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The Journal Gazette

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Saturday, February 03, 2018 1:00 am

Hidden cleaning jobs

Follow tips on how, when to tidy easily neglected places

Daniel Bortz | Washington Post

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. 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, 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.


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

Wipe them down at least once every two weeks and 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.


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.


To banish bad odors, remove the filter screen in the bottom of the dishwasher and soak it in warm water, says Debbie Sardone, co-owner of Speed Cleaning. 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.

Oven racks

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. Rinse and air-dry.


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


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, McGee recommends.

Refrigerator coils

“Most new refrigerators hide the coils behind a metal plate in the back that has to be unscrewed,” Homer 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.

Knife block

Tip it 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.