After a long winter, spring cleaning chores go way beyond the day-to-day, as we vacuum away dust bunnies and take down window treatments for their annual washing. And while much of spring cleaning can be sloggy and labor-intensive, there are some easy jobs you can take on as you tackle the deeper cleaning that spring inspires, from cleaning a filthy ceiling fan to eliminating sticky film from kitchen cabinets.
How to Clean a Funky-Smelling Washing Machine
Smells develop in washing machines for a whole bunch of reasons, from the buildup of excess detergent, to trapped moisture. The solution to a smelly washing machine problem is to run a cup or two of white vinegar through an empty hot water wash cycle (this is also a good time to wash a small load of cleaning rags or a mildew-y shower curtain liner). While you can use bleach for this operation, it’s not ideal because if residue lingers, it could cause damage to dark clothing. And don’t forget to wipe the gasket out with a rag dipped in white vinegar, as mildew will prosper in that dark and dank environment.
The Only Ceiling Fan Trick You Need
Ceiling fans pose a problem: Their flat blades collect a ton of dirt, but wiping them clean will create a dust shower, as all that grime travels southward onto whatever is below the fan, making an even bigger mess in need of cleaning. Enter an old pillowcase, which is the correct tool for the job — coat the inside of the case with a dusting spray or all-purpose cleaner, slide the case all the way over the blade, hold the open ends tightly on the blade with your hands and pull back. The dust will be wiped off the blade and right into the case, and the area below the fan will remain dirt-free.
Your Small Appliances Deserve Big Love
While they don’t require regular scrubbing, from time to time it’s a good idea to deep clean small appliances like the toaster, blender, or coffee maker. Start by removing all detachable, washable parts — if you’ll be cleaning a few appliances at once, go ahead and fill your kitchen sink up with hot, soapy water, and toss the parts in for a nice bubblebath. Then, making sure that the appliances are unplugged, wipe the exteriors using a rag or paper towels and an all-purpose spray to remove food splatters and sticky buildup. An old toothbrush, cotton swab or tightly wound paper towel can help to get into tight corners. Coffee makers and tea kettles can be cleaned by “brewing” a mixture of equal parts white vinegar and water, while coffee/spice grinders can be refreshed by whirring up uncooked rice, which will wick away oils and powdery residue.
What to Do About Sticky Kitchen Cabinets and Walls
Over time, kitchen walls and cabinets (and the vent hood, oh God, that vent hood) develop a sticky patina caused by the grease and steam released when you cook. Regularly wiping vertical surfaces with a mild detergent will keep that film at bay, but once it forms you’ll need a more heavy duty cleaning product. Enter, ammonia. Ammonia is so great on grease, and a little bit goes a very long way. To use it, dilute a quarter cup in a gallon of water, don a pair of protective gloves, dip a rag or sponge in the solution and swab sticky surfaces, wiping them dry with a cloth or paper towel. If you’re looking for something a little less harsh than ammonia, Simple Green is a good choice. Always spot test first to make sure the cleaning solution won’t cause damage to the paint, finish or wallpaper.
Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling book My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag … And Other Things You Can’t Ask Martha. Her weekly cleaning advice column, “Ask a Clean Person,” appears on Esquire.com; its companion podcast is available on Acast and iTunes.