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Simple solutions for spring cleaning

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(RealSimple.comexternal link) -- Forget what constitutes a "proper" spring cleaning, and instead take aim at what you can see and care to see no more: the sofa covered with cat hair, the greasy kitchen shelf paper, the mildew in the shower.

Windows
Save this job for a cloudy day (the sun's rays cause streaking) and start indoors. Just spray the panes with water and wipe clean with one of the versatile new microfiber cloths, which work by trapping dirt between the fibers. When the cloth looks dirty, rinse it in warm water. (If your water is hard, substitute distilled water.)

Finish up outside with a blast of Windex Outdoor, which attaches to your hose, spares you the experience of falling off a tippy ladder, and is harmless to plants. Windex Outdoor works even through screens and dries without streaking. (If you have hard water, you'll need a ladder, a friend to hold it, and a squeegee on an extension pole to finish the job properly.)

Blinds and drapes
If your blinds and drapes have reached the "don't want to touch" stage, turn them over to a professional (check the Yellow Pages under "Drapery Cleaners" and "Window Treatments"). If they're only moderately dirty, begin by dusting the valance and frame, then vacuum top to bottom, using the upholstery attachment for drapes, the brush attachment for blinds (close them first).

If the blinds are more dirty than dusty, try the Mini Blind Vac Attachment by Ideaworks ($8, www.jobar.comexternal link), with blinds in the open position. Or, with the blinds shut, wipe with a damp microfiber mitt.

Kitchen cupboards
Start by emptying the contents onto a cleared table. (Toss out those Pocahontas cups from Burger King while you're at it.) Wipe the shelves with a damp microfiber cloth or, if they're extra-dirty, attack them with a multipurpose cleaner and a scrubber sponge.

If you use liners, fit food shelves with a washable, strippable liner; for shelves holding glasses and dishes, try a resilient plastic mesh liner, to reduce breakage. Wipe down the cupboard exteriors with a microfiber cloth and you're done.

Upholstered furniture
If you're dealing with mostly superficial dirt, home cleaning can work a big improvement. Remove all cushions and, with the crevice tool, thoroughly vacuum nooks and crannies; use the brush attachment to clean and smooth any fabrics with a nap; use the flat attachment for smooth fabrics.

Remove stains with a spot cleaner (test first, following the label directions) and a colorless, lint-free cloth.

Computer
First, shut the computer down and unplug it. With a standard mouse, unscrew the bottom and remove the ball; blow dust from the casing and wipe the ball and interior with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. Let dry, replace the ball, and close.

Now turn over the keyboard and gently shake it; clean between the keys with a special computer vacuum or a few blasts of compressed air, then wipe with a microfiber cloth moistened with all-purpose cleanser.

Give the same wipe-down to the computer exterior, and finish by wiping the screen with a cloth moistened with plain water.

Bathroom grout
Ordinary cleansers won't make a dent in mold or mildew. Spray with a specially formulated mildew treatment, then scrub with a grout brush or a toothbrush. Let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse and repeat if needed. When the walls are dry, give the grout a final misting with the mildew formula for prolonged protection.

You can prevent mold buildup in damp bathrooms or those in humid climates by running a squeegee over the tile after a shower. The same trick will eliminate soap buildup on glass shower doors.

© 2007 Time Inc.


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