Dirty panes are no problem when you use rubber-edged squeegees, which are quicker and more effective than cloth or newspaper. They come in a variety of sizes -- and a screw-on extension will let you reach high spots.
To start, dip a sponge into a bucket of warm water and a few drops of mild dish soap. Wet window; rub dirt away. Dampen squeegee; starting at an upper corner, draw it down pane from top to bottom. Repeat, overlapping strokes and wiping rubber edge with sponge after each stroke. (For large windows, ''snake'' squeegee back and forth; then touch up edges.) Dry windowsills with a cloth.
Unscrew lightbulbs and polish the bulbs with a microfiber cloth dampened with water (avoid wetting the metal screw base). Clean the bulbs in recessed ceiling fixtures with a telescoping lamb's wool duster.
Wash Your Blinds
Once or twice a year, wipe wooden blinds with a few drops of gentle wood cleaner on a nearly dry sponge. Aluminum blinds can be washed outdoors: Place them on an old sheet on a slanted surface, and scrub with water and a noncorrosive cleaner. Use a hose to rinse well, and then dry the blinds thoroughly with a towel to prevent rust.
Stock Your Stain-Fighting Kit
Update Bed Linens
Replace your bedding for a quick makeover. For an easy custom duvet cover, use two flat sheets. Place sheets back to back, and sew around the perimeter, allowing for a 1/2-inch seam; leave an opening at the bottom. To close, sew twill-tape ties or velcro tape to the inside edges.
Switch It Up
Change the direction of your ceiling fans. While the standard counterclockwise direction provides a pleasant breeze during warm months, you should run the fan clockwise in cold weather. This creates an upward draft, redistributing the warm air hovering near the ceiling throughout the room, thus heating your home more efficiently. Most fans have a switch on the base to adjust the rotation.
Protect Wooden Floors
Guard against scratches on wooden floors. Make sure there are surface protectors on the undersides of furniture legs, and replace any that are dirty or worn. (A buildup of grit can mar the floor.) Use thick, padded self-adhesive discs; they come in different diameters and can be found at home stores.
Clean Out the Refrigerator
This task is a daunting undertaking; make it more manageable by breaking it down.
- The first step is to wipe up spills immediately so surfaces won't become stained.
- Make it a habit to throw out old food once a week.
- Every few months, wash the interior with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda for every quart of warm water. Wash removable shelves and drawers in the solution (let glass shelves come to room temperature first so warm water won't crack them).
- Loosen hardened spills on fixed parts by wetting the area with the solution, allowing the residue to soften.
- Use a toothbrush to scrub crannies.
- Twice a year, vacuum or brush dust from the condenser coils to keep the system from overheating.
Restock Homekeeping Supplies
You'll need all-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner, specific products for problem spots such as mildew in tile grout, as well as natural cleansers such as baking soda and vinegar. Stock up on sponges, rags, scrub brushes, and rubber gloves, too.
Deep-Clean Carpets and Rugs
For synthetic carpeting, rent or buy a shampooer/extractor -- a machine that cleans the fibers and removes traces of soap using hot water. Open windows and let air flow to help carpets dry. If you have wool carpets or rugs, or any that are valuable or delicate, contact a professional for cleaning.
Clean Your Curtains
Vacuum and steam-clean curtains or have them dry-cleaned. If you'll be replacing heavy curtains with lighter ones as the weather gets warmer, it is especially important to remove dust and dirt before putting the curtains away for storage.
You should replace the batteries in your smoke detectors every six months. Use the day you set your clocks back as a reminder, and you'll be unlikely to forget. Change the batteries again in spring, when you set your clocks ahead.