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Smart Spring Cleaning

It's spring! And of course now's the perfect time to tackle your spring cleaning.

This is a good time to do a good heavy-duty cleaning of areas you have avoided over the winter. Real Simple magazine's Kris Connell stopped by The Saturday Early Show to share some advice on tackling that traditional annual chore.

The May issue of Real Simple gives easy-to-follow advice on cleaning your home from top to bottom. The editors suggest that you don't tackle everything at once. Instead, clean a little bit every day. This will help you avoid using up a whole weekend just for cleaning.

Connell says you can make your cleaning more efficient by using the right tools and cleaning supplies.

Real Simple's editors believe you should clean in the following order:

  1. Dust: Dusting is the best place to start and it's rewarding because a little dusting goes a long way. If you let dust build up, it becomes grime, which requires a much more rigorous cleaning process, so try to nip it in the bud early.

    The Real Simple rule for dusting is to work from high to low. Get rid of dust in high places, such as the top of a bookshelf, and wait for it to settle in low places before you dust that area.

    For reaching high places, Real Simple likes the Don Aslett Lambswool Extension Duster ($8.50, It adds almost 4 feet to your reach so you won't have to use a stepstool.

    For those with ceiling fans (one of the trickiest places to clean), the Casabella Fantastic Ceiling Fan Duster ($16, has an orb-shaped apparatus giving you reach plus 360-degree coverage.

    Connell says Real Simple loves microfiber cloths such as the 16-inch square cloths from Unger ($5). Feather dusters, paper towels and rags just blow dust around, but microfiber cloths are super-absorbent. Get the bigger ones, which allow you to cover more area in a short amount of time. These cloths are great because you can just throw them in the wash - believe it not, they can be washed up to 500 times. The cloth also picks up more dust instead of spreading more dust and lint, which happens with paper towels.

    You should always "dry mop" or sweep before mopping with water, according to Connell. To keep your floor spic and span, Real Simple testers loved The StarMop ($17). It has a microfiber cleaning pad that attracts dirt without leaving a dusty trail. For a really dirty floor, a dry mop might not cut it, so Connell says use the StarMop with Murphy's Oil Soap.

  2. Disinfect: Now that we've dusted, it's time to disinfect. Be careful not to blow this job out of proportion. Many people go over the top with chlorine bleach, but that can be overkill. Detergent and hot water are usually enough. Hydrogen peroxide is a good alternative to chlorine bleach, which can be harmful if inhaled in tight quarters with little or no ventilation. Save the dirtiest surface for last. This will keep you from introducing contaminants to relatively clean surfaces. In the bathroom, always clean the toilet last.

    Connell says a great Real Simple tip is to assign different color sponges to different areas of the house. This way you won't use the bathroom toilet sponge to clean the kitchen counter.

    If you can, swab the toilet with a toilet brush and a splash of all-purpose cleaner once a day. It's an easy thing to do and will keep you from worrying about bacteria from the toilet ending up near your toothbrush.

    Real Simple's editors like Oxo's Good Grips Toilet-Brush and Holder Set ($20, Bed, Bath & Beyond). The firm bristles help you clean with less effort, while the pressure activated holder quickly closes the door on the brush, getting it out of sight.

    Don't forget to wear gloves when cleaning. It protects your hands from the chemicals and the grime. Water Stop Gloves ($3, The Container Store) are great. They protect your hands and keep water and cleanser from dripping towards your elbows.

    A spray bottle with water is also great. It will rinse off the cleansers your use on shower and tub walls, toilets, and bathroom and kitchen counters.

  3. Scrub: Connell says the biggest mistake people make is using vinegar as an all-purpose cleanser. She says it doesn't cut grease-only detergents and solvents do that. Another big mistake is that people often use abrasive sponges and/or cleaners. Sponges are great for scrubbing, and you don't need the super abrasive ones. Connell says stock up on Cellulose Scrub Sponges ($9 for an 18-pack at warehouse clubs). Connell says you should replace your sponges every week or two since they spread germs. Stick them in the dishwasher or zap them in the microwave for 20 seconds to kill germs between replacements.

    When removing stains, always try the easiest solution first. Start with a wet sponge. If that doesn't work, use a liquid cleanser and a good brush. You don't need lots of abrasive products to scrub out stains. Always start with the weakest cleaner so you don't use harsh products unless you have to.

    The Real Simple editors liked Scotch Brite Shower & Bath Scrubber ($6 at Target). Connell says Scotch Brite is great for cleaning your kitchen backsplash and bathroom tile. It has a long reach making cleaning easier.

    Real Simple recommends using CLR's Bathroom & Kitchen Cleaner ($4 at Walmart) with the Master Squeegee once a week to remove tough lime (calcium) deposits and soap scum from the shower walls.

    When you have a really tough stain and nothing's done the trick, the Hoover Steamer Deluxe Hand/ Mop Steam Cleaner ($70 to $100) is one of the best products on the market, says Real Simple. It comes with various attachments and a simple dial that adjusts the steam. They claim it will get rid of everything from mold to mildew.

  4. Shine: Now we're on to the final step. Shining is the most rewarding job because your house will sparkle when you're through. This is an important step because many of us now have chrome or steel items in our kitchens and bathrooms. You will feel the area is clean when these items are shiny.

    Connell says rely on the basic tools -- microfiber cloths and dishwashing liquids such as Dawn or Joy. Harsher products such as steel wool or Ajax can actually scratch stainless steel or chrome finishes. And, again, the micofiber cloths pick up more dust and lint unlike paper towels.

    And don't forget to dry surfaces thoroughly -- they'll shine even more!

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