Here’s a little spring cleaning factoid: Centuries ago, houses were shut up tight for winter and heated with coal- or wood-burning stoves. By April, a layer of grime covered everything. So on the first warm weekend, your ancestors threw open the windows, dragged furniture and rugs outdoors, and beat the soot out of them. They also scrubbed walls and floors so they could breathe again.
You don’t need to do that, says Gregory McNamee, the Encyclopedia Britannica’s resident spring cleaning expert. But once a year, you should get rid of the gazillion skin cells your body sloughs off and the dust bunnies that multiply in winter.
Since the family room is often the most used room in the house, start your spring-cleaning campaign there.
1. Clean windows: There’s no getting around washing dirty windows, but using coffee filters instead of paper towels will prevent streaks. If you use a squeegee, make sure windows are totally wet before skimming off the water, which will make your movements more fluid and less likely to leave streaks and drips.
2. Shake drapes: Taking down and dry cleaning elaborate window coverings could cost hundreds, and they’ll never look the same when you rehang them. Instead, give them a good shake and vacuum with an upholstery attachment or a handheld vacuum. Run a damp microfiber cloth over top pleats, valences, rods, and finials.
3. Adjust ceiling fan blades: When fan blades rotate one way, they create a summer breeze; change direction, and they recirculate warm air trapped beneath the ceiling. Stand beneath your rotating fan to determine if you feel a nice breeze. If you don’t, change the rotation direction, usually by flicking a switch on the fan base. Don’t forget to change directions again in fall, which will help heat the room.
4. Freshen sofas: Vacuum beneath the sofa and under cushions. If you’ve got a carpet shampooer, pop on the upholstery attachment and clean the sofa, giving special attention to greasy arm rests. To give sofa pillows some extra pouf, stick them in the dryer on the low- or no-heat cycle.
5. Large furniture: You’ll break your back if you pull and polish every piece of wood in your family room in one day. Instead, clean one piece per day/week. If a wall unit on legs is too big to move, dust beneath it with an electrostatic cloth that attracts dust. Remove books from shelves to dust and determine which volumes are keepers; donate the rest or arrange a book swap with friends.
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