It’s time to spruce up the home for the holidays. Here are simple how-tos that complete the chores in no time.
- Artificial plants – Don’t require regular maintenance but they still get dusty and dull from being displayed out in the open. The most effective way is to swish the stalks in a basin of water mixed with dishwashing detergent like Bio-Home Dishwashing Liquid (from FairPrice Finest) and rubbing gently to remove dirt. But if this could rip the fabric or loosen the glue, shake smaller flowers in a bag of coarse salt for one minute, as salt grains act as mild abrasives to loosen dust and grime. But if some parts are too delicate, try misting them with a mixture of equal parts water and vinegar. Place a towel under the flowers to catch the drips while it air dries.
- Air conditioners – We use them so often in humid Singapore, it’s best to clean them monthly so they cool down faster, continue to save energy and don’t conk out on us on the hot, humid nights. First, turn off the power and pop off the front panel. Remove the spongy filter and soak it in a basin of equal parts warm water and white vinegar for an hour. While waiting, turn on the vacuum and use the crevice attachment to suck out the dust from the coil. Replace the filter when it is dry and close the front panel. Then, spray the exterior with a disinfectant like GK Surface Disinfectant (from Home-Fix) and wipe with a soft cloth. For a more thorough cleaning of your air conditioner unit, get professional chemical cleaning done.
- Aprons – If those greasy food stains won’t come off, try a pre-soak treatment that uses an oxygen-based stain remover, such as Scotchgard Oxy Carpet & Fabric Spot & Stain Remover (from Home-Fix). Let the apron soak for up to six hours in the mixture and then machine wash as normal, adding more of the cleaning agent into your detergent.
- Blinds – Prepare a solution of equal parts warm water and white vinegar. Put on a pair of cotton gloves and dip one hand into a vinegar mixture. Slide your fingers through the panels, re-dipping into the solution often and replenishing it when it looks dirty. Use the other hand, or a cleaning rag to wipe dry. Finally, swipe the blinds with a dryer sheet like Bounce Fresh Linen Fabric Softener Sheets (from Cold Storage) – its residue will repel dust so the blinds stay cleaner for longer.
- Food processors – A quick wash after each use can prevent the machine from getting crusty. Fill the processor halfway with water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. Whizz the machine for a few seconds, then rinse and wipe dry. If your processor needs a deep cleanse, soak the removable parts like blades and bowl in a mixture of warm water and dishwashing liquid. Brush the crevices with a fresh toothbrush. Rinse well and dry the blades before fixing them back on.
- Ceiling fans – Don’t let a dusty fan scatter dust mites onto your bedding and furniture. Before you start cleaning, check that the fan’s main power switch is turned off. Spread a large cloth or sheet on the floor that covers twice the span of the blades. Fill a spray bottle with water mixed with a multi-purpose cleaner like Bio-Home Multi-Purpose Cleaner (from FairPrice Finest) and spritz generously on the inside of an old pillowcase (or two if you prefer). On a ladder, slide the pillowcase over the blades one by one, rubbing gently to rid the dust. The dust should fall into the pillowcase, not on your head.
- Granite countertops – Granite is an extremely tough surface, but using vinegar, lemon, or acidic formula can erode its surface. Go for granite cleaners, like Weiman Granite Cleaner & Polish (from Home-Fix) which is safe; or make your own by combining mild dish detergent, rubbing alcohol and lukewarm water. Immerse a lint-free cloth into the solution, wring it and wipe the countertop thoroughly.
- Pans – Sprinkle the pan with Arm & Hammer Baking Soda (from FairPrice Finest) and add hot water. Leave it to soak overnight so the food residue will come loose.
- Door handles, drawer knobs and switches – These are always covered with germs, so wipe them with disinfectant or an anti-bacterial wipe once a week. Stick to one wipe per room to prevent the bacteria from spreading.
- Ice trays – Over time, ice can absorb odours. So once a month, empty the ice tray and wash it with dishwashing liquid and rinse thoroughly.
- Children’s toys – No need for special toy cleaners. All you need is some baking soda (its non-toxic) and some warm water. Either wipe the surface with a cloth damp with the solution or submerge the entire toy in a bucket filled with this mixture.
- Spectacles – Swirl your specs in a bowl of cold water that’s mixed with a drop of dishwashing liquid for a few seconds. Wipe dry with a soft cotton cloth or a coffee filter for a lint-free finish.
- Jewellery – These generally don’t need cleaning unless you see tarnish or dirt spots. If your earrings are starting to smell musty or your diamond ring is looking dull, soak it in one cup of water mixed with a quarter cup of ammonia for 20 minutes, then swirl it in another bowl of warm water and a few drops of dishwashing liquid, scrubbing gently with a clean soft toothbrush. Or, use Jeweler’s Secret Foaming Jewelry Cleaner (from Home-Fix) which suits gold, silver, platinum, diamond and gemstones. For lacklustre pearls, clean each one with a cotton cloth dipped in a solution of warm water and a drop of mild dishwashing liquid. If your jewellery was bought from established jewellers like Poh Heng Jewellery, you get to enjoy their free jewellery cleaning services.
- Kettles – Those bluish green patches you see inside are mineral deposits that can build up over time. They are harmless but unpleasant to look at. To remove them, fill the kettle with equal parts white vinegar and water and bring to a boil. Let it stand overnight. The next morning, rinse the kettle and heat water to get rid of all the traces of vinegar.
- Lampshades – Run a BÄSTIS lint roller (from IKEA) over the outer and inner surfaces. Then, remove dust from the seams with a hairdryer.
- Beds – It’s unhealthy to make your bed too soon! A Kingston University study found that house dust mites that are known to cause asthma and allergies cannot survive in the warm and dry conditions found in an unmade bed. So maybe, this is one excuse to skip this chore on busy weekdays.
- Knives – Good ones should never go into the dishwasher as detergents can indent the blades and high heat can damage the handles. Instead, hand wash with hot, soapy water and dry with a tea towel. Never soak knives as the blades can rust and the handles can shrink. To remove stains, dip a clean wine cork in mild dishwashing liquid and rub with a soft sponge. For rust marks, stab a large onion a few times so the onion’s acid will remove the rust.
- Mirrors – To have them shine, dip a lint-free cloth like Scotch-Brite High Performance Dusting Cloth (from FairPrice Finest) in a pot of strong tea like Lipton (the tea’s tannic acid works like magic) and rub the mirror surface in circles. Dry it with a fresh cloth. Be careful not to soak the mirror through. If liquid seeps into the silver coating, it can leave black spots on the mirror.
- Carpets – To get rid of a carpet stain, pour vinegar over the stain, then sprinkle a pile of baking soda. Wait a few seconds for the carpet to absorb the stain, then wipe and vacuum the spot.
- Litter boxes – Every few weeks, place the box faced down inside a garbage bag and shake out old litter. Use rubber gloves to scrub the litter box with baking soda and water.
- Pillows – Twice a year, wash synthetic and down pillows in the washing machine (in pairs so the machine stays balanced) with mild liquid detergent (not powder because it leaves residue) like Essence Delicate Laundry Detergent (from FairPrice Finest). If you have a dryer, set to low heat so the pillow contents don’t clump.
- Refrigerator drawers – Remove and soak them in a sink of soapy water for 15 minutes. Drain, then sprinkle surfaces with baking soda and wipe clean with a soft sponge. If they still smell, wipe them down with a cloth dipped in undiluted tomato juice. Rinse with warm water, and dry them out.
- Sliding door tracks – Spray multi-purpose cleaner generously over the tracks and let it sit for a few minutes. Then wipe up the loosened grime and dirt with paper towels. To reach into the crevices, use a flat screwdriver that’s covered with a rag dampened with all-purpose cleaner.
- Make-up brushes – You could swirl the brushes in a bowl of water mixed with a squirt of shampoo or better yet, use a brush cleanser like the MAC Brush Cleanser ($23, from Sephora). Put a few drops onto a tissue or organic anti-bacterial toilet paper like Cloversoft (available from Cold Storage) – made from sustainable unbleached bamboo and so hygienic you can put freshly-cut fruits on it – and rub the hair on the area.
- Sinks – Swipe sinks with a soft rag dampened with water and dishwashing liquid daily. Once a week, scour with a mild abrasive cleaner like Magiclean Bathroom Cleaner (from FairPrice Finest). Use white vinegar to rid soap scum on stainless steel and porcelain, and a stone cleaner on marble or limestone. Clean taps using a soft sponge with water and detergent. Wipe dry.
- Cameras – Dust the lens, screen and body with a camel-hair brush and pay attention to spaces like cable outlets and memory card slots. A smudge on the lens can become permanent so use a clean microfibre cloth, breathe moisture on the lens (don’t rub a dry lens or you grind in the dirt) and gently rub in circles. If the smudge is still there, rub gently with a cloth dampened with an alcohol-based lens cleaner like Dr. Optic Optical Lens Wipes (from Home-Fix).
Three things you (almost) never have to clean:
1. Quilts – Since it is tucked under a cover, only wash it when it’s soiled. To avoid clumping up the filling, experts recommend sending it to the laundromat.
2. Freezers – Unless you’d spilled something in it or smell something odd (that’s not fish or durian), skip cleaning it. Normally, you only need to defrost and clean out your freezer once a year.
3. Dishwashers – Leave it alone unless you detect a bad odour. If so, you’ll need to give the machine a run with special formulated detergents before using it again.
By Sylvia Ong, The Singapore Women’s Weekly, November 2014