I love cleaning. I admit it’s a confession at odds with my feminist self, but there it is. I’m not quite OCD but lets just say I have quite a bit in common with Monica out of Friends.
This post has been updated to reflect my growing passion for eco friendly and cruelty-free beauty and cleaning products. Here are my spring cleaning tips in an A-Z format which was a bigger task than I had anticipated:
A is for Anti-bacterial
Ditch anti-bac wipes and sprays. When you kill 99% bacteria you also murder all the good guys that protect us. Keep kitchen surfaces and toilets spotlessly clean with environmentally safe products instead. There’s nothing like owning a dog to take the edge off worrying too much about ‘germs’. The good news is that exposure to bacteria actually boosts our immune system and an over-sanitised home can lead to allergies.
A wipe might be convenient but I’m not sure how disposable they are. I use a refillable spray with a recycled paper towel instead.
B is for Bicarbonate of soda
Our grandmothers knew all about the cleaning properties of bicarb (Baking Soda in the US). Sprinkle it on a wet cloth and use bicarbonate of soda to cut through grime and grease in bathrooms and kitchens.
You can also use bicarb with boiling water to unblock drains, pop a spoonful in the laundry for whiter whites and combine with vinegar for toilet cleaning. The internet is awash with bicarb and baking soda cleaning tips so I won’t list them all here – just try a few and you’ll be hooked.
C is for Cloths
Anyone who is serious about cleaning knows you need lots of cloths for the tasks ahead. I save old t-shirts, tea cloths and towels so that I always have a clean duster to hand. After I’ve cleaned round the bathroom I polish dry with fresh ‘rags’ to prevent watermarks. I do the same with wet floors after steam cleaning.
When you’ve finished the cloths can go in the washing machine but only if the fibres are natural. Synthetic fabrics should just be thrown away before they shed their plastic fibres into the ocean.
D is for De-clutter
When you’ve moved home as many times as I have you learn not to drag all the same old stuff with you. For instance, you take an old baking tray from the back of a cupboard, dust it off, pack it, unpack it, put it in a new cupboard and there it stays until the next move.
I’m merciless. If it’s no longer in use it goes to charity and this applies to clothes, books and unwanted gifts.
The Space Clearing guru Karen Kingston describes the negative energy we experience when we hang on to an item for fear of causing offence. It’s a sinking feeling. Therefore surround yourself with things that give you pleasure and don’t hide the rest – get rid of it.
E is for Elbow Grease
Time is precious and we all search out short cuts and quick fixes. However sometimes results take effort. The good news is that cleaning is a good form of exercise that you don’t have to pay gym fees for.
F is for Feather Duster
You need two, a long handled one to reach cornices and light fittings; a shorter one to flick around the house between knick-knacks and along the tops of picture frames. Ostrich feather is best. Dust just before you vacuum so that you can suck up the debris before it has time to settle.
G is for Gloves
It’s hardly a tip but you need a pair of rubber gloves if you want to protect your hands during cleaning, polishing shoes or peeling beetroot.
H is for Habit
Get into the habit of being tidy all of the time. Put things away after you’ve used them. Wash-up as you cook. Pop things into the recycling when they’re empty (not back on the shelf). Hang up your coat and put clothes back on their hangers. It’s simple stuff that looks and feels great.
I is for Ironing
Spritz stubborn creases with homemade lavender water to make ironing easier and make bedlinen smell delicious.
Place four tablespoons of lavender buds (stripped off the stalks) into a heat proof jug and poor over 500ml of boiling water. Cover with a cloth and let is steep for a few hours or overnight. Stain through a tea strainer and use in a spritz bottle – it’s a lighter scent than water made using essential oil.
If you have a tumble dryer save the water that’s collected in the condenser – this is distilled and perfect for use in irons and steam cleaners.
J is for Jelly
Petroleum jelly is good for cleaning and softening leather (shoes, jackets, furniture) – just dab a bit on a rag cloth and polish.
K is for Kettle
Descale your kettle regularly to keep water tasting it’s best.
Fill the kettle with equal parts of white vinegar and water and allow it to soak for an hour. Boil the mixture and watch it fizz, if there’s still limescale residue boil again. Rinse thoroughly, fill with clean water, bring to the boil and rinse again before using the kettle.
To maintain a scale free the kettle place half a lemon into it every week and bring to the boil, rinse and use as normal.
L is for Lemon
Lemon is nature’s bleach. Use lemon juice to remove tea stains in sinks and mugs, turmeric stains on work surfaces and rust spots on cutlery. You can also combine it with coarse salt to make a scrub to remove baked-on food from pans and dishes.
M is for Mould
Black mould is usually caused through condensation so cleaning it away is only one part of the solution. Condensation is tackled by improving air circulation and this means opening windows or installing a humidistat fan. Don’t leave wet washing hanging around – the water has to go somewhere and this contributes to condensation.
Sunlight kills mould so try a lemon or a vinegar and bicarb solution with a scrubbing brush and keep rooms aired and sunny.
N is for Nature
I love everything about Ecover’s range of natural cleaning products and though they cost a bit more you know they are better for the planet. My favourite is their limescale remover which is fantastic in hard-water London.
Ecover washing-up liquid can also be used in the garden to spray aphids and scale insects – it washes them away without harming edible plants.
O is for Oil
Any kind of cooking oil can be used to restore a shine to stainless steel surfaces.
Clean first with white vinegar, using a paper towel or soft cloth to wipe along the direction of the grain in the steel. Next use a little bit of oil and polish this into the steel – again in the direction of the grain – to bring to a streak-free shine.
Cooking oil can also be used to polish slate hearths and cast iron fireplaces.
P is for Pumice
No amount of product is going to shift a ring of calcification in a toilet bowl. Instead soften a pumice stone in water and gently rub the stone against the calcified line to remove it. Do this gently and ensure the pumice remains wet to prevent scratching the porcelain.
Q is for Q-tips
Cotton buds are not just for your make-up bag, you can use them with water to clean away those little triangles of dust and grime that you find sitting in corners. But please buy biodegradeable cotton buds made from paper not plastic.
R is for Radiators
I have column radiators that are a devil to dust. Use a long handled wooden radiator brush, available from traditional hardware shops such as Labour and Wait in London or A G Hendy in Hastings. I highly recommend a visit to either of these emporiums which are stocked to the rafters with beautiful brushes and housewares.
S is for Steam
If there was only one item on this list that I could keep it would have to be my steam cleaner. My Vaporetto cylinder version is a few years old now but it cleans my floors without the need for any cleaning product whatsoever. I use it everywhere – windows, tiles, floors and I even steamed the mattress to get rid of a bed bug.
T is for Toothbrush
Save old toothbrushes and keep them in your cleaning cupboard. Use these small brush heads to clean into crevices in everything from jewellery to the detergent compartment of your washing machine.
U is for Up-and-Under
I’m short in stature so I was blissfully unaware that a layer of dust had gathered on top of my fridge – until my taller brother pointed it out. Every now and then you need to get out the step-ladder and clean on top of tall items. In addition get under beds, down the back of the sofa and behind the TV.
V is for Vinegar
White vinegar is another old-fashioned cleaning hero that has become an internet sensation.
Fill a spray bottle (I dilute it 50:50 with water) and use it as a general household cleaner. Better Homes and Gardens have a room-by-room list of items that can be cleaned with vinegar.
Warning: Vinegar is an acid so it is NOT to be used on granite, marble and stone as it will etch the surface. Do a patch test before applying it to anything delicate.
W is for Wire Wool
Superfine steel wool can be used to polish away water stains and grime on wood. Use the finest ‘0000’ grade wire wool with a little oil or furniture wax to polish the surface. I also use it to scrub away the burnt bits on my cast iron grill pan, BBQ and oven shelves.
X is for X-ray
A deep clean isn’t just about what you see on the outside it involves cleaning inside cupboards too. You’ll be surprised how grubby shelves and drawers get. If you don’t have time to tackle the whole kitchen just do one cupboard when you can.
Y is for Yellow Pillows
Pillows will yellow over time; the stains are from perspiration and are not removed with basic washing. I use a booster wash method twice a year. Wash on the hottest cotton cycle with Ecover bio washing powder (not liquid or tablets) and add a cup each of washing soda and white vinegar to the machine.
Partly tumble-dry the pillows then leave them in direct sunlight to finish off. Turn them so both sides catch the full sun. They come up white, smell wonderfully fresh and feel plumper – job done!
Z is for Zones
Divide your cleaning routine into zones and tackle one area at a time. This way you can keep on top of cleaning tasks by doing little and often. Unless of course you enjoy the prospect of a full cleaning day – like I do.