Last year, the UK received £2.2 billion unwanted Christmas gifts, according to eBay. Meanwhile sending back all those redundant presents has become so common that Royal Mail is dubbing the first working day of 2019.
How to spring clean your house from top to bottom
After a long winter escaping the weather, spring is an excellent time to throw open the windows and doors and give your house an overdue deep clean. What you may not know is that the tradition of spring cleaning dates back thousands of years to the Jewish festival of Passover – with many cultures having their own cleaning traditions.
Cleaning should always be done top to bottom, so take the same approach to the place you live. This doesn’t necessarily mean from the top of your house down. It can just mean starting with light fittings then moving to sideboards and finally the floor - the idea being that you will inevitably upset dirt and dust which can be finally gathered up by the vacuum cleaner or mop.
To help you in your spring cleaning blitz of the house, we’ve put together a room cleaning guide full of handy hints and tips to help get you from dirty to dazzling.
While you may want to go out and buy every cleaning product under the sun, you might be surprised to learn of some slightly less toxic alternatives made up of ingredients you might already have. You’ll find these featured in amongst our tips below.
Before you begin, scan every room for things that don’t belong there. Put these misplaced items into a box for rehousing later.
Although you’ll use the kitchen most often, it’s still a spring cleaning challenge. Start by dusting the lights and cleaning the tops of the cupboard, before working on the surfaces and finally the floor. You should always take the trouble to clean walls, drawers and appliances – as food can get everywhere.
The microwave: Put some white vinegar and water in a mug and then put in in the microwave for a few seconds until the microwave steams up. Remove the mug and wipe the microwave interior clean with a cloth.
Chopping board: The combination of cutting into the board plus food means that it’s difficult to leave the surface properly hygienic. As an alternative to an all-purpose cleaner, cover the chopping board with sea salt and then rub with half a lemon to disinfect.
Glass oven dishes: Remove hard to shift grease or burnt on food with water, detergent and kitchen foil. Simply mix the water and detergent together in the dish and then crinkle up the foil to make it into a scouring pad - all of the shine, without so many scratches.
Cast iron pans: Add 2 tablespoons of oil to your pan and place on a medium heat. Once the pan is heated, add 3 tablespoons of salt. Being careful not to burn yourself, hold a scrunched-up paper towel between kitchen tongs and scour until the pan is clean. Finally, rinse out the pan and then coat with a little vegetable oil.
Oven: For a friendlier oven cleaner, make a paste from baking soda and water. Once you’ve removed the racks, cover the inside of the oven with the mixture, then leave overnight and wipe away. Wherever you see baking soda residue, apply a little vinegar and you’ll end up with a clean finish. To make the job easier in future, buy a non-stick oven liner, which can be simply wiped with a cloth.
Fridge: First go through the fridge, cupboard and spice rack and remove anything out of date. You might be amazed by how much you get rid of. How to remove those lingering food stains? A toothbrush and toothpaste lifts them off nicely – which makes sense when you think about it.
Sponges: It’s easy to overlook the fact that sponges, because they pick up so much dirt and bacteria, require cleaning themselves. Disinfect sponges by squeezing out the water and putting them into the microwave for one minute.
Because of humidity, the bathroom can be a breeding ground for bacteria – so it’s generally good practice to give the bathroom a good airing whenever you use it. For a general clean of tiles, wall and ceiling, spray them with all-purpose cleaner and then turn on the shower for steam to build up – about 5 minutes. Turn off the water and leave the bathroom for 20 minutes, allowing the steam and cleaner to infuse. You can then wipe down surfaces with a cloth. You can use a microfibre mop for the ceiling and finish, as ever, with the floor.
Sink: Sprinkle baking soda around the sink and taps. Next cut a lemon in half and work it into the baking soda. Finally, rinse with water for a sparkling finish.
Shower: Remove soap scum from your shower by combining vinegar and dishwasher liquid in equal parts. Some white vinegar poured into a bag and then wrapped round the shower head will break down limescale.
Shower curtain: Place in the washing machine with a few old towels, which will act like scrubbers to remove soap scum and mildew.
Grouting: Dip an old toothbrush in bleach and scrub the discoloured areas of bacteria growth between tiles.
Toilet: Pour vinegar into the toilet bowl, which will kill bacteria whenever you flush. Toilet brush: Poor some bleach into the toilet brush holder for 24/7 disinfection.
Awake or asleep, you’ll spend a lot of time in your bedroom, so it’s important to get it straight. Remove anything that doesn’t belong in the room and get rid of those old newspapers and magazines from your bedside table. Separate your clothes into seasons. Then ask: do you like them, do you wear them, do they fit? You can separate your clothes into three piles: keep, donate or sell and discard. For more help with this, check out our decluttering article.
Blinds: Blinds can get extremely dirty and, unless you have a duster to hand, they can be difficult to tackle. A makeshift solution is to use an old sock.
Mattresses: Deodorise your mattress by first vacuuming it to remove dirt and dust. Then mix equal parts water and white vinegar and spray it onto the mattress. Allow the mixture to dry and then flip the mattress, repeating the process on the other side. Then cover the mattress with a thin coat of baking soda. Let it sit for several hours (or overnight) before vacuuming.
As the social hub of the home, the main problem with the living room is the amount of clutter that inevitably builds up. First, remove everything that doesn’t belong in the living room. Take off sofa cushions and use the vacuum cleaner’s brush attachment on the sofa to remove dust and dirt. Also, vacuum curtains, should you have them.
Sofas: Pet hair always seems to escape the vacuum. Stray hairs can be removed from soft furnishings by either wearing rubber gloves (which the hairs will stick to) or by wrapping outward-facing tape around fingers and going over the area.
Windows: Clean windows make a room feel fresh and light. Wash your windows inside and out with washing up liquid and warm water. Then use a squeegee to remove the suds in horizontal motions from top to bottom. This should also be applied to mirrors.
Baskets: If storage is a problem, buy a few baskets for remotes, magazines or even shoes. They look good in a room and also mean it’s easy to keep the room looking neat.
Don’t forget about the floors…
Deep clean carpets – buy a special vacuum cleaner or hire a carpet cleaner. While you’re doing the carpets, you can then think about changing the arrangement of your furniture for a nice fresh start. To make wooden floors sparkle, mix nine parts warm water to one-part vinegar and mop the floor. If the thought of all that cleaning fills you with dread, why not make an event of it? Around the world, different cultures and traditions have taken chores and turned them into something approaching a festival. Put some meaning into your cleaning.
8 Spring cleaning rituals from around the world
1. Cleaning statues, Thailand - Statues of the Buddha are cleaned in preparation for Songkran Day, also known as Thai New Year. Scented water and fragrant herbs are then thrown at the statues for good luck. Any water which then runs off these statues is collected and poured over elders.
2. Energy flow, Asia - While you may have thought of Feng shui as an exercise in moving furniture around, you may not know that it is practised between the full moon and the new moon to rid the home of mess and clutter and to bring luck and maximise energy in the home.
3.Family effort, Iran - To celebrate Nowruz, the first day in the Persian calendar and the day of the vernal equinox, the whole family helps to clean the house in an effort to rid the house of the past and any lurking evil spirits. It obviously has some effect, as the tradition dates back to Babylon, 500 BC.
4. Cleaning feast, Greece - Kathari Deftera, or Clean Monday, takes place at the beginning of Lent. The ritual itself may be one of the less intensive cleaning traditions as it involves emptying the fridge and then turning it into a feast.
5. Shining shrines, Japan - Before a Shinto religious ceremony, shrines are cleaned with salt and water. The purpose of this ritual, known as Harae, is to wash away evil, pollution and sins.
6. Bless this mess, Germany - In a folklore tradition dating back to the 2nd century, it was believed that lazy housekeepers would be punished by the goddess Holda. To enlist the goddess’ help with the clean up, the supplicant prays to Holda in the messiest area of the house.
7. Burning rubbish, Guatemala - A more drastic approach to cleaning happens in Guatemala where families sweep their rubbish out onto the street and then set fire to it. The ritual is known as ‘burning the devil’ as the tradition is supposed to drive evil out of the home.
8. Some light cleaning, India - Before the Hindu festival of Diwali (Festival of lights), it is common to prepare with a serious tidy up of the house. Clutter is then boxed up and donated to charity to prepare for the arrival of the goddess Lakshmi. So, now you’ve cleaned your house and maybe even made a festival of it, what next? The likelihood is that you might well have plenty of clutter left over. So, what should you do with those old clothes, CDs or crockery you no longer want in your newly decluttered home? Perhaps it’s time to take a tip from Diwali.
What to do with your clutter
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Maybe your old wicker basket could become handy storage? Those wine bottles could be turned into beautiful vases. For further ideas, check out our upcycling hints to get your creative juices flowing.
Just because you have no use for those old clothes, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t be sold and money raised for a great cause. It’s always best to find out what items your chosen charity is after and how they like to receive donations. Whatever you decide to do, you can have your unwanted possessions picked up from your doorstep with Parcelforce Worldwide’s collection service. Simply arrange a pick up here and we’ll come and collect.