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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

6 essential tasks for a stripped-down spring cleaning

By Jennifer Barger Special to The Washington Post

A century or two ago, spring cleaning was less of a tradition and more of a necessity. “In a time when people heated their houses with coal or wood, not only was there more dirt on everything after winter, there were limited options for cleaning things up,” says historian Susan Strasser, author of “Never Done: A History of American Housework.” (Vacuum cleaners and automatic clothes washers weren’t in common household use until the middle of the 20th century.)

The arrival of warmer weather still hastens a full house cleaning for many people, but it doesn’t have to. If a top-to-bottom spring cleaning isn’t a priority for you for whatever reason, experts say you can use the season to knock out a few once-a-year tasks. And if you can only get to one or two of them, don’t sweat it – there’s always summer.

Clean baseboards and ledges

Seasonally dusting and scrubbing baseboards and ledges – which many people forget to do on a more regular basis – can keep grime and particles from spreading to the floor and other parts of your home. “I vacuum them first, then wipe them down with a mild cleaning solution,” says Becky Rapinchuk of Clean Mama. “When my children were little, I even had them help by running baby wipes over them.” Oh, and before you scour the bottom of your walls, “knock any cobwebs from the ceiling with a broom covered in a clean T-shirt,” says Rapinchuk.

Tackle your kitchen countertops

No matter how diligent you are about cleaning up after making dinner or morning coffee, stoves throw off grease, and food leaves crumbs and particles. Dana K. White of A Slob Comes Clean recommends throwing anything that’s been out all winter – knickknacks, spoon rests, empty salt shakers – in the dishwasher. “I even run the cutlery tray from my silverware drawer through, and it makes a visual difference,” she says.

Get porches and patios

in shape

If you cover your deck furniture and store porch sofa cushions in a protected place during the winter, you’ll have a head start on spring cleaning your outdoor entertaining spaces. Then, attack surfaces (porch floors, deck rails) where dirt, leaves or other detritus have accumulated with a wet/dry vacuum or broom, followed by a wipe down with a wet rag or a rinse from the garden hose. “And I love my power washer for outdoor cleaning,” says White. “I use a Ryobi that’s about the size of two shoe boxes. It’s great for a quick touch up.”

Put away winter clothes

Consider starting with a rolling rack, which is what professional organizers often use for a wardrobe clean out. “They’re a terrific way for you to take everything out of your closet and actually see what you have,” says Jane Abrahams, co-owner of Jane’s Addiction Organization. “You can use the rack to determine what you want to keep for next season and to store out-of-season clothes in an attic or basement.”

Whether you hang or fold cold weather clothes for storage, be sure to clean them before storing them – food, sweat and even human skin left on wool, angora or cashmere can attract moth larvae, which love to chow down on woolies while you’re not watching.

Most knits can be hand-washed in cool water and a little dish soap; woven garments – especially those that are lined – need to go to the dry cleaner. Clothes should be stashed in zipped up bags (most pros recommend cloth, not plastic, since the latter can degrade and discolor fabric).

This is another task where small hands can help: Enlist your kids to pack up their own winter clothes for the season. “Give each family member their own color bin, and make it seem like a game to toss things into it,” says Alexandria Brouard, owner of Bethesda, Maryland, cleaning and organizing company Cozy Home Studios. “Then put in a dryer sheet before you close the bin to keep things smelling fresh.”

Wash your windows

According to pros, dirty windows can block up to 40% of all light coming into your home. Washing them is among the most popular – and most time-consuming – spring cleaning tasks. But pop-out frames make DIY easy.

Arm yourself with a squeegee or microfiber towel, a bucket and either a commercial or homemade window-washing solution (clean water, a few drops of liquid soap and a dash of rubbing alcohol to prevent streaks). Start by cleaning off sills with a paper towel or cloth soaked in hot water.

Then wipe the outside of the window with a wet rag, followed by a pass with a microfiber cloth doused in your solution. “Work it in an S motion, and then just wipe from top to bottom and side to side, finishing off in a circle,” says Brouard. After that, dry the window by swiping it with a squeegee. Repeat the process on the other side of the glass.

Clean under your rugs

Even if you’re diligent about vacuuming, fine particulate dirt and dust accumulates beneath your area rugs over time. (Hopefully, you have wool or rubber rug pads underneath them, which keep rugs in place and help them stay cleaner.) Ideally, every few months you would roll up your shag, sisal or kilim and clean up the desert sandlike substance that lurks below. Practically, you might only get to it once a year. Use either a broom or vacuum to remove the dirt, then go over the surface with a mop or a Swiffer equipped with a wet pad.