10 neglected cleaning tasks hiding in plain sight

 
By Daniel Bortz
Special to The Washington Post
Updated 2/4/2018 9:43 AM
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About 8 in 10 Americans say it's important to keep a clean home, a recent survey by global cleaning technology company Kärcher found. But some parts of the house get more TLC than others. Your kitchen countertops might be spotless, for instance, but can you remember the last time you cleaned your oven racks or the inside of your dishwasher? Did you even know you could clean the inside of a dishwasher? Well, don't fret -- we spoke to housekeeping experts and got the dirt on how to clean 10 often-neglected home items.

Ceiling fans

Ceiling fans should be cleaned every other month, says Beth McGee, author of "Get Your House Clean Now: The Home Cleaning Method Anyone Can Master." Clean them monthly if you live in a particularly dusty environment or often keep your windows open, she says.

Wipe the blades with water and dish soap using a microfiber cloth, rinsing the cloth after each blade, McGee says. To clean most light fixtures, remove and wash in warm water and dish soap, rinse, air-dry, and reinstall.

Baseboards

Baseboards can accumulate dirt easily, particularly if you have pets or small children.

First vacuum up hair, dust and debris using a horsehair-brush attachment, then scrub with a microfiber towel and all-purpose cleaner, says Melissa Homer, chief cleaning officer at the housecleaning franchise MaidPro. You can use a melamine sponge, such as the Magic Eraser to remove scuff marks, "but be careful not to scrub so hard that you remove the paint," Homer says.

Shower heads

Shower heads should be wiped down at least once every two weeks and deserve a deep clean twice a year, McGee says.

You don't have to remove the shower head to clean it. Homer's tip: Pour one-half cup each vinegar and water into a quart zip-lock bag, then place the shower head inside the bag, twisting a hair elastic or rubber band around the bag and the pipe behind the head to hold the bag in place. Let the shower head soak for at least 10 minutes, then remove the bag, scrub, rinse and wipe down.

Inside the washer and dryer

Mold, mildew and lint can build up inside a washer and dryer. For a newer washer with a sanitizer setting, run an empty cycle with a quarter-cup of bleach, McGee says. For older washers, run a quarter-cup of bleach in a cycle for the largest load with the hottest water setting, McGee says. Afterward, open the door and let it air-dry. Routine attention should be paid to the rubber seals around the washer door, which can collect mold and mildew.

Clean the dryer's lint trap after each use to prevent odors and lessen the risk of fire, McGee advises.

Dishwasher

To banish bad odors, use a dishwasher detergent. Prefer a do-it-yourself approach? Remove the filter screen in the bottom of the dishwasher and soak it in warm water, says Debbie Sardone, co-owner of SpeedCleaning.com. Use a scrub brush to scrape off embedded food and debris. Then place a small dish filled with a cup of white vinegar in the top rack and run an empty cycle with hot water; open the door afterward to let it air-dry.

Mattresses

The best way to keep your mattress clean is to invest in a quality mattress protector that guards against bedbugs, liquids and dust mites, Homer says. Most covers are machine washable and should be washed every three to four months.

Find a stain on the mattress? Scrub with a microfiber towel and diluted laundry detergent, Homer says. Then rub the spot with a damp towel to "rinse." Make sure the mattress is fully dry before replacing the cover.

Oven racks

There are a number of ways to clean oven racks, which can become layered with grease, grime and baked-on food. If you have an oven with a self-cleaning function, you're all set; racks can also be cleaned in the dishwasher.

If they don't fit, laying them on the counter and spray them using a spray bottle containing a mixture of one-quarter cup of white vinegar, one-quarter cup of grease-cutting dishwashing liquid and one cup of water, McGee says. Let them sit for at least 20 minutes, then use a steel pot-scrubbing pad to remove any cooked-on mess. Can't get everything off? McGee recommends scrubbing with a microfiber cloth and Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish. Rinse and air-dry before reinstalling.

Hampers

Hampers can be tricky to clean, since the method depends on the material. Some hampers are made with fabric liners or bags that can be washed on a delicate cycle. If the hamper is made of plastic, "wiping it out with a disinfecting all-purpose cleaner and a microfiber towel should be all it needs," Homer says. Let the disinfectant sit for at least 10 minutes to remove bad odors.

To keep hampers smelling fresh, place a few laundry scent beads in a small fabric pouch tied with ribbon or string in the bottom of the hamper, McGee recommends.

Refrigerator coils

Regularly cleaning your refrigerator's coils can improve its efficiency, Homer says, but it requires some legwork.

"These days, most new refrigerators hide the coils behind a metal plate in the back that has to be unscrewed," she says. Once you gain access, clean them with a long spiraled bristle brush and a vacuum. "Just loosen the dust with the brush and then suck it out with the [vacuum's] crevice tool," Homer says. When the coils are clean, screw the plate back on and roll the machine into place.

Knife block

This often-overlooked area cries out for a cleaning because food crumbs and debris can accumulate over time, Sardone says. Tip the knife block upside down and use canned air to spray out any food or dust particles, McGee says. Soak the block for 30 minutes in hot water with a tablespoon of grease-cutting dish soap. Rinse thoroughly and again tip the block upside down to drain. Air-dry overnight before replacing the knives.

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