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.
Your kitchen countertops might be spotless, for instance, but can you remember the last time you cleaned your oven racks — or the inside of your dishwasher? Did you even know you could clean the inside of a dishwasher?
Well, don't fret — we spoke to housekeeping experts and got the dirt on how to clean 10 often-neglected home items.
Ceiling fans should be cleaned once every other month, says Beth McGee, author of "Get Your House Clean Now: The Home Cleaning Method Anyone Can Master." (If you live in a particularly dusty environment or often keep your windows open, they should be cleaned monthly, she says.)
To clean a ceiling fan,wipe it with water and dish soap using a microfiber cloth, and make sure to rinse the cloth after cleaning each blade, McGee says. To clean most light fixtures, remove and wash in warm water and dish soap, rinse, air-dry, and reinstall.
Baseboards can accumulate dirt easily, particularly if you have pets or small children running around the house, McGee says.
To clean the baseboards, 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 MaidPro, a housecleaning franchise in the United States and Canada. 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 should be wiped down at least once every two weeks and deserve a deep clean about twice a year, McGee says.
You don't have to remove the shower head to clean it. Homer's hack: Take a quart zip-lock bag and pour in a mixture of one-half cup of vinegar and one-half cup of water, then place the shower head inside the bag and twist 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.
Mold, mildew and lint can build up inside a washer and dryer, so they should be cleaned as needed.
For a newer washer with a sanitizer setting, run an empty cycle with a quarter-cup of bleach; otherwise, run the largest load on the hottest water setting with a quarter-cup of bleach, McGee says. When it's finished, open the door and let it air-dry. The rubber seals around the washer door can collect mold and mildew, so they may also need routine attention.
And, clean out the dryer's lint trap after each use to prevent odors and lessen the risk of fire, McGee advises.
No one likes a stinky dishwasher. To banish bad odors, use a dishwasher detergent. Prefer a do-it-yourself approach? Remove and clean the filter screen in the bottom of the dishwasher by soaking it in warm water, says Debbie Sardone, the co-owner of SpeedCleaning.com. 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.
Over time, oven racks can become layered with grease, grime and baked-on food. The good news is there are a number of ways to clean them. If you have an oven with a self-cleaning function, you're all set. Oven racks can also be cleaned in the dishwasher, but if they don't fit, you can clean them manually, McGee says.
Remove the racks from the oven and lay them on the counter. Mix one-quarter cup of white vinegar, one-quarter cup of grease-cutting dishwashing liquid and one cup of water in a spray bottle. Spray the oven racks and let them sit for at least 20 minutes. Then, use a steel pot-scrubbing pad to remove any cooked-on mess. Can't get everything off? McGee recommends scrubbing with a microfiber cloth and Bar Keepers Friend Cleanser & Polish. Once the racks are clean, rinse and air-dry them before reinstalling.
The best way to keep your mattress clean is to 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 on a mattress? Scrub the area with a microfiber towel and diluted laundry detergent, Homer says. Then, rub the spot with a towel dampened in fresh water to "rinse." Make sure the mattress is fully dry before replacing the cover.
Hampers can be tricky to clean, since the method depends on the material. Some hampers are made with fabric liners or bags that can be machine-washed on the 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, but 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 the bottom of the hamper in a small fabric pouch tied with ribbon or string, McGee recommends.
Regularly cleaning your refrigerator's coils can improve the efficiency of your machine, Homer says, but it requires some legwork.
"These days, most new refrigerators hide the coils behind a metal plate in the back that has to be unscrewed," she explains. 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. When the coils are clean, screw the plate back on and roll the machine into place.
This often-overlooked area of the kitchen cries out for a cleaning because food crumbs and debris can accumulate over time, Sardone says.
For best results, tip the knife block upside down and use canned air to spray out any food or dust particles, McGee says. Then soak the block in hot water with a tablespoon of grease-cutting dish soap for 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and tip the block upside down to allow for draining, and air-dry overnight before replacing the knives.