How Often Should I Clean That?

Photo: Bryan Gardner

It's a single question with an infinite number of answers. The truth is, every household item—from dishes to appliances to bed linens—has a different cleaning schedule. Read our guide on what to clean and when to tackle each.

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When it comes to cleaning, some things are a must: Cleaning up dishes after dinner each night, wiping down kitchen counters after prepping a meal, making the beds daily, and organizing trash and recyclables are some of the many tasks most of us would never dream of putting off. But other household chores might not be as cut and dry. You might be wondering if you're cleaning something way too often and inefficiently—or, even worse, unknowingly lagging behind on essential cleaning tasks that could possibly affect your health.

In short, you should be aiming to clean things that frequently accumulate grit, grime, and general untidiness regularly—and if you immediately thought of your kitchen, you'd be right. Daily cleaning should focus largely on the surfaces in your kitchen and, depending on the finishes, you'll want to use different tools to get the job done. Granite, for example, will require a using a pH-neutral stone cleaner, whereas tile is best cleaned with a soft cloth doused in dishwashing liquid. Oh, and sponges? Those essential kitchen tools need to be cleaned daily, too. Read on for our tips on how to do it.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are a few things that should be cleaned every six months—pillows and the down accessories on your bed are a prime example. Since these products are made to last, cleaning them too often could cause unnecessary weathering. Slipcovers are another item that will get cleaned bi-annually, as these durable accessories are designed to withstand the wear and tear of everyday life.

The timing of most chores, however, weekly or monthly, and whether you choose to spend a single day doing the essential tasks, or breaking them up over the week, is up to you. Here's how often you should clean each area of your home, plus essential tips and approaches to get the job done.

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Bedsheets: Once a Week


Machine wash sheets in warm water and tumble-dry according to label instructions. Remove them from the dryer ten minutes before the drying cycle is over. This will help minimize wrinkles. Iron your sheets while they are still damp.

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Toilet Bowl: Once a Week

Matthew Hranek

Pour 1/2-cup white vinegar or 1/4-cup chlorine bleach (never mix the two) into the bowl; let sit for several minutes. Brush the entire interior with a toilet brush, then flush. If the toilet has a hard-water ring, let the vinegar or bleach sit for an hour before brushing clean.

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Sponges: After Each Use


Thoroughly rinse and wring sponges out, and keep them in an open dish where air can circulate so that they dry thoroughly. Additionally, you should replace sponges every two weeks, as bacteria can build up, as well as mold.

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Shower Liner: Once a Week


Vinyl, synthetic, cotton, and hemp shower-curtain liners can generally be laundered in the washing machine using hot water and a mild detergent. Afterwards, let it air-dry or further smooth out wrinkles (and eliminate bacteria) with a thorough steam-cleaning. Pull the shower curtain closed when not in use, so water doesn't sit in the folds.

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Lighting Fixtures: Once a Week


Dusting lightbulbs can make rooms brighter without much effort. Gently wipe away dust with an inexpensive paintbrush.

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Fan Vents: Once a Month

Bryan Gardner

Over time, dust, pollen, and other allergens can clog your vents. Remove the cover and vacuum the unit with the crevice tool. Soak the cover in warm soapy water, and scrub it with a soft brush. Additionally, you may want to consider hiring an indoor-air professional who can deep-clean the ductwork every three to five years.

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Drains: Once a Week, and Again Every Month

kitchen sink with gold faucet
Addie Juell

Once a week, flush the drain with boiling water. Then monthly, flush drain with a cleaning mixture of vinegar, boiling water, and baking soda. This helps break down the accumulation of debris and deodorize the pipework where odors may be lurking.

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Pillows: Every Three to Six Months


Most pillows are machine washable—they should be tossed into the laundry seasonally to remove mold, bacteria, and odors. Pillowcases should be laundered every week, and protectors should be laundered once a month. For smoothing out wrinkles, you can use a low-heat iron or a steamer.

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Small Appliances: Once a Week, and Again Every Month

Bryan Gardner

It depends on how frequently you use them, but regular cleaning of machines like your microwave, coffeemaker, and toaster can expand their life span by several years. As a rule of thumb, the exterior should be wiped down once every week, and the interior cleaned once every month according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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Floor Mats, Throw Rugs, and Runners: Once a Week


Even if you have a no-shoes policy for your home, dirt builds up in your entryways. Protective mats and rugs will have different cleaning specifications depending on the material but, generally, you should vacuum and clean machine-washable throw rugs and runners with your weekly load of laundry.

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Books: Every Three to Six Months

Bryan Gardner

Yes, even your personal library needs regular upkeep. Otherwise, the paper within will discolor and deteriorate. At every turn of the season, take the volumes down from the shelves to dust their spines and tops, and to flip through the pages. Also, rotate any stacked books to prevent warping.

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Ceiling Fan: Once a Week

Annie Schlechter

Dust and dirt are hard to spot when they're so out of reach, but they're there. For an easy wipe-down, stand on a step stool and slide an old pillowcase over a blade. Pressing both hands against it, slowly slide the case off. Repeat for each blade, then throw the case in with your laundry.

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Computer and Electronics: Once a Week

Bryan Gardner

Your phone, keyboard, and computer mouse are all places where bacteria and dust like to hide. Compressed air in a can is a secret weapon for dislodging grime. Just remember: Never use harsh cleaning sprays or abrasive cleansers, and unplug before cleaning.

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Grout: Once a Month


Grout is porous and absorbs oils from shampoos, conditioners, and soaps, which can lead to mildew growth that can spread to the tiles it surrounds. Clean mildew with a mix of 10 parts water to 1 part bleach and a soft-bristled brush. Follow up with a pH-neutral cleaner to remove the bleach solution.

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Fireplace: Once a Year


Hire a chimney sweeper annually. Spring—after the winter season has ended—is a prime time to prepare for the coming year. Clean the firebox (the area of the fireplace in which the grate sits and the fire is built) after each fire, especially if you use it only occasionally; air currents in the room can draw out ash, spreading dust and grime throughout your home.

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Window Treatments: Once a Month


Vacuum window treatments like curtains and screens, as well as moldings and windowsills. If slatted metal or vinyl blinds are very dirty, remove them from the window and lay them flat on a drop cloth outside. Scrub closed blinds with a soft brush and warm soapy water. Repeat on the other side and rinse. Open and hang outside to dry.

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Bathtub and Shower Walls: Once a Week


Clean it with a sponge or cloth and a mild abrasive. (Never use a brush inside the tub; it can damage the surface.) Extra tip: An acidic cleaner such as white vinegar will cut through soap scum. That said, you will need to wear gloves when cleaning with acid, then rinse well since the residue can etch surfaces if left on too long.

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Countertops and Backsplash: Every Day


Your approach depends entirely on the material. Granite should be wiped down with a damp cloth using a pH-neutral stone cleaner. Stainless steel calls for a mild abrasive. And tile ought to be wiped with a soft cloth dampened in mild dishwashing liquid. In the end? Adopt the kitchen golden rule: Wipe down surfaces as you use them.

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Stairs and Landing: Once a Week


To keep up with the dirt being tracked in, it's important to frequently sweep and vacuum high-traffic areas like entranceways, stair steps, and the landing. Wipe down handrails and in-between banisters with a damp cloth.

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Slipcovers: Twice a Year

Bronxville house tour by Hackett interiors
Emily Gilbert

If they're machine washable, pretreat stains while they're still on the furniture (so you can see trouble spots better) then wash in cold water on the gentle or permanent-press cycle, opting for an "extra rinse" setting. (Don't overload the machine.) Promptly transfer to the dryer, again choosing the aforementioned setting. When damp but nearly dry, replace on the chair or sofa and let dry overnight.

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