What the pros suggest
* Stainless steel: Use a light mist of wax-based aerosol spray once or twice a week. Don't use too much. Wipe with a clean, lint-free cloth. Don't use cleaners with bleach after waxing or it will dry out and lose some of the luster. Don't use anything abrasive, not even mild products.
* Tiles: Use a cleaner with "neutral pH" on the label or make a cleaner by pouring 1/2 cup baking soda into 2 gallons of water and mixing well.
* Countertop stains: To remove rust, soap scum or mildew, use a solution of 1/2 cup ammonia in a gallon of water. For coffee and juice stains, mix hydrogen peroxide in water, plus a few drops of ammonia. Buff away small scratches with dry steel wool (superfine grade 0000). If your countertops are new, have them sealed several times, then again a year later.
* Painted walls: Dip a clean cloth or sponge into water mixed with a little dishwashing liquid. If the stain persists, add a few drops of the dishwashing liquid directly on the cloth or sponge or directly on the surface. Rinse surface with water. Anything stronger than dishwashing liquid may damage paint.
* Stain/odor on cushion: Quickly blot up as much of the stain as possible. Place a plastic liner (garbage bag) between the cushion and fabric so you don't push a contaminant into the cushion. Flush the area with cold water. You can also use a portable spot cleaner or wet/dry vac. If there's residual odor, use a half-vinegar, half-water solution and rinse again.
* Carpet: Take off your shoes but leave on your socks. Walking around in bare feet leaves natural oils that attract dirt. Try to vacuum daily using HEPA filters and a top-load vacuum so the dirt falls inward.
* Closets: Get rid of unused clothes and accessories, and organize the rest by color and by how you get dressed in the morning.
* Bookshelves: Reorganize as you clean. Sort books by size and subject. Remove and discard ripped dust jackets. Place books, some vertically, some horizontally, in a rhythmic pattern.
Source: House Beautiful
It's a task most folks don't exactly get giddy about when it looms before them this time of year -- spring cleaning.
From packing and storing winter clothing to washing windows, dusting ceiling fans and cleaning out gutters, it's an American tradition to come clean in spring.
Hixson resident Katie Benson, owner of cleaning company Good Life Services, says most of her clients see spring cleaning as shedding unwanted clutter, ridding the home of dirt and dust that has built up over the winter and getting the home freshened and ready for warm weather. Each is important for a fresh start, Benson says.
"I want all projects -- like a room painted or a bathroom updated -- taken care of before I get my deep clean going. A deep clean would be [projects] I could not get done on a average day, such as cleaning baseboards, moving furniture, steaming the sofa, pet beds and my daughter's toys."
While daily chores consist of "surface cleaning" bathrooms, kitchens and living spaces, detailed cleaning is more intensive, says Jennifer Hunt, manager of cleaning services at Good Life Services.
"Detailed cleans are from top to bottom, inside appliances, under and behind furniture and in all grooves and spaces," she says. "As we clean, we help sort, organize, declutter and throw out or haul off unwanted items."
And it's not just the interior of the home that gets spruced up, she says.
"We also see an increase in our exterior cleaning services such as gutter cleaning, concrete washing, pressure washing, window washing, siding/stone washing, weeding and spreading mulch in flower beds."
For some, spring cleaning also includes putting away winter items, ironing the clothing being put up as well as the spring clothes being brought out, organizing closets or drawers and cleaning out the garage, Hunt says.
And deep cleaning can mean really deep.
"We suggest having your air ducts cleaned and changing out your air filters," Hunt says. "It is also a good idea to run an air purifier for a couple of weeks to help filter out dust stirred up during the cleaning."
For Donna Killian, of Chattanooga, getting her house ready includes cleaning the shutters, blinds, windowsills and pressure washing the patio.
"I only 'spot' clean other times of the year," she says. "At the beginning of spring, on a Saturday morning, I set aside about three hours and clean the shutters and blinds. I usually hire someone to pressure wash the patio area. After it is cleaned, I fill my planters with flowers. We love to sit outside during spring and summer."
Kim Brock, owner of Southern Clean Housecleaning Services of Dayton, Tenn., says this is an important time of year because people make the effort to rid their homes of allergens such as dust, dirt and pet dander.
"Your home is your sanctuary and the one place you want to be the most comfortable," she says.
And when it comes to spring cleaning chores, scrubbing windows is one of the most demanding, she says.
"Windows this time of year are a major problem for homeowners because of the amount of buildup they acquire every week from pollen and dust on the external side," Brock says.
Whatever cleaning you're doing -- inside or out -- will require good tools and good cleaning products, says Hunt, and that means cleaning your cleaning tools.
"Make sure the vacuum filter is clean and that all hoses are free and clear of debris before you use it, and that your mop head is freshly washed or replaced," she says.
Benson also recommends steam cleaners as a way to rid furniture and mattresses of dust mites and to neutralize bacteria and mold, E. coli, salmonella, staph and other fungi and bacteria.
"Because we are using hot steam, we are able to safely sanitize things that you can't throw in the washing machine and things you don't necessarily want to use a harsh cleaner on," Hunt says. "We steam mattresses, bedding, stuffed animals and curtains, but also things like artificial plants, couches and chairs. We use it to spot-treat stains on mattresses, couches, chairs, outdoor furniture and rugs."
A steam cleaner also can help with the inside of a refrigerator, shower doors or tile.
"If we have appliances that are horribly dirty, or if shower doors and walls have soap scum built up, we can hit it with steam to knock things loose then come back and easily wipe them clean," Hunt says.
Most steam cleaners will heat to between 220 to 280 degrees, according to achooallergy.com.
"It takes only 135 degrees to kill dust mites and 140 degrees to kill flea eggs," the website notes. "Since the eggs can lay dormant, you need to steam clean at least every eight weeks [in areas where] you are trying to get rid of dust mites or fleas.
"Dust mites live in furniture as well, so you will want to steam clean your mattress and other bedroom furniture. It can kill bed bugs in all stages of development, including the eggs."
Contact Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396.