It's one of spring fever's most constructive symptoms. Marked by the desire to cast out the unwanted, clean away winter grime and polish everything that doesn't move, it's the rite of Spring Cleaning.
To some people spring cleaning is simply opening the windows and letting the fresh air blow away winter's mustiness. To others it's an inch-by-inch scrubbing of the entire house and its contents.
"The basic difference between spring cleaning and weekly cleaning," says Kay Jones of Capitol Hill Homemaker and Health Aid Service, "is that you look at every object in the room, not just from the front and sides, but the underneath and backs as well.
"Even the best housewives tend not to look above eye level. But in spring cleaning you go after the nooks and crannies. If you can, you take an item in your hand and wash all sides. Plus, you do the extras like turning the mattress, washing the chandelier, re-doing the medicine cabinet and linen closet."
Depending on your nature, this annual ritual is either drugery or delight. Some people relish the chance to shed light in cobwebby corners, take an inventory of possessions, empty the bookcases and lovingly dust each volume.
Others -- including an increasing number of Washingtonians -- would rather pay someone else to do it.
"It's partly because more women are working so they don't have the time for it," says Tom Gandee, owner of Servicemaster of Greater Washington. "And people value their leisure. They don't want to spend weekends doing housework.
"So when the grass starts getting green, the phone starts ringing. I guess a psychological bell goes off in people's minds saying it's Spring Cleaning time."
Professional cleaning services usually charge according to the size of the home, condition and duties performed. Most allow the homeowner to select from a long list of possible cleaning chores, including such dreaded tasks as rug shampooing, oven cleaning and window washing.
Usually companies send someone to look over the house and give a free estimate. Responsible companies have insurance, in case of damage. Some provide cleaning supplies and equipment, while others require that the customer supply them.
Spring-cleaning prices run from about $200 to $400 for a top-to-bottom rejuvenation of a medium-sized detached home.The price may include "heavy" chores like cleaning gutters, defrosting the refrigerator and stripping and re-waxing wood floors, One-time maid service -- with lighter chores like vacuuming, dusting and furniture polishing -- may run as low as $30.
"When you consider that the yearly cost of a maid -- once a week at $35, runs $1,820 -- a $250 or $350 all-out spring cleaning is a good deal," claims Jack Garves of Maid to Order in Silver Spring. "Most of our customers are middle-class couples, both working, with kids. A lot don't have maids and use us twice a year or four times a year."
When you hire a professional cleaner, don't apologize for the messiness of your home, says Garves. "That's what we're there for."
He recommends placing breakables and valuables in a box on the dining-room table and telling cleaners about any problem areas, such as broken table legs or precariously-supported shelves.
For those who prefer to do it themselves, this basic equipment is required, according to Bobiann Woods-Buck, owner of B & Wb Services in Reston, Va., and a speaker on the spring-cleaning subject:
A vacuum cleaner with a powerbeater bare attachment. Canister vacuums are the most versatile.
Six diapers. "They are 100 percent cotton, highly absorbent, don't leave lint and are washable."
Cleaning solution. "Mix 1/3 ammonia and 2/3 Windex and use it on everything: walls, woodwork, mirrors. It's cheap and effective." She recommends liquid cleansers for bathroom enamel and an all-purpose scrubber-sponge for hard-to-clean areas.
When weeding out closets, cabinets and cupboards, writer Stephanie Winston ("Gettiing Organized") says you should ask yourself:
1. Have I used this article in the past year?
2. Does it have value to me, sentimental or monetary? No? Ask the clincher:
3. Might it come in handy someday?If the answer is no, throw or give it away.
Professionals, who usually clean one room at a time, offer these tips to spring cleaners: Bedroom
Run pillows, blankets and bedspreads through an air cycle in the dryer to fluff them and get the dust out.
Turn the mattress upside down and 180 degrees around (so what was the head is now at the foot). This prevents that middle dip.
Clean clothing before it's stored for the summer to discourage moths and avoid setting stains. Hang wool suits, but don't put plastic over them. (Any moisture that gathers could cause mildew.)
Avoid folding synthetics for summer storage; creases may become permanent. Never stuff sweaters into a storage box. Hang a mothbrick in the closet with woolens. Living Room
Turn oriental and area rugs to keep the traffic pattern from becoming ingrained.
Run the vacuum cleaner over lampshades and draperies.
Dust light bulbs to regain maximum brightness.
Take prisms off crystal chandeliers, place each in ammonia and hot water. Don't rinse; place on a diaper to dry.
Spray a solution of 1/3 ammonia and 2/3 Windex onto windows and mirrors and wipe with a crumpled sheet of newspaper for a super shine. For walls, use the same solution, but wipe with a rag.
Wash figurines and lay each on its side for at least 24 hours placing on wooden furniture. Kitchen and Bathroom
Use rubbing alcohol to clean chrome trim.
Wipe refrigerator shelves with vinegar (to prevent mildew) and place and open box of baking soda inside to absorb food odors.
Strip wax from tile floor at least once a year and reapply a thin coat.
Use cleanser on the bathtub only if its finish is already dulled. If the glaze is still intact, use a foam cleaner.
Scrape soap scum off tile and fixtures with a single-edge razor blade.