Second only to a new mother’s instinct to nest is the desire to clean house at the first signs of winter thaw. Debra Johnson, a 16-year veteran of Merry Maids and now curriculum manager for the venerable 35-year-old residential cleaning company, is all too familiar with this annual urge. She knows that after a long winter, a home needs freshening up, and she also knows with our time-starved schedules, this traditional, near-epic task can seem insurmountable. To get the job done and allay unnecessary frustration, Johnson offers spring cleaning tips that are closely aligned with Merry Maids’ proven system and also helpful for everyday housework.
1. ESTABLISH A ROUTINE
“No one wants to spend their entire Saturday cleaning house,” says Johnson, a proponent of both clean living and free Saturdays. While skeptics doubt the two can go hand in hand, Johnson knows otherwise. “Divide and conquer,” she urges. Break down the overwhelming task of spring cleaning into more manageable 30- to 60-minute cleaning sessions so it isn’t paralyzing. Select a specific area to tackle; for example, clean the master bath and bedroom one afternoon, and the living room and dining room the next.
2. BEST DUST ELIMINATOR
Microfiber cloths occupy the top spot on Johnson’s list of basic cleaning supplies, because unlike other dusters, microfiber cloths grab dust rather than push it around. Johnson color-codes her cloths for use in different tasks like dry dusting or cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, or mirrors—and she keeps them straight. Microfiber cloths can be washed up to 500 times (on delicate with other microfiber cloths), so they are eco-friendly too.
3. KEEP ORGANIZED
Since organization expedites cleaning, Johnson recommends storing supplies in one portable carryall, such as a Rubbermaid tote. Make sure to have the following nine essential cleaning products and tools on hand: a general-purpose cleaner, bathroom cleaner, floor cleaner and degreaser, a good scrub brush and grout brush, a vacuum with several attachments, a mop or steamer for hard flooring, and of course, plenty of microfiber cloths.
4. HOW TO CLEAN A ROOM
“Work from top to bottom and dry to wet,” instructs Johnson. Remove dust with a dry cloth before washing the area because the combination of water and dirt creates clingy gunk. When starting to clean in any room, work high first, tending to cobwebs, crown molding, ceiling fans, windowsills, ledges, and glass before hitting baseboards, doors, and light switches. Once the periphery is done, move on to furnishings, decorative items, and bedding. Spring is an excellent time to switch out curtains and flip mattresses.
5. CLEAN MORE WITH LESS
Johnson warns, “Cook tonight. Clean up tonight. Don’t let dirt build up.” Cleaning frequently prevents dirt from settling in and becoming grime. Catching dirt early also makes it possible to rely on simple solutions like hot water, mild detergents, and dust cloths. To stave off soap scum, Johnson habitually dries the tile when she’s done in the shower. Keeping the door open and letting air circulate in a bathroom also helps.
6. USE LESS PRODUCT
There’s a general misconception that using more product will get a surface cleaner; on the contrary, too much of a cleaning solution builds up residue. Too much soap, for example, leaves floors sticky. In addition, when you use too much product, you waste time rubbing it round and round.
7. DIRT PREVENTION UNDERFOOT
A simple rule of thumb for keeping floors cleaner is to take shoes off before walking through the home. Another strategy is to place a floor mat or rug both outside and inside the entrance so dirt can fall off shoes before reaching other areas of the house. Although Johnson generally cleans her own house, she recently bought an iRobot. The iRobot vacuums the floor so she doesn’t have to. Johnson admits that the little cleaning machine has improved the quality of her life because she is spending less time cleaning floors. She recommends the machine for households with pet hair issues.
8. CLOSETS ARE SEPARATE ISSUES
Don’t make closet clean-out and organization part of your routine cleaning; set aside another day for this. Closets aren’t dirty as much as they are messy. Organizing closets is a large job and requires a whole different set of skills, such as folding and straightening.