Is there really a way around spending hours and hours on a massive seasonal spruce-up? Sure. Here are quick but thorough strategies and tested cleaning tips for carpets, windows, mattresses, and more that fit your schedule, meet your standards, and give you that let-the-sunshine-in sense of renewal. And for those who clean for the fun of it—instructions for how to go deeper on each.
2 of 12Ellen Silverman
Carpeting and Rugs: Shortcut
Target needy areas—high-traffic zones and stains that have been bugging you forever. Give the rest a quick (but still substantial) once-over.
LA’s Totally Awesome concentrated cleaner and degreaser—great on carpet stains ($3, amazon.com)
Steps for Wall-to-Wall and Area Rugs
1. Scope the joint and determine which areas need the most care (near entryways, where people eat, play spaces).
2. Take a vacuum to the problem areas, going back and forth for about 30 seconds in bad spots. For area rugs, do the top of each rug, then lift and fold back the corners where you can to vacuum the underside.
3. Dampen a cloth with LA’s Totally Awesome cleaner and degreaser (not for sisal, which doesn’t like moisture) and apply it to stains; let sit for five minutes, then blot with a fresh, dry cloth, working from the edges of the stains toward the centers. Blot again with a fresh cloth, this time applying pressure with your foot to get really deep.
4. Use a hair dryer set on high to dry each spot. Open the windows to finish the job.
Time investment: About 10 to 15 minutes for a 15-by-15-foot carpeted room (the same for each area rug); 6 to 10 additional minutes per stain.
3 of 12Mark Lund
Carpeting and Rugs: Long Version
Cotton and Synthetics
Clear out the family (and their clutter), shampoo all the floor coverings you can, and treat the wood underneath the area rugs.
EZ Moves round permanent furniture slides ($25 for 16, ezmoves.com)
Rented carpet cleaner (about $25 to $30 a day from a home-improvement store) or a home carpet cleaner, like the Bissell ProHeat 2X Select ($250, bissell.com), which also works on upholstery and drapes
Broom or baseball bat
Lamb’s-wool floor mop, like the Wedge mop ($20, woolshop.com)
Steps for Wall-to-Wall
1. Remove all furniture using EZ Moves furniture slides.
2. Vacuum the carpeting thoroughly, spending extra time on dirty or stained areas.
3. With the carpet-cleaning machine, use a quarter of the soap called for (too much leaves residue, which dirt will cling to). Otherwise, operate the machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. Make sure not to overwet the carpet. It should be damp, not drenched.
4. Open the windows. Let the carpet dry thoroughly (about eight hours) before moving the furniture back to avoid indentations. (Metal feet will leave rust stains on a wet carpet.)
Steps for Area Rugs
1. Drag rugs outside. Vigorously shake with the help of a partner, then hang over a fence or railing and beat with a broom or bat.
2. Toss washable rugs (cotton or polyester without stiff backings) in the washer.
3. Vacuum others, flipping them over to tackle both sides.
4. Run a lamb’s-wool mop over the floor; its natural lanolin will help bring shine to a hardwood surface.
5. Follow steps 3 and 4 of wall-to-wall carpeting (above).
Time investment: For a 15-by-15-foot carpeted room, a morning, plus drying time. For area rugs, a half hour per rug, plus drying time.
4 of 12Annie Schlechter
Carpeting and Rugs: Long Version (continued)
Wool and Silk
These rugs prefer a vinegar solution to a standard shampooing. Vinegar preserves carpet dyes in these materials rather than stripping them away. Test first in an inconspicuous spot.
Spray bottle filled with 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water
An old towel (washed a lot, so fibers won’t shed)
Broom or baseball bat
Steps for Wall-to-Wall
1. Vacuum thoroughly.
2. Spray the vinegar solution on a two-foot area. Blot with a towel, applying pressure with both feet. Move to another area, repeating until you have covered the entire rug. Open the windows.
Time investment: For a 15-by-15-foot carpeted room, a morning, plus drying time. For area rugs, about an hour per rug, plus drying time.
Rather hire a pro? Some charge by the square foot; others, by the room. Expect to pay about 30 cents per square foot of rug.
5 of 12Ngoc Minh Ngo
Focus on the exterior, where the most dirt builds up, and don’t sweat the detail work. For best results, choose a wind-free, overcast day. (Gusts will cause you to get sprayed; sunlight can leave streaks.)
Plastic whisk broom (natural bristles tend to shed)
Windex Outdoor Multi-Surface Concentrated Cleaner ($10 at grocery stores). The bottle attaches to your hose.
Bucket filled with a few drops of dish soap for every gallon of warm water
A few microfiber cloths
1. Close all the windows and screens. Working outside and using a whisk broom, brush debris from the screens you can reach (no need to take them out) and the tracks.
2. Attach the Multi-Surface Concentrated Cleaner to your hose and remove the yellow plug. Turn the dial to Rinse and spray your windows through the screens from at least five feet away. The power of the stream will let you reach windows on the second floor without a ladder. Move the stream back and forth to shake debris loose, and make sure you hit cobwebs in the corners and bird droppings on the glass. Also run the stream up and down the window frames.
3. Turn the dial to Clean. Shoot suds onto screens and frames. Let the soap sit for 30 seconds.
4. Turn the dial to Rinse again. Spray every screen and frame top to bottom to remove suds. Give each another 10-second spray.
5. Push the screens (that you can reach) up to expose the windows. Repeat steps 2 through 4.
6. Take the bucket inside and lay down the sheet to catch drips. Open the windows. Dip a cloth into the cleaning solution, wring it out, and wipe the screens; close the windows. With a fresh cloth dipped and wrung out, wash the windows from the outside corners in, using circular strokes.
Time investment: About 15 minutes per window.
6 of 12Ellen Silverman
Windows: Long Version
Masking tape and Sharpie
Plastic whisk broom
Apron with pockets
Plastic putty knife
Handy Ladder Pail ($21, amazon.com), filled with a few drops of dish soap and a half gallon of warm water
1. Remove all screens, labeling each with masking tape and a Sharpie to indicate where it belongs.
2. Lay screens on the driveway, spritz with all-purpose cleaner, and spray with the hose. Wipe with a dry cloth to remove dirt. Flip the screens and repeat. Air-dry.
3. Sweep window exteriors and frames with a whisk broom.
4. Put on your apron and stuff the pockets with a few cloths, a putty knife, and a squeegee. Attach the pail (filled with your cleaning solution) to the ladder. Start with the high windows.
5. Dip a cloth into the bucket, wring it out, and wash one window, using circular strokes and working from the outside corners in. Use the putty knife to scrape off stuck-on grime.
6. Squeegee the window, starting in a top corner and working down and across in a continuous S motion. Wipe any drips from the windowsill with a fresh cloth. Follow these steps for all windows.
7. Remove pail from the ladder and head inside. Lay down the sheet to catch drips. Clean each window with your cloth and squeegee, as in steps 5 and 6.
8. Replace the screens.
9. Apply the protector (follow the label directions). On the exterior, it makes rainwater bead up and roll off, so less dirt and residue sticks to the glass. On the interior, it makes smudges come off with a dry cloth.
Time investment: No sugarcoating: Thorough window cleaning can be an all-day job.
Rather hire a pro? You’ll get the best results by calling in a window washer. Prices run from about $40 to $60 an hour. A home with 20 average-size -windows will take about four to six hours.
7 of 12Sang An
You can steam most fabrics, from velvet to silk, to revive them and knock out odors.
CleanFast Fabric Odor Eliminator and Wrinkle Releaser ($8, steamfast.com). Designed to work with steam. Safe for most materials.
Handheld fabric steamer, like the Steamfast SF-435 ($25, target.com)
Step stool, preferably on castors, so you can kick it into place (Kik-Step, $70, target.com)
1. Close the windows and curtains.
2. Spray a curtain panel with the CleanFast solution.
3. With the steamer, using the stool if necessary, work from bottom to top. (Steam rises, so this allows the water vapor to penetrate more deeply.) Hold lightweight fabrics taut with one hand; heavier fabrics will do the job for you. Glide the steamer over the curtains in one-foot sections, placing the nozzle about an inch away from the fabric. Unless your curtains are unusually thick and impermeable, you’ll need to steam only one side.
4. Open the windows to help the curtains dry.
Time investment: Less than 10 minutes per panel.
8 of 12Tara Donne
Curtains: Long Version
Most fabrics can be vacuumed with an attachment, spot-cleaned, and steamed. But lace and sheers should just be tossed in the dryer on delicate (no heat) with a dryer sheet to freshen.
Vacuum, plus attachments
Bucket filled with a few drops of dish soap for every gallon of warm water
Handheld fabric steamer
1. Close the curtains. Vacuum them on a low setting from top to bottom. For heavy fabrics, use the upholstery attachment; for lighter ones, use the soft-brush tool.
2. Swipe with a lint roller to remove any dust or pet hair.
3. If you see stains on washable curtains (cotton, polyester), dip a cloth in the soapy solution, wring it out, and spot-clean. If you see stains on linen, satin, or silk curtains, have them dry-cleaned.
5. Apply static-removal spray to the bottoms of curtains if you have pets; fur will wipe off easily later.
Time investment: About 30 minutes per panel.
Rather hire a pro? Rates start at about $2 per pleat (or about $4 per square foot of fabric).
9 of 12 Burcu Avsar
Refresh a mattress with baking soda while its cover gets a thorough washing, followed by a tennis-ball tumble or a dose of fresh air.
OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover ($11 for 24 ounces, amazon.com)
2 new tennis balls
Dryer sheets with essential oils, like Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day in geranium ($8, mrsmeyers.com)
1. Toss the mattress cover in the wash. If it’s stained, first soak in cold water with OxiClean. Then wash with detergent on the hottest setting recommended on the care label, adding 1 cup of white vinegar to deodorize.
2. Working directly over the mattress, pour baking soda into a sieve. Dust the mattress evenly with the soda, which will gradually draw dirt and moisture out of the mattress and eliminate odors. (You’ll leave this light dusting on the mattress when you remake the bed.)
3. When the wash cycle is complete, put the mattress cover in the dryer with a couple of clean tennis balls to fluff it back to form. You could also hang the cover outside on a line to dry.
4. Remake the bed. (Vacuum up the baking soda the next time you change the sheets.) Tuck a few dryer sheets (try ones with essential oils) under the mattress cover to deliver a fresh scent while you sleep.
Time investment: A morning to take care of three or four mattresses.
10 of 12Jeff McNamara
Mattresses: Long Version
Deal with stains, clean nooks and crannies, and take care of both sides of the mattress.
Vacuum (those with a Hepa filter trap more allergens), plus attachments
Enzyme odor remover, such as OdorZyme ($17 for 22 ounces, odorzyme.com). It eliminates protein-based stains.
2. Vacuum the top and sides of the mattress with the upholstery attachment. Use the crevice tool to get into tufting and around seams.
3. Spray enzyme odor remover on stains. Air-dry, using a fan to speed the process. When the mattress is dry, remove the cleaner by sprinkling water on the spots and blotting with a cotton cloth until dry.
4. With your helper, flip the mattress.
5. Vacuum the side that now faces up. Repeat step 3.
Time investment: A full day to take care of three or four mattresses.
Rather hire a pro? Mattress-cleaning services are not as widespread as those for, say, windows and carpets. You might be able to find a carpet or upholstery cleaner who also handles mattresses, with prices starting at about $50 per mattress. If not, here’s some extra motivation for taking on the job yourself: A dirty mattress can be a fertile breeding ground for dust mites, microscopic creatures that get into the respiratory system and may cause watery eyes and a runny nose. (Sorry—cleaning a mattress doesn’t insulate you from bedbugs. If you see something suspicious, call a licensed bedbug professional.)
11 of 12Tim Evan Cook
Hit every inch of the frame and the cushions with a hand vac. Swipe clean to finish.
1. Lay down the sheet. Remove all the cushions and toss them onto the sheet.
2. Rub fabric upholstery with the dry-cleaning sponge, which picks up dirt, dead skin cells, and oils that can discolor and age the fabric. For stains on leather, use a water-based cream and cleaner, such as Leather Master Maxi ($30, leatherworldtech.com).
3. Run the lint roller over the front, back, and sides of cushions, in overlapping rows, peeling away to a new sticky layer as needed.
4. Grab any spare change (score!) and detritus from the bare frame.
5. Vacuum up crumbs and dust from the base of the sofa or chair.
6. Replace the cushions.
7. Run the lint roller over the parts of the sofa or chair that haven’t already been rolled (don’t forget the back). Fluff.
Time investment: 5 to 10 minutes for each piece of furniture.
12 of 12Ellen Silverman
Upholstery: Long Version
Air out the cushions, refresh the frame, detail crevices, and be fabric-specific when spot-cleaning. (Check labels—generally synthetics are DIY and natural fibers need professional cleaning.)
1. Lay down one drop cloth; place the cushions on top. Grab any spare change. Spray Eco Breeze onto the bare seat.
2. Take the cushions and both drop cloths and head outside. Place the cushions on top of one drop cloth.
3. Beat both sides of the cushions with the tennis racket. Move the cushions to the clean drop cloth and let them air out.
4. Head back inside. If you have slipcovers, read the care labels. Toss washables into the machine. Cotton can usually be washed on a delicate setting. Silk can usually be hand washed in cool water. Linen should generally be dry-cleaned.
5. With the upholstery attachment, vacuum each piece in short, overlapping strokes, working from top to bottom.
6. Bring the cushions back inside. Vacuum.
7. Switch to the crevice tool to get into piping and other details.
9. Replace the cushions. Swipe fabric upholstery with a lint roller to pick up any remaining dirt. Use a piece of tape to pull dust and hair from buttons. For leather, wipe with a damp cloth.
Time investment: About 25 minutes for each piece of furniture.
Rather hire a pro? You’ll pay about $75 to $150 per sofa. Natural materials, such as silk, can cost about 10 to 20 percent more. The expert will perform tests to figure out what the fabric can withstand, and each sofa takes about an hour. The fabric will be damp when the pro leaves, so let it dry for a few hours.