Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Top to Bottom (Easy, Natural) Spring Clean

Spring officially begins (in the Northern hemisphere at least) on Monday.  No matter what the groundhog says or what the weather is, according to the calendar spring is arriving.  So tell me - do you spring clean?  You know, like Danny Tanner, purging and organizing and opening windows and getting every last bit of dirt out of the house?

I do.  I love it.  Sure, it takes some time and cleaning details can be a pain in the butt, but the end result is a totally fresh house which is definitely worth it to me.  So let me tell you about how I've spring cleaned in the past and specifically how I'll be working on our home this year.  Because this year it involves all green and natural - and minimal! - cleaning supplies.  Basically, I clean everything in my house with water, vinegar, baking soda, rubbing alcohol/vodka, and lemon.  A few particularly dirty things might call for a drop of castille soap but for the most part, I can do without.

Step 1. Purge

Start with the initial purge.  I say initial purge because it's not ALL of the things that will be leaving the house during this time.  It's just a big sweep through the main areas, without getting bogged down by too much detail.  The less you have in your home, the less you have to clean and organize, so it makes sense to get as much out as possible in one go.  During my first sweep, I look at stuff that's been bugging me as well as big things, perhaps furniture.  (We don't have any to get rid of in our house this time, but I did in previous apartments.)  I gather up all the things that I don't need to mull over, the things I know 100% are leaving.  Then, I purge the details by space.  Kitchen cabinets one day, my bathroom drawers and under the sink another.  The amount of time I spend on this step depends on my schedule in general, but I do the first big sweep in one day, and then focus on one or two areas each week day until I'm finished.  As a minimalist, this doesn't take long, but I still start well before the actual dates I plan on cleaning.  So, now.

Step 2. Gather Cleaning Supplies

All Purpose Spray - Water and Vinegar.  About a 1:1 ration, or maybe slightly more water.  I'm really not picky about it.  This cleans everything and the vinegar smell will dissipate once it dries.
Glass Cleaner - Water, Vinegar, and Rubbing Alcohol (or Vodka).  I feel like I just get a better streak-free clean on my mirrors when I add the rubbing alcohol.
Toilet Bowl and Drain Cleaner - Baking Soda and Vinegar.  It's like science fair volcanoes.  It'll bubble up when mixed.
Microfiber Cloths - Because paper towels are wasteful.

Step 3. Clean

Once you're absolutely positive you (a) need everything you didn't purge and (b) it's in the space you're going to want it permanently, put it to the side and clean those spaces in detail before putting anything away.  This is the nitty gritty of the spring clean, so bear with me in this extra long section while I cover what natural products I'll be using in each room and tips to make it quick and easy!  I have them not necessarily in the order I clean (because it'll change depending on my mood), but the order in which they appear in my house.

Doors.  Always clean the tops of door frames and don't forget door handles.  This applies to every room.
Inside Closets.  Just because you can close the door on it does not mean it's clean in there.  Take everything out, wipe the shelves and walls, making sure to get the corners, and any light fixtures.
Floors.  In every room, floors should be the last thing.  Top to bottom.  When you knock dust off a fan blade, you don't want it hitting the clean floor, right?  Vacuum first, then mop.  In our entry we have tile with grout so I wash this by hand with a rag and the vinegar cleaner.  Lemon wedges clean grout really well.

Living Room
Light Fixtures.  And fans if they're attached, in which case, slide a pillowcase over each fan blade and pull the dust off.  It gets trapped inside the pillowcase instead of flying everywhere, and you can shake it out outside and then throw it in the wash.  Wipe the blades and all around the light fixtures with the all purpose spray.
Walls and Ceilings.  It's not that hard, really.  Vacuum and dust first if it's dusty, and then mop with the all purpose spray.  Yes, like you mop a floor.  With the flat head mop, like a swiffer style.
Baseboards.  This applies to the wainscotting we have around the living room too.  Dust and then wipe with the spray.  If you rub over them once they're clean with wax paper, new dust won't stick.
Windows.  Windows are a big one for spring cleaning day but if you do them right, you really won't have to worry about it for another year, just some touch-ups here and there.  But cleaning the screens, the tracks, the outsides of the windows?  That's what rain's for man, that's a once a year job in this house!
Blinds and Other Window Treatments.  We have blinds, and I take a sock sprayed with the all purpose spray to each blind individually but it honestly doesn't take long.  If you have drapes, lander them.  I loathe drapes, you have to clean them way more often than you think you do, they're dust magnets.
Couch.  Vacuum that sucker to death.  Take all the cushions off and vacuum every inch.  Move the couch and clean under and behind it.  Wash the cushion and pillow covers, or if you can't get them off, vacuum those too.
Table.  Wipe the top and legs with all purpose spray if it's wood, the glass cleaner if it's glass.

Dining Room
Cabinetry.  Could be any number of things in your dining room - cabinets, a hutch, a bar cart.  Empty it, wipe all the insides down, put back only what's necessary.  Also clean the top and if it's movable, do that so you can clean behind and underneath.
Table and Chairs.  Clear everything off and wipe your table and table legs.  Vacuum if you have fabric chairs, wipe with all purpose spray if not.

Closets.  See entryway.
Bedding.  I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you clean your bedding regularly, but also do it now so the entire room is fresh.
Bed.  Vacuum if you have a fabric bed frame, wipe with all purpose spray if not.  Flip your mattress, be sure to vacuum both sides.  Move the bed as much as you can in your space to completely clean under and behind it.  For fabric things like beds and couches, you can shake baking soda on them and let that sit for awhile before vacuuming up for extra freshness but I don't bother with this step.

I actually don't think the bathroom will be as bad as you're thinking, because it's one of those spaces you already clean relatively often.
Toilet.  Let the baking soda and vinegar bubble up and sit for awhile.  Scrub with the toilet brush, flush, and then wipe the rest of the toilet with the all purpose spray.
Shower and Tub.  I just use the all purpose spray in mine.  Baking soda can be used as a scrub if you need a deeper clean.  If you have granite or marble, you probably already know you need a special cleaner and sealer for that.
Drawers, Cabinets, Counter tops.  Remove everything, clean those items, then use the all purpose spray to clean the drawers, cabinets and counter tops.  Only put back what's essential.
Sink.  Baking soda and vinegar, again.  Flush that with boiling water.  Clean the drain and around the sink handles with an old toothbrush.

Cabinetry.  See dining room.  Everything out, wipe inside, put back only essentials.  Clean on top of the cabinets if they don't reach the ceiling.  While you're up there, line them with wax paper to make next year's cleaning spree MUCH easier on yourself.
Microwave.  Fill a microwave safe bowl or cup with water, a splash of vinegar, and some lemon slices.  Heat that about 4 or 5 minutes.  Every stuck inside the microwave will wipe right off.
Stove and Oven.  A baking soda paste will clean off stuck on food and grease.  You have to let it sit for awhile and possibly top it with some vinegar.  It'll take a bit of scrubbing but you'll get there!  Commercial oven cleaners are terrible for you, don't do it.
Dishwasher.  Feel free to hardcore clean it if it's been a few years.  Otherwise, run an empty dishwasher through a full cleaning cycle with a glass measuring cup full of vinegar resting on the top rack.
Fridge and Freezer.  Empty everything out.  Remove drawers and shelves and wipe them with vinegar if they're not really dirty.  For really dirty ones, you might want to just wash those quickly in the sink.

Laundry Room
Washer and Dryer.  Yes, these things must be washed.  For the dryer, clean the lint trap, wipe the inside of the drum, and clean out the ducts that lead outside.  That needs to be done at least once a year, it's a fire hazard.  For the washing machine, check pinterest for tips based on whether you have a top loader or front loader.

Step 4. Organize

Absolutely no organizing before purging and cleaning, you got me?  You'll just be wasting your time.  Once you're sure every item is staying and every space is clean, then you get to organize.  Of course, I recommend using what you have on hand to corral your things, but if a trip to the Container Store is what's going to motivate you to get the cleaning done, then by all means.

I know, I know.  It seems like it'll be a long process but I think you can knock it out in a weekend.  The cleaning part, at least.  This is what I have to work on in my own house, what do you have to add to the list for your home?  Happy green spring cleaning!!

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