For many, spring cleaning is an annual practice. By breaking out the mops and sponges near the vernal equinox, you’re actually participating in a long tradition. Springtime purification rituals are found across cultures.
Those who celebrate the Persian festival of Nowruz, which falls on the first day of spring, make a point to deeply clean their homes as part of a tradition known as khane tekani, or “shaking house.” During Passover, people rid their homes of leavened bread products. Other countries, such as Guatemala and Thailand, have their own spring cleaning rituals as well.
Holiday or not, the promise of longer days and warmer weather may give you the burst of energy needed to tackle the chores you’ve been putting off all winter. Plus, sunlight looks about a thousand times better when it’s streaming through windows that have been freshly cleaned.
Although there are plenty of spring cleaning checklists and room-by-room guides to help homeowners, renters, and apartment dwellers through the nitty-gritty cleaning procedure, we asked Melissa Homer, chief cleaning officer of national cleaning company MaidPro, for some general tips about how to approach the process mindfully.
1. Split up your chores.
It might be tempting to try and knock out all of your tasks in a few days — but in this case, patience pays off. Think of spring cleaning as a long-term project. “They call it spring cleaning because you have an entire season to accomplish it, not just one crazed and exhausting weekend,” says Homer.
Essentially, if you try to take on too much at once, you may end up giving up before you’ve accomplished everything on your to-do list.
To mitigate burn-out, Homer suggests typing out a list and then dividing the jobs into “reasonable chunks,” consisting of a few chores each weekend (or whenever your schedule has a span of unbroken time).
Be cognizant of how you group those chores. Try keeping the focus in one room. For example, you can steam-clean your kitchen floor after loading the dishwasher, spraying down countertops, and — if you're feeling ambitious — cleaning the toaster.
Homer says that by narrowing your focus, you can increase productivity. “You're less likely to get distracted by messes in other rooms and can maximize the dopamine-inducing visuals of a fully cleaned room to keep you motivated,” she says.
2. Start with a rewarding task first.
When it comes to spring cleaning, don’t save the best for last. Instead, start with the area most in need of some TLC, be it your living room or bedroom. Homer suggests identifying a chore that will have “a strong visual impact” when completed, such as scouring down a shower and cleaning the shower curtain, scrubbing a kitchen floor, or decluttering a closet.
The “before-and-after” effect may inspire you to take on more projects. “The feeling of satisfaction of restoring that one surface will motivate you to slog through the less glamorous tasks that aren’t as Instagram worthy,” she says. Think: vacuuming the refrigerator coils or cleaning the gutters.
3. Organize a cleaning supplies caddy.
If you’ve ever hired a professional cleaner, you might have noticed that they showed up with a handy supplies tote. Ahead of spring cleaning season, consider assembling your own, which you can tote from room to room.
Below, Homer recommends a few cleaning essentials for your caddy, in addition to these gadgets.
- A glass-safe disinfecting cleaner
- A bathroom cleaner
- A floor cleaner, which should have a neutral pH
- Plenty of washable scrub brushes and microfiber towels
Then, keep the caddy stocked or within reach for whenever motivation strikes — "or the unexpected mess explodes," Homer says. Having all your basics in one place will also save time and trips back and forth to the supplies cabinet, making cleaning that much easier.
4. Treat your body right.
Ever woke up sore after an afternoon of scrubbing? You might find that vigorous cleaning awakens muscles you didn’t realize you had. “Cleaning can often strain and pull lesser-used muscles, even on a fit person, as we crouch, lift, reach and kneel in ways our body is not used to,” says Homer.
Luckily, there are ways to ease the toll cleaning can take on the body. Homer suggests gently stretching before and after cleaning, and wearing breathable knee pads while tidying up. “The knee pads will encourage you to kneel instead of bending at the waist to pick up items,” she says.
Other tips include avoiding positions such as hunching or crouching, bending at the knees when lifting, and only picking up items you can reasonably manage.
Further, Homer recommends products like furniture sliders, which mitigate the need to lift heavy items, and dusters or mops with extendable poles, so you won’t need to hunch or strain as you clean hard-to-reach areas. According to Homer, mop handles should be long enough to touch your chin when you stand up straight and place the mop at your feet.
Finally, Homer reminds us to take a measured approach to cleaning. “Don’t be overly ambitious and throw out your back in the name of finishing early,” she says.
5. Practice sanitary cleaning.
If spring cleaning teaches us anything, it’s that everything in the home should have its rightful place — including germs. Sometimes, avid spring cleaners can inadvertently make rooms less sanitary by spreading germs between rooms. “In their zeal for vanquishing dirt, amateur cleaners can (drag) bathroom bugs into the places they cook and eat,” says Homer.
To avoid this kind of cross-contamination, Homer suggests having a designated set of bathroom cleaning supplies. Color-code your sponges, having one hue for the kitchen, another for the bathroom, and another for the floors.
Then, be sure to clean your cleaning supplies (yes, the cleaning never ends). Homer prefers using reusable cleaning sponges and microfiber cleaning towels because they can be machine-washed and dried. “The steam of a hot dryer kills most germs in as little as 30 minutes, so you’re never cleaning surfaces with old, damp sponges,” she says. If you’re using scrub brushes, make sure to clean and rinse them well after every use.
6. Go gentle on delicate, expensive items.
Homer often encounters clients who, in their excitement to remove stains or restore surfaces, end up scratching their furniture or accidentally stripping the finish from wood.
To avoid damage, Homer recommends easing into cleaning — especially when using new products. “Don’t forget to test new products on inconspicuous spots before you go wild on the whole piece,” she says. Then, check in on the surface after every few scrubs.
In more complicated cases, Homer recommends calling in a professional who has the tools and training to assess how far to push the surface before damage occurs.
Finally, Homer reminds us to set realistic expectations about how far our cleaning efforts can, and should, go. “Remember that it is OK for objects in your home to look their age," she says.