Spring Cleaning Tips From People Who Clean and Organize for a Living

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Young housewife makes house cleaning
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Clean Like a Pro

"Spring cleaning" is a term that can intimidate all but the most seasoned neat freaks, but it doesn't have to be that way. We talked to professional cleaners and organizers to find out some of their favorite tips and tricks that make the process quicker, easier, and dare we say it, maybe even a little bit enjoyable. From how to clean an oven to a fool-proof system for decluttering, here's how experts get the job done.

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Young tidy worthy tired bearded man kneeling, wiping sweat and trying to clean dirty floor in kitchen.

Get a Different View of Things

Spring cleaning is all about scrubbing the spots that are otherwise ignored, but to do that, you need to know where the messes are, says Mary Gagliardi, a scientist and cleaning expert with Clorox. "Sit on the floor, stand on a chair, and see what you notice," she says. "We all move through life so quickly, and things that are out of one's immediate view tend to get ignored and are often quite dirty." For instance, Gagliardi says sitting on the kitchen floor may show dirty kick plates under cabinets, or standing on a chair may reveal a thick layer of dust on the top of your refrigerator or door frames.

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Let Your Dishwasher Share the Burden

Don't let the name fool you: The dishwasher is plenty good at cleaning things other than dishes. Instead of futzing with glass cleaners that leave streaks, "put glass light globes, glass light pendants, and glass decor into the dishwasher," recommends April Sargies, founder of Cloth + Bristle. "They will come out sparkling." Lauren Bowen, director of franchise operations at Two Maids & A Mop, says it's also easy to disinfect toys in the dishwasher. "Plastic toys without batteries can be safely put through the dishwasher for a quick and effective clean. Just make sure to let them air dry once the cycle is complete, as the drying cycle can be too harsh and melt certain plastics."

Related: Spring Cleaning Mistakes You Keep Making Every Year

Woman is cleaning window.

Switch to Microfiber Cloths

A thorough spring cleaning could easily burn through several packs of paper towels — not exactly great for Mother Earth, or your wallet. If you haven't already, ditch the costly paper and use microfiber cloths, experts recommend. "They will change the way you clean your home," says Abe Navas, general manager or Dallas-based Emily's Maids. "They trap dust, gunk, and any other thing. They can be reused, and they can be cleaned easily." Bowen says they're also more absorbent than paper and "require much less manual labor to scrub an area." Free yourself from paper-towel tyranny with this pack of 36 microfiber towels from Amazon Basics for roughly the same price as a jumbo pack of Bounty or Viva. 

Related: Cleaning Products That Are a Waste of Money

Person applying mixed baking soda onto surface of oven

Clean an Oven Without Harsh Chemicals

Using an oven's self-cleaning feature can be risky, because the ultra-high temperatures needed to burn off gunk may cause damage. There are also cleaners like Easy-Off, but they can eat away at an oven's interior coating. Rocky Vuong, director of Calibre Cleaning in Melbourne, Australia, says there's a better way that "requires practically no elbow grease, is entirely environmentally friendly, and can be made with common pantry products." He recommends combining baking soda, white vinegar, and water in an oven-safe bowl to form a paste. Spread it evenly inside the oven, then leave the bowl of leftover paste at the bottom. Let the mixture bake for 45 minutes at 220 degrees. After the oven cools, wipe away the mess with a sponge.

Related: Ways to Spring Clean With Everyday Household Items

A method of cleaning in a microwave oven with water and lemon

Freshen Up Your Microwave With Lemon

A little citrus may be all you need to leave a dirty microwave sparkling, experts say. "The acidity of the citrus breaks down built-up grease and grime," says Ana Andres, co-founder of London-based TidyChoice. "Simply squeeze the lemon into a small cup with a bit of vinegar. Put the microwave on for two minutes and leave it for an extra minute before opening. To finish, wipe down the insides with a damp cloth."

Related: Germ Magnets That Need Cleaning Now

Grapefruit with sea salt
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Use Grapefruit to Cut Through Soap Scum

It's citrus to the rescue again. Instead of spending more money on a cleaner that promises to eliminate soap scum, try out something you may already have in your kitchen: grapefruit. Bowen suggests taking half a grapefruit and pouring a layer of salt on top. "Then rub the grapefruit on the affected areas and you'll see the soap scum start to lift. The grapefruit's citric acid and the coarseness of the salt work together to power through stubborn scum." 

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Clean Often the Toilet

Clean the Bathrooms at Once

Bathrooms are such a joy to clean … said no one ever. One strategy that can help make an unsavory chore go a little bit faster? Tackling all bathrooms at once. "Not only are bathrooms a back-breaking cleaning chore with all the bending and crouching, there are just a lot of surfaces in one small room that really need to be cleaned well," says Melissa Lush, co-founder of Force of Nature. "Clean all your bathrooms at once to just get them done. Start by spraying sinks, mirrors, toilets, tubs or shower stalls, and grout with a non-toxic cleaner," share recommends. "Working on one area at a time, clean sinks, then tubs and showers, then toilets. Finally, mop your way out of each bathroom." 

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Dirty Fridge
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Stop Fridge Messes With Wax Paper

Cleaning out a fridge might be one of the most annoying parts of spring cleaning, especially if there are sticky messes to scrub from the glass shelves. Bowen recommends using wax paper to line the fridge, saving yourself the trouble from the get-go. "Just lay the paper underneath your items, and simply remove and replace it when it's dirty," she says. No wax paper? Plastic wrap would also do the trick, she says.

Related: Handy Products to Refresh Your Home This Spring

Woman cleaning home
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Clean Windows on an Overcast Day

What better time to clean windows than a bright, sunny day when you can see every grimy spot? You're actually better off waiting for some cloud cover, Andres says. "Direct sunlight actually dries the glass too quickly, leaving behind streaks," she cautions. "A cloudy day will help slow down the drying process. Your hard work won't go to waste and you'll be left with streak-free windows."

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Dust With Dryer Sheets

No, you don't need a feather duster (they're a waste of money anyway) or one of those fancy, wasteful Swiffer models. Just grab your pack of dryer sheets and go to town, Bowen recommends. "Their anti-static properties make them great anti-dust tools," she says. "Use a dryer sheet to wipe down areas where dust tends to build up, such as window blinds, television screens, and bookshelves. The anti-static repellent will save you a lot of time in the future, as you won't have to constantly return to these areas to dust them."

Dusty Ceiling Fan

Clean Ceiling Fans With Old Pillowcases

Another dust magnet that needs special attention during spring cleaning, especially since they will be getting more of a workout in the coming months: ceiling fans. "As hot air rises, taking dust and debris with it, the blades end up getting a thick, stuck-on coating over winter, when they're less in use," explains Marty Basher, organization specialist with Modular Closets. The easiest way to clean them? Any old pillowcase, says Jennifer Rodriguez, chief hygiene officer with Pro Housekeepers. "Place the pillowcase over one blade at a time. Using a damp rag, you can wipe away all the dust while protecting the floor from getting dirty." 

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Vacuum Curtains and Drapes

Even if your window treatments are washable (some aren't), taking them down can be a pain. "The process of removing drapes, putting them through the washer and dryer, ironing them, and then hanging them up again can be really time consuming," Bowen warns. "Luckily, you can use your vacuum to cut the cleaning time in half. Leave the drapes hanging up as they are, use the upholstery attachment, and vacuum from top to bottom." Of course, if you're dealing with more than dust, washing might be unavoidable. In that case, Kelsey Stuart, CEO of Bloomin' Blinds, still recommends vacuuming curtains before washing them, and putting them in a large garbage bag after taking them down to keep dirt and dust in check.

Messy Bathroom Counter

Don't Forget to Tackle Bathroom Clutter

Spring cleaning is an ideal time to regain some space in those overstuffed bathroom drawers and medicine cabinets. Katy Winter, founder of Katy's Organized Home, recommends starting with low-hanging fruit like makeup. "It's very common to hang onto makeup, but many products have expiration dates," she says. Another easy purge, she says: Expired medication. (Just don't be too quick to get rid of some common over-the-counter pain relievers and allergy medications, which can be perfectly safe for a while after their expiration date.)

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Storage Containers on a Shelf

Invest in Plastic Storage Containers

When your decluttering results in the inevitable piles of clothing, holiday decor, linens, or other stuff you're not ready to part with, experts are unanimous: Plastic storage containers are the way to go, especially in spaces like garages, basements, and attics where pests and temperature swings are an issue. "Plastic containers work much better than cardboard boxes," Navas says. "They're easier to clean, and if they get wet, your items are safe. They don't degrade that easily and they can store a lot of items." If you can't find containers with transparent sides, be sure to label the boxes (masking tape and a permanent marker work well) to make finding items easier later on.

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Woman sorting out wardrobe

Let Go of Gift Guilt

So a friend gave you a sweater that isn't your style, but you don't want to be rude, so you keep it? If this scenario sounds familiar, it's time to use spring cleaning to get rid of this "gift guilt," and all the items it has ushered into your house, says Megan Rogers, owner of One Less Stress in Oklahoma. "We often begin to think if we don't want to keep an item, that we aren't showing love to the person who gave it to us, or we don't appreciate their efforts in giving us a gift," she says. "Some people cannot give gifts without expectation of use, but it' s not your obligation to fulfill them in this way. Even if they don't see their part as ending with your receiving in thankfulness and love, this does not mean you have to keep the item." 

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Stack of old clothes to discard (declutter) or keep. Recycle clothes, eco cotton
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Use a 5-Bin System For Decluttering

One of the most overwhelming parts of decluttering: Deciding what to do with all those items you pull out of closets, clear off counters, or rescue from junk drawers. Idaho-based Stor-It's organizing and storage expert, Marshall Weber, recommends using five storage bins each time you tackle a different area. "They can be baskets, bags, or even spaces on your floor — what's important is that you have enough of them to serve five distinct purposes," he says. Then, designate one for trash, one for recycling, one for donations, one for things you can resell, and one for items you want to keep, but relocate. 

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Organised pantry items

Organize for How You Live

We too often declutter and re-organize our spaces without regard for how we actually use our items, says Kim Jones of Lock and Key Home. For instance, Jones recommends organizing a closet so that it's "shoppable," with the items you wear most front and center. "When items are crammed in, the decision on what to wear is extremely overwhelming," she says. To further simplify your morning routine, she recommends setting up your bathroom with items placed in the order you'll actually need them. Similarly, pantries are best organized in zones. "If you have kids, make an area where they can grab and go. Items that are not used as often, such as baking, can be placed at top, so items used frequently can have room front and center."

Home garage

Create Storage Zones in Your Garage

The thought of cleaning out an overstuffed garage can be so stressful that it's easy to skip the process entirely. Kirsten Fisher, founder and CEO of Imagine Home Organization in Tampa, Florida, suggests designating zones of certain items in order to make the process go more quickly. "Designate one side of the garage for tools, one side for sports and entertainment, and the third side for storage," she says. She also recommends using vertical space as much as possible to leave enough space for vehicles. "Hang outdoor tools like rakes and shovels on hooks or corral them in a tall bin in one corner. Get bikes up off the floor by using a hanging rack or wall hooks."

baking soda on top washing machine
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Remember to Wash the Washers

It might seem silly, but yes, the washer also needs some special attention. "Every time you run a load of laundry, your machine is accumulating some amount of soap residue, dirt, dust and skin flakes from clothing, sheets and towels," Basher says. While you can buy commercial washing-machine cleaners like Affresh, he says running a cycle with bleach will do the trick. "Just be sure to run another so that the washer is thoroughly rinsed and bleach doesn't get on your next load of colors." The dishwasher also needs some love, Bowen says, and all you need is vinegar and baking soda. "Put a cup of vinegar in the top rack and run a full hot-water cycle. Then, distribute a cup of baking soda evenly across the bottom of the dishwasher and run another hot water cycle."

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Shot of a Young Beautiful Woman in Jeans Shirt and Shorts Dancing and Vacuum Cleaning a Carpet in a Cozy Room at Home. She Uses a Modern Cordless Vacuum. She's Happy.

Make the Process Fun

Spring cleaning doesn't have to be a week-long, soul-sucking endeavor. Experts recommend breaking your work into manageable chunks, and above all else, making it enjoyable. "Limit the time you spend decluttering each day. Twenty minutes or a half-hour is totally acceptable," Weber says. "Likewise, you don't have to break a sweat as you sort. Put on music, bring your pet into the room, and make sure to reward yourself for a job well done. Save your favorite TV show for after your decluttering session or treat yourself to a good meal."

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