The imminent arrival of spring means it’s time for the annual home spruce-up. Gabrielle Fagan finds out how to make light work of the task – and chooses stylish kit for dull chores.
There comes a time when you can no longer sweep that dirt under the carpet. The sunshine pouring in through the windows shows up the smears, and there’s a level of dust that only Miss Havisham could live with.
In other words, with the first day of spring looming on March 21, it’s time to face that annual ritual known as the spring clean.
But there’s no need to despair if you don’t have Upstairs Downstairs-style staff to scrub and slave.
BBC news presenter Joanna Gosling has unlocked the secret of stress-free cleaning, and shows how to cut the time it takes in half in her new book Simply Wonderwoman.
“Over the years I’ve discovered some tricks that are so easy that I wanted to share, because like any working mother I know what it’s like to have too much to do and not enough time to cram it all in,” says Gosling, who has three daughters, aged nine to three, with her husband Craig Oliver, who is David Cameron’s chief of communications.
It’s a busy household but her cosy home has an air of calm and order, with one kitchen wall painted in blackboard paint as an easy ‘organiser’ space, a string washing line with painted pegs holding party invitations and children’s colourful art work, and a larder boasting neat rows of glass jars and containers.
“I realised a long time ago that we may all want to be that wonderwoman - baking, home-making, a perfect wife and mother, and possibly doing all that on top of working. But the reality is no one can really embody everything we imagine her to be.
“So we need to think smart and my mantra about housework is ‘minimum effort, maximum return’. Over the years, I’ve loved the eureka moment of discovering a great corner-cutting method or a tip that really works.”
Gosling is happy to share her super spring clean strategy guaranteed to put the sparkle back into your home with the least effort. Simples!
“Break the task into bite-sized chunks and just focus on one room at a time,” says Gosling. “And always start at the top and work down so you don’t dirty already cleaned areas.”
Get a long-handled duster (or wrap a microfibre cloth around the bristles of a broom) and sweep along the top of walls and around any cornices to get rid of dust and cobwebs.
“Get the vacuum cleaner and set suction to low so you can clean over curtains, the tops of doors, sofas, chairs, cushions and skirting boards. Pull out furniture to make sure you get rid of dust lurking behind,” says Gosling.
Get a damp cloth and a dry microfibre cloth. Take everything off all surfaces (only do one area at a time) and wipe over with the damp cloth to clean away dust.
Rinse out cloth and repeat to ensure surface is clean. Buff dry with microfibre cloth.
Do the same to all objects before they go back. There’s no need to use cleaning products as the wet wipe and dry microfibre cleans and shines everything - including silver picture frames!
TOP KIT: Microfibre pack of four cloths, £1.99, and storage boxes to kill clutter, from £2.99 each, Dunelm Mill; Bissell Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner 70955, £7.86, Amazon.
MAKE IT SHINE
Clean mirrors and picture glass, as well as TV and computer screens, with the same damp cloth and dry microfibre cloth, before finishing with windows.
“Do keep rinsing your cleaning cloth, or replace it if it gets dirty or ragged,” advises Gosling. “Likewise, have a spare microfibre to hand if it gets too damp.”
Clean off any stubborn marks on paintwork with a little scouring cream and wash away thoroughly with a clean, damp cloth.
Now vacuum the floor. If you have rugs, take them outside and shake. If you have hard floors, vacuum or sweep, then clean. If you have carpet, use a cleaning spray on any dirty marks and then vacuum on full suction power.
TOP KIT: Make light work of floors with a machine washable Spin Mop, £23.54, with a rotating head and pedal action on the bucket to squeeze it out, from QVC; clean floors and refresh carpets using water with a lightweight Steam-Glide Steam Mop machine, £79.95, available from April from Oreck.
Colourful kit could lift your spirits as you toil, so use a roomy Mesh Storage Basket in fuchsia, £25, and rainbow-coloured Playnation ironing board, £50, and peg bag, £8, all from John Lewis. Sainsbury’s has a Downton Abbey-style cream enamel Tu Coastal Housekeeper’s Box, £15, to keep all the household equipment together.
MAKE A SPLASH
Bathrooms should always shine, especially as they’re often the first room we see in the morning.
“It’s easy to get rid of unsightly mildew or mould. Just paint bleach on any mildewed areas using an old toothbrush,” advises Gosling.
“Leave for around three hours while bleach kills the mildew off. Before rinsing bleach away, scrub a bit of the mildew with the toothbrush to check it will come away easily. If not, leave longer, otherwise wipe away bleach with a disposable cloth and then clean with plenty of water. Dry thoroughly.”
To get super shiny taps, Gosling suggests mixing the juice of half a lemon with a teaspoon of bicarb.
“Apply solution with a toothbrush so you get in all the nooks and crannies. Rinse with water, buff dry with a microfibre cloth and taps will sparkle.”
GET THE KIT: Scrub Free shower cleaner, £4.99, removes soap scum and grime and Clean Shower, £4.99, claims to remove the need for cleaning if it’s sprayed in a fine mist after each shower. Blitz dingy grout with a SonicScrubber, £14.99. All from Lakeland.
Shiny clean floors and surfaces are essential in the room that’s the heart of the home.
“Bring a floor back to its best by doing a ‘hands and knees’ clean to remove ingrained dirt that mops just don’t touch,” urges Gosling.
Sweep the floor first, then in a bowl mix up a solution of a juice of half a lemon, one cup of white vinegar and one cup of warm water.
Get another bowl of warm water and a couple of cloths. Wring the cloth out well so it is slightly damp then put it in the lemon and vinegar solution, squeeze out excess and get scrubbing. If you have a wooden floor, add two teaspoons of olive oil to the mix. Alternate the cleaning cloths, leave the dirty one to soak in the bowl while you use the other.
GET THE KIT: Roll up your sleeves and invest in retro-style cleaning tools from Baileys Home & Garden such as a scrubbing brush, £4.50, and Olive Oil soap, £4.25.
New brooms sweep clean, according to the old saying, and Lily & Brown’s retro-style collection includes a broom, £7.19.