You have never spent so much time at home, and once you have exhausted Netflix, your eyes may alight on all the filth you’ve never noticed before. Have you ever dusted your ceiling? Of course you haven’t. But now is the time to do it, because you don’t have anything better to do. Here are all the other jobs you were previously too busy to worry about, but which will provide a sense of achievement – or at least a little exercise.
Clean Your Oven
Easily the worst job in the house, but a gleaming oven will become one of your life’s new pleasures. “Prevention is better than cure,” says Gemma Bray, the creator of the Organised Mum Method. “I swear by oven liners, which will catch everything at the bottom of the oven. You take it out and quickly rinse it under the tap. But before you can start using an oven liner you have to start off with a clean oven.”
You can go for a heavy-duty oven cleaner, but many people are put off by the harsh chemicals these contain. “Other people swear by using bicarbonate of soda in a paste, which I have never really had much success with, especially if you are battling a really grimy oven.”
Bray takes out racks and leaves them to soak in a bath of very hot, soapy water. “Washing-up liquid is one of the best things for tackling grease. Slowly, little and often, work on the bottom of the oven – even in 15-minute slots.” Wait until after you have used the oven, and it has cooled but is still warm. “Use hot, soapy water and a cloth, and every time you use the oven go in there, go at it and eventually you’ll start to see a difference.”
To clean a microwave, slice up a lemon and put it in a bowl of water. “Put it in for five minutes at full power,” says Lynsey Crombie, AKA the Queen of Clean and author of The Easy Life: Quick Ways to Clean and Manage Your Home All Year Round. Leave to cool for a while – you don’t want a face full of scalding steam – then wipe with a cloth.
Freshen Your Fridge
“Take everything out and put it in a cool bag,” says Aggie MacKenzie, the TV cleaning expert who runs AggiesTips.com. “Have a sink full of hot, soapy water ready and wash all the shelves. Wipe the inside of the fridge with water and a microfibre cloth – you don’t really want to be introducing much in the way of products. The drip tray at the back can get clogged up, maybe with bits of labels from jars. Get a cotton bud, put some kitchen roll round it and dab in and out of the hole to keep it free-flowing.”
If you can manage, pull the fridge out and clean behind it. “That’s when you discover you’ve got mice, or you’ve had mice – you’ll see droppings,” says MacKenzie. Gently dust or vacuum the condenser coils at the back of the fridge.
Descale Your Loo
An unsightly lavatory is bothersome, but easily forgotten after every flush. Tackle it once and for all. You need to remove some of the water first so as not to dilute the cleaning product too much, says Crombie. Scoop it out with rubber-gloved hands, or “plunge” it down the U-bend with a toilet brush. “Put some limescale-removing product down there and leave overnight.” Denture tablets or soda crystals will also work. But Crombie cautions: “If you put it down and someone uses the toilet within half an hour, you’re not giving it an opportunity to work. The reason I don’t advise bleach is it doesn’t break limescale down. It will look better, but in a few days it will come back.”
Get a Sparkling Shower
“I use a 50/50 ratio of white vinegar and water solution in an old spray bottle,” says Bray. “It helps to tackle the limescale and dirt. If you’ve got a clogged-up showerhead – check first it won’t damage the surface – you can sit it in a white-vinegar solution. I try to use as few chemicals as possible in the house.”
For the black mould spots around the silicone, “get some tissue paper and soak it in a bleach solution”. Your shower curtain can probably go in the washing machine – check the label – as can a non-slip bathmat. “They can go a bit gunky underneath, but they come out like new.”
Shop-bought window cleaning products or vinegar will work on the glass. “If you have UPVC frames, use a cream cleaner or a damp sponge with bicarbonate of soda on,” says Crombie. “For wooden, painted windows, dry dust them then clean with an orange-oil-based product, to protect the wood. Don’t forget to clean the handle – just use what you’ve been using on the frame.” Vacuum your curtains, and wipe blinds.
Tackle the Junk Drawer
This is the time to be ruthless. Empty it out, says MacKenzie. Give the inside of the drawer a vacuum and a wipe with a damp cloth. Then “only put back the things you use. If you think: ‘I might need that one day,’ no, you won’t because you haven’t used it in the last year. I used to have a dish full of keys and I never knew what they were for. One day I just threw them away. Did I come to any grief? No.” Rehome items to the places they belong.
Under the Bed
Remove whatever it is you are storing under your bed and clean off the dust (there will be a thick layer), then vacuum underneath. “It’s a good time to flip your mattress if it needs it,” says Crombie. “Give it a vacuum.” If you have a steam cleaner, use this too. “Hold the steamer 30cm away from the mattress – people go too close and get the mattress wet and then they can’t go to bed. Leave the window open so the mattress can dry. If you have stains on your mattress, a carpet-cleaning product should get them off.”
She recommends a homemade fabric freshener: 20 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda and 20 drops of lavender essential oil in a 500ml bottle of water. “Just spritz it on.” Pillows can usually be washed – check the instructions.
Walls, Ceilings and Doors
Wallpaper, particularly if it hasraised patterns, can benefit from a vacuum. “Gently go over it with a brush attachment, or with a dry microfibre cloth or paintbrush,” says Crombie. “If you have a flat-headed mop, use that to dry-dust your ceiling.” While you are at it, use a brush (a clean paintbrush, or old makeup brush) to dust light fittings.
Although some paint is washable, Crombie says she wouldn’t recommend it, “but you can dry-dust”. For marks, use a Magic Eraser or similar, or get a sponge and gently wipe. Don’t forget doors, particularly those with dirt-attracting panels, and frames. “I use warm soapy water, and dry it instantly with a clean dry microfibre cloth.”
Spruce Up Your Sofa and Soft Furnishings
If you are spending a lot more time on the sofa, you may as well improve your environment. Give it a thorough vacuum, including in the crevices and under the seat pads. “Get a damp microfibre cloth and gently rub at any stains,” says MacKenzie. “If you have ingrained dirt, borrow a steam cleaner. Check the labels of your cushion covers – some can be washed. I wouldn’t wash feathered cushion pads, but most are synthetic fibres so follow the washing instructions.” Pull out the sofa and vacuum underneath. “Behind it, you’ll see a massive layer of dust on the skirting board. That’s where a lot of dust mites are.”
Clean Your Cleaning Tools
Finally, give your cleaning tools some attention. “String mops give me the heebie-jeebies,” says MacKenzie. “A much better mop is a flat-headed one, with a cloth pad you take off after each time you wash your floor and stick in the washing machine. I wash my dustpan brush in the kitchen sink and dry it outside.”
Show your vacuum cleaner some love. Many have washable filters; the brush head will probably be clogged with hair. “Get a small pair of scissors and snip right down the middle [of the tightly rolled hair]. It takes a while but it’s terribly satisfying.”
Bray uses a new dishcloth each day and saves them up until they can go in the washing machine on a hot wash. But she cautions against overdoing it. On her 100,000-strong Facebook group, “a lot of them are prone to overcleaning. I always tell people just do what you need to do and don’t feel you have to be cleaning all day, because otherwise it can turn into a bit of an unhealthy obsession.”
Emine Saner is a feature writer for the Guardian.