The essence of a thorough housecleaning comes down to surfaces, lots of 'em! From wood floors to tile backsplashes, from laminate cabinets to painted walls, all the surfaces of your house collect daily impressions of the life lived within each room.
Remove those tiny handprints on the doorframes, the dog hair in the Berber® carpet, the trace of mildew on the bathroom tile, and you'll think you're living in a brand new house. As you throw some muscle into this work, keep motivated with the knowledge that regular cleaning and maintenance not only make your house shine, they probably add years to the lifetime of every surface. If you have pets or small children in the household, remember to practice safe handling and storage of all cleaning products.
What Floor Lies Underfoot
Daily assault by sneakers, hiking boots, high heels and paws takes its toll on your floors. Here, tips for cleaning and repairing hardwood, carpet, tile, and vinyl surfaces.
- Cleaning: In addition to cleaning hardwood floors weekly, it's important to combat dirt, oil, and grime that build up over time and wear away the finish. Several times per year, thoroughly clean your floors with a wood-cleaning product according to its label.
- Removing Marks: Before you tackle a scratch or mark on hardwood floors, consider the finish. If the scratch is on the surface, your floor probably has a hard finish, such as urethane. If the scratch has penetrated to the wood, the floor likely has a soft, oiled finish, common in older residences where the floors have not recently been refinished and sealed.
- Hard Finishes: To make easy work of removing heel marks and food stains, keep a spray bottle filled with pre-diluted wood-cleaning product on hand. Then, when a scuff or smudge occurs, just give it a spritz and wipe it away with a soft towel. Repair scratches with a touch-up kit from a wood flooring supplier. Never use sandpaper, steel wool or harsh chemicals.
- Soft Finishes: Remove scuffs or stains, rub with fine steel wool, then floor wax. Repair light scratches with floor wax and deeper scratches with a wood color stick.
- Cleaning: Frequent vacuuming helps prevent dirt from sifting between carpet fibers and wearing them down. Vacuum high-traffic areas at least twice a week. To thoroughly clean the carpet (once a year): Remove furniture from room, vacuum, then use a rented Rug Doctor® steam cleaner from your neighborhood Publix. Let the carpet dry completely (12-24 hours) before replacing furniture.
- Stain removal: Commercial, all-purpose spot carpet cleaners available in the Publix cleaning aisle will remove many types of carpet stains. When treating a carpet stain, never rub; always blot with a clean, dye-free cloth or paper towel. For some common stains, here are your best bets:
- Alcohol & Soft Drinks: Apply an all-purpose carpet cleaner; rinse and then blot dry.
- Coffee & Tea: Apply all-purpose carpet cleaning solution; rinse; blot dry. If any stain remains, apply spot carpet cleaner.
- Butter, Margarine, Gravy & Other Fat-Based Stains: Use a dry-solvent spot carpet cleaner according to the label.
- Pet Stains, Urine & Vomit: Apply carpet cleaner or a citrus-oxygen cleaner according to the label. Rinse; blot dry.
- Cleaning: For all types of tile flooring, including porous surfaces, begin by sweeping dust away. Then, mop with dish detergent diluted in water. Rinse well.
- Stain Removal: A nonabrasive, all-purpose cleaner or a tub-tile-sink product will remove most stains. Here's how to best treat some of the most common stains:
- Coffee, Tea & Juice: Wash with mild dish detergent and hot water; blot with hydrogen peroxide or diluted chlorine bleach.
- Grease & Fat-Based Stains: Wash with club soda and water, or with a nonabrasive floor cleaner.
- Blood: Dab with hydrogen peroxide or diluted bleach.
- Ink: Soak a clean cloth with diluted bleach and lay it over the stain until the spot disappears. Rinse well.
- Cleaning: Clean vinyl by removing dust and dirt with a broom, mop, electrostatic cloth, or vacuum. For deep cleaning, mop using a nonabrasive all-purpose cleaning product according to label.
- Stain Removal: A quick wipe with a nonabrasive all-purpose cleaning product is often enough. Or try:
- Black Heel Marks: Rub with an art gum eraser, toothpaste, or rubbing alcohol.
- Crayons & Permanent Markers: Rub with lighter fluid or odorless mineral spirits.
- Lipstick: Use rubbing alcohol.
All-Purpose Carpet Cleaner
Commercial all-purpose carpet cleaning solutions effectively remove many types of carpet stains. In a pinch, try this make-it-yourself cleaning solution. Mix:
1 teaspoon of liquid dish detergent
1 quart of warm water
1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar
If These Walls Could Talk
Revive & Revitalize
Walls don't usually require much care. Still, spring-cleaning season offers a good opportunity to lavish some attention on them. Give them a good scrub and the whole room brightens.
Before cleaning a wall, give it a general dusting. To remove cobwebs in high places, tie a dust cloth or T-shirt sprayed with a dusting agent over your broom.
- Painted Walls: Dip a clean sponge in a mix of all-purpose cleaner diluted in warm water, then wring it dry. Gently rub the wall, then rinse with a second sponge and clear water. For stubborn fingerprints, newspaper smudges or scuffs, rub the area with a paste of baking soda and water, using a nonabrasive pad.
- Wall coverings: Dip a sponge in warm water mixed with all-purpose cleaner. Wring almost dry and lightly scrub the wall in 3-foot sections. Rinse with clear water and pat dry with paper towels or soft cloths. Do not allow the wall covering to remain wet.
- Wood Paneling: An oil-soap wood cleaner diluted according to label directions cleanses and restores the shine to wood surfaces. Dampen a sponge with the cleaner and wring until only slightly damp, wipe down the walls and rinse with clear water, using a clean sponge or cloth. If your wood paneling is in a kitchen where grease accumulates, use white vinegar and water instead of wood cleaner.
Painted walls can get messy with small children around but you can minimize damage and keep walls clean by choosing the right type of paint. Use semi-gloss paint for a kitchen, bathroom, or child's room because it can be safely scrubbed when dirty. If you prefer the look of a flat finish, choose light colored paints, which are less likely to show fingerprints than dark colors.
Cabinet Cleaning Wizardry
Think of how often oily, soapy, or flour-dipped fingers open the doors of your kitchen or bath cabinets, and it will come as no surprise that these surfaces need plenty of scrubbing.
Materials & Methods
Whether your cabinets are painted wood, laminate, metal or natural wood, here's how to keep them looking their best.
Behind Closed Doors
- Painted Wood: Wash with warm water mixed with an all-purpose cleaner, wood cleaner or white vinegar. Do not get the wood excessively wet. Rinse with a second cloth and clear water. To remove grease buildup from your kitchen cabinets, wipe them with a mix of two tablespoons ammonia and one quart water; rinse with clear water.
- Metal: Wash with an all-purpose household cleaner diluted in warm water. Rinse using a second cloth and clear water. Wipe dry. Avoid prolonged exposure to water to prevent rusting in seams or cracks.
- Laminate: Wipe with all-purpose cleaner or white vinegar diluted in water; rinse and dry with a clean cloth. Check to see if there are any areas of the cabinet surface where the laminate may be coming loose; if so, repair these spots immediately by applying glue and clamping the laminate strip in place until the glue dries.
- Natural Wood: Whether the wood is natural or sealed with polyurethane, use a general purpose oil-soap wood cleaner. Wipe dry.
To clean cupboards, wash the inside of doors using water mixed with one of the all-purpose cleaners available at your neighborhood Publix. Rinse and dry. Empty and clean drawers and cabinets one at a time. Use a toothbrush to clean along the edges and cracks. Allow surfaces to dry completely before replacing contents.
Kitchen countertops are the hardest-working surfaces in your house. Here's how to rid them of dirt, food, bacteria and all kinds of liquid spills.
Always clean kitchen counters immediately after food preparation, as these are prime contamination areas. For a thorough spring-cleaning, remove everything from the countertops and clean according to the type of counter in your home.
Hot and Steamy Bathrooms
- Laminate & Synthetic: To keep countertops that are covered in plastic laminate or made of solid surfaces looking their best, use warm water mixed with a nonabrasive kitchen cleaner or a mild bleach solution. Run a soft toothbrush along seams. For greasy buildup, use white vinegar and water.
- Tile: Kitchen and bath tile backsplashes should be cleaned with tub-tile-sink cleaner. Rinse with white vinegar diluted in water to prevent soap residue. Although tile doesn't stain easily, grout does; scrub it with a toothbrush dipped in a mild solution of chlorine bleach and water.
- Wood & Butcher Block: Clean sealed wood countertops with warm water and dish soap, rinse well with clear water, and dry thoroughly. Butcher block surfaces may be cleaned in a similar manner, but they also require oiling from time to time to keep the wood from drying out and to preserve their sheen. Wipe the wood with a light coat of mineral oil, wiping away any oil that does not soak in. Avoid using linseed or vegetable oil because it can spoil.
- Stone, Granite, Slate & Concrete: As long as these counters are sealed properly, they make durable, easy-to-clean surfaces. (If not sealed well, they are porous and prone to staining.) Although these surfaces are hard, they can be scratched by abrasive cleaners or scrub pads, so take care. Wipe with warm water and an all-purpose cleaner, and rinse thoroughly. If a stone surface stains, treat it immediately with a paste of baking soda and water; scrub with a soft brush; rinse thoroughly; repeat until stain lifts.
Sparkling clean shower, tub and bathroom make personal hygiene rituals feel like daily indulgences.
Make It Shine
Materials in these private havens are varied, from porcelain tubs to tile showers, from chrome faucets to glass doors. Here's how to keep every element in the room dazzling:
Kitchen & Bath Helps
- Tile Showers & Tub Surrounds: Ceramic tile shower stalls, tub surrounds and sink backsplashes are prone to soap and mildew buildup. To remove scum, use a nonabrasive bathroom cleaner, a daily shower cleaner, a tub-tile-sink cleaner, or a white vinegar and water solution. To keep soap scum and water spots from reappearing, wipe down the shower with a soft dry towel, chamois or squeegee after every use. Use a mildew-removing product on tile grout once a year to remove any discoloration.
- Fiberglass Shower Inserts & Tubs: Many bathrooms have fiberglass shower inserts (versus tiled showers) and fiberglass or acrylic tubs (versus porcelain). Clean these surfaces with gentle bathroom cleaners and rinse well. Never use abrasive cleaners on fiberglass or acrylic because they can damage the surface.
- Porcelain Tubs & Sinks: Clean with a general-purpose cleaner, a tub-tile-sink cleaner, or vinegar and water. For more grimy spots, scrub with a mildly abrasive cleanser.
- Toilets: Spray the exterior with disinfectant spray. Sanitize the bowl with an antibacterial toilet cleaner or a mix of bleach and water.
- Chrome & Brass Faucets: Clean water spots and other discolorations with a damp sponge, using a tub-tile-sink cleaner, all-purpose cleaner or glass cleaner. Rinse and buff with a soft cloth. Because water deposits form only if water is allowed to evaporate on the surface, getting in the habit of drying the faucet after each splashing will help the chrome or brass finish retain its luster much longer.
- Glass Shower Doors & Mirrors: Clean with glass cleaner and paper towels. For soap scum on glass shower doors, use an all-purpose cleaner or a tub-tile-sink cleaner.
Bleach & Water: A mild bleach solution of one tablespoon bleach to one quart water will kill bacteria.
White Vinegar & Water: The acid in vinegar cuts through soap film and mineral deposits. Add vinegar to water at a ratio of one part vinegar to two parts water.