The Best Spring Cleaning Tips of 2018

All the minute-by-minute know-how, products and motivation you need to slay the process this year. Plus, five get-it-done ideas from expert Jennifer Lifford. 

 


1 of 9

The Stove

clean white kitchen

Photo by Anthony Masterson

Photo by Anthony Masterson

Set the timer: 30 minutes
Prep your supplies: 

  • dishwasher
  • vinegar
  • soft sponge
  • baking soda
  • spatula

Have a gas stove with enamel-coated metal grates that get covered in gunk? Lucky you. “Pop them off and put them in the dishwasher,” says Beth Allen, a Philadelphia area–based home improvement expert and founder of HIP Chicks. While they’re cycling, spray the entire stovetop with a one-to-one vinegar and water mix, then wipe with a soft sponge. Rub a paste of vinegar and baking soda on any caked-on crud, then scrape off with a plastic spatula. Electric stovetops will also sparkle after a vinegar and water spray-and-wipe. If you’re considering anything stronger, Allen advises double-checking your owner’s manual for manufacturer’s recommendations.

Most important: Refrain from steel wool or harsh scrubbers, which can leave swirl marks on stainless steel.

Related: The Best Cleaning Products You Can Buy Right Now


2 of 9

The Refrigerator

cleaning bathtub illustration

Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

Set the timer: 45-60 minutes
Prep your supplies: 

  • dish soap
  • all-purpose cleaner
  • sponge or dish brush 
  • drying cloth 
  • toothbrush 

“Put on your sweats and some great music—fridge cleaning is a form of cardio!” says Max Kater, founder of Los Angeles–based Murchison-Hume cleaning products. Fill your sink or tub with hot water and a squirt of soap while you empty the contents onto a table. (Trash anything past its prime.)

Remove all shelves and bins and carefully place in sudsy H2O to soak.

Next, spray the entire fridge with all-purpose cleaner. (Kater recommends her all-natural food-safe product, Counter Safe; murchison-hume.com, from $9.) Next, “Shut the door. Time + chemical + action is the secret formula to the best clean,” Kater says. Meanwhile, scrub shelves with a sponge or dish brush and dry with a lint-free cloth. (Kater’s pick: Ikea’s Tekla Dish Towel; ikea.com, $1.) Wipe down fridge walls with cloth and attack crumb-filled seals with a toothbrush and all-purpose cleaner, then slide components back into place. 

PRO TIP
Jennifer Lifford, creator of the lifestyle blog Clean & Scentsible says:

"For years I searched high and low for a so-called perfect cleaning schedule—meaning, I would know exactly what needed to be done and when, and my house would sparkle and shine. As a mom of two kids, I eventually realized that schedule just doesn’t exist. Unexpected events pop up. Messes happen. So I decided to try a different approach that involves a reality check, a little effort each day and help from my family. It works well for me. Perhaps it will for you too."


3 of 9

The Shower Grout

clean white shower

Photo by Anthony Masterson

Photo by Anthony Masterson

Set the timer: 90 minutes
Prep your supplies: 

  • grout scraping
  • tool or sandpaper
  • bleach
  • toothbrush
  • sealant
  • paintbrush

First things first, know thy grout. It’s the lines between tiles, not the gummy stuff at the joints between tile and wall or tub. (That’s caulk, which doesn’t respond to bleach and should just be scraped out and replaced every five years.) If you’ve been unsuccessfully fighting grout stains for ages, try Allen’s move: Start the process by rubbing a grout saw (or folded sandpaper) over grout lines to shear off the top layer and expose a cleaner layer underneath. Next, use diluted bleach (per label instructions) and a toothbrush to scrub in the direction of the grout lines. Rinse and let dry 30 minutes with the bathroom fan on, if you have one. Then apply sealant with a paintbrush, which will make your next go-round much easier. Allen recommends Aqua Mix brand.


4 of 9

The Shower Walls

cleaning shower illustration

Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

Set the timer: 30 minutes
Prep your supplies:   

  • bathroom cleaning spray
  • sponge
  • aluminum foil 
  • glass cleaner

Step one: “Get in the nuddy,” says Kater. (That’s Australian slang for “nude.”) Remove all toiletries so you have total access. Spray ceiling and walls, top to bottom, with bathroom cleaning spray. (To keep that nuddy body extra safe, her pick is Boys’ Bathroom Cleaner; murchison-hume.com, from $9.) Wipe everything with a sponge, then turn on the shower to wash it all (and yourself). “Now for the miracle,” Kater says. Crumble foil into a ball and attack the chrome showerhead and knobs: It’s just abrasive enough to remove soap scum without leaving scratch marks. Turn off shower, dry off, then finish the hardware and glass with glass cleaner (such as Premium Glass Cleaner; murchison-hume.com, $9). 

PRO TIP

"Develop—and stick to!—a reasonable daily cleaning routine. My bare-minimum regimen takes about 15 minutes in the morning and around 40 at night. (I’m not a morning person, so I prefer to keep the a.m. very basic and tackle more in the evenings. Obviously, you should figure out what works best for you!) This overall routine keeps the house relatively tidy. —Jennifer Lifford

Morning Routine 

  • Make bed
  • Empty dishwasher
  • Start load of laundry
  • Straighten up kitchen 

Evening Routine 

  • Fold and put away laundry
  • Quickly tidy up kitchen 
  • Set timer for 15-minute “everyone” power clean
  • Wipe bathroom counters
  • Run dishwasher
  • Load dirty clothes in washer (turn on in a.m.)

5 of 9

The Blinds & Window Screens

clean bedroom

Blinds

Set the timer: 60 minutes
Prep your supplies:   

  • dish soap
  • tool kit
  • vacuum with brush attachment or Swiffer
  • soft sponge
  • towel

Yes, it’s possible to clean your blinds while they’re up on the windows, but if you’re doing this only once a year, why not do it 100%? Saudia Davis, founder and CEO of GreenHouse Eco-Cleaning in New York City, advises filling the tub a quarter of the way with warm water and adding dish soap to make suds. While the blinds are still hanging, vacuum with a brush attachment to remove dust (dry Swiffering works too). Uninstall blinds, soak in the tub for 15 minutes, then wipe with a non-abrasive sponge. Rinse and lay on a towel to dry. Wipe slats one by one to protect against water stains. Note: If cleaning metal blinds, lay a towel in the tub to prevent scratches. Skip the soak for wood blinds—a simple soapy sponge wipe-down will do the job.

Window Screens

Set the timer: 10 minutes per screen
Prep your supplies:    

  • pressure washer or dish soap and water mixture
  • sponge
  • nylon scrub brush

Winter dirt and dust followed by spring pollen means your screens are ripe for a good wash. Melissa Maker, the expert behind the Clean My Space YouTube channel (and book by the same name), recommends popping out screens and blasting them in the yard with a pressure washer. (Just make sure screens can handle the pressure by testing first.) If you don’t have that tool, soak a sponge in soapy water and wring it out over the screens until they’re saturated. Swap your sponge for a nylon scrub brush and scrub each screen top to bottom. After rinsing with the hose, let screens air-dry thoroughly before putting them back in place. (You don’t want mold forming in your window tracks.)


    6 of 9

    The Mirrors

    cleaning mirror illustration

    Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

    Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

    Set the timer: 10 minutes per mirror
    Prep your supplies:  

    • vinegar
    • rubbing alcohol
    • cotton swab
    • squeegee

    Spanking-clean mirrors bounce more light around a space and just make it feel so much cleaner. DIY an easy cleaning solution with this formula from Davis: Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar, rubbing alcohol and water, then spray the mirror top to bottom. Cotton swab the corners to de-gunk before running a rubber-tipped squeegee down the face in vertical strokes, holding your squeegee at a 45-degree angle


    7 of 9

    The Ceiling Fans

    cleaning ceiling fan illustration

    Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

    Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

    Set the timer: 10 minutes per mirror
    Prep your supplies:  

    • ladder
    • vacuum with brush attachment
    • microfiber cloth

    Maybe you’ve seen online videos of people cleaning their fans with socks. Maker has a better plan. “I’m not sharing a hack,” she says. “I’m sharing the quickest and best way to do this.” That means climbing your ladder and using a vacuum with brush attachment to go over each blade, top, then bottom, so the dust doesn’t waft to the ground, creating an additional cleaning task. Once all the dirt’s been sucked away, wipe each blade with a damp microfiber cloth; use the same cloth to carefully wipe any lightbulbs and decorative extras. 

    PRO TIPS

    Stash cleaning supplies as close as possible to where they’ll get used. As in, it’s much easier to sweep the front entryway if there’s a broom nearby. Ditto on giving the toilet a quick scrub if there’s a brush right there. Doing these simple tasks regularly—most of them take only a minute or two—will really reduce how often you need to do a top-to-bottom deep clean.

    Be happy with ‘clean enough.’ Your house doesn’t have to be perfect (and likely won’t ever be)! Rather than strive for an unreasonable ideal, focus on areas that make the most impact. Making sure every little speck of dirt is up off the floor or dusting hard-to-reach places requires too much time on an average day. Relegate those tasks to when you’re ready to devote a day to deep cleaning. —Jennifer Lifford


    8 of 9

    The Laptop

    cleaning laptop illustration

    Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

    Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

    Set the timer: 8-10 minutes per mirror
    Prep your supplies:   

    • rubbing alcohol
    • flat weave microfiber cleaning cloth 
    • compressed air

    Maker is a big believer in routine maintenance. Cleaning your tech prolongs its life and helps protect against annoyances like stuck keys, which always seem to happen at the most inopportune times. Combine equal parts water and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and spritz on a flat weave microfiber cleaning cloth. (Maker sells Glass & Electronics Cloth; makersclean.com, $19/2.) Never, ever, ever spray the device directly! Verify that the unit is powered down, then wipe screen in an S pattern, starting from the top left corner and zigzagging until you hit the bottom right corner to ensure you don’t miss a spot. Spray keyboard with compressed air from a can, then tip it upside down to dump out any stubborn crumbs or dust. Finally, wipe down the exterior with your original, still slightly damp, microfiber cloth. 


    9 of 9

    The Car Upholstery

    cleaning car upholstery

    Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

    Illustration by Jessica Meyrick

    Set the timer: 60 minutes per mirror
    Prep your supplies: 

    • carpet cleaner
    • brush
    • quarters or vacuum with hose attachment

    The first secret to a clean car interior? Sprinkle carpet cleaning powder (Allen’s choice: Capture brand) on upholstered seats and mats. Brush and let sit for half an hour. Then get to work with your local car wash’s self-service vacuum and a few quarters or your own vacuum’s hose attachment. You’re not just going after the obvious crumbs; you’ve got to really go at it, making overlapping stripes to make sure you suck up all the residue from the cleaner, which can attract more dirt if left behind. If your cleaning mission has brought you in contact with car pests (ants are common), place cardboard under your tires, aka ant ladders, and spray them down with water infused with a few drops of peppermint and tea tree essential oils to ward off any unwelcome visitors.

    PRO TIPS

    Include the whole family. Unless you live alone, you shouldn’t be the only one cleaning! We set a timer for a 15-minute family power clean each night. The kids are responsible for picking up anything of theirs that’s lying around the house and cleaning up their rooms. I start by quickly going around and putting away anything that’s out of place, then use whatever time remains for extra cleanups, like if a room really needs to be vacuumed or a toilet could use a good scrubbing. The point is for every family member to devote 15 minutes to the greater good of a clean house. It’s really not too much to ask by any means.

    Encourage everyone to tidy up as they go. This may seem obvious, but it’s something many of us don’t police consistently. Putting things away throughout the day doesn’t require much time but definitely makes the difference between a neat(er) house and a messy one at the end of any given day. Put dirty clothes right in the hamper and used dishes in the dishwasher, not on the counter. These types of easy-enough little habits can save a ton of cleanup in the end!—Jennifer Lifford