Cleaning

15 Little Spring Cleaning To-Dos With Big Rewards

You can tackle each of them in 30 minutes or less.

April 15, 2020
Photo by Rocky Luten

Now more than ever, home is where many of us are seeking refuge and solace in light of the novel coronavirus. This is a tough time, but we’re here for you—whether it’s a new pantry recipe or a useful tip for your kitchen, here are some ideas to make things run a little more smoothly for you and your loved ones.


Spring. Cleaning. Is. Here. And it’s more pressing than ever, because while you’re quarantined at home, you’ve noticed just how much dust collects on every surface, how the pans never really seem to get clean, and that the tub drain gets slower and slower by the day.

Certainly a global pandemic doesn’t require you to scrub the entire house from top to bottom, so we simply won’t suggest it. You’ve probably been holed up for about a month now—and it’s trying. What you can do, though, for your own sanity, is tackle a few really doable cleaning projects in each room, and we’re willing to bet you can complete them in less than 30 minutes, sans interruptions, of course.


Kitchen

  • If you’re anything like me, the cabinet under your sink is filled with bags of grocery bags, cleaning supplies, and stashes of garbage can liners. The easiest way—seriously—to approach this mess head-on is to yank it all out onto the floor and stack it up nicely again. This dark little den of provisions is bound to get messy again, but assessing what you have and downsizing never hurts. Fold plastic grocery bags up small, line up your spray cleaners (or stack them in a storage bin or bucket), and stack your trash bag boxes up neatly. It makes a world of difference.
  • Got a load of pots and pans stained with years of searing? Sprinkle baking soda on the stained portion, followed by a splash of distilled white vinegar. Scrub until the brown gunk you thought would haunt you for eternity rinses right off.
  • Sure, your junk drawer is named as such for a reason—it collects all the small things that have no clear home—but it could withstand a little bit of order. A couple clear dividers, some shallow open boxes, or even small food storage containers will corral the clutter more effectively. Here are some before and afters to get you inspired. You can do this!

Bathroom

  • Handle the areas in the bathroom you often neglect in a routine wipe-down. Throw the toothbrush holder in the dishwasher, vacuum the exhaust vent, and work up the courage to wipe behind the toilet—your allergies will thank you.
  • The tub is a breeding ground for little colonies of bacteria and smelly mildew—even with diligent squeegeeing and wiping, stagnant water and soap scum will find ways to make your life difficult. The best way to get your dingy tub sparking? Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. This thing is well…magic, when it comes to slicing right through the ickiness that is soap scum in the tub basin and on shower walls.
  • If your tub drain has a tendency not to cooperate, give it a flush or two with some natural drain cleaner—baking soda and our old friend vinegar, of course. Pour a pot of boiling water with a few drops of dish soap down the drain, followed by one cup of baking soda, and one cup of distilled white vinegar. Boil another pot of water, and pour it down about 10 minutes later. Run hot water to see if the tub is draining properly, and repeat as needed.

Bedroom

  • That area under the bed...is really the junk drawer of the bedroom. Now’s the time to handle the stuff shoved under there, because it’s also likely collecting dust and making your allergies more unbearable. Brainstorm some storage solutions (like suitcases used as sliding containers!), and give the floor a vacuum while everything is out from underneath.
  • You could clean out the whole closet, but if that task is too daunting at present, just do quick rearrange so your spring and summer clothes are within reach. Fold up bulky sweaters and stow them away on the top shelf and hang everything long-sleeved at the back, or ends, of the closet.
  • Hauling a rented carpet shampooer home or calling in a pro can get pricey, but you can first try to spot clean small stains one at a time. Refer to this guide, and treat carpet similarly to fabric—just with a little more elbow grease.

Living room

  • If your grandmother’s armoire has been crying out for some TLC, lucky for you—spring is the perfect time to do some wood furniture polishing, read: wide-open windows for ventilation. Hop online and order some paste wax, grab some old rags, and get to work with this tutorial.
  • This task doesn’t have to be reserved just for the living room windows, but you can do it one room at a time to minimize the time spent cleaning each day. Wiping down glass is actually a pretty satisfying task, if you have a great glass cleaner (or a bottle of white vinegar). Another tip? Use coffee filters or newspaper instead of paper towels or rags to cut down on streaking and fibers left behind.
  • Break out the mini vacuum or smaller attachment and get into the nooks and crannies your upright vacuum usually doesn’t reach. The trim, baseboard, behind the couch, and under the coffee table are bound to host some dusty characters.

garage or basement

  • Shake the dust off all your gardening tools, beach chairs, and summer sporting gear, then run it over with some spray cleaner and a rag. Doing this all at the beginning of the season instead of as you need them will cut down on the dirt and debris that collects, meaning you can easily take the bikes out for a ride in May without first having to climb through spiderwebs.
  • Get rid of everything that expired or suffered over the winter. Clumpy cans of paint and frayed extension cords have seen their day: thank them for their work and kindly see them out.
  • Check up on the garage door opener to ensure it’s in working order, and in the case of a basement, change out the light bulbs for soft white LEDs that’ll never leave you in the lurch midway down the stairs.

What is the one spring cleaning project you're taking on this week? Tell us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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Caroline Mullen

Written by: Caroline Mullen

26 Comments

miatenille May 13, 2020
Love these tips! Thank you thank you! I agree with Abby, I love a good carpet cleaning come Spring to freshen things up!
 
abby.fields May 7, 2020
These are great tips. I like to have my carpets and upholstery cleaned each spring to kick me into gear! Thanks for sharing your tips!
 
witloof May 5, 2020
The best thing I have ever found to improve the bathroom drain is something called a drain weasel, bought on impulse at TJ Maxx. You unscrew the plate, lower it down the drain as far as it will go and turn it a few times, and it magically twists up all of the hair and gunk onto itself. You pull it back up and voila. Baking soda and vinegar will not dissolve giant clots of hair, but this will remove them in instantly.
 
Diana M. April 25, 2020
I use baking soda all the time to clean dirty pots and even the worst-looking burnt-on stuff. (I've been cooking for 50 years, but I can still get distracted and burn stuff, don't judge).

My basic method is to pour a liberal amount of baking soda - like maybe 1/2 c or more, depending on area to be covered - into the pot. It should pretty much cover the ugly. (PS, baking soda is really cheap. Go wild.)

Cover with water - fill the pot if the burn goes that high, otherwise, I dunno, at least a couple of inches. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, let it boil for several minutes, turn off the heat and let it sit, covered, for several hours.

Pour out and start peeling the crud off the pot. A little silicone spatula or a plastic scrubber will usually get everything off in no time. It always feels like magic.

I think that in all my years of mishaps, I've only had to do it twice to get the pot clean, maybe two or three times.
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. April 27, 2020
This sounds a lot like my method (re: just pouring baking soda straight onto the spot) but I'll have to try the boiling/soaking as well for super stuck stains!
 
Diana M. April 27, 2020
I have had little success in passing this technique on to others. I tend to suspect they think it sounds too easy and cheap to really work. Sigh.
 
Lauren B. April 24, 2020
Ah, if you regularly dust then you never have a big job to do! I have some kind of fuzzy duster on a telescoping long stick and every few weeks it takes mere seconds to hit all the baseboards, mouldings, and there the wall meets the ceiling. Also when I wash windows I have a pile of microfiber cloths that I use with Windex, changing often. Alcohol is better but is hard to find right now.
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. April 27, 2020
Have you too, found that being home more makes you notice just HOW MUCH dust is in your house?? I'm growing more horrified by the day over the dust...
 
Diana M. May 9, 2020
My husband is convinced there's something wrong with our *house* because of all the dust. I'm pretty sure his mom was just a lot more determined at dusting than I am. She was a truly lovely lady, but she was also German, and I'll bet she dusted every day.
 
Lauren B. May 9, 2020
LOL maybe you should smudge your fingerprints onto his glasses (if he wears glasses). Or put lower lumens bulbs in all the fixtures and keep the blinds down.
 
Lauren B. April 24, 2020
Hello! If you use a new Scotchbrite on the stained pots and do it more frequentlythan each spring then removing that stuff is not a big operation. I just use whatever dish detergent we currently have. ALSO I question the advisability of pouring pots of boiling water down drains cuz lots of homes now use plastic pipes and who knows how they and whatever they use to join them will hold up under this stress.
 
Brenda April 24, 2020
I use a method similar to the above for drains, but don't pour the hot water while at the boil, let it sit for a few, still pour while hot. The pipes can take that ok but would indeed advise anyone who wants to try to do a leak check in the basement.
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. April 27, 2020
Hi Lauren & Brenda!

Since boiling water is about 200° F and household water is usually about 150° F at its hottest, the temp differential shouldn't be too much between running your hottest water and boiled water coming from the stove. The pipes should be able to withstand the heat, and this method is definitely better than something like Draino, which has been been proven to eat away at plastic and even metal pipes. Hope that helps!
 
Lauren B. April 27, 2020
Sorry, no, it really does not help.

Water boils at 212°F and that is a temp significantly higher than the hottest tap water. I can stand the hottest temp in my shower for a minute or so but would I want to shower myself with boiling water? No thank you. Also, this is the answer you get from Google when you ask if it is OK to pour boiling water down plastic pipes:

“The general rule of thumb is that hot boiling water can soften or even slightly melt the joints in your PVC pipes so YES, if you subject these types of pipes to high temperature water on a regular basis - they can be damaged, causing leaks and eventually requiring replacement.”

So if you think it is OK to risk a leak in the ceiling or down a wall, where you need to start ripping out sheetrock to find the origin of a leak, well you go right ahead and deal with it. I'm passing on this! Plus a nice old straightened wire hanger is a fabulous tool for removing clogs of hair from pipes, negating the need for Drano-type products. Gross but it does the trick.

It surprises me that you would advocate a procedure that could end up costing readers a lot of $ if they did it.
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. April 27, 2020
Thank you for this researched response, Lauren!
 
Sandra April 24, 2020
How about an election stoves oven with coils on the bottom..ideas?
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. April 27, 2020
Hi Sandra,

I've seen people use aluminum foil under the coils to catch drips & crumbs, and periodically switch them out to prevent gunk from building up! Not the most visually appealing solution, but it works!
 
alan April 18, 2020
This is probably because I'm bored in lockdown. I also tried the 2 parts vinegar/ 1 baking soda, but on stainless steel pans. Maybe I misunderstood, but those proportions do not form a paste, and didn't help much. A couple of years ago, there was a Food 52 recommendation: clean oven racks by putting them in a bathtub of water and toss in some sheets of fabric softener for a dryer. I was amazed, but that worked perfectly. Would it work on pans? Or, could you rescue the vinegar/ baking soda hint?
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. April 20, 2020
Hi Alan! I'll make sure it's amended in the piece, but to be honest, I usually just throw some baking soda into the pan from the box and pour some vinegar on, then scrub... so it's possible the ratio needs to be fiddled with. I haven't tried the dryer sheet method, but now I'm excited to! Thank you for the comment!
 
Marie O. April 24, 2020
I use the dryer sheets for all my dirty pots and pans. Anything that gets cooked on, I find if I soak with the dryer sheet in about 10 mins. it wipes right off. Including mac & cheese! I don't think it works on stained pots and pans.
 
nancy S. April 24, 2020
Yes, dryer sheets will work on pans as well. I just soak a burned pan in boiling water, throw in a dryer sheet and leave to soak overnight. Works really well, particularly on All Clad pans which seem to stain a lot.
 
Marie O. April 25, 2020
I never tried boiling water, but I will try it next time. And I have to be honest with everyone, I use the dryer sheet that I previously used in my dryer. The clothes were clean.....only saying. Waste not want not.
 
alan April 25, 2020
There is a comment from Diana M. above that I haven't tried yet, but it is helpful. I also wanted to apologize for taking your formula so literally.
 
Margaret April 15, 2020
Hi, I have a few aluminum pans that I got from my mom that show decades of use. They are still good, but need help. I thought that you couldn't use / cook with any acids in aluminum... so, can you suggest any alternatives to the vinegar-baking soda paste? Thanks!
 
Arati M. April 16, 2020
Hi Margaret. A lot of the cleaning recommendations for aluminum involve bringing water to a boil in the stained aluminum pot, and placing either apple peels, or lemon juice in the water, simmering, then washing out when cool. Both those are acidic but are heavily diluted by the water. If you want to avoid that, try scrubbing out with a thick paste of baking soda? I've also heard good things about Bar Keeper's Friend. Good luck.
 
Margaret April 16, 2020
Thank you!!!