Life & Style

How to “Spring Clean”

In the days before modern conveniences, the first warm weather made it possible to do a sweeping house-cleaning. After a long, hard winter, it must have felt great to throw open the windows and let the dust blow out, to wash walls down with water that didn’t freeze, and to toss out your sour mattress ticking.

These days, most of us clean throughout the year, but there’s no denying that the brighter sun and the longer days still invigorate us, filling us with the desire for a fresh start. Here are some suggestions for ways to kick off the warmest part of the year with renewed and refreshed surroundings.


  • Freezer and Refrigerator. Empty it completely and toss anything with freezer burn (grayish brown and dried-out) or anything growing a culture in the fridge. Dissolve 3 tablespoons baking soda in a quart of hot water. Using a soft, mesh sponge, wipe down the inside.
  • Sink. Soak the drain cover in a bowl of hot water and dish soap. Pour a box of baking soda into the drain and let it sit for an hour. Then pour in distilled white vinegar to loosen any clogs, followed by a whole kettle of boiling water down the drain to flush out grease and debris.


  • Shelves. Dust knick-knacks and bookshelves. Remove each item, dust the shelves themselves, and then carefully dust each item before replacing.
  • Lamps. Dust the bases and wipe off any greasy areas with a solution of hot water and distilled white vinegar, making sure to dry thoroughly with a clean towel. Dust or vacuum the shades.


  • Floor. Scrub the floor with a brush. A flick with a wet mop is fine for maintenance, but you’ll need some elbow grease to really get the scum out of cracks and crevices.
  • Fans and vents. Take them apart with a screwdriver and soak individual pieces in a solution of hot water and dish washing detergent.


  • Mattress. Strip the mattress of bedding and lay it in the sun on a clean blanket in the backyard (if you have one!). Mark which side was last facing up; if your mattress is not a pillow top, flip it.
  • Windows. Use a bucket filled with warm water and a drop of dish soap, and a soft, microfiber cloth. Be sure to do the sills and frames. Finish by washing the panes with a non streaking glass cleaner.


  • Take inventory and declutter. Go through each item in your closet. Decide if you are going to keep, donate, or trash the contents, one piece at a time. For items you are keeping stored away, make a list of the contents and whereabouts.
  • Seasonal clothing. Rotate seasonal clothing and store what’s not needed.


  • Metal fixtures. Clean and polish all brass and metal fixtures, including outdoor doorknobs, the door knocker, pot and pan racks, and finials.
  • Wall hangings. Remove mirrors, wall art, and photos from the wall. Dust around them, clean the frames, and then clean the glass.

Excerpted from The Useful Book: 201 Life Skills They Used to Teach in Home Ec and Shop by David Bowers and Sharon Bowers (Workman Publishing). Copyright © 2016.

Don’t forget to check out the book!

About the Book:

A modern and energetically designed encyclopedia of DIY with everything you need to know to roll up your sleeves and cook it, build it, sew it, clean it, or repair it yourself. In other words, everything you would have learned from your shop and home ec teachers, if you’d had them. The Useful Book features 138 practical projects and how-tos, with step-by-step instructions and illustrations, relevant charts, sidebars, lists, and handy toolboxes. There’s a kitchen crash course, including the must-haves for a well-stocked pantry; how to boil an egg (and peel it frustration-free); how to grill, steam, sauté, and roast vegetables. There’s Sewing 101, plus how to fold a fitted sheet, tie a tie, mop a floor, make a bed, and set the table for a formal dinner. Next up: a 21st-century shop class. The tools that everyone should have, and dozens of cool projects that teach fundamental techniques. Practice measuring, cutting, and nailing by building a birdhouse. Make a bookshelf or a riveted metal picture frame. Plus: do-it-yourself plumbing; car repair basics; and home maintenance, from priming and painting to refinishing wood floors. 

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