With spring just around the corner, we’re all looking forward to warmer temperatures and a little more sunshine. Of course, with all that sunshine streaming through the windows highlighting the messes that tend to build up in the winter, we’re also going to have to face a few hard facts – namely, that spring cleaning time is here.
After months of having our kitchens wrecked by holiday happenings, watching snow-covered boots traipse across the floors, and staring through closed windows streaked with rainy-day residue, many of us are ready for a good spring cleaning. But unless you’re one of those people who find a Marie Kondo-like joy in cleaning, you might find yourself dreading the tasks that lie ahead. Plus, with busy spring schedules already starting to pick up, who has time to clean, right?
Fortunately, cleaning doesn’t have to be that hard or time consuming thanks to some simple cleaning hacks that utilize tools and supplies you most likely already have around the house. To help you get started on your spring cleaning projects, we’ve made a list of some of our favorite (and most effective) cleaning hacks.
From the kitchen to the bathroom and everywhere in between, we’ve targeted some of the toughest and most dreaded chores, finding simple, and often natural solutions for cleaning away months of built-up dirt, dust, and grime.
Take a look at our Spring Break Cleaning Hacks for great ideas, tips, and solutions for some of your most stubborn stains and tricky tasks, and start your spring off with a clean house and a clear mind!
Like any major undertaking, the first step is to get organized. For the projects we’ve outlined below, you’ll want to start with a few basic supplies. In addition to any of your standard cleaning supplies and solutions, we’ve listed the additional items you’ll want to have on hand for each task.
To keep yourself on track (and to avoid having to run all over the house), we suggest investing in a few buckets or caddies that will allow you to keep all of your supplies together. To further simplify, you may even want to keep a separate bucket or caddy in key places (i.e., under kitchen and bathroom sinks) and fill them with the specific items needed to clean that particular space. Keep a few extra clean cloths and/or paper towels in with your supplies to make quick touch-ups and maintenance cleaning a breeze.
Now that you’re organized, let’s get started!
The kitchen is undoubtedly one of the most utilized rooms in any home and, therefore, also one of the hardest to keep clean. Due to the nature of food prep, kitchens are going to get messy. Add to that kids who somehow can’t see the mess they leave behind, and you’ll find that kitchens require a lot of TLC to stay tidy and, most importantly, sanitary. Here are a few ideas for tackling some of the bigger kitchen cleaning requirements.
Supplies: Water, vinegar, baking soda, press and seal plastic wrap, rubbing alcohol (for stainless steel), olive oil (for stainless steel)
Cleaning Inside the Fridge
No matter how careful you are, refrigerators can become downright gross. Food and liquids spill, turning into dried up messes that are hard to get rid of without a little elbow grease. But no one wants harsh chemicals near their food, so next time you need to do a fridge clean up, empty your shelves, but skip chemical cleaners and detergents (which can make food taste funny) and use a simple solution of water and vinegar instead. The vinegar will cut through grime and is 100% safe to use around food.
For tough, dried up stains, sprinkle with baking soda, dampen with a little water, let sit for 10 minutes, and wipe away. Baking soda is a gentle scrubber and won’t damage surfaces.
To keep your shelves clean, especially for those of us (by which I mean ME) who don’t always wipe up a mess as soon as it’s made, we LOVE this idea from Mommysavers. Simply line your clean shelves with a press and seal plastic wrap. Then all you have to do is remove and replace when the time comes!
Quick organization tip:
Fridge spills happen most often when people are trying to find items in the back of the fridge and knock other containers over in the process. To make finding things in your fridge easier, try adding a lazy Susan to shelves for easy access to everything.
Cleaning Stainless Steel
If you have a stainless steel fridge, fingerprints are most likely the bane of your existence. To keep your stainless steel smudge- and streak-free, try this simple cleaning routine from Better Homes and Gardens. Wipe down the surface with a damp microfiber cloth and dry immediately. Follow up with rubbing alcohol on tough spots or smudges. Then, once a month, use olive oil (yes, olive oil!) to keep the surface shiny and smudge-free. Watch the tutorial below for more.
Stove Tops, Burner Grates or Pans, and Oven Racks
Supplies: Water, dryer sheets, ammonia, baking soda, dish soap / detergent
The only thing worse than having to clean up your stove after a busy week of rushed dinners is cleaning up your stove after a 12-year old attempts to make macaroni and cheese. Either way, you’re going to be left facing sauces, stains, and food that has not only dried up, but caked on to your stove top.
Many cleaners are abrasive and will damage your stove top, particularly if you have a glass or ceramic stove top, but getting caked on gunk off the stove often takes more than a soapy sponge.
Simply place dryer sheets flat on the stove so that the entire surface is covered. Wet the sheets down with water, let them stand for 10-15 minutes, then use them to wipe away dried up gunk. For tougher stains, use a little baking soda and water to soften the stain, then use a gentle scrubbing sponge to clean up the last of the mess. For the full tutorial, check out these tips at DoItYourself.com.
Dryers sheets can also be used to clean stove grates and oven racks. The folks at Apartment Therapy suggest removing the grates and/or and placing them in the bathtub with enough warm water to cover them. Use a healthy squirt of detergent to create some suds, and place dryer sheets in the tub. Let the concoction sit over night (or at least several hours), then drain the water and use the wet dryer sheets to wipe grime away like magic. Get the full tutorial here.
(P.S. Dryer sheets can also be used to get tough stain off of baking pans! Put a dryer sheet on the pan, fill it with water, and let it sit for several hours. Stains will wipe away with ease!)
Another easy way to clean gas range grates and burner tops is this tip from One Good Thing. Simply place grates and burner tops in large Ziploc bags filled with ammonia (and reseal to keep fumes at bay), let sit over night, then use a soapy sponge to easily wipe grime away in the morning.
Baking Soda and Detergent
For burner pans on an electric stove, Savor + Savvy suggests a paste of detergent and baking soda. Coat the pans with the mixture, let sit in plastic bags overnight, then scrub with a non-abrasive scrubber in the morning.
Supplies: Vegetable oil or coconut oil, baking soda, grease cutting detergent (like Dawn), white vinegar
Kitchen cabinets are the unsung heroes of the kitchen. Not only do they help you stay organized and provide a way to hide clutter from your kitchen counters, they also take the brunt of grimy build-up, spills, and smudgy fingerprints. And if you’ve ever caught sight of your cabinets as the lovely spring sun hits them just right, then you know all too well the greasy, grimy, dusty build-up that accumulates, particularly if they’re near the stove top or oven.
Whether you have wooden, painted, or laminate cabinets, you have to be careful when choosing cleaning products and tools, as abrasive materials can damage the surface of your cabinets. To help you remove greasy, grimy residue, here are a few natural methods you can use to safely, efffectively, and quickly restore your cabinets to their pre-lived-in look:
Vegetable or Coconut Oil and Baking Soda
For an all-natural cleaning solution that will make kitchen grime all but disappear, we love this tip from Number 2 Pencil. Using baking soda and an oil like vegetable oil or coconut oil, making a paste then gently wipe it across your cabinets. You can use an old toothbrush to get around cabinet or drawer handles, then simply wipe it away with a soft cloth or paper towel and watch the grime disappear. Plus, if you have wooden cabinets, the oil will provide a natural conditioner and restore non-greasy shine.
Detergent and White Vinegar
For another quick and effective cabinet cleaning idea, try this method from Hunker, a home design and DIY website. They suggest starting simple with a grease-cutting detergent, such as Dawn, and some water to wipe cabinets down. For tough spots, you can use a little baking soda applied directly to the build-up to break it down without damaging the finish. Next, add some white vinegar to your water/detergent mix to get the surfaces completely grime-free. (Note: they suggest using some borax, as well, if you need to be really aggressive, but this is optional). For the final touch, dry the cabinets and add a coat of lemon, orange, mineral oil for a perfect shine and future protection.
Supplies: Lemon and water
Microwaves are a staple appliance for busy families. This means they see a lot of use – and a lot of messes. To quickly and naturally clean those mini-food explosions that occur daily (then dry up and cake-on) in your microwave, Lifehacker has a simple solution. Squeeze two lemon halves into a bowl of water, add the lemon rinds, microwave for three minutes, let sit for five, then wipe away the mess! The lemon and steam from the heated water will loosen even the toughest spots, but if you need to scrub a bit more, simply use a cloth dipped in the lemon water to remove the any lingering mess.
Now its time to move on to the most dreaded of household chores: cleaning the bathroom. This is especially true if you have toddlers, older kids, or teens…ok, let’s rephrase that….if you have kids of any age. Bathrooms can get downright gross. So here are a few tips to make that unpleasant chore a little more bearable:
Shower and Tub
Supplies: Vinegar, Borax (optional), grapefruit, sea salt, baby oil, Alka-Seltzer tablets, Kool-Aid powder
Mold, mildew, hard water stains, soap scum…the list is endless when it comes to things that plague our showers and tubs. But with a few household items and some patience, you can tackle these things with ease.
Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew are a fact of life. But no one wants harsh cleaners around their kids, not do they want to spend a whole afternoon scrubbing at stubborn stains. For quick, safe mold and mildew removal, we turned to Mindful Mama for all-natural shower and tub cleaning solutions. She suggests spraying everything down with straight vinegar to kill mold spores. Follow up with a baking soda (or borax) paste and scrub tough stains with a toothbrush. Finally, go for the kill and bleach the toughest stains with a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, scrub if needed, then let it dry and watch stains vanish.
Just keep in mind that scrubbing at grout and caulking too much can break it down, so use a toothbrush or soft scrub brush. Also, if stains have already set in, you may just need to replace your grout and caulk and use maintenance methods to prevent future stains.
For mold prevention, try Mindful Mama’s homemade mold and mildew spray.
Hard Water Stains
Hard water stains, including lime scale, mineral build-up, hard water deposits, etc., are frustrating no matter what you call them. They’re the leftover gunk that gathers around faucets and drains and in all the crevices you just can’t seem to get clean. To attack this problem easily and naturally, we turned to Jillee from One Good Thing once again.
Simply soak some rags in vinegar and wrap them around or lay them on the problem areas. Let them sit for an hour, then wipe up the mess that will, now, lift away easily.
To get your bathtub and sinks clean without abrasive cleaners or harmful chemicals, turn to the produce section of your grocery store. Using a grapefruit cut in half and some kosher salt, this all-natural cleaning solution from Pure Wow will have your tubs and sinks gleaming – and smelling pretty nice, too. Simply coat one-half of a grapefruit with salt, then scrub soap and grime away. You don’t even need a sponge!
Clearing Slow Drains
We’ve all had that moment when we’ve been standing in the shower and suddenly realized that the water has gathered around our ankles. Slow drains happen. Hair and other gunk naturally accumulates in drains and even the most hard-core “drain cleaners” can’t seem to make it budge. To get your drains back to working order, Giraffe Legs has a simple, if not a little icky, solution. You’ll want a pair of cleaning gloves for this one, but it’s worth it.
All you need is some small pliers, a screwdriver for removing the stopper or drain, and some vinegar and baking soda. Get the full tutorial here.
NOTE: If pliers don’t work to get clogs that are a little further down the drain, try an bent wire clothes hanger (make a hook at the end) or our personal favorite – the Zip-It, a plastic tool designed for this exact job. Zip-It is available at most home improvement stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot, or on Amazon.
Vinegar and Baking Soda
Once the drains are cleared of major clogs, our some baking soda down the drain, then add some vingar until it fizzes to the top. Let it sit for a bit, then use super hot water to rinse. This will help clear up residue and disinfect.
As it turns out, Alka-Seltzer tablets can be useful for more than just upset tummies. These tiny wonder tablets can also make cleaning a breeze. Jillee at One Good Thing brings us this idea for using Alka-Seltzer to clean drains and even toilets. To clean a drain, drop a tablet down, add vinegar, let sit, then rinse with boiling water. Get the full instructions, as well as other uses for Alka-Seltzer here.
Shower Head Cleaning
Like all other parts of your tubs, sinks, and drains, shower heads can get clogged up by hard water and natural build-up. To clean them quickly and easily without scrubbing, we like this idea from Waterpik. simply wrap a baggie filled with vinegar (or ammonia) around the shower head and attach it with a rubber band. Let it sit for a few hours and voila – a clean shower head!
As much as we wish there were a magic spell that would instantly clean a toilet with us having to touch it, there’s only so much you can do. However, there are some creative solutions to getting a clean toilet bowl with a minimum of effort. Here are our favorites
As we mentioned above, One Good Thing by Jillee suggests Alka-Seltzer for a number of cleaning hacks – including the toilet. Just drop two tablets in the bowl, let it sit while the fizzing magic does its work, then clean away the loosened up stains and build-up.
Ok, we know this sounds unconventional, but wait for it. Kool-Aid powder has acids in it that will break down hard water stains and other funky toilet build-up. But don’t take our word for it. Watch the YouTube tutorial from HomeTalk here:
Other Useful Bathroom Hacks
- Use baby oil or a cooking spray (like Pam) to polish and clean faucets and fixtures
- Use a lemon cut in half to remove soap stains and build up on faucets and fixures
- Wash shower liners (you may want a little bleach) instead of replacing them
- Clean exhaust fans with a can of compressed air like that used to clean computer keyboards
- Use a bleach pen for targeted stain and mold removal
- Paint the bottom of aluminum cans (shaving cream, etc) with clear nail polish to avoid rust rings
Hacks For the Rest of the House
While kitchens and bathrooms are often the most time-consuming of household cleaning chores, the rest of the house can pose some difficulties, too. Here are some tips and tricks for a few of those more cumbersome cleaning tasks:
Supplies: Window cleaner, cornstarch, a small foam paint brush, Rain-Ex, Woolite, a mop or long-handled cleaning brush
There’s nothing like some sunshine to show you just how dirty your windows are. But cleaning windows is fun – said no one ever. To help make this dreaded chore just a bit easier, we looked to Of Life + Lisa for the ultimate list of window cleaning hacks. Her handy hacks include things like:
- Cleaning windows on a cloudy day to reduce streaks
- Using a bit of cornstarch to help remove grime
- Cleaning window tracks with a foam paint brush
- Applying Rain-Ex to maintain clean windows for longer
- Using Woolite and a mop for exterior windows
To see all of her useful tips, click here.
Helpful Hint for Screens:
For screens, try using a lint brush or vacuum attachment to remove dust, without having to remove the screens.
Cleaning the blinds can sometimes feel like an effort in futility. Using a duster simply spreads dust everywhere else. To keep effectively remove dust from blinds without sending it all over the rest of the house, try these tips:
One Crazy House suggests wrapping cleaning cloths sprayed with a cleaning solution around kitchen tongs. Attach the cloths with rubberbands and simply pinch each blind with the tongs and wipe.
Supplies: Kitchen tongs, cleaning cloths, rubberbands, and cleaning spray
The Today Show brings us this useful hack – wrap your hand in an old sock, wet it with some white vinegar and water, then wipe along each blind to remove dust and dirt without spreading it.
Supplies: a sock, vinegar, and water
A couple of notes:
If cleaning wooden blinds, be sure to dry them quickly if using a water solution as too much moisture can damage them. And for cloth blinds, use a vacuum attachment to remove dust and dirt.
Dryer sheets have already proven effective in the kitchen (and can be used to freshen just about anything in the house) – now it’s time to use them for dusting! Not only will they naturally attract dust, they’ll leave a fresh clean smell behind. This tip is especially helpful for attacking baseboards, which are a natural magnet for dust, dirt, and other household debris.
Pet Hair on Furniture
Removing pet hair from furniture (even after you’ve TOLD the dog he’s not allowed on the couch) can seem like a full-time job. Even the most powerful vacuums seem to have a hard time getting those fine hairs off the upholstery. For a quick and easy way to get even the most stuck-on fur, try using Apartment Therapy’s rubber glove hack. Just wipe the hair away – and keep the rubber glove handy, because you’ll need it again soon…that’s the price of loving a pet.
As always, if you have suggestions or ideas that we might have overlooked, let us know! Drop us a line any time at firstname.lastname@example.org