In earlier days, when homes were lit with kerosene lamps and heated by coal, it made sense to wash everything down when it was warm enough to open the windows.
Spring cleaning may be old-fashioned but when the days are longer and most of us have more energy it’s a good excuse to whisk through the house and clean the things we let go over the winter.
The kitchen is a good place to start.
Let’s begin with the large appliances. When was the last time you cleaned the icemaker in your refrigerator? Ice cubes tasting a little funky? Your icemaker should have a scrub down twice a year. And if you have hard water, which can cause buildup and decrease the functionality of your machine over time, you should consider cleaning your ice-maker even more often.
Depending on the model, there might be an arm or lever you can lift to shut off the maker, or there could be an on/off switch on the side or in the back. But your safest option is to unplug it.
Dump the ice in the sink. If there’s anything else you can easily remove without hardware, such as a drip tray, do that now.
Plastic pieces from your freezer should be hand washed. Never put them in your dishwasher. Use a washcloth and warm soapy water, or a couple tablespoons (30 mL) of baking soda dissolved in a gallon (four litres) of warm water, to wash and wipe any of the removed parts. Rinse well and set aside to air dry. They will need to be completely dry before they’re returned to the unit.
If there’s any ice frozen to the icemaker itself, use warm water on a washcloth to melt and help dislodge it.
When the ice is gone, use the washcloth and warm soapy water, or a solution of 50-50 water and distilled white vinegar, to wipe down as much of the exterior of the ice-maker as you can. Then use a toothbrush to access any parts you can’t reach with the washcloth.
Use a dry washcloth to wipe residual moisture from the icemaker. It should be dry before you reassemble.
The water filter in your refrigerator does need to be changed regularly. My refrigerator makes loud noises while the water is being dispensed to the ice-maker when the filter is clogged.
The oven is next. Most people have self-cleaning ovens but the oven racks should never be left in while it goes through the cycle. And I find that the oven door doesn’t come clean. So both of these need to be done by hand.
Gel Gloss is my favourite cleaner for stainless steel appliances. It cleans and waxes at the same time, leaving a finish that is easy to clean for several weeks.
The dishwasher needs more than a once a year cleaning. If you have a filter on the bottom of the dishwasher, remove it and thoroughly clean it. Not keeping the filter clean makes the motor work harder and shortens its life. Hard water may leave a buildup inside the dishwasher. Regularly run a cycle with a half cup (125 mL) of CLR or vinegar.
Small appliances are often overlooked. We use them and give them a quick wash and put it away. Thoroughly clean the bottoms, sides and tops of accessories and the electrical cord and plug.
How often do you descale your tea kettle? Do you leave it sitting with water in it? Chances are you have a layer of lime scale and perhaps some rust.
To descale add 1/4 cup (60 mL) of white vinegar and two cups (500 mL) of water to the kettle.
Simmer for 20 minutes.
If there is rust, combine two tablespoons (30 mL) baking soda, two tablespoons (30 mL) lemon juice and water in the kettle. Boil for 30 minutes. Make sure there is always water in the kettle. Let cool and rinse thoroughly.
To prevent rust and mineral deposits from forming in the first place, don’t let water sit in the kettle overnight.
Remove grease on the outside of the kettle. If the exterior of your tea kettle is enamel or stainless steel, mix together baking soda and white vinegar to form a paste, then use it to scrub away grease and grime. To clean a copper tea kettle, cut a lemon in half, dip it in salt, then use it to rub the surface of the kettle. Rinse thoroughly and dry.
Clean the underside of all tables and chairs, garbage cans and recycling bins. Clean air vents and filters. Wash your can opener after each use, not just once or twice a year. There is potential for cross contamination there.
Reusable shopping bags should be washed regularly, not just once a year. If you are like me I put my reusable bags in the shopping cart where children sit. This is the dirtiest place in the cart. Keeping the bags clean is especially important for those used to carry meats, produce and pre-cooked foods. Cross contamination can happen.
Wash a woven, reusable shopping bag in hot water with detergent in your washing machine. Allow to air dry.
Sort through all your food storage containers. Many older plastic containers contain bisphenol A or BPA, an industrial chemical. Studies are ongoing about the possible health effects of exposure to BPA on the brain and behavioural growth of fetuses, infants, and children. Discard or recycle containers with BPA.
Also look through your kitchen tools. Damaged wooden spoons harbour bacteria. Get rid of them. Also dispose of melted silicon or rubber spatulas. Invest in new cutting boards if yours are badly cut up. It’s another home for bacteria. Replace dull paring knives and vegetable peelers.
Replace kitchen sponges, rubber gloves and scrubbing brushes.
And last but not least, are any of you tasked with cleaning silver? Most families no longer use silver-plated or sterling silver cutlery, but I bet you have a mother or grandmother who nabs you every once in a while to give hers a polish. I happen to have a few sets and love them. Yes, polishing is annoying but here’s a great trick.
Place a sheet of aluminum foil in the bottom of your kitchen sink. Turn on the tap and get the hottest water possible. Fill enough so all the cutlery will be submerged when placed on the foil. Sprinkle foil with about 1/2 cup (125 mL) of baking soda. Place cutlery so the pieces do not touch each other and watch the magic. This really works. In about 10 minutes the tarnish is gone and they are shiny.
Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.