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Spring cleaning tips from Real Simple

Whether you need to get rid of kitchen grease or wipe away a winter's worth of dust, Real Simple magazine has some tricks to make every room shine.

Real Simple asked their readers what they loathed most about cleaning kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms.

Their readers came back with a compelling hate-to-do list that they deal with in this month's issue.

Here are some easy cleaning tips and solutions to make these dreaded tasks a little more doable:

KEEP THE DIRT OUTBefore we get to cleaning, one tip on prevention: Real Simple says that a whopping 87% of the dirt in our homes is tracked in through the front door. By taking your shoes off as soon as you walk into the house, you can really cut down on this number. Another tip: get a vinyl doormat. It's textured surface helps grab the dirt and can stop up to 80% of dirt at the front door.

LIVING ROOM

BlindsPutting off cleaning those rows of dust-coated blinds? Whether your blinds are wood, plastic or metal, simply close them and run a lamb's-wool or microfiber duster over the slats. Both materials act as major dust magnets.

WindowsAll of those attachments that come with your vacuum actually do have a purpose. They can actually be put to good use in a variety of ways. The round dust brush attachment on your vacuum is great for sucking soot off window screens. It's soft enough that it won't harm the surface. Switch to the crevice tool to remove desiccated insects from the window wells.

Curtains
You can also use the crevice tool to clean surface dust in the folds and pleats of your curtains, but be sure to put the suction on low so you won't risk harming the fabric. When dust actually settles into draperies, you can have them dry-cleaned. For a fast spruce-up, toss them in the dryer on the air setting, then rehang immediately.

KITCHEN

Cooktops and Ovens
People often ignore filters in the house because they're out of sight, out of mind. But any filter in the house should be cleaned at least once a year, so don't forget about your range hood. Range-hood filters can be degreased in a sink filled with hot water and detergent.

Burnt-on splatters are a major reason stoves are so troubling. The answer: soak before you scrub. Remove cooktop grills and saturate stains with an all-purpose cleaning solutions (like Simple Green or Mr. Clean) Give the solution about 10 minutes to do its job, then wipe clean.

Put those irritating fake credit cards that come in the mail to good use: Scrape along the edges of the stove's knobs to get rid of accumulated grease or crumbs.

Microwave
Real Simple readers said this indispensable machine takes a beating inside and out. To soften up grease or caked-on crud, place a bowl of water mixed with lemon juice in the microwave and run on high for one minute. This will loosen everything up (and leave it smelling fresh). Then use a food safe sanitizer, like Lysol Food Surface Sanitizer, to clean. It will kill bacteria without contaminating food.

Toasters
To get rid of those annoying crumbs stuck in the bottom of the toaster, slide the tray out and wipe it down, then blast the interior with a computer-keyboard cleaner. Don't forget to unplug it first. To clean the outside and get rust spots off chrome, crumple up a piece of aluminum foil and use a little elbow grease.

BATHROOM

ToiletsThe number one item on Real Simple readers' things-to-avoid list was the toilet. Especially when it comes to what one of their readers called the "damp dust" that collects around the base. A swivel-head mop with a detachable pole distances you from the beast.

DrainsTo unclog your sink or tub, pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup vinegar. Cover the drain with a wet cloth, wait five minutes and then uncover. Flush with steaming hot water. Baking soda works to neutralize bad odors and also attacks grease by turning it into soap. The vinegar kills microbes and bacteria and is also a good deodorizer.

Tiles and GroutTo stay ahead of the game when it comes to cleaning tiles and grout, keep a toothbrush in the shower and scrub away mildew whenever you see it. It's a preventative measure, and it can really make a difference. (skip this if you're short on time)

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