Woman washing windows outside
Photo: ULTRA F/Thinkstock
There's never a bad time to start spring-cleaning. Whenever I clean, I use some good old down-and-dirty cleaning tips to get the job done like a pro. You should practice these ideas every few months, regardless of the season.

Bed pillows are an item we don't often think of washing, but unless the care instructions say otherwise, most foam-filled and synthetic pillows can be easily machine-washed. Don't just throw them in the wash with your blue jeans. Wash them separately, using the gentle cycle, warm water and a mild powdered detergent.

You can line-dry pillows or place them in dryer on moderate heat. Throw in some clean towels to help speed up drying process, and add a clean tennis ball to help fluff the pillow.

As far as down and feather pillows, you never want to machine wash. Trust me, they will never be the same!

Instead, place your down pillow in a sink filled with warm water and powdered detergent. Hold the pillow underwater until completely soaked, and knead gently. Drain the dirty water out and press down to extract as much water as possible.

Next, roll it in a dry towel to prevent dripping, unwrap it and give it a spin in a washing machine for three cycles before hanging to dry.

Here's something you don't ever want to do: Try cleaning windows in the hot sun. Direct sunlight can cause the cleaner to evaporate before it is wiped off, leaving those nasty streaks we all dread. So, the best time to clean your windows is in the morning or early evening when windows cool down. Try the touch test—if the window is hot to touch, then it's too hot to clean.

To clean your windows, apply cleaner to windows with a slightly dampened sponge and wipe the entire window. Then, with a squeegee, wipe across the window, cleaning the squeegee after each pass.

To clean up any drips, ditch the paper towel and use yesterday's newspaper instead.

Get the dirty little secrets for cleaning curtains, drapes, upholstery and floors.
Curtains and Drapes
Freshen up curtains and drapes by vacuuming on reduced suction to prevent the fabric from being drawn into the nozzle and potentially pulling down your entire window treatment. If that doesn't fully do the trick, dust the drapes with a soft, long-handled brush to remove hard-to-get dust.

Also, don't be afraid of cleaning expensive velvet drapes. They can be heavy and attract a lot of dust, but here's what to do: Dip a chamois cloth in hot water, wring out thoroughly and then brush along the curtain lightly.

For a quick refresher to your upholstery, set your vacuum on high and be sure you have a good tool attachment with a narrow end to get in the crevices. Vacuum the corners and all sides of cushions, as well as the frame under the cushions.

If you're looking for a deeper clean, rent a machine that cleans upholstery or call the pros to come steam clean it. A little side note: A do-it-yourself job like this yields better results if it's done before the soiled area sets in.

Remember, don't use any cleaners or let a professional steamer start a job without testing the solvent on an inconspicuous spot first, like on the back side of the sofa. I have seen red sofas turn pink because of this mistake!

Now, if you have pets like I do, you can naturally deodorize your upholstery by sprinkling the sofa with baking soda and letting it sit for 15 minutes (or longer for tough odors), then vacuum clean.

For claw marks and scratches on your dark leather sofa, try a little household olive oil—just a tiny dab will go a long way—to rub out the scratch. Again, be sure to test the oil on a hidden area of the sofa, and don't use this on light-colored leathers.

Hardwood Floors
I use olive oil on hardwood floors to hide nasty scratches as well—just be sure to use very little and buff out any slippery area around the scratch.

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