Healthy homes expert and interior designer, Robin Wilson, shares her top tips for making spring cleaning easy and effective.
Spring has officially sprung! While that means longer, sunnier days, warmer temperatures, and generally more Instagrammable weather conditions (the lighting!), the new season also comes with the daunting task of spring cleaning. The dreaded seasonal clean up can be a time consuming task, especially if you cut corners throughout the colder months, but it’s absolutely necessary for more than just aesthetic reasons.
“We lock ourselves into our home all winter and by springtime we are left inhaling dirty air that comes from months of dust and debris accumulation in a closed off home,” says Robin Wilson, interior designer, clean home expert and author of Clean Design. “By the time it’s spring, our indoor air quality can actually be eight to 10 times worse than outdoor air quality.”
Basically, a fresh house is a healthier and happier house. So to make the time-consuming task a little easier, we asked Wilson to break down the key spots most in need of a refresh and her quick (and homemade!) tips for making the cleanup a breeze.
Change Your Air Filters
First things first, you need to tackle the air circulating through your home. “After a long winter, we are left with the dirty air filters from our furnaces,” says Wilson. “And without the windows open, the build up of dust circulating in the air is high.” Swap out your air filters asap and then throw open the windows to let in more fresh air.
Hit the Hay
“We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping, so you need to focus on your bed, especially after a winter of staying under the covers as much as possible,” she says. Obviously, strip your bed and throw the sheets and pillowcases in the washing machine. And, if your pillows are not down pillows, toss those in a high-capacity washing machine, too. In the dryer, add some tennis balls to bounce around and keep the pillow from matting up. It’s not enough to simply re-cover your mattress with newly cleaned sheets. Wilson suggests vacuuming the surface (any handheld dirt duster or vacuum attachment will do), flipping it, and then covering it with a cover like this one from Robin Wilson Home. This will cut down on the debris and allergen build up and keep your mattress a little fresher come next spring.
Clean Out Your Closet
Cleaning out your closet should mean more than just purging the clothes we no longer wear. “A lot of us don’t think about our closets and how they hold so much of the dirt and dust we bring in on our clothes and shoes,” reminds Wilson. “Your shoes are covered in snow, salt, dirt. And your clothes carry whatever air pollutants you are exposed to daily.” So, take everything out of the closet and give the surfaces a good wipe down. Send your clothes to the dry cleaners and don’t bring them back into the space until it is fully refreshed.
Scrub Your Bathroom
It’s not likely you’ll skip the bathroom during a head-to-toe house cleaning, but Wilson suggests switching up your tactics a little. “It is absolutely crucial that if you have a vinyl shower curtain, you replace it with a nylon one, which are used in the hospitality industry and in hospitals,” she says. “They attract significantly less mold than vinyl curtains and they can be washed.” As for the rest of your bathroom, you can skip the caustic chemical-based cleaners for more natural alternatives. “Toothpaste whitens your tile grout and baking soda can be used to polish the silver faucet heads and handles in the bathroom,” she says. If your toilet bowl has seen better days, Wilson actually recommends pouring in Coca-Cola and letting it sit overnight. The bowl should be clean in the morning. And, finally, tackle any leftover bathroom odors by setting a bowl of white vinegar out overnight to refresh the air.
Cover the Couch
Similar to your mattress, your couch and other living room furniture can be vacuumed, says Wilson, who swears by the Panasonic Jet Force Bagless Vacuum ($127, amazon.com). Then, she recommends covering your sofa with a slipcover, which can be washed regularly. “Slipcovers used to be really awful, but now they have very tailored ones. You can go to a furniture store and they can actually have a slipcover made for your particular couch,” she says.
Wipe Down the Windows
What’s the point of nicer days if we can’t even see them through our streaky, dusty windows? Wilson suggests giving them a good wipe down, but skip the paper towels and look to your recycling bin for a rag instead. “Newspaper is a cousin to paper towels but it’s extremely absorbent and will leave your windows really shiny and clean,” she says, citing the tip she learned from a professional window cleaner. “Be careful on windows with white trim, though, because the ink can transfer. So, use a microfiber cloth around the edges,” she cautions.
Refresh the Fridge
Your refrigerator is easily one of the most used appliances in your home. And while it will absolutely benefit from a good clean out and wipe down, Wilson reminds us to not skip the less obvious spots. “When was the last time you cleaned your ice trays or the filter tubes in your ice water or ice cube door dispenser,” she asks. Throw those ice trays in the dishwasher regularly and remember to clean the filters every three months.
Wash the Washers
Your dishwasher and washing machine may clean your dishes and clothes, but they are also hotspots for mold to grow. “You take the hot dishes out of your dishwasher, the hot steam spews out, and then you close the door right away. That’s a perfect environment for mold to grow,” says Wilson. Sub white vinegar for detergent and run the dishwasher empty to knock out mold and bacteria build up and then let it open to completely dry. For the same reasons, also let your washing machine dry open after each use.
Don't Forget the Walls
“A lot of people forget that the biggest surface in their home is their walls, not their floors,” says Wilson. “There is dust all over your walls and they need to be cleaned.” So, think like a Downton Abbey butler (sans feather duster) and give your walls a good wipe down with a microfiber cloth. If you have kids that love to add their own flair to the walls in your home, Wilson recommends toothpaste for scrubbing off crayon because it’s abrasive but not dangerous when inhaled like some extra strength cleaners. White vinegar will also help remove stickers from walls.