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Spring cleaning

The flowers are blooming, the birds are serenading, and yet your house still feels like it’s stuck with winter blues.
Spring brings the spring cleaning tradition that allows us to freshen up our homes and get a head start on the hectic seasons of spring and summer.
Consider these before you begin your annual spring cleaning project:
De-clutter before cleaning
The de-cluttering process has to start somewhere, so start in one room or area that can be sorted and cleared out quickly, such as a kitchen counter top or entrance hall. Keep one rule in mind: Nothing can be placed in the area that doesn’t belong. Everything must have a place in that room or area, and if it doesn’t belong there, remove it.
Create a box labeled “Doesn’t Belong” and place items in it that don’t belong to that area or room. Then set up another box marked “Donate.” Any items you haven’t used, don’t want or don’t have a specific place for, give to your local thrift store or charity center, such as Goodwill or Salvation Army.
Devise a plan
What room or area are you going to start in first? Once you decide which room or rooms you will tackle first don’t forget to also include in your plan time for distractions so you won’t get discouraged after just a few hours cleaning. In essence, make a reasonable plan of attack that has at least a 98 percent chance of completion.
Check cleaning supplies
There is nothing more frustrating than to start a project only to find that you’re out of supplies. If you are on a chemical reduction kick, white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and several other products make wonderful cleaning products.
Here are a few sites to check out for recipes for making your own cleaning products: http://organizedhome. com/clean-house/pantry-recipes-homemade-cleaning-products and http://eartheasy.com/live_nontoxic_solutions.htm.
Now that you have completed the three tasks outlined above, it’s time to begin cleaning. I know that you will want to clean the entire house; the most efficient way to do so is to work on one area at a time. And, remember we are cleaning each room from top to bottom … work you way down the walls, over the furniture, all the way to the baseboards and flooring.
10 easy spring cleaning tips
1. Shake it out — Gather up throw rugs and take them outside for a good shake. Then air them on a clothesline or railing for several hours.
2. Picture perfect — Dust and clean all art and photographs along the wall. Clean with care — never spray cleanser or water onto the frame. The liquid can seep behind the glass and damage the pictures. Instead lightly wet a clean cloth to wipe the frame and glass.
3. Purge the fridge — Pull the trash can over and dump lingering leftovers, spoiled food and open bottles of condiments, like grill marinade from last summer. Remove all the glass shelves and bins and wash them or give them a fast once-over with a wet cloth or sponge. Don’t forget fingerprints and splatters on the door front and handle. A fresh box of baking soda absorbs odors, too.
4. Cut table clutter — Switch from tablecloths to place mats, and arrange a bowl of fruit or a vase of fresh flowers in the middle of the kitchen table. The mats are easier to keep clean — plus, if your table looks set, it’s a less likely landing pad for mail and other clutter.
5. De-germ sponges — Soaking a sponge in bleach kills up to 99.9 percent of three bacteria strains, a benchmark based on the EPA’s requirement for sanitization of non-food-contact surfaces. Mix 3/4 cup of bleach in one gallon of water, and soak the sponge for five minutes.
6. Zap oven spills — Burned-on blobs welded to the bottom of your oven can give off odors and smoke. If you have time to run a self-cleaning cycle — even a short two-hour one — it’s your best bet (and you can go do something else while it works). If not, just focus on the worst stains. Take a metal spatula and gently chip off any loose pieces.
7. Debunk Your Fabrics — Wash the mattress pad, pillow coverings, and pillows from everyone’s bed (all pillow types except foam can go into the washer, but check the labels for specific laundering instructions). Then do a second load with your bath mat, shower curtain, and even the curtain liner on the gentle cycle with color-safe bleach.
8. Manage microwave messes — Fresh lemons smell clean so try this: Cut one in half, put the pieces in a microwave-safe bowl with water to cover, and cook on high for two to three minutes. The steam will soften hardened food inside the oven while you enjoy the citrus scent. Then grate the fruit in the garbage disposal to eliminate any musty odor and greasy gunk.
9. Toss old toiletries — In the bathroom, see if your loofah or toothbrush needs replacing. You should get a new brush every three months and a new scrubber every 30 days, but toss immediately if the bristles are frayed or the loofah is mildewy. Also, check the cabinet for expired cold medicines and trash them.
10. Banish garbage bin odors — Take plastic garbage cans outside for a quick hosing out, and leave them upside down to dry. Then sprinkle the bottoms with baking soda to keep cans odor free.
Also don’t forget to change up your accessories for a new look. You don’t have to redecorate, just freshen up things. Try switching out heavy, darker items with lighter and brighter accessories. It is so refreshing to open the windows and have fresh air flowing through the house.
For other spring cleaning tips visit: http://housekeeping.about.com/cs/cleaning101/a/springclnngguid. htm
Toi N. Degree, family and consumer education agent, N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, Rowan County Center, can be reached at 704-216-8970.

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