Summer may be waning fast, but you can still take advantage of the season's longer, lazier, and sunshine-filled days to tackle a few deep-cleaning projects that can give your home a much-needed face-lift.
In fact, summer is arguably the best time to dive into those major cleaning projects, because the weather is more predictable and you can tackle any (gasp!) big problems before colder temperatures set in. (It's also the best time to lie corpselike on a beach, achieving nothing more than a tan, but that's for another story.)
So crank up the AC, roll up your sleeves, and put some elbow grease into these easy-to-miss spots. You'll thank us later.
"Metal and plastic blinds are some of the most important household items people should take time to deep-clean, but they tend to be neglected because it's a timely chore and is frankly a pain," says Antonio Shellman, owner of Klean Freaks, a residential and commercial cleaning service in New York City. "You'll find if you don't maintain dusting them on a regular basis, dust will start packing on, dulling the surface and blocking the light, which makes everything so much harder to clean."
For metal or vinyl blinds, wipe each slat with a soft cloth moistened with warm water and dish soap. If you have vertical blinds, remove slats and lay them flat before wiping. If your blinds are wooden, no soap is necessary -- just wipe with a damp cloth.
2. Windows and screens
"The quality of your glass will deteriorate over time with age and exposure to the sun," says Trevor Cook, owner of Shine Bright San Diego, a window cleaning service.
Glass is porous, so it expands in the heat of the day and contracts and cools at night, Cook explains. That daily dust and grime get below the surface of the glass and make your windows look cloudy. Cloudy days are fine; cloudy windows, not so much.
You can tackle the dirt and grime that come from a summer of open windows with a bit of dish soap or white vinegar and water and a squeegee, but for a truly streak-free shine that will last the season, turn to the pros for a full cleaning.
3. Kitchen cabinets
A simple mix of dish soap and water will cut grime on most exterior cabinet surfaces, but if buildup is especially heavy, consider commercial-grade cleaners made with orange oil (test in an inconspicuous spot first).
Then hit the inside: Use a damp cloth to collect crumbs (or vacuum if necessary), then wipe down the interior with a cloth soaked in your soap and water solution. Wipe with another plain damp cloth, then use a dry rag to collect excess moisture. (Don't forget the inside of the cabinets under your kitchen sink. According to pros, this is where most kitchen odors originate.) Allow cabinets to remain open for one to two hours afterward.
4. Washing machine…
Unsurprisingly, washing machines are magnets for mold and mildew. If you have a front-loading model, spray the rubber gasket on the front of the machine with white vinegar and wipe with a damp cloth, then pour two cups of white vinegar into the detergent dispenser and run the machine on its hottest temperature and highest setting.
Add a half-cup of baking soda to the drum and run a second cycle at the same level and temperature, then wipe the machine inside and out to dry. (For top loaders, you can find similar steps here.) For extra credit, here's a great tutorial on how to clean a washer's trap, which can be a source of a godawful stench.
5. … and dishwasher, too
Use a toothpick to clean the spinning arm at the bottom of your machine, and remove and soak your filter in warm soapy water (or scrub with a paste of baking soda and water). Then pour a cup of white vinegar into a container on the top shelf and run your machine on the hottest setting.
6. Refrigerator and freezer
Once a season, take inventory of your fridge and freezer and trash any expired items. Remove all drawers and shelves and soak them in warm soapy water. Wipe down the interior surfaces -- including doors and edges -- with two tablespoons of baking soda mixed with hot water.
Next, vacuum the refrigerator coil and grill, and then attack the doors: If they're stainless steel, be sure to use a stainless-steel cleaner and wipe in the direction of the grain. And if you're really a detailed person, we like this tutorial for step-by-step instructions that promise to take your freezer from dingy to sparkling in just 30 minutes.
This one couldn't be easier. If your oven has a self-cleaning feature, just set it and forget it. (You didn't need us to tell you that, did you?) But don't neglect your oven racks -- for periodic deep-cleaning, throw them in a tub of soapy water for 30 minutes and then clean with a steel-bristle brush.
The Jacks of all trades at Lifehacker recommend rubbing the top rack of your barbecue with an onion for a quick post-grill cleaning, but when it's time to truly sanitize summer's hardest-working appliance, you'll need to break out a little more synovial hinge joint lubrication (aka elbow grease).
Ensure the grill is off, and disconnect the propane before you begin. Remove the grates and metal plates beneath them and soak them in hot soapy water for five to 10 minutes. To rinse, spray them with the hose. Cover the area where the grates usually go with foil, and use a stiff grill brush to clean grime from the hood and inside walls. Use a cleaner specifically designed for your grill's surface (e.g., stainless steel, porcelain, or cast iron), and reassemble all parts.
DIY carpet cleaning requires the proper equipment (check out the Good Housekeeping Research Institute's roundup of the best at-home cleaning machines). Avoid cleaning on humid days, and open the windows while your carpet dries to keep excess moisture at bay. (At least once a year, consider calling in a professional carpet cleaning company.) And if Fido's had his way one too many times with your favorite area rug, try these tricks to remove dog (or cat) urine from carpets.
10. Mattress and bedding
Vacuum your mattress and lay it on its side to air out for 12 to 24 hours before changing your sheets. Launder your pillows on the hottest setting available, and replace your cold-weather bedding for warm-weather gear.
11. Shower door
Go over the entire surface with glass cleaner to remove streaks, then use a magic sponge eraser to break up tough gunk that's been built up on textured shower glass. To really seal the deal, use a glass treatment such as Rain-X to create a water-repellent surface for up to six months.
12. Houseplants (yes, really)
Greenery looking a little dingy and dusty? According to Shellman, even your houseplants need a little TLC once in a while. Left alone, grime will pile up on the leaves and reduce the plant's ability to photosynthesize light.
The best way to clean plants is to use a dry or damp cloth and carefully clean each leaf, Shellman says. Then sit back and watch them flourish all year long. Unless you kill them.