Your No-Sweat Guide to Spring Cleaning

8 Cleaning Tasks That Basically Do Themselves

Give yourself a break this spring cleaning season, you deserve it.

March 18, 2021
Photo by Rocky Luten

Welcome to Your No-Sweat Guide to Spring Cleaning, a month-long series that puts the fun (yep, for real!) back into cleaning. We’re talking spruce-ups that take less than five minutes, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that hacks, and hands-off cleaning tasks that basically…do themselves—plus our trustiest tools and helpers. The goal: clean less, go outside more.


I spend seven days a week in my house (you, too?). Sometimes I get out for a grocery run or go for a walk around the block to the post office (when I realize I haven’t left in three days), and occasionally I meet a friend for dinner, but for the most part, I spend a lot of time looking around at all the unclean surfaces in my home.

This means I often end up foisting my computer off my lap at a moment’s notice to wipe down the counter or jumping up to remove dust from the fan blades, just because I’ve over-scrutinized every detail (I’m procrastinating writing this very article). I’m also someone who generally finds enjoyment and satisfaction in getting something squeaky clean, and I’m positive that my perfectionism manifests in a tidy house.

But the truth is, even I’m sick of cleaning. The tiles in the shower need scrubbing, the baseboards need wiping, and the dust bunnies under my bed might actually qualify as pets (which would cause a problem with my lease). While I used to relish a free Sunday devoted solely to scrubbing, I now find myself making excuses or rationalizing with myself that the windows can wait another week to be washed.

I know I’m not alone in the cleaning fatigue, either, so if you’re feeling like you need to check a task off your to-do list (while also kicking back for an episode of Real Housewives), the below ideas are for you.

1. Soak the Shower Head

If your shower head is loaded with hard-water buildup (no judgements here, it’s your area’s water source after all, not you!) it might be in need of a good soak. All you need is white vinegar and an old plastic bag—fill the bag to the top with vinegar, tie it around the shower head, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes to dislodge the yuckiness. Once you’re satisfied with the progress, just give it a rinse and a wipe.

2. Set the Roomba Loose

DJ Roomba (my robot vacuum, lovingly named after Parks & Recreation) is hands-down one of the best investments I've made in my home. I used to be manic about vacuuming every crevice, but now I have DJ Roomba spin around three times a week and the floors are in much better shape than they ever have been. Having one less thing to worry about is also really, really valuable.

3. Run the Oven’s Self-Clean Function

You know this one: Your oven is a master at cleaning itself, no serious elbow grease needed. We’ve got a full explainer on it, but the main points to know are: Make sure you’ll be home for the entire time of the cleaning, remove everything from inside the oven (like pans that live there), open a few windows to mitigate the burnt smell, and let the oven do its thing for a few hours. Finally, brush out all the burnt bits.

4. Soak the Toilet

So OK, you have to do a little scrubbing to get the inside of the toilet bowl clean, but don’t lie to me and say you don’t let the cleaner sit in there a little longer than necessary while you tidy the rest of the bathroom. If you’re low on dedicated toilet cleaner or need an extra clean, pour ½ cup baking soda and ½ cup vinegar into your toilet bowl. The two will fizz…a lot. Let the reaction subside, then give it a quick brush and a flush.

5. Drop off Laundry

Hear me out: I live in New York, and I don’t have in-unit laundry, so I have to schlep my linens out of the house and down the street. However, the $30-40 I spend monthly on dropping my laundry off for a wash-and-fold is, and I cannot stress this enough, the best thing I do with my money. It’s definitely a splurge (especially for family-sized loads) but I’m here to encourage you to treat yourself to a wash-and-fold every once in a while. Even if you just get your bed linens done, think of how much happier you’ll be to have a pre-folded fitted sheet to put away—no fiddling necessary.

6. Run Vinegar Cycle Through Your Coffee Maker

Yep, your coffee maker, if you’ve never cleaned it, is probably pretty gross. Luckily, cleaning it is just as easy as making a cup of coffee (so you can basically do this in your sleep, right?). You can read more about it here, but suffice it to say: a soak-and-cycle of white vinegar cures all.

7. Microwave Some Lemon Water

The splattered red sauce and long-gone soup bits in your microwave are no match for the humble bowl of lemon water, which, when microwaved for three minutes and left standing for five, really loosens up all the grunge. A quick wipe from a paper towel or cloth is all that’s needed now.

8. Run Sponges Through the Dishwasher

If you’re not washing your sponges to prolong their life, you’re not sponging right! At least once a week, I put my sponges in the dishwasher to get ultra-clean with high-temperature water. I’ve found it greatly prolongs the life of my sponge, and also makes me feel good about using it, instead of cringing each time I grab a crusty cleaning tool. If you’re short on a dishwasher, you can also do the same in the washing machine.

Do you have any go-to cleaning tasks that require little to no effort? Tell us below!

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8 Comments

Foos8628587 April 5, 2021
I used "Mold Control" to wipe the tucks and folds of the rubber gasket around the door of my front loading washer, then as an afterthought, ran an empty load with hot water and some more mold control. The washer smells great and so does the room it is in. I be my laundry will, too.
 
janet V. March 31, 2021
Being a retired professional housekeeper, I was skeptical when I saw the title of your article. But, you nailed it! I realized, also, that I knew about or regularly do all of these things already. Thanks for the reminder that not all cleaning jobs are toilsome.
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. March 31, 2021
I am so glad! Cleaning doesn't have to be toilsome, you're right.
 
Coral C. March 24, 2021
Costco sells bundles of white washcloths for cheap (50 cents each?) I put half in the bathroom and half in the kitchen. We use them for everything - napkins, cleaning, drying, scrubbing, dusting. I wash them in a hot bleach load in the washing machine and they come out like new, last forever, eventually go into the rag bag for the garage or the Ridwell Threads bag.
 
janet V. March 31, 2021
Brilliant idea! I'm putting them on my Costco list immediately.
 
Author Comment
Caroline M. March 31, 2021
I squirrel away old dish towels and cloth napkins for the same purpose! I might not want to display them in the kitchen anymore, but they sure work for cleaning.
 
Yeeny March 18, 2021
A few years ago, scientists found that actually "disinfecting" sponges in the dishwasher or microwave actually made some of the worst pathogens on them stronger. According to the NYTimes in 2017, if you are trying to save money or not waste sponges, running "it through a laundry machine at the hottest setting using a powder detergent and bleach and then use it somewhere other than the kitchen that is less hygiene-sensitive, like the bathroom" is a safer option. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/science/sponges-bacteria-microwaving-cleaning.html
 
Smaug March 19, 2021
I've never understood why people use sponges in the first place- buy a pile of rags and wash them regularly; it's cheaper, they do a better job on the dishes, and it's infinitely more hygeinic. Home water heaters should never be set above 120 deg. because of scalding danger, and they seldom are, so washing in hot water in itself won't do much disinfecting.