photo credit: DanBrady via photopin cc

photo credit: DanBrady via photopin cc

Is “spring cleaning” on your to-do list?


When I was writing Cleaning Plain & Simple, I learned something about the annual rite of spring cleaning. It goes back to the days before electricity when use of kerosene lamps and coal burning stoves all winter long left a sooty, greasy film on everything.

If you think dusting is a chore, imagine the work of cleaning soot and smoke from every surface and crevice!

Housewives would have to empty their homes and spend about a week washing walls and floors as well as every item in the house. A household advice writer of the time referred to spring cleaning as “a general housewrecking process.” And a good husband had the good sense to not complain about eating cold dinners that week!

While spring cleaning is not the necessary evil it once was, a 2013 survey by the American Cleaning Institute found that 72% of all households engaged in spring cleaning. If you’re planning to do some spring cleaning, getting organized will make the job go faster and easier.

Delegate the big jobs. Consider hiring out carpet cleaning and window cleaning. Professionals can do the job faster and better than we typically can do it for a reasonable fee.

Clean your cleaning closet. Get rid of all the products you don’t use or need; give them to a neighbor, friend or family member. If discarding, read and follow the directions on each product’s label for proper disposal. Do not mix cleaning products when disposing of them; some products, such as ammonia and liquid chlorine bleach, create harmful gases when combined.

Only clean what’s dirty. Don’t waste time doing things like washing walls if all you really need to do is spot clean marks. (I love those “magic” eraser sponges for this job!). You can also probably put inside windows on your “not-to-do” list (just dust sills and sashes).

Always declutter first. It’s a lot easier to clean a room that is that doesn’t have stuff strewn everywhere. Remove clutter from floors, coffee tables, and other horizontal surfaces before you start cleaning. I recommend using a large laundry basket for removing items that belong elsewhere. Once you’re done cleaning, you can put that stuff away.

Don’t fight gravity. Clean each room from top to bottom: ceilings first and floors last.

Victorian women started their spring cleaning by opening windows to let fresh air into stuffy rooms. If that’s as far as you get this weekend, consider it a start.

Funny story: A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a PR gal who said that the Today Show was doing a segment on spring cleaning and wanted to speak with me right away. Turns out they wanted to interview me for an article on, not the show. Dang! I was all set to drop everything and fly to New York!

Anyway, the article features seven cleaning tips you may never have heard. My tip was not to forget to dust lightbulbs, because a dusty bulb emits 20% less light than a clean one. And did you know that there is a correct way to vacuum that will not only clean your carpets better, but also help them last longer? Now you have to read the article, right?

Stay tuned for Spring Cleaning Part 2 – Cleaning Smarter, Not Harder.