spring cleaning shortcuts

Does spring cleaning still have a place in the time-crunched, two-career household of today?

Absolutely. No matter how busy you are - or perhaps because your home seems to have a revolving door - the annual purging of year's worth of mildew, grime, dust,  and dirt still needs to be done so you can get by with simple surface cleanings the rest of the year.

And if friends and family visit your home during other times, such as the winter holidays, this top-to-bottom buffing is even more essential. They may say they don't notice - but don't you take note of a home's dusty shelves and dingy floors when you visit?

A thorough cleaning not only begets a sparkling-clean house, it can also help your appliances last longer.

But you don't have to spend your entire weekend with broom and sponge in hand to get your home perked up with springtime cheer or primed for holiday entertaining. These spring cleaning shortcuts can help.

Spring into Action 

The key to getting spring cleaning done in less time is to break the chores down into manageable loads, then tackle them over several weeks or even months - that is, unless you're the type who likes to schedule a weekend sequestered indoors with mops and brooms. 

This less-traditional bit-by-bit approach will reward you with the same old-fashioned feeling that keeps the spring-cleaning ritual alive: pride in your healthful, well-maintained home.

Start by focusing your efforts on the big pieces and on the places that make the most difference to you: furnishings, appliances, and carpeting.

Also take stock of which cleaning tasks you can forgo. The following essentials will have your home spring-cleaned in no time:

Make Doormats Welcoming

Spring clean doormats of a season's worth of dirt and dust so they can continue being an effective barrier against tracked-in grime.

Shake 'em, wash 'em, swat 'em with a broom. Give them the toughest cleaning they can take.

They're your front line against tracked-in dirt - so keep them clean enough to function at peak efficiency.

Spring Cleaning Carpets and Upholstery

Fabrics that have absorbed a winter's worth of dirt, body oil, and germs will need a deep cleaning to get them ready for another year of wear - and for that close inspection by your relaxing guests.

When you're shampooing carpets or cleaning upholstery with a rented carpet cleaner, practice first in an unobtrusive area to make sure that you have the knack of the machine and that the treatment won't discolor fabrics or cause dyes to run.

Save time by moving furniture just slightly - not out of the room or against the wall as the old rules dictated - and place the legs of each piece back on top of small waxed paper squares after shampooing.

The waxed paper will protect your carpet and keep the furniture legs from getting wet as the carpet dries. Open the windows to speed the drying process, which can take a day or more.

If you're not the furniture-shifting and machine-renting type, make it easy on yourself. Call in a professional carpet and upholstery cleaner to do the work and take the morning off.

Spring Cleaning Your Floors

To protect the floors in your kitchen from another year of wear and tear, wax or apply a sealer following label directions. The simplest method: Use a combination wash-and-wax floor cleaner. Don't feel guilty about saving time!

No-wax floors don't need a polishing treatment, but an occasional makeover will keep them looking fresher - and add a protective buffer that could help them last longer. Use a floor cleaner that cleans, shines, or both. It's best to follow label directions for proper use of each product.

If you have wood floors, move furniture and rugs aside, then apply a wood cleaner and either liquid or paste polish to clean and add a new wax coating.

Wash Walls, Cabinets, Baseboards, and Woodwork

The walls may not look as if they need a bath - after all, dust and soot fall to the floor, right? Most of it does, but just enough clings to vertical surfaces to warrant a seasonal or preholiday bath. 

Use a sponge and hand dishwashing detergent, washing the surface in sections. A sponge mop makes it easier to reach higher spots. Use two buckets: one for the dishwashing detergent solution and another for wringing out your sponge. Dry the walls and woodwork with a clean cloth.

Vacuum with Intelligence

The old rules mandated that you go through the labor-intensive task of dragging every stick of furniture off the carpet, just so the vacuum cleaner could cover every nook and and cranny. The new rules will save you time, and you'll still get the corner-to-corner cleaning done: Simply move big items a little to the left or to the right. Vacuum the area previously occupied by the furniture and then move it back into place.

Clean Your Ceiling and Light Fxtures

Remove dust and dirt from ceiling fans and air-conditioner vents with a wet cloth and a vacuum with a soft nozzle attachment.

A few minutes with a stepladder, an all-purpose cleaner, a sponge, and a polish cloth will give new light to your life.

If your home has skylights or tall ceilings, consider investing in a step ladder and extended reach dust and dirt removal tools

Clean Your Coils

You should clean the refrigerator's condenser coil, usually found behind the toe grille, with a long-handled brush and a vacuum cleaner with an attachment hose to remove dust and lint. Built-up dust can shut down the unit by causing it to overheat.

To remove dust from coils attached to the hard-to-reach back side of the fridge, carefully pull the refrigerator out several feet and vacuum thoroughly; finish by sweeping or vacuuming the floor area you've revealed.

Once you've covered these major hot spots in your home, you'll have spring cleaning all wrapped up.

› 8 Spring Cleaning Shortcuts