The smart person’s guide to spring cleaning

Before the really nice weather arrives, get your home in order

Last updated: March 2013

Photo: Eric Hood

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 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 check out our tips on sprucing up for spring.

Don’t neglect your electronics, 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 best car wax for your ride.

Whether you are stalking dust bunnies or a mildewy mess in the bathroom, you need an arsenal of the right tools. The chart below tells you where and how to use a range of common and unusual gear. And here's a list of winners from Consumer Reports' reviews of cleaning products.
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 to find a model that can deal with the pet fur.

Buy the best all-purpose cleaner or save money and use our recipes to make your own cleaning products, including glass-and-window and wood-furniture cleaners. Learn more about green cleaners and tips for spring cleaning the healthy way.

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. Find the best air purifier in our Ratings.


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 surfacess

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.

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