by Lisa Schauer
The annual ritual of a thorough spring-cleaning dates back to early human history. After a long dark winter of burning wood or peat fires indoors, a deep cleaning of the home in spring was a necessity for health and hygiene.
Today the rite of spring cleaning continues, ingrained in our DNA and collective psyche. With the first warm breeze of spring we still get the urge to purge, just as our ancestors did.
And after two years of COVID, our homes could all probably use a good cleaning to remove unseen germs and viruses, along with any other lingering nastiness.
National Cleaning Week is officially the fourth week of March. So why not clear your calendar now and get pumped up for a day or two of sheer cleaning pleasure?
To imply cleaning is a hobby or a sport might be an overstatement. But the enjoyment and satisfaction derived from its pursuit is similar, and it qualifies as exercise. A 150-pound person burns about 200 calories an hour doing housework.
For most, spring cleaning is a daunting task worthy of intense and prolonged procrastination. But take heart in knowing there’s no need to rush, spend extra cash, or harm the environment. With a little practical know-how, time and elbow grease, your home will shine like new.
First, it’s important to de-clutter your home. Most experts say to take it room-by-room, or a little at a time. Others, like Marie Kondo, best-selling author of The life-changing magic of tidying up, suggest a category-by-category method, such as clothes, books, papers, and komono (miscellaneous items), to forever end the cycle of de-cluttering. Kondo encourages people to determine what items “spark joy”.
“Life truly begins only after you have put your house in order,” says Kondo, a Netflix sensation, on her website.
Another useful rule of thumb for de-cluttering is taken from feng shui, an ancient Chinese practice of harmonizing individuals with their environment. Keep only items that are either useful or beautiful to you.
When it comes time to clean, gather your supplies and proceed methodically, room-by-room; top-to-bottom.
Commercial cleaning products like Lysol and bleach work well to kill household germs, but they release dioxins and other harmful chemicals into the environment, so use only as directed. Never mix bleach and ammonia (Comet) as the fumes are highly toxic and can be deadly.
Natural products can be equally effective in cleaning grease and grime, without the harsh chemicals or extra cost of commercial cleaners. Vinegar kills e-coli, salmonella and other bacteria.
For household cleaning, simply mix ½ cup vinegar with a quart of warm water in a spray bottle. Spray mirrors with a solution of vinegar and water, and wipe with a microfiber cloth.
Use hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach in laundry. Vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice are effective for de-greasing; stain removal and disinfecting, respectively.
If you plan on washing the windows, pick a day that’s overcast (sunlight causes streaks). Or take advantage of a sunny day and bring out all the pillows, bedding, drapes and rugs to sit in a sunny spot outdoors.
Sunlight is a natural disinfectant. UV rays kill pathogens that cause diarrhea. Move objects outside if you’re able, or place them next to an open window. Nothing kills germs and freshens linens like good old-fashioned sunshine.
Herewith are more helpful hints gathered to make spring cleaning work for you:
- Look up! Dust ceiling fans with a clean pillowcase to catch the dirt. Clean exhaust fans by inserting a butter knife wrapped in cloth into the vents to remove dust. Wrap a clean towel over a broom and secure with a rubber band to dust blinds and ceilings.
- Look down! Use two doormats to catch dirt before it enters your home – one inside and one outside. Hose off the one outside, and vacuum both sides of the inside mat.
Do not put rugs with rubber backing in the washer. Read manufacturer’s labels on rugs, comforters and drapes, relying on your vacuum cleaner attachment or a commercial laundromat for extra-heavy loads.
- Look all around! Use a clean coffee filter or used dryer sheet to dust TV and computer screens. Crumple up old newspapers to clean windows. Mix ¼ cup of white vinegar with two cups of water and two teaspoons of liquid dish soap in a spray bottle. Spray windows and scrub with newspapers. (Ink is a mild abrasive that will remove gunk.)
- Bathrooms get a lot of use and should be cleaned daily with an all-purpose disinfectant. For a deep clean, wash the shower curtain and liner in the washer with old towels to remove soap scum.
- To clean shower doors, mix a few drops of vinegar with baking soda to make a paste. Then wipe the paste all over the door panel and leave it on for an hour. Remove with a damp cloth and rinse. Spray bathtubs with bathroom cleaner, scrub and rinse. Bathroom sinks are the dirtiest in the house. Pour vinegar or baking soda down the drain and rinse with hot water.
- Fill a plastic bag with white vinegar and secure it over your showerhead with a rubber band. Leave it on overnight. Vinegar will dissolve mineral deposits that accumulate to reduce water flow and pressure.
- To clean grout, mix ¾ cup of bleach with a gallon of water. Apply solution with a brush and let it sit for five minutes.
If you get discouraged, take a break, and ponder this. Removing clutter, worn-out objects and contaminates is cathartic. The practice makes room for new beginnings and allows the bright promise of Spring to take root in your life. So psyche yourself up with your favorite tunes, get comfortable, and stay hydrated. It’s time to make your home shine.