If spring ever comes, we’re ready to clean

  • Martha Stewart Living Magazine
  • Wednesday, April 11, 2007 9:00pm
  • Life

Spring is the time to roll up your sleeves and begin the annual ritual of scrubbing, polishing, dusting and washing that’s customary at this time of year. Although a little elbow grease is necessary for making a house sparkle, knowing the best way to tackle certain tasks can make the work quick, satisfying and even enjoyable. Here, just in time for spring cleaning, are some of my favorite tips:

Sometimes the most effective cleaning tools can be found right in your kitchen. Try this all-natural trick for making copper shine: Sprinkle the cut side of a lemon half with coarse salt, then rub it over the metal, which will soon begin to gleam.

When it comes to fighting mildew, prevention is key. To keep it from taking hold, be sure to keep surfaces clean, improve air circulation and reduce dampness (for example, don’t leave wet towels lying around in a pile).

In poorly ventilated basements, install open shelving, use a dehumidifier and fan, and store items in airtight plastic containers with desiccants, such as silica gel. In musty closets, leave an incandescent light bulb on to help dry the air, or hang packets of desiccants.

Red wine often seems to end up in the wrong places. Here are some ways to ensure that it doesn’t stay where it’s not wanted. On delicate fabrics: Soak the spot with denatured alcohol. Flush with white vinegar to remove residual stain.

On sturdy fabrics: Coat stain with salt; let stand for 5 minutes. Stretch stained area over a bowl; secure with a rubber band. Place in sink; carefully pour boiling water over the stain from a height of at least a foot.

Creating a cleaning bucket

Making your house shine can take a bit of effort, but gathering the supplies you need to clean can be a snap. For easier cleaning, fill a bucket with the basics: all-purpose and glass-cleaning sprays, scouring powder or baking soda, sponges, a toothbrush (for crevices), a squeegee, rubber gloves (hang them on the rim to dry), a scrub brush and terry-cloth towels. You’ll have everything you need as you work your way from room to room. When you’re through, store the bucket in the closet, and it will be at the ready the next time the house needs a good cleaning.

Removing wax

Softly glowing candles create ambience for a dinner party, but there’s nothing charming about spilled wax. To remove it from tabletops, heat with a blow-dryer on the lowest setting for several seconds, then scrape up using the edge of a credit card. Buff away any remaining residue.

To remove from fabrics, use ice to freeze wax, or place the item in the freezer. Scrape off what you can, then use an oil solvent or mineral spirits to remove residue. Rinse with isopropyl alcohol, let dry, and wash with an enzyme detergent.

Cleaning a refrigerator

This task can seem like a daunting undertaking, but break it down into a few simple steps and it becomes much more manageable. The first step is to wipe up spills immediately so surfaces won’t become stained. Make it a habit to throw out old food once a week.

Every few months, wash the interior with a solution of 2 tablespoons of baking soda for every quart of warm water. Wash removable shelves and drawers in the solution (let glass shelves come to room temperature first so the warm water won’t crack them). Loosen hardened spills on fixed parts by wetting the area with the solution, letting the residue soften. Use a toothbrush to scrub crannies.

Twice a year, vacuum or brush dust from the condenser coils to keep the system from overheating.

Many vacuum cleaners come with standard attachments – but all too often they’re left forgotten and unused in a dark corner of the closet. Take the time to figure out which tool is which, however, and your vacuuming will be more effective.

Run the upholstery tool (the small T-shaped attachment) over couches, beds and other plush furniture to remove dust. The floor attachment (the large T-shaped tool) is best for bare floors, delicate or valuable rugs, and materials such as sisal; it has bristles lining its front edge, which prevents scratches.

The angled crevice tool is perfect for reaching tight spaces and corners, while the dusting brush (the small attachment lined with bristles all the way around) is good for use on windowsills, shelves, chair legs, and even for cleaning curtains and venetian blinds.

Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. E-mail to mslletters@marthastewart.com.

2007 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

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