Spring is in the air! And with that comes our inner calling to undertake spring-cleaning tasks—washing windows, changing bedding, organizing ­closets. But don’t forget about less obvious places where dirt, germs, bacteria and icky microbes hide. 

Here are simple, nontoxic ways to keep the yuck at bay and prevent costly repairs or replacements for these overlooked, “­whodathunk” items. 

What lies behind

Sinks, showers, toilets—you use these all the time but likely only surface clean them. Go
beyond the obvious streaks, rings and grit…

Faucet aerator: The faucet consists of several parts. The top part or tip directly under it is the aerator. It houses a metal and mesh ring that affects water flow due to buildup of gunk along for the ride when your water streams. To clean…

Unscrew the ring using your hand and a washcloth. If you need a tighter grip, cover with a small cloth and use pliers. 

Inside the ring is a plastic section that looks like a mini filter and a rubber ring. You may need to use a butter knife to remove the rubber ring. Soak both pieces in white vinegar for 10 minutes. Rinse. 

If gunk remains, use a toothpick or safety pin to clean the holes.

Place the silver tip on a washcloth, and clean with a toothbrush.

Before returning the filter and rubber rings to the tip, run the faucet without the aerator. Then attach and tighten enough to ­ensure there’s no leakage. 

If the aerator is too far gone, you can buy a new one for less than $15 at a home-improvement store. They usually are standard sizes.

Showerhead: Your ­showerhead can be a reservoir of mineral buildup (magnesium, calcium, lime and silica). According to the American Society for ­Microbiology, it almost certainly hosts bacteria and other microorganisms. Showerheads should be cleaned monthly if you have hard water…quarterly for soft water. 

Removable shower head:Twist the shower head counterclockwise with a rag wrapped around the connecting nut. 

Remove the filter and rubber gasket behind the showerhead. This filter is the catchall for large yuck and helps prevent leaks. 

Fill a large bowl with white distilled vinegar—large enough to submerge the showerhead. Let it soak for one to two hours. 

Gently scrub the filter with a toothbrush and hot water or vinegar. Rinse and set aside. 

After the showerhead has soaked, use a toothbrush to dislodge particles and a toothpick or paper clip to unclog remaining ­debris. Rinse with warm water, and shine with a microfiber cloth.

Replace the filter, and gently twist the showerhead clockwise onto the pipe—be careful that you don’t strip the threading. 

Turn the water on to be sure that it does not spray or leak. Tighten further if necessary. 

Fixed showerhead:Fill a sturdy plastic bag large enough to fit over the head with two cups of white distilled vinegar.

Enclose the head so it is entirely submerged, and use a piece of cord to securely tie the bag in place. Soak for one to two hours.

Remove the plastic bag, and run hot water through the ­showerhead. With a toothbrush or tile brush, dislodge debris and run hot water again. Shine with a ­microfiber cloth. 

Toilet tank: When was the last time you lifted the lid on your tank? Minerals, mildew, rust and grime accumulate and can cause damage to the tank’s parts as well as clogs. A clue that your tank needs cleaning is when the inside of the bowl starts to become stained, which could be a result of corrosion. Cleaning the tank twice a year should control it. Here’s how…

Find the water valve behind or near the toilet base, and shut it off.

Lift the lid, and flush two to three times to empty the tank. 

Fill the tank with white distilled vinegar up to the level of the overflow valve, about three quarters of the way up—about three gallons, depending upon your tank’s size. Let sit for 12 hours. 

Flush out the vinegar, and put on rubber gloves to clean tank parts. 

Clean the ball float, flapper and other toilet parts with a sponge soaked in a 3:1 solution of warm water and vinegar. 

For tough stains, use baking soda, which is a mild abrasive. Use a long-handled bristle brush or a pumice stone to scour the stains (wet before using to soften the stone and prevent scratches). Turn the water valve on, and fill the tank. 

Flush until the water runs clear. In older toilets you may need to repeat the 12-hour vinegar soak. 


The fixtures that keep our homes well-lit and air circulating can harbor mold, mildew and dust that can worsen allergies or create new health issues. They should be cleaned every six months. 

Bathroom exhaust fan: Always run the fan for 15 to 20 minutes after you shower to remove moisture that causes mold and mildew. 

To clean, find the switch or circuit breaker, and turn it off. Remove the vent cover. 

Run it through a regular cycle in the dishwasher. Or place the cover on a clean towel, and vacuum the front and back with the bristle-brush attachment.

Vacuum inside the fan and around the motor using a crevice attachment. Replace the cover, and turn the power back on.

Ceiling fan: Remove the globe, and fill the sink with warm soapy water. Let the globe soak as you clean the blades, bulbs and fixture per the following steps.

Hang an open umbrella on the center of the fan to catch debris. When done, take the ­umbrella outside and shake it to remove dust and debris. If anything remains, wipe with a damp cloth. 

Wipe each blade with a damp pillowcase, gently pulling it toward you and keeping the opening close to the blade to catch debris. You may need to use more than one case, or rinse and ring out the one you are using a few times.

To shine wood and laminate finishes, use a little lemon oil or mayonnaise on a cloth. 

Dry the globe, and reattach after cleaning the blades.

Range-hood filters and lighting: Remove the filters, and completely submerge them in a sink filled with hot water and a mild de-greasing liquid detergent. Let soak for 30 minutes. Use an old toothbrush or small bristle brush to scrub away remaining gunk.

If gunk remains, make a cleaning paste using a 3:1 ratio of detergent to baking soda. Scrub again.  

Wipe down the hood light with a damp cloth. If a greasy film remains, use the paste above to clean. Rinse with a damp cloth. Dry filters, and reattach. 

Chandelier: Turn off the light, and let the bulbs cool. As with ceiling fans, hang an open ­umbrella from a chandelier rung to prevent dust from spreading.  

Use a blow-dryer set on a low, cool setting to remove the top layer of dust. Or you can use a Swiffer duster to remove dust. 

Wipe bulbs, crystals, rungs, mount and base with a damp soft cloth. For brass and metal finishes, spray clean with a 3:1 solution of water and mild dish detergent. Spray onto a clean cloth, not ­directly onto the chandelier.

Wipe bulbs with a damp cloth. 

For the interior of hard-to-reach pendants, remove and soak in warm soapy water. Dry thoroughly before reattaching.

Flush-mount ceiling fixture: Carefully twist off the cover, shake out debris (and dead bugs!).

Soak the cover in warm soapy water. Use a damp cloth to wipe bulbs and stationary fixture parts. Dry the cover, and reattach. 

Recessed, track and canister lighting: Remove and wipe bulbs with a clean damp cloth. Dry thoroughly. 

Wipe the interior, exterior and rims of recessed lighting with a damp cloth. Dry, and return bulbs. 

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