Is spring cleaning - the annual rite of home purification embraced by good housekeepers and neatniks everywhere - an anachronism?
Does this ancient ritual still have a place in the busy two-career household of today?
Let's face it, even those weekly surface cleanings are hard to squeeze in.
Unfortunately, homes still get dirty, and the job still needs to be done.
The answer? Delegate. Bring in the house cleaning professionals, who will purge homes of a winter's buildup of dust, grime, mildew and dirt, at surprisingly affordable prices.
From washing windows and cleaning drapes to carpet and upholstery cleaning and washing mini blinds, these cleaning specialists will tackle your most formidable tasks.
Here's a step-by-step guide to finding the right house cleaning professionals for you.
Windows are a particularly delicate cleaning issue. Proper equipment (as well as courage) is required to wash the higher ones and skylights.
You'll want to select a reputable window cleaning service, establish what the window cleaning services entail, and get an estimate of the cost before any work begins. In writing.
If your home has a second or third story, confirm that the company will clean the higher windows (some won't go above a second story), and find out whether there is an extra charge for those windows.
Don't assume anything, and tell the window cleaning service exactly what you want. If you want the window ledges and screens cleaned, make that very clear.
Most window washers charge by the hour for a cleaning that usually includes streak-free cleaning of both sides of the window, the window sills and tracks. Screens, however, are often extra.
Mini; micro mini; macro; Venetian; wood; duette or pleated shades; vertical blinds. No matter which variation of mini blinds you have, all have one thing in common: They're magnets for dust, animal dander, kitchen grease and soot, and they should be cleaned at least once a year.
Many blind cleaning companies include basic repairs and troubleshooting as well as washing and cleaning various types of mini blind. Cleaners check cords for frays or straighten bent blind sections.
Many companies use a high-tech ultrasonic cleaning machine that cleans quickly and effectively with sound waves. And some companies still do it the old-fashioned way - scrubbing by hand.
Whether the approach is high tech or low tech, mini blind cleaners often include taking down and rehanging the blinds in the cleaning cost, although some may charge a small fee.
Hand-washing companies usually do the job on site. For ultrasonic cleaning, mini blinds are usually taken to the company's shop and returned in a day or two.
Many companies offer same-day service.
To find a drapery and curtain cleaning service, you may not need to look much further than your neighborhood dry cleaner.
If you elect to use the dry cleaner, you'll probably need to take the drapes or curtains to the shop, where they will be cleaned and pressed.
Some companies that specialize in cleaning drapes offer pickup and delivery service (including taking down and rehanging the drapery and curtains.)
Per-pleat prices vary by company. For drapery with no pleats, the charge is usually by the pound or by the amount and type of fabric.
Most experts recommend that drapery be professionally cleaned annually, more often if there are pets or a smoker in the home. Many residential carpet cleaning companies also offer upholstery and curtain cleaning.
Some can even provide heat and air-conditioning duct cleaning. (Ducts should be professionally vacuumed every three to five years).
This protects the floor surface from the grinding in of dirt that could permanently mar the surface.
Floor cleaning companies use professional machines and buffers - or a great deal of elbow grease - to strip away layers of wax, polish and dirt and replace the sealer or wax.
The per-foot price reflects the type of surface and cleaning methods.
Get at least three estimates from floor cleaning companies before you decide who to hire. Experience is a plus - so be sure to check how long a company has been in business.
Residential carpet cleaning companies vary almost as much as the methods they employ.
Beware of companies with sales pitches such as "Any room, $X.XX"; as rooms are different sizes and charges should be based on the square footage of carpet cleaned.
Cleaners should also move your furniture at no extra charge, although you should move breakables and other valuables beforehand.
Finally, check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure the carpet cleaning service you choose doesn't have any complaints on file.
For all those other spring cleaning chores - from scrubbing bathroom nooks and crannies to clearing out the attic cobwebs, try the house cleaning professionals who regularly service homes but are also available for spring cleaning only.
Many charge a three-hour minimum fee, usually between $75 to $150, and an hourly fee thereafter. The cost is sometimes a bit less for regular customers.