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 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 first installment of Oops! Should that get Cleaned?, discover how often to clean major appliances and fixtures. Refer to parts two and three for information on other machines and areas in your home that may need deep sanitation.
These days, it is likely the microwave ranks up there with some of your most-used appliances. And of course, everyone is familiar with the splatters that butter and pasta sauce create inside. Never fear, the days of using serious elbow grease and rubber gloves to try to get all the grime and gunk out are over.
Once a week, place a microwave-safe bowl in the center of the tray, half-filled with water. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar, then microwave the mixture on high for five minutes. When it is done, open the door, remove the bowl, and use a wet sponge to wipe all the stuck-on messes from the interior. Voila!
As for the outside, unplug the appliance, inspect the cord, and then wipe down the exterior using a dishcloth or damp sponge with a tiny bit of dish soap.
THE BASEBOARDS AND VENTS
Some homeowners wipe down the baseboards anytime they clean the floors. Some consider it a yearly task or only remember to do it when grime and dirt are visible. However, it is a good idea to remove dust and dirt from baseboards (and vents) about once a month.
Cleaning them is not quite the chore you may imagine. First, remove surface dust and dirt with a rag or broom. Vacuum up the debris. If the room has carpet, remember to use a vacuum hose extension tool to really get into the crevice where the carpet meets the wall. Next, give the boards and vents a quick wipe down using a damp rag, sponge, or soft-bristled toothbrush, and a small bucket of warm water with a drop or two of dish soap. A quick baseboard and vent cleaning can make a shockingly huge difference in how pristine your space appears!
So how do you clean an appliance used to clean other things? While it may seem counterintuitive to have to clean a dishwasher, this major appliance needs some love too! Oftentimes, mishaps and breakdowns due to minor issues can be caught with a routine inspection. A quick check and sterilization can go a long way here.
The Bob Vila method for cleaning the dishwasher is simple. Remove the bottom rack and inspect the interior for stuck food, small utensils, straws, or anything that does not belong. Once any obstructions are gone, replace the rack.
Fill a dishwasher-safe glass with one cup of white vinegar, then place it in the top rack. After closing the door, run a full cycle on hot. Then sprinkle the interior with a cup of baking soda. Run a short rinse-cycle on hot. Done! Vila suggests doing this monthly, but every other month is better than nothing. He believes keeping the interior clean, free of mildew, odors, and debris may add years of life to your dishwasher.
Throw out the sponge, retire the dishcloth, and just use a dish brush. While methods to sterilize your kitchen sponge abound (microwaving, bleaching, boiling, etcetera), the results of a 2017 study in Scientific Reports are likely to turn you into a brush-believer. Scientists analyzed fourteen different used sponges from different households who used (or did not) various methods of cleaning. The results are the stuff of nightmares. Out of the ten bacteria found most often across the group of sponges, half could make people sick. Smelly sponges may contain Moraxella osloensis; while these bacteria rarely cause illness in humans (although it can), the stench is likely to grow even with cleaning, as heat from boiling or microwaving only seemed to create a better breeding ground! These sponges were on par or worse with commonly collected toilet samples, so it is probably best to ditch the dishrag, sack the sponge, and choose a brush that dries easily and gives bacteria less of a chance to multiply!
Today’s dryers are often equipped with a moisture sensor. They use this to regulate dry times and ensure the load is complete. Gone are the days of setting the timer over and over again for a particularly bulky load of wet laundry. The downside to the moisture sensor is that products like fabric softeners and dryer sheets lend themselves to creating a baked-on film during the drying cycle. As the film builds up, the moisture sensor loses its ability to gauge dryness. If you have ever experienced a load of clothes you thought got dry, but really were sitting in the machine slightly wet for longer than you would like to confess, you know that keeping that moisture sensor free of film is really for the best.
Cleaning it out is easy. The sensor is inside the dryer drum. Simply locate it and use a rag (or toothbrush) and rubbing alcohol to remove any film or grime that has accumulated. The best thing you can do for your dryer is to clean out the lint trap after every single use, which will maximize the machine’s efficiency. Monthly, use an attachment on your vacuum or a handheld vacuuming appliance to really get the nooks and crannies free of lint, sand, and any debris left in your pockets!