony of rows.
Caring for Your Area Rugs
Philip Costikyan of Restoration by Costikyan says you should clean your area rugs every four or five years — or every 10 years if a rug is not walked on much. Overcleaning contributes to wear and tear. Really fine silk rugs need be cleaned only every 20 or 30 years. For treating stains at home, keep a bottle of club soda on hand. Stains caused by pets, coffee, orange soda, red wine, and anything with dye or an acid base are the hardest to remove, and the key is to act quickly. Pour club soda directly onto the area, let the soda absorb into the yarn, and the salt in the soda will neutralize the acid. Blot again and again, until the residue is gone. For bloodstains, you should use milk instead, and for soil and grease-based stains, mix 1 part Ivory soap detergent with 16 parts water. If you still see residue when it dries, call an expert.
Caring for Wood Floors
The keys to keeping your wood floors looking new are to avoid oversanding, use trivets or saucers under plants to avoid water damage, use furniture protectors to avoid scratches, and damp-mop once a week with a mild soap like Murphy Oil Soap.
Metal restorer Paul Karner says to use a toothbrush and Hagerty Silver Foam on your silver because it's not too abrasive and it's water-soluble. For really bad black tarnish, Simichrome Polish is great. He also says to never put your silver in the dishwasher and store it in anti-tarnish cloth bags when you're not using it.
Cleaning Done Right
Designer Joe Nye suggests you make the most out of the time you set aside clean. "Clean your house. And I mean really clean it," he says. "Polish silver, wash windows, wipe down the light bulbs in your lamps, wipe down the walls. Everything will gleam and glisten. The effect will be cathartic and make you feel like you have accomplished something."