The phrase "spring cleaning" evokes images of turning the house inside out, scouring every corner and banishing every last particle of dust.
But let's be real: It's hard to find the time for scouring, much less banishing.
And your time is valuable.
Keeping that in mind, we've put together the five cleaning tasks with the most impact -- the most "bang for your buff," if you will. (Although none of them require actual buffing.)
To help you master these lean, mean spring cleaning techniques, we turned to the experts.
Advice From The Experts
Historically, spring cleaning comes from the time before central air and heating, when windows were shut all winter and opened in the spring. "People couldn't do a lot of their cleaning while stuck inside. Now, with proper ventilation, we can clean any time of the year," says Melissa Homer, Chief Cleaning Officer of MaidPro. "Spring is just traditional."
Before getting down to the nitty-gritty, she shared her expert tips: "Don't expect to blow through everything in a single weekend," says Homer. "By the time Sunday night comes around, you won't be able to even think about another sponge." Instead, plan a set, limited amount of time each week for a month. "I always do Sunday afternoons," she says.
Then, work from room to room. "People are resistant to the idea of cleaning when they think they have to cover the whole house," Homer explains. "Start with the rooms you use most." Instead of vacuuming your whole house, finish everything in the living room before moving on to the next room. "Then your living space will be cleaner, and the results will inspire you to keep going," she says.
We all know the benefits of a clean, clutter-free home: Your life feels in order, and you feel primed to achieve your goals -- all of them, not just the ones involving a mop.
Here's how to get started.
1. Clear Clutter
"The single most effective thing people can do when spring cleaning is organize," Homer says. "First, throw out everything that can be discarded. There's less clutter, so it looks better right away, but there will also be fewer things to be cleaned." Although it's tempting to dive in and start scrubbing (after all, those color-coded microfiber cloths are pretty inspiring), you'll move more slowly with clutter in your way. Homer recommends Target for effective, inexpensive organization systems. "It's hard to keep things organized when everything doesn't have its own place. Investing in proper storage makes a huge difference," she says.
(Need to organize your office? We have tips for that, too.)
2. Change Your Linens
Interior designers recognize that the items in the room with the most surface area, like the couch, bedding or drapes, make the most impact. Carry that over to spring cleaning by changing your bed linens, flipping the couch cushions and cleaning the drapes. Swapping your bed sheets for your spare set will make the room seem fresh and new, and you can even take the opportunity to flip or rotate your mattress to extend its life. As far as the drapes go, Leslie Reichert of Green Cleaning Coach recommends popping them in the dryer to get the dust off in lieu of tedious washing and ironing. Many people don't wash their curtains at all, so this low-maintenance fix will put you ahead of the curve.
3. Tackle the Floors
Few things have more surface area than the floor. Reichert recommends a vacuum and/or wash to make the whole room sparkle. But don't get down on all fours just yet! "If you have hardwood floors, use a microfiber mop (a mop that has a microfiber dusting cloth on the end, like a dry Swiffer) and a spray bottle of water to make them look like you washed them. By spraying a light mist of water directly on the floor and mopping, you'll have sparkling clean wood floors!" By using the pad instead of a mop, you've also saved yourself the trouble of dealing with buckets of dirty water and the inconvenience of waiting for your newly clean floor to dry.
4. Do Detailed Dusting
It seems counterintuitive. After all, who is going to see the tops of the cabinets? But in fact, the dust that's hidden now will be all over your newly cleaned, eye level surfaces in no time. "Ceiling fans are a huge culprit," says Homer. "They gather dust all winter, then spray it over the room when you turn them on in the spring." For that reason, she advises working from the top down in a room, much like washing a car. She says people are usually slapdash about dusting, but taking the time to wipe down every surface makes a big difference right away.
5. Bolster the Bathroom
Nothing makes a bad impression like a dirty bathroom. For that reason, Reichart prioritizes the bathroom when she has limited time for cleaning. "You never want to suffer from 'can't have anyone over syndrome,' so always keep the bathroom guests would use the cleanest. You can quick-clean a bathroom with two microfiber cloths and a spray bottle of gentle cleaner." Wipe down the mirror, sink vanity and the outside of the toilet with a wet microfiber cloth, then bring in the microfiber mop used to "wash" your floors and your bathroom will be sparkling clean.
Keep It Clean
"The reason people get so overwhelmed with spring cleaning is that they think they have to do it all at once," Homer says. "But once you've reached your 'clean baseline' -- a basic level of cleanliness in your home -- you can do minimal maintenance all year round to keep it from getting too bad." She recommends keeping cleaning products near the places to be cleaned, as it's much more tempting to wipe down the shower when you don't have to trek to the kitchen for cleaning spray. When you're constantly maintaining your baseline, your home will look better year round... not just in the spring.