How to Clean the Most Hard-to-Reach Spaces in Your Home
Perhaps the most overlooked cleaning space in your home, the dryer vent may be the most important: the U.S. Fire Administration estimates that more than 15,000 dryer vent fires occur each year when lint collects in the vent and hot air causes it to combust. To clean, move the dryer away from the wall and disconnect the vent tube where it attaches to the dryer, then use your vacuum cleaner hose to get the lint out and reconnect the tube. Plan to do this at least once a year, and clean your dryer's lint filter before every load.
They can be such great energy savers -- moving cool air up in summer and down in winter -- but ceiling fans can also be real dust catchers. With the fan turned off, dust or vacuum the outside of the motor casing. Then tackle each of the fan blades, paying special attention to the blade tops because that's where most of the dirt will be hiding. If you have a soaring ceiling, you can buy an extendable pole that's specially made for ceiling fans, or you can rig your own. The trick is to have the dusting cloth wrapped around something that's curved so you can reach the top of the blades.
Over and Under the Refrigerator
If you can't see it, it's not a problem, right? Not necessarily. Kitchen air isn't just dusty, it also includes grease that makes dirt especially hard to remove. A sturdy chair or step stool will help you reach the top of your refrigerator, but if you'd rather keep both feet on the floor invest in a bendable and extendable dusting device like a Swiffer or one of the less-expensive alternatives. With your dusting cloth at a right angle, you'll be able to easily sweep dirt away. Once a month or so, grab your vacuum and run the brush attachment over the vent at the bottom of your fridge; you'll keep it running more efficiently, which will save you money. And once a year (at least) ask someone to help you roll your refrigerator away from the wall so you can thoroughly clean the floor underneath.
Under the Kitchen Sink
If you keep a garbage can under your kitchen sink, as many people do, it's important to pull everything out occasionally and give that area a thorough cleaning to remove stray bits of food waste that didn't make it into the can. Once you have everything cleared out, vacuum first to remove solids, then use a mop or sponge with a grease-cutting cleaning solution.
Heating and Air Conditioning Vents
If you've never pull the louvered vent cover off your heat vents, you may be surprised what you'll find in there: dirt, dust, pet hair -- and anything that might fall or roll in. Unless the vent is screwed down, you can easily pull it up, vacuum inside, then clean the vent cover and replace it.
For floor- or wall-mounted vents, regular vacuuming with your brush attachment will keep things tidy and help your HVAC system run more efficiently. For a thorough cleaning of your entire vent system, it's best to call a professional, because your home vacuum won't have enough suction to get the job done.
Regular maintenance will go a long way toward keeping your tall windows clean and shiny, because dust and dirt are harder to remove when they are allowed to set. So get in the habit of regularly dusting your tall windows. You can buy a tool for this, or make your own with a microfiber cloth attached to a long pole. When it's time to wash the windows (most people do this in spring and fall) that same pole can be put to use by spritzing the clean dusting cloth with window cleaning product or a less-expensive solution you make yourself.
All of those lovely crystal drops on your chandelier create a warm and inviting glow over your dining table or entrance hall, but they are also notorious dust catchers. A vacuum cleaner will dispatch the dust, but it might also damage your delicate chandelier. Here's where a long, lightweight pole (bamboo works well because it's easy to handle in tight spaces) with a feather duster or microfiber cloth on the end will help you reach all the nooks and crannies. If your chandelier is very intricate, you may want to get the ladder out and wash each crystal individually. If this task seems daunting, there are cleaning experts who can help you.
Under the Bed
It's impossible to clean under the bed without getting down on the floor, but the extendable wand that comes with your vacuum cleaner will do the work and you'll see where you're cleaning. This is especially important to catch stray clothing or shoes that wandered under the bed. Or maybe your cat.
To keep your bookshelves looking tidy, it's enough to sweep away dust with a washable cleaning cloth. Feather dusters are fast but not very efficient, because they kick up dust that settles back again. If your books aren't delicate, take your brush attachment and vacuum the tops of your books once a month when you do your regular cleaning. Every year, take each book off the shelf and wipe it with a dry cloth, then thoroughly clean the shelves before replacing your books. Keeping books clean and dry will help to preserve them.
If you're lucky enough to have a luxurious soaking tub in your bathroom -- but not lucky enough to have someone to clean it -- you know that scrubbing all areas of the tub can require back-breaking agility. Enter the humble rag mop. Get one with a pivoting head and you can gently clean anywhere in the tub without risking your safety or scratching the tub. These mops are also great for cleaning the highest areas of your shower.