Ultimate guide to spring cleaning

Consumer Reports

April showers might keep you from enjoying outdoor activities and sprucing up the yard, but the traditionally wet weather does give you the ideal time to do spring cleaning.

Our tips, several of which come from the April issue of Consumer Reports’ ShopSmart magazine, will help you tackle the grungiest of messes and make spring cleaning a bit easier.

Unless you’ve enlisted a spring-cleaning army to take on different parts of your home, tackle one room at a time. And inside each room work from the top down. For instance, in the bedroom, clean the ceiling fan first, then deal with the windows and window coverings, and then the bedding and upholstery. Save the floors for last. For more on these tips, read Spruce up for spring.

Don’t neglect your electronics or your car. Our gadget-cleaning guide has advice for your computer and television. And when the weather does brighten, use our tips for washing your car, and find the right best car wax for your ride.


More from
Consumer Reports:

Vacuum cleaners buying guide

Best steam mops

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on Yahoo!

Tools of the trade

Whether you are stalking dust bunnies or a mildewy mess in the bathroom, you need an arsenal filled with the right tools. The chart below tells you where and how to use a range of common and unusual gear.

If you need to replace a cleaning appliance or are considering buying a new one, check out our buying guides to carpet cleaners, steam mops, and vacuums. If you’ve got a pet that sheds, use our canister and upright vacuum Ratings (available to subscribers) to find a model that excels at dealing with pet fur.

As for the cleaners, buy the best all-purpose cleaner or save some money and use our recipes to make your own cleaning products, including a glass-and-window or wood-furniture cleaner. Also learn about green cleaners.

Remember, while paper towels are fine for wiping down countertops and mopping up spills, don’t use them to dust or polish furniture—they could scratch surfaces—or for mirrors and windows, where they could leave behind lint.

Finally, don’t neglect one invisible element in your home: indoor air. Improve the air quality in your home, and find the best air purifier in our buying guide.



Where to use it

Helpful hint(s)


All-purpose brush with handle grip



Let the cleaning solution do most of the work, by letting it sit for a few minutes before you start scrubbing.

Test it in an inconspicuous spot to make sure the stiff bristles don’t scratch.


Angled broom



Hold to one side and use short strokes to sweep away from you.

Use a hand vac to pick up the dust behind where the lip of the dustpan meets the floor.


Angled, soft-bristle toilet bowl brush



Use a twisting motion to swab the bowl, under the rim and as much of the trapway as you can.

Spray or sprinkle cleaner directly onto brush, and don’t rush to flush. Toilet bowl cleaners take time to work.


Grout Brush


Grout Lines

Spray cleaner on grout, let it sit, and then scrub using a back and forth motion.

Also use the brush to clean the grunge in the tracks of a shower door and around the base of the toilet, and to eliminate mineral stains that collect near sink drains.


Lambswool duster


Large surfaces, including walls

Use it instead of a feather duster.

Vacuum your duster after each use to get rid of debris trapped in the fibers.


Microfiber cloth


Dusting and polishing surfaces and furniture

Soft, fluffy cloths hold dust, minimizing the potential to scratch surfaces. Use less absorbent flat-weave ones for cleaning and polishing glass and hard surfaces.

Don’t drench your cloth with a cleaning solution— only slightly dampen it.


Sponge mop and bucket


Hardwood or tile floors

Mop with a double-pail bucket or two buckets so you don’t dirty the water you’re trying to clean with.

Always use hot water so dirt will dissolve.




Windows and mirrors

Work top to bottom, and never use a squeegee on a dry surface.

A squeegee is best if you want lint- and streak-free windows.


Toilet plunger



If needed, add some water to the bowl to loosen a slow or clogged toilet.

Plungers work best when totally submerged.


Out-of-the-ordinary tools





Cloth diaper



Use it as a dusting cloth that won’t scratch surfaces.



Credit card (expired, of course)



This is an ideal way to scrape off baked-on messes in the oven or microwave.



Damp socks


All over

These serve as inexpensive wipes to gently get dust off houseplants.






An unusual treatment for shower doors, this product helps repel water and keeps the surface cleaner longer.



Sticky lint stick


Family room, living room, etc.

A readymade removal tool for pet fur, say from the couch or other furniture.



White-cotton gloves (look for lint-free white inspection gloves)


All over

The gloves are a fast way to dust window blinds and chandeliers.




Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

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