16 Summer Cleaning Tips for a Sparkling Home

Employ these summer cleaning tips to prevent heat, humidity, dust, grime, and pests from taking a toll on your home -- indoors and outdoors.

What's the secret to fabulously clean hardwood floors? Find out from home cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper.

Tips for Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Keep hardwood floors in top condition with smart cleaning methods that will make caring for your floors and maintaining their good looks even easier.

Do a Clean Sweep

Stock front porches, decks, and patios with inexpensive brooms that can be quickly grabbed for all sorts of cleaning chores. Use them to brush spider webs from windows, screens, railings, porch ceilings, mailboxes, window boxes, and foundation plantings. Stop dirt in its tracks by sweeping porch and deck floors daily to remove debris deposited by wind, rain, incoming traffic, and critters.

Clean Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets -- opened and closed frequently by messy hands -- can get sticky if not properly cared for. Donna Smallin Kuper, a certified cleaning technician, shares how to clean kitchen cabinets: Dip a cloth into a solution of 1/4 cup of Murphy's Oil Soap and a gallon of warm water. Wring the cloth and wipe cabinet fronts, paying special attention to areas around the knobs. Dry with a clean cloth. Kuper recommends doing this monthly. Otherwise, grime adheres, and when you try to remove it, the cabinet finish could come off with the greasy residue.

Perk Up Patio Furniture

Here's how to clean plastic, painted, and finished wood patio furniture: Rinse furniture with a garden hose fitted with a spray nozzle. Mix 1/2 cup bleach with a gallon of water in a bucket. Apply the bleach solution to surfaces with a sponge; reapply as needed to keep the item wet for 5 minutes, advises Clorox. Rinse and let air-dry. Protect nearby plantings from bleach runoff by watering them well before and after furniture cleaning.

A Bathroom Checklist

Prevent mold and mildew from gaining toeholds in your bathroom. Leslie Reichert, a nationally recognized home-keeping expert, shares a few speed-cleaning tips:

  1. Clean the shower while you're showering, using a Mr. Clean Eraser sponge and a squeegee.
  2. Swish a brush around the toilet bowl daily; use a pumice stone to remove rings and stains.
  3. Wipe mirrors with a finely woven microfiber cloth, which won't leave streaks or lint.
  4. Wipe down countertops with a microfiber cloth sprayed with vinegar.
  5. Clean sinks with an eraser sponge; shine sinks and faucets with a microfiber cloth.
  6. Wipe floors with a damp towel or mop. And, since it's summer, hang wet bath mats and damp towels outside to quick-dry in the sun.

Get Ready to Grill

Clean grill grates so remnants of previous meals don't transfer to foods being grilled. Reichert says this is how to clean a gas grill: Turn it on and let the grates get hot. Place a lemon on a long-handled fork and dip it into a bowl of salt and rub it across the grates. The lemon's acid will cut grease, and the salt acts as a scrubbing agent. Scrub especially dirty grates with a block of pumice, then wash grates well to remove pumice dust. Avoid using metal brushes, Reichert says. The bristles break off and can get into your food.

Prepare for Grass Stains

Kneeling to garden, sliding into first base, and simply relaxing on your lawn are likely to result in grass-stained clothing. These stains -- because of the chlorophyll in grass and plants -- may be difficult to remove if left to set. As soon as possible, brush away debris and treat grass stains with prewash spray or a solution of 1 part white vinegar and 2 parts water. Let the solution sit for 5 minutes. Machine-wash the stained clothing in an enzyme detergent and the hottest water safe for the fabric.

Address Window Treatments

Cleaning expert and author Mary Findley says summer is the perfect time for taking drapes and curtains outside for airing. Give window treatments a good shake to remove dust, and let them bask in the sun to expel stale odors. Or throw draperies and curtains into the dryer for 10 minutes to remove dust and kill mites; avoid having to iron them by promptly removing and rehanging.

Tackle Gutter Cleaning

Reichert shares how to clean gutters efficiently and safely. Equip your lawn blower or hose with a gutter-cleaning attachment so you can blow out debris while your feet are firmly planted on the ground. If you're hosing, wear rain gear because you are going to get wet, Reichert says. When on a ladder, use a four-prong garden tool in a plowing motion to push leaves out of gutters. Wear latex gloves under work gloves to keep hands dry and protected from odors. Finally, use a hose with a spray nozzle to flush all remaining dirt from the gutters and to clear downspouts of debris.

Ensure Cool Air Flows Freely

Have a heating-and-cooling expert check and clean your air-conditioning system before temps rise to intolerable levels. He or she will make certain your system is in good enough shape to keep you and yours cool through summer. There are more things you can do to make sure you air-conditioning operates well, says Reichert, who advises using your vacuum cleaner and a blower attachment to blow out hard-to-reach dirt. Try using a dusting brush and a vacuum to remove caked-on grime. Use your vacuum to clean all interior heating vents of dust and dirt. Wash removable filters with hydrogen peroxide and let them dry before putting them back, or replace an old filter with a new one.

Tidy the Garage

With patio and deck furniture, summertime playthings, and grilling gear moved outside for summer, your garage may need a refresh. Throw out or donate unwanted tools, building materials, and other no-longer-used items. Give the floor, walls, and ceiling a good sweeping. Wash windows. Put up racks and shelves to stow practical and recreational trappings.

Keep Floors Spick-and-Span

Findley says when determining how to clean floors, it's important to remember that different floor surfaces require different cleaners. Mop all types of floors with cotton terry cloth or recycled hand towels, which can be tossed in the washer and reused.

Clean linoleum and vinyl floors with a solution of 1 tablespoon baby shampoo or 1/2 teaspoon eco-friendly all-purpose cleaner and 1 gallon of water. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar but avoid food-grade or safe-for-pickles vinegars, which are petroleum based.

For wood and laminate floors, spritz a towel with a solution of 1 part distilled vinegar to 30 parts water until the cloth is just damp enough for mopping.

For stone and tile floors, simply mop with cotton towels moistened with very hot water. Cleaners and vinegar will pit and damage stone and tile finishes.

Place mats at every entrance for wiping feet. Keep floors cleaner longer by asking folks to remove shoes as they come in the door.

Clean Concrete Patios

Use a push broom or a leaf blower to remove all debris from your patio. Kuper recommends renting or borrowing a pressure washer to give concrete a thorough cleaning. For hard-to-remove stains, pour straight white vinegar on stains and scrub with a stiff brush. "If that doesn't budge the stain, you may need to use a commercial rust cleaner like Whink," advises Kuper. An alternative stain remover? Reichert suggests using a stiff push broom and lemon juice; the acid in the lemon juice partners with sunshine to bleach out stains.

Banish Kitchen Odors

Along with hot, humid weather comes unpleasant smells at the sink and in trash cans and recycling bins. Clorox recommends soaking sponges and dishcloths in a solution of 1/4 cup bleach and a gallon of water daily for 5 minutes to keep them clean and germ-free. Be sure to rinse well after soaking. Pour white vinegar down drains to banish yucky scents. On trash day, wash out garbage and recycling bins with bleach and water.

Refresh Towels

Towels left to dry in the bathroom or even towels stored in a closet can take on a musty smell during the dog days of summer. An easy summer cleaning tip for towels? Wash towels in hot water and toss 1/2 cup of baking soda into the rinse cycle to eradicate stale scents. Dry the towels at the highest heat recommended for the fabric.

Clear Cracks of Mold

Keep outdoor surfaces mold-free. Findley says to loosen mold in sideway, patio, and driveway cracks with a scraper and sweep away the debris. Then, directly apply vinegar via a garden spray to the cracks to kill remaining mold spores. Repeat a few times a year to prevent new mold from growing.

Properly Wash Produce

Vegetables and fruits are fresh, flavorful, and plentiful during the summer. Ensure garden-picked and store-bought produce is as healthy as it should be by using these cleaning tips from the FDA: Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before and after preparing fresh produce. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas; throw away outer leaves of lettuce and cabbage heads. Gently rub veggies while holding them under plain running water until dirt is gone. Always wash produce before peeling, as dirt can be transferred from knives and peelers. Use a clean vegetable brush to scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers. Dry all produce with a clean cloth to further reduce bacteria.

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