Get your home sparkling and super smart in no time with a bit of elbow grease, some simple scrubbing and a good clear out.
With busy jobs, big families and a social life to maintain, most people can just about manage to stay on top of the household chores of dusting, vacuuming and wiping surfaces. But at least once a year, you need to blitz through those heavier cleaning tasks to keep your living environments hygienic and dirt-free. Yes, it’s not fun, but with our handy tips, your home will soon be spic, span and beautiful. So don’t put it off any longer – grab a scourer and get scrubbing!
Time to declutter
Before you start cleaning, you need to clear the decks of all the unnecessary clutter you’ve collected over the last year (or years!). Set up bags or boxes labelled ‘bin’, ‘recycle’ and ‘charity shop’. Sweep quickly through each room, purging it of all junk. Be brutal! Don’t say to yourself you’ll use it one day, mend it when you have time, or get around to selling it – if it isn’t very useful, beautiful or sentimental, it goes in one of the bags!
Larger items such as furniture and appliances can be donated to charities that refurbish and recycle household goods for people on low incomes. Not only will you be helping someone less fortunate, you’ll also be cutting down on landfill and helping to create jobs. Check your local press or business directories for the nearest re-use (www.londonreuse.com) project that you can take part in.
In the kitchen…
Throw away all out-of-date food and store the rest in a cool bag, or even a neighbour’s fridge. Then, you can defrost the freezer – bowls of hot water will speed this up. Clean the interiors with warm, soapy water, rinse and dry with a cotton towel. Use a toothbrush to clean rubber seals. Vacuum the cooling elements at the back to make it more energy efficient. Banish lingering odours in the fridge by leaving half a lemon on the middle shelf.
If you have a ‘self-cleaning’ oven, you can crank up the temperature for the time stated in the instructions, and leave to work its magic. Otherwise, it’s down to a strong oven cleaning spray and lots of elbow grease. Get the rubber gloves on, as well as the goggles and a face mask, and open the windows to protect against toxic fumes. If you would rather someone else tackled the big job, then take a look at Association of Approved Oven Cleaners (www.ovencleaning.net) for a list of your local companies.
Unclog the filters of fluff, fibres and debris. Clean the detergent drawer and rubber door seal with hot, soapy water, using a toothbrush to get into the awkward areas. Run the machine empty on a hot wash, with some soda crystals or white vinegar to counter limescale, mildew and odours. This will swill out the drum and clean it.
In the bathroom…
Pour thick disinfectant into the bowl, leave for the allotted time, and then scrub with a toilet brush, getting right under the rim (soak the brush in bleach afterwards). For stubborn limescale, empty the bowl with an old cup and apply a limescale remover for the instructed time. Flush twice. Sponge the seat, handle and outside surfaces with hot, soapy water and a dash of disinfectant.
Tiles and Grouting
Shower or sponge tiles with hot water for a few minutes to loosen dirt, then wipe down with soapy water. For old, stubborn grime and limescale, use a tile cleaning spray. Return grouting to its former glory by scrubbing with a toothbrush and grout cleaner, or a homemade paste of bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar. To keep mould away, spray the area with a mildew inhibitor.
Mirrors and Glass
Clean mirrors and glass shelves using hot water and a microfibre cloth (add a little washing up liquid). For shower floors or grouted corners, melt hardened scum and limescale by spraying with a mixture of vinegar and water (equal parts). Leave for 10-15 minutes, then rinse and buff with a microfibre cloth.
In the living room…
If you’re not certain how to wash curtains, cushion covers and removable sofa covers without damage or shrinkage (lined curtains are particularly tricky), leave it to your dry cleaner. Otherwise, remove hooks and fittings, loosen tape strings on curtains, and hand wash in mild detergent. Use a dedicated whitener for net curtains, but not bleach. Clean rails with hot, soapy water. Hang curtains to smooth out.
Marble, stone, wood and laminate all come up well with floor soap and a damp (not wet) mop. Reseal wood and stone annually to protect it. If wood floors are scratched and uneven, they can be resanded, but no more than every five to 10 years. Use floor protectors to prevent more damage – and make sure you leave your stilettos at the door!
Sponge windows with washing up liquid in hot water. Avoid getting wooden frames and sills wet, and use a soft toothbrush to get into corners. Spray with glass cleaner and buff with a lint-free cloth. Or, you could clean with a homemade mixture of one part vinegar to four parts water. Polish with scrunched up newspaper for a sparkling, no-smudge finish.
In the bedroom…
Wash duvets and pillows in your own washing machine (or even at the launderette) and air well before using. Vacuum and turn mattresses, and remove stains with laundry detergent and a damp sponge. Allow it to dry completely before making the bed, so that the mattress doesn’t become even more damp in a warm room. This could cause bed-ruining mould to grow on the underside. If you’re concerned about bed bugs causing allergies, freeze pillows to kill them, consider replacing the mattress, and ensure that you invest in mattress and pillow protectors (try Allergy Best Buys and visit them at www.allergybestbuys.co.uk).
Carpets and Rugs
For very heavy soiling, consider employing a professional carpet cleaning service – visit www.ncca.co.uk for a local approved company. Otherwise, you can rent a heavy-duty steam cleaner from around £20 for 24 hours. But don’t risk delicate antique or silk rugs – leave those ones to the experts.
Most modern wallpapers are washable (to check, do a small patch test on a hidden area). Vacuum wallpaper, then wipe down with a damp cloth and mild solution of washing up liquid. Be gentle, and dry with paper towels as you go.
Three of the best: Vacuum Cleaners
Best for… busy (or lazy) people Vorwerk Kobold VR100 £649, Vkdirect.co.uk
Best for… multiple floor surfaces SEBO Felix Royale Upright Cleaner £239.99, www.johnlewis.com
Best for… homes with pets Miele S7 Cat and Dog Vacuum Cleaner, £319.99, Johnlewis.com
First published in At Home with Lorraine Kelly