Don’t forget drapes
Animals can spray on them when you’re not looking. Rain blowing through a window can dampen them and leave stains. Nearby vents increase the amount of dirt they collect. And sun rot can discolor their linings.
They’re your drapes, and cleaning them isn’t usually a do-it-yourself job.
Window dressings are often expensive, made of sensitive fabric and sized and pleated to fit certain spaces. Throwing that kind of drapes in your washing machine and having them come out looking totally different is “pretty heartbreaking,” says Laurie Miracle, general manager of the Lawrence division of Scotch Fabric Care Services.
It seems most people get their drapes cleaned every five to 10 years, but they should be professionally cleaned at least once a year, Miracle says.
Professionally cleaning drapes not only gets rid of yucky problems, it also helps preserve and extend the life of the fabric.
The mystery goo petrified in the corner of the crisper, the lint-monster lurking in the dryer vent, the cat hair carpeting the back of the cable box.
Staying out of sight allows grime hideouts in your household appliances and electronics to be easily overlooked. While these machines don’t need weekly or monthly attention, professionals say adding them to your annual spring cleaning routine is a good idea.
“You really do take them for granted,” says Andy Vigna, owner of Stoneback Appliance, 925 Iowa St. “You use them every day, and as long as they work, you don’t really think anything of it.”
Keeping these often expensive appliances and electronics clean isn’t just for looks, either, say Vigna and Jeff Huffman, owner of Jeff’s Audio Video, who installs and offers cleaning services for home electronics equipment.
“It will improve the performance of your appliance, it will extend the life of the appliance, and it will create a healthier environment in your home,” Vigna says.
Here are some appliances and electronics to put on your checklist, with tips on how to clean them yourself.
Let’s start with the kitchen.
Spring is a great time to set that oven dial for self-clean, Vigna says. First, you’ve probably put this appliance through a long winter of cooking, starting with the holidays. Second, the weather should finally be nice enough to open windows, allowing heat and odors to escape while the oven is cleaning.
With the house sealed up all winter, imagine the dust, pet hair, toys, magnets and Cheerios that have taken up residency under your fridge. Yuck.
At least once or twice a year, Vigna recommends removing the kick panel and vacuuming or sweeping around the coils beneath the unit, as well as behind it.
“That really helps with the efficiency of the refrigerator,” he says. “It helps it breathe better, and it doesn’t have to work as hard to keep things cool with the hot summer coming up.”
Don’t forget to clean inside, too, ideally before a big grocery store run. If you have a second refrigerator, Vigna suggests taking everything out of the fridge, turning it off and letting it warm up for about an hour before wiping everything inside down with warm, soapy water.
If you notice the door gaskets — those rubbery, accordion-like seals — look brittle after dry, winter weather, wipe them with Vaseline to keep them pliable.
Does your dishwasher smell less-than-fresh or have chalky white buildup? Vigna suggests this easy remedy: You can purchase cleaning tablets such as those made by Affresh, or just set a cup of vinegar upright on the top rack and run the dishwasher through a normal cycle.
Do this once every three to four months, he says, and if you’re cleaning your dishwasher for the first time in a while, be prepared to repeat the process another time or two.
On to the living room, where nobody’s cooking or washing dishes, but plenty of people have been getting fingerprints on the TV and crumbs stuck in the remote.
Cable boxes, receivers, amplifiers
It’s a good idea to clean these and other electronic items that generate heat and/or have a cooling fan every year, Huffman says. Every six months is better, especially if you smoke, have pets or live near dirt roads.
“Over time, dust collects and restricts airflow, which causes the temperature inside those units to rise,” he says. “Dust and heat are the two biggest causes of premature death in electronics.”
If the item has a removable filter, such as a projector, take it out and clean it, Huffman says. Otherwise, find the vents and vacuum them with a brush attachment.
To protect the delicate fabric that covers speakers, use a feather duster, microfiber duster or even a paintbrush with long, soft bristles, Huffman says. While you’re at it, find a new home for the knick-knacks in front of your speakers, as they can impede sound.
Television screens and computer monitors aren’t windows, so don’t use Windex or anything ammonia-based, Huffman says. Instead, buy screen cleaning fluid (eyeglass cleaner works, too), spray it on a clean microfiber cloth reserved for screens and gently wipe them.
Fluid can drip down and make its way into circuitry if sprayed directly on a screen, Huffman says. And if your cloth is dirty or has been used for other things, debris trapped in it can scratch screens, many of which are now made of plastic.
To get the gunk out of crevices and from around buttons, Huffman suggests using an old toothbrush. Then wipe the remote with screen cleaning fluid and a microfiber cloth — again spray the cloth, not the device.
Last but definitely not least, the utility room.
Of all appliances, the dryer is probably the most important to deep clean, Vigna says. If the vent line gets clogged, it can cause increased drying times, heating element burn-outs and, in extreme cases, fire.
At least once a year, remove the hose that runs from the dryer to the wall and clean it out, or replace it if needed (the shorter the hose and the fewer the kinks or bends, the better). To clean inside the wall, buy a vent-cleaning brush or use an electric leaf blower.
Outside, make sure the flapper on the outside of the house is open while the dryer is running. Vigna says he’s seen birds nests and squirrels hiding nuts in this spot, which blocks airflow from the dryer.
Affresh also makes washer cleaning tablets, but, just like the dishwasher, you can get this job done with vinegar. To combat odors, mildew and mineral buildup, pour in two cups of vinegar and run the machine through a hot wash cycle.
While you’re at it, check the hoses behind the washer to make sure they’re not cracked, brittle or blistered-looking. Vigna says that stainless steel mesh hoses can last the lifetime of an appliance but that rubber hoses usually need replacing every couple years.