It’s that special time again. Time to throw open the windows, bust out a mountain of cleaning supplies, blast some Beyoncé, get into a zone, and start working on making your home spick-and-span.
But hold on, hasty home cleaner: Before you get started, we need to tell you how to clean. Yes, we really do. You probably think you know all there is to know—after all, you’ve been doing this all your adult life, right? But it turns out that creating a gorgeous, dust- and grime-free space is a lot trickier than it looks, especially if you’re not hip to professional cleaners’ sneakiest tactics.
So we did the dirty work for you. Here, we’ve rounded up eight ways you’ve been tackling spring-cleaning all wrong, according to the pros—and how to do it right.
1. Dry mopping
What’s the best way to get all the dirt and crumbs out of the way before you wash down the kitchen or bathroom floor? Dry mopping (aka “dust mopping”) might seem to make sense, but you’re better off busting out the Hoover. Trust the pros on this one.
Vacuuming removes two times more debris, says cleaning expert Donna Smallin Kuper. And you want as much debris as possible out of the way—otherwise it will just get spread all over your kitchen when you wet mop. And that will make getting rid of it the next time even harder.
2. Not emptying the vacuum receptacle
Before you dig out the vacuum for your spring-cleaning escapades, get rid of the evidence from the last time you cleaned. All of it. If your dust buster’s canister or bag is more than half-full, empty it before you start sucking.
A too-full vacuum makes a much less efficient cleaner, meaning you might have to go over your living room two or three times just to remove your dog’s latest layer of hair. Emptying the bag at the start (or if it gets too full midcleaning) means much less work for you.
3. Going rogue
Cleaning might not seem like a science, but it’s certainly simpler if you treat it like one. If your lemon floor cleaner says you need only 1 tablespoon per gallon, follow that instruction. You’d be amazed (or perhaps not) how many people think more is always better.
“If more worked better, they would recommend more,” Smallin Kuper says. After all, it’s in their interest to sell more product. So why would they tell you to save when they could tell you to splurge? Because their stuff is made to work a certain way.
Pay attention when you read (not skim) the manufacturer’s instructions, and follow them closely to save yourself time, sanity, and money.
4. Using paper towels and rags
Ditch the paper towels—and don’t use rags in their place.
Microfiber cloths are far more effective at removing dirt and grime than cotton cloths, and you can pick up these miracle workers in every shape and form—including gloves that fit over your hand for easy general-purpose dusting to varieties specifically designed for cleaning electronics or wood floors.
As a bonus, microfiber clothes catch dirt and dust (and even bacteria!) between their superthin threads, letting you clean most surfaces without the need for chemical cleaners. Of course, heavy-duty stains may require some additional work, but as a general rule you’ll be cutting costs in your cleaning cabinet.
5. Not wiping down your light bulbs
Cleaning your old bulbs isn’t just an aesthetic- or allergen-related requirement. It actually helps you keep your home cheery and bright—and your electricity bill under control.
Dirty light bulbs emit 20% less light than clean bulbs, Smallin Kuper says. And that’s not just wasted light—it’s wasted energy.
Before cleaning, make sure the lights are turned off (no shocking surprises here). Use a dry microfiber cloth to clean off your bulbs—water or cleaning sprays can affect the electronics—and enjoy the sudden rush of brighter light when you flip the switch.
6. Storing things in cardboard boxes
Boxing up your seasonal odds and ends? While it might be tempting to use the pile of leftover moving boxes accumulating in your garage, you need to a trip to the store.
One cleaning mistake Smallin Kuper frequently sees is “storing things in cardboard boxes in the basement, attic, or garage instead of waterproof, insect-proof plastic bins.” Mold, termites, or just dampness after a rainy spring can damage your precious belongings. Pick up some heavy-duty plastic boxes instead.
7. Not decluttering first
We see you eyeing that dust rag. Wait! If there’s still a layer of clutter around your home, don’t even think about cleaning.
If you don’t pick up things first, you’ll be making multiple passes through a room, putting toys on the couch to clean the floor, pushing them in the corner to clean the couch, then realizing the dirty toys left another layer of dust, which requires another quick cycle.
Make sure there’s nothing out that shouldn’t be visible. Only then do you have our permission to start cleaning.
8. Spraying the glass
Cleaning glass-framed artwork or mirrors? Here’s a less-than-obvious tip: Make sure you’re spraying your cleaner onto the cloth, not the glass itself.
“The cleaner can drip or spread into the frame and damage the artwork,” Smallin Kuper says.
We’re sure you’re quick with your hands, but it’s better to be safe than sorry—especially when it comes to high-value artwork.
You’re forgiven if nothing makes you like cleaning. But with some help from the pros to smooth out the onerous process, hopefully you can start having a little bit of fun while you’re ditching the dust.