With these easy cleaning tips you'll know exactly what to do, how often to do it and what supplies actually work.
Rugs: Carpets need vacuuming every week. For soft synthetics and wool, Lisa Wagner, the brains behind RugChick.com and co-owner of K. Blatchford's San Diego Rug Cleaning & Repair, recommends using an attachment with an air-driven brush or a canister vacuum with suction only to avoid fiber damage. On flat-weave cotton designs, regular hose attachments are fine for grit removal. Handheld horsehair brushes are great for gently picking up pet hair. Homes with regular foot traffic should have carpeting professionally cleaned every 12 to 16 months and wool area rugs sent out for washing (never steam cleaning) every 18 to 24 months.
Hard Floors: A microfiber floor sweeper will pick up grime on hard surfaces. Spills should be dealt with immediately, and uncarpeted floors mopped weekly with hot water or an appropriate cleaner.
Baseboards/Walls: According to Debra Johnson, cleaning expert for Merry Maids, dirty baseboards can lead to allergy problems. The best cleaning tips to avoid allergy problems is to run a damp cloth over moldings monthly if you have pets and at least seasonally if you don't. Remove wall scuffs with a Magic Eraser.
Upholstered Furniture: Use an upholstery brush attachment to remove pet hair and other debris from fabric-covered furniture and curtains once a month. Vacuum beneath cushions and on the underside of your sofa and chairs. Throw pillow covers in the washer. Investment pieces should be professionally cleaned every year or two for longevity.
Refrigerator: Door handles need a daily pass with hot soapy water or a biodegradable disinfecting wipe. "They see germy hands all day long," says Johnson. At the end of each week, toss spoiled leftovers. The fridge interior should get, at the very least, a seasonal deep clean.
Sink: After meals, rinse the basin with dishwashing liquid, then disinfect using a 50-50 solution of rubbing alcohol and water in a spray bottle. When you're handling meat, more thorough sanitizing is needed. Pick a cleaner that suits your sink material: vinegar for stainless steel or diluted bleach for cast iron and ceramic. Flush with hot water to remove residue. To kill odors, feed a few slices of citrus fruit through the garbage disposal periodically or run warm water in the sink and pour 1⁄2 cup baking soda into the disposal, allowing the water to continue to run. Whether you have a disposal or not, keep drains clean by flushing monthly with a solution of 1⁄4 cup baking soda and 1⁄4 cup vinegar mixed with warm water.
Countertops: Give counters a once-over every evening with a cleaner formulated for your surface material. Pay extra attention to dirt and mildew traps around the dish drainer and coffeemaker, says Carolyn Childers, chief home officer at Handy.com.
Garbage Can: When you take out the trash, clean the top and inside of the lid with a wipe. Once a month sprinkle baking soda in the bottom of the can, and leave for 10 minutes before wiping clean. Rinse and dry thoroughly before putting in another bag.
Doormats/Floors: To avoid tracking leaves, mud and other messes throughout the house, sweep exterior entryways and porches monthly. Set two doormats at every entrance, one inside and one outside, and establish a no-shoes rule indoors. Wagner likes wool designs because they grab and disguise dirt well. If you have linoleum, sealed or ceramic floors, deep clean with a steamer on a monthly basis.
Switch Plates/Dooknobs: Swipe these germ collectors with a wipe once a week.
Shower/Tub: Post-shower, turn on the exhaust fan, mist wet surfaces with a cleaner that's specially formulated for bathrooms, and wipe with a microfiber cloth. Clean up splashes on the floor immediately, and if you have glass doors, squeegee them. Scrub down your tub, shower walls and/or shower floor with disinfectant weekly or as often as you can.
Fixtures: Once a week lightly spritz cleanser on faucets and fittings and wait a couple of minutes before buffing. For tough stains on metal or glass, Childers swears by damp used dryer sheets—their anti-static agents work wonders on soap scum.
Toilet: The toilet needs weekly attention. Let products—toilet bowl cleaner inside and a disinfectant on the lid and surrounding surfaces—sit for as long as the products' instructions recommend to kill bacteria, then give all areas a thorough scrub. Always lower the lid before flushing, and don't forget the space behind the toilet, says Johnson, where you should use a handheld vacuum followed by spray sanitizer. When you're finished, soak the toilet brush in a cup of bleach for about 15 minutes.
Textiles: Childers puts fabric shower curtains and bath rugs through a monthly gentle cycle with laundry detergent and a cup of baking soda. Add some towels to the load for friction to help remove gunk. After washing, let the curtain and rugs air-dry.
Floors: Vacuum or sweep with a microfiber tool to pick up dust as needed. Damp mop or steam clean monthly. "Floor steamers are great because they don't require harsh chemicals to sanitize," says Johnson.
Bed: Pillow covers, duvets, sheets and comforters should be changed weekly, or more frequently if pets share your bed. Wash everything in hot water, and consider vacuuming your mattress before putting on fresh linens. Swipe the areas under your bed frame and behind the headboard with a long-handled dusting tool once a week.
Ceiling Fan: Every other week gently slide an old pillowcase over each fan blade. Let any dust settle, then slide the case off. Give it a good shake outside, then toss it in the laundry.
Photo Credit: Bryan E. McCoy