That’s why we asked cleaning pros Leslie Reichert, Bob Vila, Donna Smallin Kuper, and Nicole Kern to fill us in on the fine points of cleaning. Read on as they point out six often-neglected chores and tell us how to get the job done right.
- Cleaning the Garbage Disposal
Despite the manufacturer’s recommendations to clean blades weekly and splash guards once a month, most of us probably never clean the garbage disposal.
“Cleaning the blades of a garbage disposal is so simple, it’s almost not considered work,” says Reichert, a nationally acclaimed green cleaning coach. “Just put frozen citrus peels in the disposal and grind away. The oil in the citrus peels is the real workhorse here and it leaves behind a fresh fragrance as a bonus.” Don’t have citrus peels? Run several ice cubes and a quarter-cup of baking soda through the disposal.
Probably the yuckiest part of a garbage disposal is the rubber splash guard. It naturally collects random particles of food that breed odor-causing germs in its dark, moist underside. To banish that goo, you’ll need rubber gloves, an old toothbrush and some hot, soapy water. If the splash guard is removable, simply wash it in soapy water, scrubbing both sides. Rinse and replace.
Cleaning nonremovable splash guards takes a little longer. Wearing gloves, scrub the top of the guard using an old toothbrush and hot, soapy water. Rinse well. Tackle the grimy underside by lifting and scrubbing the guard one section at a time. It helps to have good lighting when cleaning it, so that you don’t miss any slimy areas. Rinse well.
Cleaning Washing Machines
That’s right, even washers get dirty. According to Kern, a fabric care senior researcher at Procter & Gamble, laundry soils, detergents, and hard-water minerals build up in the washer in areas you can’t see. Over time, they develop an odor. To treat these odors easily, Kern recommends using a commercial oxygenated cleaner, like Tide Washing Machine Cleaner, once a week for three consecutive weeks. Thereafter, use the cleaner once a month to maintain a fresh-smelling washer. As an alternative, Reichert offers these easy tips using vinegar and baking soda.
With the washer set to the highest level and on the hottest setting, add four cups of white cleaning vinegar (6 percent acid) to the wash cycle. After the cycle starts, pause the machine and let it sit for an hour. Meanwhile, wipe down the top of the washer with a microfiber cloth dipped in the hot vinegar water. Clean the fabric softener and bleach dispensers with an old toothbrush. After an hour, continue the wash cycle.
Next, run a wash cycle using one cup of baking soda. After the cycle is complete, wipe the top inside of the washer tub to remove any scum.
Repeat every month or as needed. Hint: Leave the lid or door open when the washer’s not in use to help prevent mold and mildew.
The rubber gasket at the front of front-loading washers, especially high-efficiency washers, accumulates water, hair, mildew, and scum. This leads to a funky smell. To clean the gasket, spray it with white vinegar and wipe clean with a damp microfiber cloth.
To clean the drum, set the washer to the highest level and the hottest water temperature. Add two cups of white cleaning vinegar (6 percent acid) to the detergent dispenser. Run it through a complete cycle.
Run another cycle, this time adding a half-cup of baking soda to the drum. When the cycle is done, wipe the washer drum with a damp microfiber cloth. Wipe the front of the machine, too.
- Cleaning Light Bulbs and Lamp Shades
It takes an organizing and cleaning expert like Kuper to share this bright idea: Clean your light bulbs. It’s easy as can be. Just make sure the bulbs are cool first, then wipe the glass portion with a slightly dampened microfiber cloth. “A clean bulb shines 20 percent brighter than a dirty one,” Kuper says.
While you’re at it, how about cleaning that dusty lampshade? Kuper suggests simply passing a lint roller over a fabric shade, or using a paint brush to whisk away dust in a pleated shade.
- Cleaning HVAC Vent Covers
When it comes to a dirty vent cover, it’s often out of sight, out of mind. But it shouldn’t be.
“Keeping vent covers clean not only looks good, it also reduces allergens and increases the efficiency of your HVAC system,” Reichert says. “Get in the habit of doing some basic cleaning of HVAC vent covers every month or so. Before starting, however, turn off the heat or A/C and, if the ceiling vent covers are very dirty, toss a sheet over the furniture below the vent as a protection from falling dust and dirt.”
Clean the vent cover either by vacuuming with a brush attachment or wiping with a microfiber extendible duster. For easy-to-reach vents, you can also wipe the cover with a dry microfiber cloth or a slightly damp Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. “Work with the least amount of water possible,” cautions Reichert. “Water or other cleaning products can easily smear dust onto walls or ceilings, making an even bigger mess.”
Twice a year, do a more thorough cleaning. As before, turn off the heat or A/C before beginning. Unscrew smaller vent covers and wash in a sink using a microfiber cloth and hot, soapy water. (Wash larger intake covers in the bathtub or outside, following the same instructions.) “Use just a small amount of dish detergent,” Reichert advises. “And don’t soak vent covers too long or rub too hard as the paint could come off.”
For oily vent covers, use rubbing alcohol to remove residue. “Rub lightly so you don’t damage the paint,” Reichert says.
Before reinstalling vent covers, wipe with a microfiber cloth to make sure they are completely dry to keep dust particles from clinging to the damp vent slats.
- Cleaning Stove Vent Hood
The grease-catching filters in your stove’s vent hood not only go unnoticed, they also go uncleaned. Despite their grease-encrusted appearance, they are really not hard to tackle, especially if you clean them on a regular basis.
“I just run them through the dishwasher every month or so,” Reichert says. “Between the super-hot water and the dishwasher detergent, it gets the job done without a lick of work from me.”
No dishwasher? No problem. Place the filter in an empty sink and rub it with a half-cup of alcohol and a quarter-cup of baking soda. Squeeze a few drops of Dawn dish detergent onto the filter. Plug the drain and pour very hot water over the top of the filter. Let it sit until cool enough to scrub. Then, using a brush, scrub off the greasy build-up. Rinse. To remove excess water from the filter, tap it on the side of the sink.
While the filter’s soaking, wipe down the rest of the vent hood (including the plastic fan blades) with a sponge dampened in the same cleaning mixture.
- Cleaning Microfiber Furniture
Microfiber upholstery can really take a licking, but that doesn’t mean it never needs to be cleaned.
By all means, advises Vila, America’s favorite handyman, vacuum your microfiber-upholstered furniture at least once every week or two. Use a brush attachment and light pressure (too much pressure may force dirt into the fabric), he says. To remove stains or residue, he adds, brush the soiled area with a dry toothbrush.
For stubborn stains, locate the microfiber’s code on the manufacturer’s tag. It will be marked W, S, S-W, or X. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If there are none, follow the specific cleaning instructions below. As always, test the cleaning solution first on an inconspicuous spot.
Blot the stained area with a clean cloth lightly moistened with a solution of cold water and a few drops of gentle laundry soap. If the furniture has an odor, add a half teaspoon of distilled white vinegar or baking soda to the solution. Blot until the stain is gone. Don’t apply too much water because that will stain the microfiber. Finish by blotting the wet area with a dry washcloth, removing as much water as possible. When the fabric is dry, lightly brush or vacuum to restore the nap.
You have two options for Code S. The first option: Blot a dry-cleaning solvent specifically made for Code S microfiber onto the stain. Using a soft-bristled brush, work it gently into the stain. Allow it to sit according to the manufacturer’s directions, and then vacuum thoroughly. The second option: Dampen a corner of a clean washcloth with alcohol or plain vodka. Blot the stain, don’t rub. Repeat until the stain is gone. When completely dry, lift the nap by brushing with a soft-bristle brush.
You have a choice! Use any of the above methods, just remember to test first on a hidden spot.
Loosen dirty residue with a soft-bristle brush, then vacuum thoroughly using a brush attachment. Never use bleach, acetone, or other harsh chemicals on this type microfiber. If brushing and vacuuming don’t do the trick, contact the sofa’s manufacturer for further instructions.