Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fall Housecleaning Hacks

With the advent of fall comes – what else? – fall cleaning. It’s the time to wash and put away the summer clothes, bring down the boxes of fall clothes, and deep clean the house. So in the spirit of fall cleaning, here are a few household “hacks” that I’ve picked up over the years.

Easy Steaming
The worst part of bringing out next season’s clothes is ironing out the deep creases that come from being packed in a box for months. But why iron when you can steam? Most people are familiar with the trick of steaming wrinkles out of clothes by hanging them in the bathroom and running a hot shower. But there’s an even easier way to steam out wrinkles – in the dryer! Any clothes except those made from the most delicate fabric can be “pressed” in the dryer by tossing them in with a damp towel for 10 minutes or so. Take each item out, give it a good shake, smooth it out with your hands, hang it up, and voila! It looks like you just walked out of the dry cleaners. And you can steam a bunch of clothes at the same time; just add another damp towel or two.

Let It Soak
I always make sure that last season’s clothes are super-clean and stain-free before I pack them away. OxyClean is great for spot stains, but what about those yellowed undershirts and stinky socks that need an all-over deep clean? My mom taught me to keep a bucket of water with a few handfuls of Axiom or Biz pre-soak next to the washing machine. Items that need a little boost get thrown into the bucket as soon as they’re taken off, where they can happily soak for several days until the next load of wash is ready. Then just dump the whole bucket, water and all, into the washer, add the rest of the laundry and a regular amount of detergent, and you’re good to go.

An Old Toothbrush: The Miracle Tool
Being a frugal Yankee, my mom saved everything. But she used it all, too. One of her most-used and best-loved re-uses was an old toothbrush. You can use a toothbrush to clean anything from grout, to your fingernails, to those hard-to-reach corners of windowpanes, to sink and tub drains, to the gunk under the setting of your diamond ring, to the dust in the little nooks of your tchotchkes. And the older, more flared, and more broken-down it is, the better it works.

Newspaper in Tupperware
As the weather cools, I tend to cook more comfort food, and in larger batches, so it’s time to break out the Tupperware. You know that weird musty smell that unused Tupperware always seems to have, no matter how carefully you scrub and dry it before you put it away? Toss a piece or two of crumpled up newspaper inside when you stick it up on that high shelf and it’ll smell freshly-washed even months later. And if you have a crock pot that sits around unused during the summer months, this trick works for it, too.

Window Polish
Another great use for newspaper? Use it to dry glass surfaces like windows, mirrors, and glass tables after you wash them. Something in the chemicals leaves the glass sparkling and streak-free, and with none of the bits of lint stuck in the corner like you always get with paper towels. Get your newspaper fix online and don’t have any papers handy? Use a coffee filter instead.

Baking Soda Magic
Freshen up your carpets by sprinkling them with baking soda and letting it sit for a few minutes before you vacuum. It absorbs old, lingering odors and the little bit that stays in the carpet will continue to freshen things up during those closed-in months of cool weather.

Lemony Fresh
In the summer months, I use a lot more fresh vegetables and fruits, and therefore I get a lot more use of my cutting boards. So when fall rolls around, I try to give them an extra-good scrub before tucking them away. Try cutting a lemon in half and using it to scrub the board before you put it away. The acid and roughness help to disinfect, deodorize, and even remove stains from both wood and plastic cutting boards.

Hose It Off
Before the weather gets too cold and you turn off the outside hose for the season, take your Venetian blinds outside and hose them off. The force of the water will knock the dust off, no scrubbing required. If your kitchen blinds have a coat of grease that doesn’t want to come off, give them a few squirts with Windex or Fantastik and let the grease dissolve for a few minutes before spraying them off.

Any other fall cleaning cheats you love to use?

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