Spring Cleaning

16 Spring Cleaning To-Dos You Can Tackle in 5 Minutes (or Less)

We asked the experts and they agree—sometimes, a few minutes is all you need.

March 24, 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.

When we think of spring cleaning, we imagine a full-day affair of vacuuming, mopping, dusting, and the like, but sometimes a little burst of cleaning or tidying can be almost as satisfying as a deep clean. And oftentimes, even after a full-force cleaning day there are little pockets of our home that escaped the scouring frenzy. As part of Home52’s spring cleaning efforts, I gathered up a host of cleaning tasks you can do in five minutes or less (yes, really!). These are low-impact, high-reward projects that will make your home feel fresh—and some of them may even surprise you!

1. Touch Up the Walls

Grab your trusty magic eraser, dampen it lightly, and buff out five minutes worth of the little marks and smudges on your walls—or just aim to freshen up the area around every light switch (the wall is almost always dingy there).

2. De-Fuzz the Shades

Clean My Space founder Melissa Maker likes to use a lint roller (the kind with the roll of sticky sheets) to clean lots of unexpected things. One quickie we love: Use the lint roller to lift dust off of lampshades. (Though, she cautions to be extra gentle with paper lampshade or skip this tactic altogether.) Start in the bedroom to breathe easier at night!

3. Dust the Perimeter

Why is it that baseboards are so often neglected when we clean our floors? In just a couple minutes, you can run a microfiber cloth around the baseboards of an entire room. And if you’re feeling ambitious, you can probably do a whole apartment in 10 minutes.

4. Scrub Your Sink

Becky Rapinchuk, the founder of Clean Mama recommends a simple sink scrub. Becky likes to pre-mix 2 cups of baking soda with 10 drops lemon essential oil and 10 drops of clove essential oil in a jar for a boost of aromatherapy, but plain old baking soda will do, too. You sprinkle the powder onto the sink, squirt in castille or dish soap, and then scrub with a sink-safe sponge or brush. Remember to really get into the corners and under the lip if you have an undermount sink. Becky does her sink nightly, but you can do it anytime you notice the sink is looking less than fresh.

5. Freshen One Small Appliance

Becky really believes in the power of what she calls a “5-minute fix,” for times when you feel overwhelmed by the mess (she even has a printable of prompts!). On her list of easy-to-do tasks: Clean a small appliance, like the microwave, toaster, or coffee maker. (Fair warning: I have to confess I was SHOCKED at how gross my toaster oven was: It needed a solid 15!)

6. Clear the Counters

Becky also suggested wiping down kitchen counters as a five-minute cleaning fix. But if like me, you think it’ll take more than five minutes to wipe yours clean, you probably have too much stuff sitting out, so let’s take five minutes to put things away instead. Try to ID items that don’t need to be on the counter: for example, if you have to take your coffee beans out of a cabinet, maybe the coffee grinder can get put away in the cabinet, too or move the fruit bowl to the center of the breakfast table to free up counter space.

7. Spritz and Swipe the Cabinets

Home52’s editorial lead Arati Menon suggests tackling your kitchen cabinet fronts, which are often missed during regular kitchen cleansing. Spritz them evenly and lightly with an all-purpose cleaner, let it sit for a minute or two while you do something else, and then wipe them clean with a cloth. If your kitchen is large or if you’ve neglected this task for a longtime, do just the uppers or just the lowers to keep it quick.

8. Wipe Down Your Condiments

One super-fast task that makes a big impact in my own kitchen is to wipe down the olive oil, vinegars, and pepper grinder that I keep next to the stove. I like to use diluted white vinegar on a rag or microfiber cloth, since I know it’s non-toxic, and the vinegar works wonders on glass. Another day you can do the same with all the condiments in your fridge door.

9. Try the Basket Trick

Designer Shamika Lynch, founder of Maximizing Tiny, suggests designating a few decorative baskets specifically for fast clean-ups. She says this is especially useful for parents of small children—and especially in small spaces: ”Having a basket dedicated to toys stationed in each room makes cleanup doable within five minutes.” Bonus points if the basket has a lid to keep the toys out of site.

10. Tackle the Mail Pile

Gather up all your unopened mail and winnow down the stack. No matter how large the pile, you can probably sort your mail into important and junk mail in just a few minutes, says Shamika. While you’re at it, add a small basket or trash can by your front door to collect "junk" mail before it even enters your home. “Decluttering should start at the front door,” she says.

11. Clean a Corner of Your Closet

People forget that closets get dirty too, says professional organizer Laura Cattano. A full closet cleansing will take time, but in five minutes you could clear off and wipe down a single shelf or clear and vacuum the closet floor.

12. Tidy Up Your Hangers

Another quick fix for closets? Speed-organize your hanging clothes: Move all the empty hangers together in one section, weed out any dry cleaner hangers, and quickly move like items together (shirts with shirts, pants with pants, etc.)

13. De-Gunk Your Devices

My husband is a professional photographer, and he has always been fanatical about wiping down all his gear after every photoshoot. That habit has now extended to our personal devices. At the end of the day, he gives our laptops and phones a quick wipe-down with a cloth barely moistened with Windex—or if we’ve been out in the world, and disinfecting is in order, rubbing alcohol.

14. Spruce Up a Single Surface

Choose one horizontal surface like your nightstand or desk and discard any trash, or recycle and relocate items that don't belong. Then quickly wipe it down with your favorite all-purpose cleaner, suggests professional organizer Shira Gill. If you have time, she suggests you go one step further and elevate your space with something lovely to look at, like fresh flowers clipped from your garden, a candle, or a piece of art you love.

15. Create an "Outbox"

Take a minute to locate an empty bin or basket and make room for it by the main entrance of your home, says Shira. Then, use this as an “outbox” to corral all the random things floating around your house like shop returns, library books, and the tupperware you borrowed from your neighbor in one centralized spot before they head out of your home.

16. Go Label-Less

It would be a stretch to call this last one a spring-cleaning tip, but hear me out. Remove the labels from any plastic bottles that sit out on your counter like hand soap, dish soap, and lotion. It’s a quick, simple task that will make your kitchen or bathroom look cleaner because there’s less visual clutter.

What are your go-to tasks to quickly check off a to-do list item? Tell us below!

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Laura Fenton is the No Space Too Small columnist at Food52. The author of The Little Book of Living Small, she covers home, design, and sustainability. Laura lives in Jackson Heights, Queens in a 690-square foot apartment with her husband and son. You can follow her on Instagram @laura.alice.fenton or subscribe to her newsletter Living Small.


/anne... April 5, 2021
Be careful where you use those sticky lint rollers. They pick up lint, but leave a sticky trace behind, which means that the next bit of lint floating around gets caught by the stickiness :-)

Only use on things that you will wash regularly, so the stickiness washes off. A Lily brush or velcro brush will usually do the trick, or even a damp sponge will often remove lint - that's what I use on lampshades.
Newton April 3, 2021
Awesome tips! Love your blog, and thanks for sharing.
diana March 30, 2021
Dust the top of all your doors and windowsills. They're looked over collectors of dust and allergens.
Arati M. March 31, 2021
I couldn't agree more. I just did this the other day (and the tops of my paintings).