Even though it may not feel like it, spring is right around the corner, and with it, the dreaded chore of “spring cleaning.” To avoid spending the first 60-degree day of the year unclogging your drains and power washing the inside of your refrigerator, why not get a jump start now?
To help you get ahead of the game this season, deep-cleaning expert Dave Rotunno of Four Monks Cleaning Vinegar told mental_floss how often you should be washing ten of your grimiest household items—and offered tips for how to get it done right.
1. YOUR SHOWER DRAIN: ONCE A WEEK
Cleaning your shower drain may give you seriously creepy The Ring vibes, but the longer you put it off the worse it’s going to be. “If your drain is clogged or slow to drain, a fizzing combo of white distilled vinegar and baking soda is a great way to unclog and remove odor,” says Rotunno. “Pour half a cup of baking soda in the drain, then follow with a mixture of one cup white vinegar and one cup of hot water. Immediately plug the drain with a rag to keep the bubbles contained for 10 minutes. Rinse by pouring a kettle of boiling hot water down the drain.”
2. YOUR OVEN: ONCE EVERY SIX MONTHS
Just because you may not have to look at the grime inside your oven all the time doesn’t mean it’s not there. “The inside of the oven should be cleaned around every six months, or more frequently if needed,” says Rotunno. You can get grease splatters off of an oven’s door by coating them in a vinegar solution, letting it sit for 10 to 15 minutes with the door open, then wiping with a sponge.
3. YOUR PILLOWS: ONCE EVERY SIX MONTHS
You’re already washing your pillow cases at least once every two weeks, but did you know you’re supposed to wash your actual pillows too? “Each time you sleep on your sheets, the pillow cloth absorbs a buildup of dirt and oil from your skin,” says Rotunno. “Always wash your linens on the hot setting (if the fabric can withstand it) to help break down the dirt and oil buildup.” Most pillows are machine washable (check the label), so this should be an easy fix for two laundry days out of the year.
4. YOUR CARPET: VACUUMED ONCE A WEEK, DEEP CLEANED ONCE A YEAR
Between shoe dirt and dust mites, your carpet is basically a bacterial playground. “Carpets should be deep cleaned once a year and vacuumed on a weekly basis,” says Rotunno. “To remove carpet stains on an as-needed basis, you can make a paste of two tablespoons of Four Monks and one-quarter cup salt or baking soda. Rub the paste into the stain and let it dry overnight, then vacuum up the residue the following day.” Just make sure you test the solution on an out-of-sight part of the carpet for discoloration before you go gung-ho.
5. YOUR POTS AND PANS: AFTER EVERY USE
The good news is that your nonstick pans can seem like new for over five years. The bad news? You have to clean them very well, very regularly for that to happen. To remove water spots, Rotunno suggests wetting a thick, clean towel with white distilled vinegar that has been brought to a boil, laying the vinegar-soaked towel on the water spot, and waiting 30 minutes. Then, sprinkle with baking soda, scrub, wipe clean, and dry. You can remove rust from a cast iron pan by soaking it in a solution that’s equal parts white distilled vinegar and water, but don’t let the solution sit too long or the acid in the vinegar could permanently damage the pan. (And when cleaning a cast iron skillet, stay away from soap and steel wool.)
6. YOUR FRIDGE: ONCE A SEASON
Between expired leftovers and 3-year-old jars of jam that you never seem to finish, the inside of your fridge can be a war zone. If you don’t clean it out regularly, you’re bound to be left with tough stains that need to be soaked and scrubbed. Rotunno advises deep cleaning your refrigerator and freezer once a season. Wipe down shelves and trays with vinegar or an all-purpose cleaner, and let stains soak to get rid of any residual food smells. You should also clean the refrigerator handle every day, and throw away expired or smelly foods on a weekly basis.
7. YOUR DISHWASHER: ONCE A MONTH
Washing dirty dishes in a dirty dishwasher pretty much defeats the purpose of having a dishwasher at all. “It’s great to give your dishwasher a deep clean once a month, because minerals and dish soap can build up in your dishwasher over time,” says Rotunno. “Try running a half-cup of Four Monks through a regular cycle of an empty dishwasher to help remove buildup and to leave your dishes and the inside of your dishwasher sparkling.”
8. YOUR SHOWER HEAD: ONCE A WEEK
“Clean your shower head every time you clean your bathroom, if not more regularly,” says Rotunno. “This helps to prevent bacteria from building up within the shower head. This also helps ensure that water flows freely and evenly through every facet of the shower head by preventing mineral deposits.” To properly clean it, pour a half cup of baking soda and one cup of white distilled vinegar into a sandwich bag and tie it around the shower head. Let the bag set for an hour after the bubbling stops, then remove the bag and let the water run for a few minutes before getting in.
9. YOUR COMPUTER: ONCE A MONTH
Your computer is fantastic at helping you get work done and watch cat videos on YouTube, and it also happens to be a disgusting cesspool of germs—just think about how many times a day your grimy fingers touch the keyboard. To keep from spreading those germs, and to keep the machine running properly, it’s best to give the whole computer a once-monthly wipe down. Use a cotton cloth with a minimal amount of rubbing alcohol to clean the screen, and a portable vacuum and a cotton swab to clean the keyboard.
10. YOUR WASHING MACHINE: ONCE A MONTH
You’ve probably never thought about it before, but where do you think all of the dirt goes after it’s washed out of your clothes? Spoiler alert: Some of it sticks around in your washing machine. “Frequently filled with water and dirt, a dirty washing machine can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew,” says Rotunno. “Remove soap scum and clean the hoses of your washing machine with vinegar by running the machine through a regular cycle with only a cup of Four Monks inside, with no clothing or detergent.”