Most folks associate deep cleaning with the spring season. The new year has come and gone, and that seems like the perfect-time to tackle all the projects that have been postponed for a while. Magazine articles, blogs, and talk shows share tips to really tackle the big to-do items. Organize this! Deep clean that! Purge, discard, and then fold and stack a certain way to maximize efficiency! The concept of “spring cleaning” is often daunting and dreaded; when a project seems too large to manage, it often feels less stressful to put it off until a later date.
However, some of the chores only feel like a big deal; if done routinely, a few minutes here and there can keep things fresh all year long, eliminating the need for a massive springtime undertaking. Remembering to take care of appliances and parts of the home that often do not receive day-to-day attention can make a big difference, resulting in better smelling laundry, fresher foods, fewer symptoms of environmental allergies, and a better overall mood.
Very few household sanitization projects should be done annually, so get into the habit of regular maintenance year round using common household ingredients and simple methods. Say “no” to spring cleaning, and “yes” to regular maintenance! In this third installment of Oops! Should that get Cleaned?, discover how often to clean major appliances and fixtures. Refer to parts one and two for information on other machines and areas in your home that may need deep sanitation.
THE GARBAGE DISPOSAL
Perhaps you tend to your garbage disposal only when you are sure that the suspicious lurking smell is originating there, but did you know you should really pay it some attention weekly even if no lingering odor exists? Taking care of the drain routinely helps prevent the slow build-up of mild stenches.
While the lemon/ice/salt method is a time-tested way to clean the hidden drain appliance and get rid of odors, consider adding an extra step first that uses baking soda and vinegar. Without any water running in the sink and the disposal off, pour half a cup of soda down the drain. Then add one cup of vinegar, letting the mixture fizz up. While the concoction continues to bubble, boil some water (an electric kettle is great for making this happen quickly) and pour it into the mixture frothing in the drain.
Next, use the age-old lemon/ice/salt method. Fill the disposal with ice cubes, and add a cup of salt (the coarser the better, but any salt can work). Run cold water down the drain with the disposal on until all the ice is gone. The salt and ice will help loosen the grime while the water washes it away. With the disposal still on and the water still running, place your pieces of lemon (or lime or orange if that is what you have) in the drain one at a time. The citrus will deodorize the disposal and leave a lingering clean scent.
A clogged vacuum filter can often mean you are spreading dust and debris all over the house. Those beautiful lines of housekeeping evidence do not mean it is actually cleaning. While vacuuming is a chore, cleaning out a vacuum is certainly a less exciting chore. However, it is important to keep your vacuum in great shape so that it performs its job better and longer.
To clean the vacuum, remove all removable parts and open any compartments that open. If you have never maintained your vacuum before, then be prepared for a strange smell to emerge. Empty the dust out of all receptacles and take the canisters apart. Remove things like dust cups and filters (depending on your model). Most of these can easily be rinsed with warm, soapy water, then laid out to dry. If your vacuum boasts a HEPA filter, however, do not attempt to wash these. A dirty HEPA filter needs to be replaced (about every six months).
While the disassembled and washable parts are drying, inspect the belts and cords. Replace or order new parts as necessary. Flip the vacuum over so that you have access to the brush. Some models allow for moderately easy removal of the brush. Use a seam ripper or scissors to remove tangled hair, fur, fiber, and debris. To kill any bacteria on the bottom of the vacuum, wipe it down thoroughly with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. You can also use a skewer or an unbent wire hanger to loosen and remove hard to reach messes.
Once you reassemble the appliance, dampen a microfiber cloth and do a final wipe down of the exterior. Make sure all removable dust is truly gone. The next time you see those beautiful vacuum lines, you will feel deep satisfaction knowing that the floors are as clean as they can be!
Clean Seasonally (FOUR TIMES A YEAR)
Have you ever had a guest over who went to grab something out of your refrigerator and you cringed. You wanted to leap across the room, suddenly overly helpful with a “let me get that for you,” praying they do not judge you too harshly? If so, welcome to the club! Even in the cleanest of fridges, it would be easy to find nearly-empty or expired condiments, a few spills, or some leftovers that are just a little too “left.”
Some parts of this major appliance should be cleaned daily or weekly, as issues are spotted. Maintain your refrigerator’s freshness by placing leftovers within easy access to reheat or toss, and perform weekly examinations for empty or expired items. However, other parts of the refrigerator do not need frequent inspection. The top and the door seals only need attention occasionally.
For a full-fridge cleanout, plan to tackle the job every three to six months. As organizational experts always advise, an efficient process is to remove everything, sort it, purge, then place it all back in neatly. The refrigerator is no different. Take everything out. If you are concerned about spoiling during the brief counter-time, consider placing items in the freezer once sorted and purged. Check expiration dates and get rid of anything that seems suspicious. Wipe down all the drawers, shelves, and crevices with a sponge and soapy water. Remove pieces where possible and tackle them in the sink. Before putting food back in, consider doing a quick wipe down with white vinegar to eliminate odors and remove any lingering bacteria. Finally, put the food back in the fridge. Wipe down containers as you go, organizing by frequency of use or type of condiments (sandwiches versus salads).
Finally, inspect the coils on the back of the appliance and clean off the dust using a vacuum attachment. Hardware stores sell specialty coil-cleaning attachments, but standard brushes work just fine.