It’s been a long winter, and hibernating has not done us any favors — many of us have probably put off giving our caves a deep spring cleaning. But now that it’s (mostly) above freezing, it’s time to throw open those windows, let in some fresh air and get scrubbing.
A few friendly financial notes before you get going: While you’re sprucing up your home, it might be a good time to do the same with your finances. You can begin by getting a free credit report snapshot, updated every two weeks, on Credit.com. Also, be sure you don’t go overboard when it comes to buying Spring cleaning supplies. If you’re good about staying on budget, consider a solid shopping credit card to reap rewards off of your purchases. Just be sure to pay that balance off at the end of the month, so you don’t wind up losing those points, miles or cash back to interest.
With all that money stuff in mind, here’s what you need to know before you tackle the deepest clean of the year.
1. Spring Cleaning Tools
Sure, you’ve been vacuuming all along, but it’s time to go deeper. There’s no need to scrub on your hands and knees or wrestle with a mop. The Duop System ($29.99 and up on theduop.com) can be used with a handle or your hand. Created for professional cleaners, it’s designed to reduce the risk of injury while cleaning. The handle height is easy to adjust, whether you’re dusting the ceiling or washing the kitchen floor. The interchangeable microfiber pads, which come in a variety of sizes, can be used dry or wet, moistened with water or a mild cleanser.
For other areas, Leslie Reichert, green cleaning coach and author of The Joy Of Green Cleaning likes the General Purpose Cloth or the Kitchen Cloth from e-cloth’s site ($7.99 each). Like the Duop, the cloths are microfiber so they often require nothing but water.
“If you have some spots that have a buildup of grease, you can spray the area with a touch of rubbing alcohol to break up the buildup and then wipe with the e-cloth,” she said. “The fibers in the cloth work to get underneath the dirt and lift it off without harming even delicate surfaces, like cabinets.”
As you move around the house with your Duop and e-cloth, bring your water in a lightweight bucket, like the colorful Kikkerland Collapsible Bucket ($10 on Kikkerland’s site). When you’re done cleaning, it collapses flat for easy storage.
2. All-Purpose Cleaner
For tasks that require more than water, there’s no need to purchase a product with a long list of mysterious — and potentially toxic — ingredients. The Force of Nature Electrolyzed Cleaning Starter Kit ($59.95 on thegrommet.com) converts salt, water and vinegar into a powerful cleaner by electrolyzing them. The kit includes everything you need to create several batches of non-toxic, fragrance-free cleaning solution. It also comes with travel-sized spray bottles to take on the go.
3. The Many Uses of Vinegar
Alyssa Kaldahl, merchandising manager at women’s apparel site Jane.com, suggests using vinegar for tough cleaning jobs. For instance, use equal parts vinegar and water on a sock to clean your blinds. Cleaning the fridge is a dreaded spring cleaning task, but here’s her fix.
“Throw away any expired food and then wipe down all the shelves and drawers with vinegar mixed with water in a spray bottle,” she said. “You can also add some lemon or other citrus essential oil to your mix if you want to leave a nice scent.”
To get out stubborn carpet stains, she suggests spraying the spot with one part vinegar and two parts water, putting a damp rag over the spot and ironing the rag. Repeat until stain is gone.
4. Homemade Stain Remover
Lisa Batra, founder of My Kid’s Threads, an online consignment shop for kids’ clothes, knows stains. She said while it’s ideal to treat a stain ASAP, her team often doesn’t know how long a stain has been there. They inspect about 1,000 items each week and have had success with a homemade stain-remover recipe:
Combine one tablespoon baking soda, four tablespoons dish soap and eight tablespoons hydrogen peroxide in a small container and stir well. “Apply directly to the stain and rub gently with your finger, a piece of fabric or an old toothbrush,” she said. “Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes and then wash normally.”
For surface stains, like on cabinets or counters, decluttering expert Kelly McClenahan, of the Live Uncluttered blog on PriceSelfStorage.com, suggests Mr. Clean MagicErasers ($5.76 at Walmart — check out our review of the Walmart credit card here).
“Use them to remove almost any surface stains, especially the burner areas of the flat-top stove and those occasional crayon marks you may find on your walls,” McClenahan said.
She also recommends using cotton swabs and old toothbrushes “to get down to the details with hard-to-reach, itty-bitty spaces.”
5. Get Organized
According to McClenahan, no spring cleaning is complete without sorting your stuff. “Box up items you no longer need in your home,” she said. “Separate things you want to keep, store, donate and trash.”
A great way to organize the items that you’re keeping but not using currently is to store them in boxes with labels. The Brother P-Touch Label Maker ($39.99 at Staples) is fun and easy to use. It has different fonts and modes to add your own flair. For storage boxes, my go-to is the Container Store, which carries boxes of virtually any size, shape or color.
If you’re worried more about your wallet than your abode as winter breaks, we’ve got 50 ways to give your finances a fresh start right here.