Like I’m sure is the case for so many of you, I’m still in a little bit of shock trying to wrap my head around our new reality, and have been hunkering down at home with Chris, adjusting to life away from our friends and family. The truth? Like so many of you, the fear of the unknown and our worry for the health and safety of the people we love has been nothing short of overwhelming. That’s not to mention that in both of our jobs, it’s suddenly anything but business as usual. We certainly don’t feel like we have a firm grip on how to navigate this incredibly sad, confusing time, but the most important thing we want you guys know right now is that we’re with you, we love you and we’re here for you, however we can be! Though we’ve spent the last couple of weeks adjusting to not only the gravity of what’s happening around the world, but the changes in our own household, we love this little community we’ve created here and will continue to be present here in this space, cranking out what we hope is inspiring, uplifting, interesting content to help inject your day with even the smallest amount of happiness or value or just the fun, cottage-cool goodness you come here for.
Over the last few weeks and weekends, in an attempt to preserve our physical and mental health, we’ve been trying our best to find creative ways to fill the time at home when we’re not working with activities that feel as productive, stimulating and rewarding as possible and as you guys might have anticipated, a good chunk of our efforts have been dedicated to sprucing up the space we’ll be spending a lot more time in throughout the coming weeks – our home! And my guess is, we’re not alone in that idea. Trending on Pinterest right now? “Things to do when bored” and “Organization ideas for the home”. Makes sense. Chris joked that at this point, no piece of furniture in our house is safe from my paintbrush. Our paint supply is getting a serious workout right now!
Since buying this house and then working from home over the last two years, I feel like I’ve basically become an expert at sprucing up the house and finding home improvement tasks to fill my days, my heart and my mind that I can execute with relative ease (as in, with my aversion to complex tools and complicated steps) and that provide the kind of rewarding payoff that makes me feel like I’m a Bob Vila (extra points if Bob Vila was a fixture on your small screen as a kid). Which is exactly where this little blog started – discovering creative, fun, approachable, satisfying ways that I can use my own two hands and my noggin to make this house a home I love! As such, I consider it my civic duty to help all of you out there who may be new to this whole “stuck at home” thing find even just a little bit of rewarding stimulation during your time spent in the confines of your cozy abode and maybe even feel empowered to take some home improvement leaps you’ve never taken before.
So here’s the deal – if you own a home or even rent for that matter, chances are there are some tasks you just haven’t had time to tackle. Some projects that keep getting pushed further and further down your list of home projects or general priorities and can’t seem to climb their way back up. Some big (or even just intimidating) home improvement to-dos that have been left unchecked, possibly growing the problem? And I’m not talking about those easy everyday or weekly tasks that we all handle with regularity like wiping down the counters, doing the dishes, cleaning the toilets, cleaning the mirrors, washing the sheets, cleaning the floors and the like. No no no. These are the tasks that take just a little bit more time, dedication or know-how and they’ve been gnawing at the back of your mind or staring at you, menacingly, for far too long.
Well, friends there’s no time like the present. Seriously… you’ve got time on your hands and need to stay stimulated, and not only that but your house needs you! What’s more, I find that I’m so much happier inside a clean, uncluttered home that feels fresh and tidy. Anyone else with me on that? Which is exactly what you’ll get if you tackle the relatively easy yet delightfully satisfying home improvement tasks outlined below. Everything included on this list has a seriously satisfying before and after and helps in making your house feel brand spankin’ new, without having to spend a ton of cash or undertake a big overhaul, decor makeover or complicated renovation. All of the tasks included also have relatively simple solutions that you can execute with ease, and don’t require tons of fancy tools or products because we know that none of us even have easy access to that sort of thing right now. Our hope is that for most part, you already have the supplies needed to successfully tackle a lot of these tasks, with a few affordable Amazon exceptions or alternatives. I’ve tried and tested many a method for most of the tasks on this lsit and have found that in general, the most effective solutions are often the simplest ones that only require tools and products you might already have hangin’ around the house and a little bit of elbow grease.
So to recap, all of the awesomely effective solutions to the tasks below are easy to execute, budget-friendly and have wow-worthy payoffs that will not only make your house (or at least each space) sparkle like new, but hopefully help you feel empowered and accomplished in new ways during this strange, strange time. If you decide to dive in and tackle any of the tasks on this list, make sure you tag us on Instagram, Instagram Stories and Facebook and share the list with your friends to encourage them to jump in, too! We’d love to see you guys in action or even answer any question/conundrums that arise as you tackle the list, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on how we’re doing on this list in our house on Instagram Stories so we can all cheer each other on!
Tool: Magic Eraser OR Soap, Water, Soft Cloth
Game. Changer. I’ll be honest and admit that this one escapes my efforts for much longer than it probably should, but hey, a girl has priorities! Nevertheless, cleaning your baseboards can make sure a big difference in the look and feel of your home. It’s like magic! The easiest method? Use a magic eraser, gently scrub scuff marks and dust and prepare to be amazed at how shiny and clean your baseboards can get. If you don’t have a magic eraser, simply use a mixture of soap and water and a soft, damp cloth to scrub scuff marks and dust off of baseboards until they’re sparkling clean and the paint looks like new. I just did this one and can confirm that it’s a heavenly refresh.
Re-Paint or Touch-Up Trim Around Doors
I love this one so much because not only is it a task we practically never tackle, but it has such a rewarding before and after! A fresh coat of paint or a touch-up can make the trim around your doors look so much cleaner and brighter, especially since trim is so susceptible to scuffs, scratches, dings or other unsightly abuse! I don’t know about you guys, but the old trim around the doors in our house has taken a beating over the years and makes our spaces look more rundown than they really are. Luckily, spiffing them up is easy as can be if you have your trim’s original paint handy. If not, just start fresh with a new paint color you have on hand in a finish that matches your home’s style (we use a semi-gloss white tone on our interior trim). Before you paint make sure you wipe down your trim with a soft, damp cloth and some soap and water to get the dust and grime off, and once that’s done use a 2” angle sash brush to paint with the grain and get into all of those curves and grooves.
Re-Paint Or Touch-Up Doors
This is another one I really, really love and am in the process of doing myself all around our house while we’re stuck at home! Just like your trim, a fresh coat of paint or a touch-up can make your doors look so much cleaner and brighter – like new, actually! Again, this one’s easier if you have the original door paint handy. If not, just start fresh with a new paint you have on hand in a finish that matches your home’s style (we use semi-gloss white tone on our interior doors). Before you paint make sure you wipe down your door with a soft, damp cloth and some soap and water, and once that’s done use a small 4” dense foam roller paintbrush to paint the flat surfaces of the door and a 2” angle sash brush to get into those curves and grooves.
Clean Marks Off of Walls & Ceilings
Tool: Magic Eraser OR Soap, Water, Soft Cloth
This one is almost too easy, but it makes such a big difference! If you have stubborn marks or scuffs on your walls or ceilings thanks to furniture banging up against them, swatting a fly down from the ceiling or just general wear and tear over the years, it can start to make walls or ceilings look dingy, even if your home is relatively new! The easiest method? Use a magic eraser, gently scrub scuff marks and dust and prepare to be amazed at how shiny and clean your walls and ceilings can get. If you don’t have a magic eraser, simply use a mixture of soap and water and a soft, damp cloth to scrub scuff marks and other blemishes or marks off of walls.
Touch-Up Interior Walls With Paint
If you have more serious scrapes or dings on your walls like at the corner where walls meet or other high traffic areas and can’t simply clean them to spiff them up, it’s time to touch up! This is another easy one that makes such a big difference and can make your house feel brand spankin’ new! Just grab your wall paint, pour it in the handy paint cup I love metioned above and bounce around the house from wall to wall touching them up until you’ve hit them all. It makes every space look fresh and clean! There’s no complex method to this one really – I simply add our wall paint to my handy paint cup and use an angle sash brush for the touch ups. If you have bigger marks, scuffs or scrapes, you can always use a 4” dense foam roller, too.
Dust & Clean Ceiling Fans
Tool: Soap (or any multi-surface household cleaner you have), Water, Damp Cloth, Vacuum
This is an easy one, but one that might scare you upon first wipe if you don’t clean your ceiling fan regularly. Have no fear! Ceiling fans are one of those out of sight, out of mind household items that are easy to neglect when priorities abound. While the fan is off, simply wipe down the fan motor and fan blades with a soft, damp cloth and a little soap and water or use any household cleaning agent you have (Sometimes I use one of our household cleaners for this for added freshness). As you do that you may find that dust falls down onto the floor or worse, your bed, which is where the vacuum comes in handy. When cleaning a room with a ceiling fan, this is always the task I tackle first because of that reason. Once the fan is clean you can get to work on cleaning up any mess it leaves behind and the rest of the space!
Dust & Clean Light Fixtures
Tool: Soap, Water, Damp Cloth + Glass Cleaner (for glass fixtures)
This is another pretty easy one, but also another one that so often gets neglected during our normal cleaning duties and can really make a space feel older, dingier or dirtier than it is. But there’s no shame in it! Light fixtures and ceiling fans get neglected on the cleaning front because they’re hard to reach or hard to see in their entirety, so again it’s sort of out of sight, out of mind. Dust has a really fun way of collecting on light fixtures, but luckily cleaning them is a pretty simple, quick job that can be tackled with a little soap mixed with water and a damp, soft cloth to wipe your light fixture down and make it look shiny and new. If your light fixture has a glass shade, you can use glass cleaner and a soft cloth to clean the shade. Easy breezy!
Dust & Clean Shutters/Blinds
Tool: Magic Eraser OR Soap, Water, Damp Cloth
Oh what a difference one this one makes! If you have plantation shutters on all of your windows like we do, you probably know how easy this one is so easy to neglect. You may not even notice how much dust and buildup your shutters have on them, especially if they’re white, but once you tackle this the difference will look like night and day. They’ll look brighter, whiter and brand new! As is the case with a lot of other tasks on this list I’ve found that a magic eraser works wonders in making this task faster and easier to tackle thoroughly and completely. It cuts right through that dusty buildup! I like to open my shutters, then shut the slats that open and close on the shutters using the tilt rod so that the slats all lay flat and you’ve created one big panel to work with. Then I wipe each “side” of the shutter down in one fell swoop rather than trying to get my hand in and out of each slat individually to clean it, which is such a pain and doesn’t really do a thorough job of cleaning. If you don’t have a magic eraser, as always, you can use a soft, damp cloth with some soap and water, though if you have a lot of dust built up on your slats, you may have to put your back into it!
Wash Patio/Exterior Steps/Driveway
These next two on the list are two tasks that adorably and slightly hilariously, my parents are very passionate about. They both feel that if you can power wash your patio, walkways, exterior steps and driveway and power wash/clean the exterior of your home, it’s one of the easiest, cheapest and quickest ways to make your home feel fresh and new without taking on a serious remodel or spending tons of cash. Instant curb appeal! That said, I asked my parents for their expert insight and experience on these two tasks to share with you guys because they have decades of home ownership and improvement under their belts and these are the two tasks on this list that I have the least personal experience with. For thoroughly and efficiently washing the grime off of your patio, walkways, driveway and exterior steps, using a power washer with water is the easiest way to get the job done and get those surfaces ultra sparkling clean! If you don’t have a pressure washer and don’t see yourself investing in one on Amazon anytime soon (there’s no shame in that!), you’ll just need to grab a deck brush or deck scrubber (this deck scrubber is super cool because it hooks right up to your hose) and a bucket of soap and water to scrub those exterior surfaces clean. Using a deck scrubber obviously requires slightly more elbow grease on your part than a pressure washer, but rest assured it’ll get the job done and your driveway/patio/exterior stars will look brand spankin’ new! So satisfying.
Wash Exterior Of House
If you haven’t read the instructions in the task above, make sure you read that before you dive into this one. This is another awesome outdoor home improvement task that you can tackle on your own that has such a wow-worthy payoff! To echo the sentiments above, a pressure washer is the easiest and quickest way to clean your exterior surfaces, but you’ll have to be a little bit more careful using a pressure washer on the exterior of your home than you would be on your patio/driveway/exterior steps. Pressure washing the exterior of your home is a somewhat dicey project, even for a professional depending on the material your exterior is made out of. If your home’s exterior includes wood or painted brick and you want to get it sparkling clean without the help of a professional, the best and safest way to do that is by using soap, water and a deck brush like the one linked above. That particular one also has a hose hookup, so you’ll get water flow and suds as you scrub! In general, older homes and exteriors that use softer materials or have painted brick require a delicate touch – you don’t want to blast it with water and soak/damage the wood or blast off your paint job. So the deck scrubber is actually a much safer option all around, but again, just requires a little bit of elbow grease!
Clean Windows, Interior & Exterior
Tool: Glass Cleaner, Soft Cloth/Paper Towel OR Magic Eraser (for stubborn water/dirt spots)
This one of the more tedious tasks on the list depending on how many windows you have around your home, but it’s also one of the tasks that can make the biggest difference, aesthetically. It’s such an easy spiffer-upper and I think we can all use a clearer look at the natural beauty outside right now, no?! As is the case with any glass around your home, the best way to get your windows sparkling clean is to use glass cleaner and good old fashioned elbow grease, but I’ve found that for stubborn water marks or residue on glass, using a magic eraser first to quickly and easily cut through that, following up with glass cleaner can make cleaning glass so much easier! If you don’t have a magic eraser and you’ve got stubborn buildup on your windows, simple glass cleaner it is.
Shave Couches & Chairs
Tool: Fabric Shaver OR Your Husband’s Electric Shaver (just make sure to clean it out before you give it back)
I love this one so much, and I think it’s also one that some people don’t even realize is a “thing”! The fabric one the couch in our den “pills” or collects little fuzzy balls of fiber over time, just like a sweater, making the cushions that get the most use look pretty beat up, which makes our couch looks so much older than it is! After a little time spent running a fabric shaver over the cushions, removing all of the pilling, our couch cushions look brand new. It’s a revelation! This same concept also applies to chairs, pillows, rugs and of course… sweaters, too! Before we had a proper fabric shaver, I actually just stole Chris’ electric shaver and that did the trick, too. He wasn’t super pumped about that, but in my defense I did thoroughly clean it out after I used it. Still probably not an awesome wife move, but by now he’s gotten used to my home improvement antics.
Tool: Soap, Water, Scrub Brush
This one had been staring us in the face for far, far too long. If you didn’t know, out in front of our house we have a huge tree that’s absolutely beautiful, but sheds lots of nasty tree gunk onto our soffits and fascia on the front of our house. I actually didn’t even notice it until we had a shoot with American Farmhouse Magazine last year and after seeing the photos of the front of our house (a pic I took that day is on the left below), cringed in embarrassment at the black and green gunk running down the fascia. We’d done almost every home improvement project we could think of before that shoot but sadly, that one went neglected. Chris got up on a ladder recently and went to work scrubbing the fascia and then the dirty, spiderweb-covered soffits with a scrub brush, soap and water, and it’s incredible what a difference it made to our home’s curb appeal! Again, it’s like night and day. They were covered in brown and green gunk and bugs and after he was done scrubbing, which he did pretty easily and quickly, they were sparkling white and made the entire front of our house look like new!
Left: Before, Right: After
Weed the Lawn/Bushes/Groundcover/Patio
Tool: Gardening Gloves
There’s nothing complicated about this one, and you certainly don’t need any special tools or products to do a thorough job weeding your lawn, groundcover, bushes/plants or patio. It’s tedious to be sure, but so satisfying and can make your yard and the exterior of your home looks so much more tidy and manicured without overhauling all of your landscaping and throwing down a lot of cashola in the process. Simply throw on those gardening gloves and pull from the root of each weed. My mom’s method is to actually spray the weed with a little bit of weed killer and use rubber gloves to stroke and cover the weed in the weed killer so it will soak up the weed killer and carry it to the root to make sure the weed doesn’t grow back (smart!), but truthfully, that’s a little bit more work than I’m willing to put in so I simply use my gardening gloves, pull each weed out slowly with a little twist to make sure I get the root and call it good. Works like a charm & I love the tidy look of a freshly weeded lawn or yard!
Clean & Organize Cabinets/Pantry/Closets
Tool: Magic Eraser OR Soap, Water, Damp Cloth, Trash Bags, Vacuum
Oh, the healing power of purging, cleaning and organizing. At a time when we’re stuck at home and relying more and more on our own supply of food, cooking utensils and general entertainment, there’s no better time to clean and organize the cabinets, pantries and closets around your home that house all those essentials. We just recently tackled all of the cabinets and closets around our home over the course of a weekend, and I have to say, it’s not only made it easier to find what we need, but it feels like a huge weight has been lifted. I don’t shutter every time I open a cabinet or closet door anymore! And here’s how we made it easy on ourselves with a straightforward, 3-step process that we used to divide and conquer.
- Step 1: Purge. Be ruthless and be thorough. Empty the contents of each cabinet, drawer and closet completely and thoroughly inspect and evaluate each and every item’s place in your life. Expired pantry items? Trash. Empty vessels? Trash or recycle. Things you don’t use clogging up your closets? Donate or sell. Then separate into bags based dedicated to trash or donate.
- Step 2: Clean. First, bring in the vacuum attachment if needed for closet floors/corners and the inside of drawers and cabinets. Then wipe the inside and outside of your cabinets down with a damp, soft cloth, and some soap and water. Really get in there and get all of the dust, debris and gunk out of there to give you a clean, fresh slate before you organize.
- Step 3, organize. Shoving stuff back into your cabinets, closets and drawers willy nilly won’t help you in your quest to de-clutter your mind and your home. Before items go back into your cabinets, drawers and closets, decide how best to organize for your own lifestyle. We always put items we use the least in the back of a cabinet or closet, and the items we use the most at the front so it’s easy for us to not only extract those items on a daily basis when we want them, but to put them back in an orderly fashion, too. We also always organize by category in closets, cabinets, drawers and even our tool shed so when we’re looking for a specific item, we know the general area in which we can find it and can go right to that area to grab what we need.
Dust and/or Clean Furniture Legs & Bases
Tool: Magic Eraser OR Soap, Water, Damp Cloth
Such a good one! Stop what you’re doing and go look at your table bases and chair legs right now. Are they scuffed up? Marked? Dusty? Dirty? Table bases and chair legs take such a beating thanks to everyday wear and tear (aka mindless kicking, rubbing, etc.) and when they have pretty curves and crevices, the dust can collect in places you might not see if you weren’t looking closely. I just wiped down the entire curvy base/pedestal of our breakfast nook table with a Magic Eraser and had no idea just how dusty and dirty it was until I was finished! I’m almost ashamed to admit that it went from a slightly grey/off white hue to bright, sparkling white after I was done and it was awesome! I also did the same to the legs of our breakfast table chairs, and it was such a night and day difference with all of those black scuff marks gone. The entire breakfast nook space looked so shiny and new once I was done! If you don’t have a Magic Eraser handy, you can simply use a soft, damp cloth and some soap and water, which might require a little bit more elbow grease on your part, but works just as well in the end!
Touch-Up or Re-Paint Indoor Furniture
Tool: Your Furniture’s Paint Color & Finish, Small Foam Roller or 2” Angle Sash Paintbrush (I also love using this Handy Paint Cup for projects like this if you’re just touching up scratches or marks)
If you’re a normal human with a normal life, chances are good that some of the furniture around your house has taken a beating over the years. Hey, what is furniture for if not to be used and loved?! That said, one of my favorite ways to make our spaces feel fresh and new is to touch up all of those dingy dings and scratches in the paint on the furniture pieces around our house, or give the entire piece a fresh coat of paint! Seriously… no piece of furniture in our house is safe from my paintbrush while I’m stuck at home right now. Not a single one! Obviously, if you don’t have the the paint that was used on a furniture piece, you won’t be able to touch it up convincingly and you’ll have to either stick with the furniture cleaning instructions outlined above to wipe away scuffs, dust and dirt, or you’ll have to refinish the entire piece. Now I know that for some you that’s an intimidating prospect, but I promise that painting furniture like a pro and making it durable so the paint job stands up to everyday wear and tear is so much easier than you think! In fact, I recently posted an easy, fool-proof tutorial on my tried, tested and loved process for painting furniture like a pro, without a lot of fuss, fancy tools or general painting know-how. This is my go-to process for painting any and all furniture with ease, and not only does the process outlined in that post leave your furniture with a beautiful, even, professional finish, but it also protects it against everyday wear and tear! If you’re never tried your hand at painting furniture, you should totally take this time at home to give it a try – it’s so liberating and therapeutic!
Check out a more in-depth tutorial about how we restored these beat up old cane dining chairs HERE!
Left: Before, Right: After
Touch-Up or Re-Paint Outdoor Furniture
Tool: Your Outdoor Furniture’s Spray Paint Color & Finish OR Your Outdoor Furniture’s Paint Color & Finish, 4” Foam Roller or Paintbrush of Choice.
Note: For metal outdoor furniture you can make this one super easy by using use an exterior spray paint (they even have super cool textured spray paint to match not only the color and finish of your metal furniture, but the texture, too.) For wood outdoor furniture, just make sure you’re using a paint specified for exterior or indoor/outdoor use, whether it’s a spray paint or standard latex paint.
The same rules outlined in the last task apply to painting or touching up your outdoor furniture, and this one has an equally satisfying “after”, especially since we’ll all be using our outdoor furniture so much more in the coming months! We refinish our outdoor wood furniture about once a year, and we always love how fresh and new it makes it look without having to drop cash on brand new furniture. It’s so gratifying, not to mention empowering (restoring something to its former glory is always so satisfying to me)! The one important difference between this task and refinishing or touching up indoor furniture is that you should absolutely be using a durable exterior paint for your outdoor furniture, rather than a paint specified for indoor/dry use. Outdoor furniture has to stand up to the elements and using an exterior paint at least gives your furniture a fighting chance at making it through the year unscathed.
Check out a more in-depth tutorial about how we completely restored theses old, beat up outdoor rocking chairs you see below HERE!
Left: Before, Right: After
Restore Teak Wood Furniture
If you have teal outdoor furniture and it’s looking a little less than fresh, this one is SO awesome! Click HERE for the full tutorial on how to easily and thoroughly restore your outdoor teak wood furniture that has acquired an unwanted patina over time. This simple method will make it look brand new!
Left: Before, Right: After
Tool: Baking Soda, White Vinegar, Water, Dish Soap, Scrub Sponge, Scouring Pad/Steel Wool, Stainless Steel Cleaner/Wipes
This is another one that’s particularly awesome right now because we’re cooking every single dang meal at home and our oven is getting a serious workout. We (almost hilariously now) thought we cooked at home a lot before social distancing kicked in, but now we realize just how much we actually dined out or picked up food. As such, I feel like I can hardly find the words to properly describe just how satisfying deep cleaning our oven is. Instant mood booster right now! And sure, you could just set your oven to “self clean” if you have that option and let the oven do the work, but not only does that put off a ton of heat for an extended period of time, but the smell and general noxious nature of it is a pretty miserable thing to be stuck at home with for four hours. Luckily, there are easier (and faster) ways to clean your oven without overheating your house!
- First, clean your grates. I take the oven grates out of the oven and clean those in the sink or the bathtub if I need a bigger space to work with. To clean just fill the sink or bathtub with warm water and dish soap, soak the grates for 20 minutes and then scrub away grease and grime easily with a scouring pad or steel wool. Clean as a whistle in a matter of minutes!
- Now for the inside of the oven. In a bucket or bowl mix 4 parts baking soda with 1 part water to make a baking soda paste. Spread that paste on the very dirtiest, grimiest parts of the inside of your oven with a spatula. Let that sit for about 30 minutes. Then dip your scrub sponge in white vinegar (I dip my sponge into a bowl that has a little bit of white vinegar in it to keep it tidy), then scrub away on the inside of your oven! You may come to some extra stubborn spots, and for those I either steel wool or a plastic scraper and they come off with ease because the baking soda paste has already loosened them up. Then I wipe that all away with a damp cloth. Once you do that, for extra disinfecting and odor neutralization you can dip a clean sponge in white vinegar again and wipe the inside down. Easy breezy!
- Now for the outside of the oven! For our stainless steel oven, in order to make it sparkle like new I use stainless steel wipes, but you can also use stainless steel cleaner and damp paper towel/rag. There are other messier/slightly more annoying methods for cleaning stainless steel appliances without streaking, but I feel like I need to be honest that stainless steel cleaner, and especially stainless steel wipes are the fastest, easiest way to get the job done. The Weiman stainless steel wipes are my JAM!
Clean Washing Machine
Tool: White Vinegar, Baking Soda, Sponge
The concept of washing your washing machine may feel a little bit funny if it’s not already a part of your cleaning routine, but did you know that soap residue, minerals, and chemicals from your detergent can get locked inside your washing machine and create a thin film that traps bacteria, and combined with a delightfully hot, humid environment can make bacteria breed, spread and stink up your washer? True story! We actually experienced this with our old washing machine and it was 100% unpleasant. So if your washer or clothing starts to stink, even after running a wash cycle, know that it happens to the best of us. Have no fear, though! It’s easier to fix than you think and requires very few supplies. If you search for instructions for cleaning your washing machine, you may notice that some people recommend using good old bleach, but that’s not so great for your septic system and slightly more toxic than is necessary to get a thorough clean on this one. White vinegar is naturally antibacterial, and its acidity helps to eat away gnarly residue. It also has deodorizing properties, so it gets rid of nasty odors in the washing machine basin and in your septic system. Baking soda scrubs away soap residue and also neutralizes odors, leaving your machine smelling so fresh and so clean clean. Here’s what you do:
- Add 3 cups of white vinegar to the detergent dispenser of an empty washing machine (no laundry inside), then run the washer on the very hottest setting for the largest load. Complete that entire cycle.
- Once that cycle is completely finished, add 1/2 cup baking soda to your washing machine drum, and run another cycle on the very hottest setting for the largest load.
- Once that cycle is finished, wipe out your drum with a damp, soft cloth.
- If you have a front loader, if you open door to your washing machine you’ll see a rubber ring around the opening of your drum. That’s your gasket. Pull at the gasket a little bit so you can clean inside and around it, but keeping it in place. The gasket is notorious for collecting gunk, so cleaning it will help make sure you’ve addressed all sources of yucky smells that could arise.
- You can also remove and clean your detergent/fabric softener dispensers with a little soap, water and a sponge or dish scrubber. Once they’re dry, just pop them back in place!
Clean Dryer + Lint Screen, Trap & Vent
Tool: Soap, Water, Clean Dish Brush or Small Scrub Brush (or even a spare toothbrush), Vacuum
First things first, unplug your dryer. Then remove your lint screen from the lint trap, and remove lint from the screen. Then move to the sink and scrub the lint screen with soap, water and a gentle scrub brush (some people use a toothbrush, which is actually pretty great for this job). Let the screen dry completely. While that’s drying use your vacuum’s attachment tool to vacuum the lint out of the inside of the trap. Then move to the dryer vent, which is that big tube usually located at the back of your dryer, gently disconnect it and use your vacuum’s attachment to vacuum the inside of that out as well. Once that’s done, use your vacuum attachment to vacuum up any lint lingering around the dryer (the floor, the wall, the outside of the dryer itself). While unplugged, you can also wipe down the dryer itself with a damp, soft cloth if it has dust on it, especially the control panel. I tackled this recently and can confirm that it’s not only super easy, but extremely satisfying for an overall laundry room freshness perspective.
Tool: White Vinegar, Baking Soda, Soap, Water, Paper Towel/Damp Rag, Sponge
Ohhhh this is such a good one. Much like deep cleaning laundry appliances, this one goes such a long way in making your daily life inside your house feel fresh and clean. First, pull the bottom drawer of your dishwasher out as far as it will go and find the drain. That drain can collect food particles and other gunk, so clean around the drain with a paper towel, grabbing any food bits, then remove that little filter and wash it with soap and water. Just make sure to put it back in place once you’ve cleaned it. Then grab a dishwasher-safe bowl and inside it put one cup of white vinegar. Place that bowl on the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Then grab another dishwasher-safe bowl and put a 1/2 cup of baking soda in it and place that on the top rack of your dishwasher. Once your magical, antibacterial, deodorizing cleaning agents are in place, run your dishwasher on a normal setting, and don’t open the door until you’ve let it all steam up in there for about 15 minutes or so after the cycle has finished. Then, just wipe down the inside of the dishwasher with a damp, soft sponge and it’ll feel like new!
Clean & Organize Refrigerator/Freezer
Tool: Trash Bag, Soap, Water, Damp Cloth
If you’ve never experienced the joy of decluttering and wiping down your refrigerator until every surface in it is sparkling clean, you haven’t lived! Seriously though, when you’re spending a lot of time at home there’s nothing better than having a clean, uncluttered refrigerator to dip into. Our refrigerator is seeing a lot of action these days! When cleaning our refrigerator and freezer, first we purge all expired or unused items (we use one of our more industrial, scented trash bags for this, tie it up after we’re done and throw it in the garbage can outside right away) then we wipe down every single surface with soap, water and a damp cloth until it’s all 100% fresh and clean! We have yet to experience a truly smelly refrigerator in our house, but if a funky scent still lingers, place half of a lemon or an open box of baking soda inside your refrigerator to help neutralize the odor.
Deep Clean Grill
Tool: Steel Wool or Scouring Pad, Soap, Water
Now that we’re cooking every single meal at home, we’ve never loved our grill so much. Luckily, the weather here in Arizona is already perfect for grilling, but if you’re in a colder climate stay strong! You’re almost there. In light of that, giving our grill a thorough, deep clean has never made us happier. The easiest way to deep clean every single part of your grill is to simply use dish soap with warm water and steel wool or a scouring pad. You want to avoid harsh chemicals when cleaning your grill because as that cleaning chemical residue heats up when you’re cooking, you risk it ending up in your food. No good. Luckily, you don’t need harsh chemicals to get your grill sparkling clean with ease! I take the grill grates off and clean those inside a bucket (I use a Home Depot bucket) with warm water, dish soap and steel wool. Pro Tip: If using steel wool, wear rubber gloves. I learned that one the hard way and completely shredded my hands. For the rest of the grill, you can use a grill scraper or even paint scraper on tough buildup to get the gunk off or loosen it up, then go to town with your steel wool, soap and warm water. It requires a little elbow grease, but your grill will be completely clean before you know it! Don’t worry if some stains or patina remain. That’s normal!
Re-Caulk Around Bathtubs/Sinks/Showers
Tool: Loctite RE-NEW (this is my favorite caulk that’s so easy to apply right on top of old, cracked existing caulk) or Any Caulk Available, Damp Paper Towel
This one equals instant freshness! If you’ve never considered the fact that despite your best weekly cleaning efforts, yucky, old, crusty caulk may be making your bathroom look dingier than it really is, consider yourself informed! Seriously though, refreshing old caulk goes such a long way in making a bathroom look shiny and new without doing basically anything else to it, which is a revelation! I used to loath caulking basically anything because it was always such a messy job, until I used Loctite RE-NEW. It’s handy dandy applicator makes the application process a total breeze (hello, perfect caulk lines), and it’s made to be applied right on top of your existing, old caulk without having to remove it, which is another job I hate. Seriously – scraping old caulk out before you apply fresh caulk is such a pain. Also, it’s waterproof and flexible, so it will give you a great seal just about anywhere. I do use a wet/damp paper towel to perfect or clean up my lines when needed, but with the applicator I barely have to do that. Now if you want to use whatever caulk you have lying around the house, you’ll have to endure just a few more, easily executable steps outlined perfectly by the guys at Home Depot HERE. Now that I use Loctite RE-NEW it would be hard for me to go back to using a caulk tube, caulk gun and scraping old caulk out of crevices, but hey, to each his own.
Clean & Stain Deck
We don’t have a deck here at our house, thus I’ve never personally tackled this particular task. As such and after extensive research, I’ve decided to defer to my very favorite home improvement experts this one, the geniuses at This Old House and their amazing video tutorial detailing the proper steps for tackling this task! I pretty much trust the This Old House crew explicitly when it comes to home improvement matters, so linked above is a great video that gives you a thorough tutorial for cleaning and re-staining your deck with relative ease (and some patience/dedication). What I can say on this is that it’s somewhat similar to the task of restoring your teak wood outdoor furniture, and because I’ve seen the payoff of that job, I can only imagine how refreshing and rejuvenating having a clean, freshly stained deck would be. It made the deck in the video look like new with only a few tools and a little bit of elbow grease!